Exploring Sabah in an old Land Rover

POSTED BY Shuen Lim ON 25 November 2019


In my case, that old truck would be 28-year old Land Rover 110 station wagon that had started life as a Fishery Department vehicle in Johore.
Through its ownerships with several people, amazingly almost all friends, it ended up in Sabah where I bought it off Datuk Dr Teoh for a princely sum of Rm 38,000.

The plan was to explore Borneo in my own Landy, starting with Sabah to shake down the truck.
As it turned out, it was the Landy that shook me down.
On the day that we were to set out for our first adventure to the Tip of Borneo in Kudat, the car refused to start even though we followed Dr Teoh’s recommended procedure — two sessions of pre-heat and then crank the engine until it ignites.

We thought that we had fixed that much earlier by changing the glow plugs (it’s a 2.5 turbo diesel which needs pre-heating before compression ignition) and the fuel pump.
But on that fateful morning, the starter motor wouldn’t crank at all — the solenoid had given up.

My “new” Landy tests its new owner. Refused to start !

Since James Yong, my partner in Land Rover ownership, had a spare Toyota 80 Series (another old truck) conveniently available, we swapped cars while the Landy got repaired.

With James of KNY Tyres owner of the loaned freshly commissioned Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series & Dr Teoh

Kudat was an enjoyable three-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu. Several off-road friends had recommended Tommy’s Place. So we headed there. It is one of the most spectacular & beautiful places in Sabah, if not Borneo, compensating the cost of RM200 for a twin sharing beachfront chalet. The sea was as clear as, say the best of Pulau Redang off Terengganu in Semenanjung Malaysia. Maybe Palawan in the Philippines is comparable? Must try.

Three clean, healthy and happy dogs kept us company on the beach without being intrusive.
Since it was on a Tuesday and not a school or public holiday, we had Tommy’s Place to ourselves, and we lounged around until after lunch. We had decided to try out a real hotel in Kudat town, about 30 minutes from Tommy’s place.

The Toyota 80 Series has a 4.2 diesel engine. Trainloads of torque but the gearbox is for slow speed

This time, the Land Cruiser also couldn’t start. The engine wouldn’t crank. We asked Vivienne the receptionist for help, and she responded by calling loudly: “Lelaki lelaki, mari tolong start kereta”.
In seconds, about five stalwart youngsters had crowded around the engine bay. The eldest of them soon enough identified the problem: the starter motor was loose. Another round of discussion and a size 28 spanner was found. Nut tightened. Starter motor cranked the engine mightily. Ignition. And we were ready to go. But the “foreman” also advised us to properly earth the starter motor when we had the opportunity.

In Kudat town, there is at least one proper auto electric workshop. Len Yip Electric Works installed the earthing and the positive leads directly between the battery and the starter motor housing very professionally and neatly.
At the Kudat Golf and Marina Resort, Mike Heah my co-driver cajoled the receptionist into allocating us a room with a spectacular view of the golf course on the left and the Marina’s slipway on the right.

One of the best-kept secrets of Kudat is the value-for-money parking for yachts at the Marina — about Rm 800 a month for a 50 footer mono hull compared with a few thousand ringgit a month at the KK Sutera Harbour marina.
We met two yacht owners at one of Kudat’s midnight restaurants — there are only three Chinese restaurants in Kudat — and they open until midnight. Could it be part of Kudat’s history and culture of being the first capital city of North Borneo Territories, the name that Sabah was called before WW II?

Gregg, an Aussie, said that he had been in Sabah for about 14 years of which 12 had been in Kudat. Almost every weekend, he goes to KK to enjoy the town. “It’s the best of two worlds,” said the professional oil & gas industry diver who lives onboard his yacht with his pet, a Kelpie breed of dog, which he adopted from a kampung near Kudat. He said that a Kelpie is an interbreed of Aussie feral dog and dingo, and these Kelpie’s would have been brought in by Aussie soldiers during the early years of WW II. What do you think?

Anyway, to continue the story, the Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series also couldn’t start. We called James for advice, and he said: “Don’t worry. My brother in law stays in Kudat, and he’ll fix it.”
Also very fortunately at that time, Dr Teoh had decided to take an early morning drive to Kudat, and we jumped into his decent Toyota Prado — an infant of 13 years vintage compared to both our old trucks.

After both our old trucks broke down, this relatively young 13 year old Toyota Land Cruiser Prado rescued us from Kudat

To be continued...