Sandakan-Ranau Death March (1942 - 1945)
The Sandakan Track – Best Death March Tour in Borneo

8~18 July 2012 :: Ryan Carpenters Group

 Tue, 24 Jul 2012 06:51:02 -0700 (PDT)

Dear Mr. Tham,
First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me for this Death March trekking and after knowing about it, I have to experience first hand of the adventure, hardship endured by the POWs and getting close to nature.
10 July – Drove to Bauto and meet up with our Aussie guests, (Mick, Andrew, Ryan, Paul, Neal Silver and Lynette Silver). Lynette is the author of Sandakan Death March recognised by the Australian Military as a War Historian expertised in this Sandakan Death March history. It was a pleasure to have her presence to dictate some of the information and stories in regards to the route of our trekking.
            After a brief introduction to everyone and checking on our water supplies, each person carried 2 litres, we set off leaving civilization behind and headed deep into the dense jungle. Led by 3 rangers (Jimmy, Duin and Suning) and guide Basil Lung, we soon engulfed by the jungle foliage and the trail got steeper. It was an uphill ascend relatively and gradually getting slippery from last night’s heavy downpour. We trekked for about 3 hours before reaching our lunch point which was a relief to get a half hour of rest. Lunch was served but on my mind, all I needed was water to quench my thirst and a leg massage.
            We set off at 2.00pm for a 2 hours trekking, descending from our lunch point to the main road for pickup. I opted for an escape route back to our transportation as my legs were getting the cramps. I didn’t want to slow down the group so I rest for tomorrow’s assault. The rest of the group went on and emerged from the jungle after 2 hours at the scheduled pickup point. Everybody was feeling great and in high spirits after the first day trekking. 
11 July – Today geared up for a 4 hours trekking up to Gambaron Hill, which is 450 metres high and this was where it depicted the POW route as notes indicated the possibility of vantage point. Then there was the Cable Trek of 2 hours (after lunch and rest) descending through bamboo jungle, river creeks, waterfalls and 6 foot tall jungle grass. We saw lots of pitcher plants along the route, an unidentified snake and a foot-long red millipede. It was a tiring day but the whole atmosphere and team spirits really pull us through.
12 July – Today trekking was the longest of all the treks at 24 kilometres from Tongod to Kampong Koporan @ Telupid. The first part of the trek trail was through an oil palm plantation which later opened up to a mild jungle setting. A few river crossings where we changed to our river shoes and back to our trekking boots. The trek was slow pace but the hot and humid weather really got to some of us. Everyone was on dehyration salt to replenish our body nutrients and occasionally water breaks along the way. Sunburnt, blisters and muscle aches were all over. Overall today was easy trekking but under the hot sun, its amazing everyone finished within the scheduled timetable. 
            Along the way, we visited the “Blowpipe Man” residence and caught up with him. He was part of the resistance group of local tribes (Dusun & Murut, possibly) who ambushed and killed some of the Japanese Army using their blowpipes and poisonous darts. A game of blowpiping to hit the target on a tree, surely bridged the gap between a local tribesman and our Aussie guests. Handshakes and words of praises were the only gestures of appreciation exchanged during a brief thanks and farewell wishes.
13 July – Today I was unable to continue with the trekking as my thighs were swollen and skin rash from yesterday’s walk. I opted to sit out as tomorrow’s walk will be the final trek to Ranau Memorial and I would like to finish trekking and walking with the group. What I gathered was today’s trek is relatively easy trek through jungle, decent slope and fair weather. Today finished trekking at Dusun Memorial (Nunuk Ragang site) and later, transferred to Kampung Paginatan for a brief stop of information. This was the site where some POWs died while carrying sacks of rice over some distance on the route. A road side momento in the form of a Rememberance Plaque was erected at the base of a huge tropical tree.
             Tonight we were put up at Sabah Tea and accommodation was in the Rungus Longhouse, basic but comfortable stay. Dinner was a welcoming sight with local rice wine “Lihing” served. Pleasant evening with entertaining stories from the past few days of trekking were exchanged as well as casual conversation and laughters.
14 July -Set off early in the morning after breakfast from Kampung Nabutan and trekked our way back to Kampung Nalapak near Sabah Tea Plantation. It was a 20 kilometres, tiring trek slicing our way through thick jungle. It was overgrown with thick scrubs, wild ginger plants and wild palms, so movements were slowed down. A few river crossings and a suspension bridge, descended down a waterfall trail (height about 50 metres) before reaching a prestine river bank for a rest and water break. 
            We came across some farmer’s dwelling and admired the fragile-looking structure of bamboos and wood that made up the hut. A few fruit trees around the area provided some insights and aroused curiousity of our Aussie guests on what’s edible and not. We pushed on for about an hour more before reaching the small village (kampung) of Nalapak which is just adjacent to Sabah Tea Plantation. It was a pleasant trek today with lots of sights of village life and its people.
15 July – Today was the last 10 kilometres trekking from outskirt of Ranau over a mountainous area before reaching our destination at the Ranau POW Campsite located in the vicinity of SIB Church. The trek was fairly descent walk on gravel road but ocassionally encountered with steep uphill and downhill. After 3 hours of trekking, we reached Kampung Marakau in Ranau Town closed to where the air-field was. It was at this site where 3 POWs were rescued after hiding in the nearby jungle for days and weeks. Heavy fightings between Queens Army and Japs were recorded in history.
              Finally, our Sandakan Ranau Death March Trek came to an end at the SIB Church ground with the Campsite Memorial Monument in sight. Everybody was delighted and glad to be “saved” throughout the endurance trekking. It was an exceptionally experience learnt by going through what it meant by POW Death March and I am glad that I went through it. I was part of the Death March group that finished the trek and brought some of the POWs spirits home!!!
This is my whole Death March trekking of what I experienced and went through. I hope what I did will provide an insight of what to expect, meet, see, hear and go through during your trekking. Cheers and best wishes!!!
David Tseu