Monday, November 12, 2007


Many of you may not have heard of "Sabah", a state of Malaysia located on the exotic island of Borneo. The highest mountain in South-East Asia is located there and running behind it is a river called Kilambun; a river so clean and pristine that you can just drink from it because the waters just flow off Mount Kinabalu and there is no human habitation on it. If I claimed that it is the cleanest river in Asia, not many people who have been there would dispute it.

I have been to that river numerous times over the last 20 years. It was my favorite destination. Each time, I would bring friends and we would camp by the river side on a bed of pebbles that was so wholesome and relaxing it would take our breath away. In the daytime, we would swim at a perfect 'water hole' some 12 feet wide, 150 feet long and 6-9 feet deep. The icy cold water was so refreshing it would take away all worries and problems. Treks up the river would be rewarded with vistas that are so beautiful that most visitors would want to just stay on by its side.

On that fateful day (Friday, 9th November 2007) which is just a few short days ago, that river would turn into a horrendous torrent of "white water" that would sweep all before it. I am not sure if many of you believe in prayer but I hope you will hear me out in this article before you decide on your stand. That morning before we launched out, I prayed to God for safety and covering, asking him to keep us safe through whatever adventure would come our way.

I have been in adventure all my life and I used to run one of the top adventure companies in the region. I know the "treks" of Kilambun intimately and have widely trekked up river to almost its source. As I stood there at 12 noon that day, I got our guides to take out the tents and just as I was about to pitch it, I heard a clear distinct voice that said "No, don't camp on the river banks!" This was one of the rare occasions where I have had such an encounter. Hesitatingly, I changed the decision and went up the trail and found a place that was about 30 feet higher than the river and we pitched tents there. Why I did it is a mystery that will remain with me until the day I die. This was miracle no 1.

Then the rest of the campers, some 7 of them started trekking up the pristine Kilambun river. I caught a glimpse of dark clouds and knew from my long years of trailing that it was raining up river. Still in the heaviest of rainy days, we had done this for the last 21 years and it was always safe. As they went up-river 500 meters to the next water hole, I caught up with them. As the swimming began in conditions so pristine, I reminded them to come back to the camp-site within the hour. Somehow miracle 2 took place. They came back within the hour.

As I prepared the coffee and tea, I asked one of the workers to call all the campers to come up out of the river where they were enjoying themselves just lazing around. Usually, I would allow them to continue having a great until sundown which is about 6-30 pm in that area. Why I asked them to come up at 5-30 pm with all their bags is another mystery that will never find explanation. It was just something in my spirit and 'psyche'. They all came up and ended quietly drinking their coffee and finding their comfortable niche in the campsite. This was Miracle 3.

Then, Samantha, the trip guide and a staff of mine decided to go down to the river to wash up. Somehow or other I felt uncomfortable and told her that I would go with her to wash up some of the prawns that we had bought for dinner that night. We went down to the river and I started dipping in the deep side to freshen up. The waters were really calm and inviting. Samantha sat by the side of the river cleaning up. I then came back up to a rock on the river and started to de-thaw the prawns. this was Miracle 4. How we did not continue swimming when we usually would have continued was Miracle 5.

Then it happened. There was a loud whooshing sound so strong that it startled us completely. Samantha asked me what it was and I just shook my head. That was when I turned my head up-river and saw a huge brown river "tsunami" some 10 feet high rushing down-river at us. It covered the whole width of the river and it is a sight that I will never forget for the rest of my life. God was really merciful that day. He spared our lives.

1 comment:

Chris Sng said...

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