You ruin me…

It was in early 2013 when my girl was posted to her current school in the jungle, 99 km along the Sibu-Bintulu trunk road so it has been over 5 years now, going into her sixth year right now and sadly, she has not been successful in her applications to move to a school closer to home.

It  could have been a somewhat nice school if the people concerned had been more pro-active and had maintained the place, facilities and all really well and if they have a steady supply of electricity and are not dependent on generators and have a more reliable supply of diesel but no, this post is not going to be about the school. Perhaps I shall get round to it in the not-too-distant future but right now, I would like to highlight the problem I face every week when I drive to her school to pick her on Fridays and come back together or when I send her there on Sundays.

Initially, the road was fine…

Sibu-Bintulu Road 2013
*Archive photo: Sibu-Bintulu, 2013*

…though not all that great – maybe I was not too familiar with it and I had the tendency to go too fast. That probably was because it seemed so far away so I had to hurry there, do what we had to do such as cleaning the place up and what not and rush back again but there were regular upgrading and resurfacing works…

Upgrading & resurfacing
*Archive photo: Sibu-Bintulu, 2013*

…and the little inconvenience at the time sure paid off and the road seemed to get better and better after a couple of years or maybe it was because I was so familiar with it by then, like the back of my hand, so to speak, so I would know every pothole there was along the way.

Eventually, I found myself enjoying the leisurely drive…

Batu 36 Sibu-Bintulu
*Archive photo*

…week after week after week. Of course, there would be those recalcitrant drivers in their 4WDs or pick-up trucks, those huge inter-town buses and even overloaded trucks like this one…

Overloaded

…driving like there is no tomorrow but experience has taught me to avoid those and give way to them, let them overtake, if they are coming from behind. The speed limit here is 90 kmph and if I was doing 80-90 kmph and they could overtake me and disappear out of sight, one can imagine how fast they were going. No worries though, over the years I hardly ever saw any police personnel on patrol even though there is a station at Stapang and this nice one, flats and all…

Police, Selangau
*Archive photo*

…at Selangau so those hell-raisers can just go ahead and race themselves to kingdom come!

The overtaking lanes constructed at three places did help somewhat but unfortunately, they are in a rather bad shape these days. Besides, it seems to me that most everyone thinks they are F1 drivers the moment they reach those lanes and they would go so very fast like they are afraid of people overtaking them. Obviously, these people are suffering from some kind of inferiority complex and would need to go and see a psychiatrist.

There are only two lanes, one going and one coming…

Two lanes
*Archive photo: Sibu-Bintulu 2013*

…so if there is a slow coach in front…

Slow coach
*Under-powered and overloaded*

…on days like some weekends, especially after a long weekend or a festival, when the lines of cars are simply unending, one will just have to follow quietly and patiently.

Then there were those left-wing people (they are right wing now) who kept making a whole lot of noise asking for a highway like those multi-lane ones in the mainland. Why, the father and son came to Sibu when the YB at the time died of cancer and there was a by-election and the old man commented that driving on the roads here was like riding on horses – and that got me wondering as to whether they ever did ride on horses before.

That was how it all started, the construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway. Slopes were bulldozed and flattened, vast areas of jungle were cleared, longhouses and other houses along the way were demolished but works went on at a snail’s pace. On my weekly drives, along the way I could count the number of people that I saw working with one hand and when it rained, flash floods would occur and the water would wash the mud onto the road rendering it quite invisible so I would have to drive very very slowly, praying and hoping that I would not run over a giant pothole or go into the drain.

Lately, they have had all the detours along this once relatively straight road so you would have to turn right here…

Lencongan 1

…and left there…

Lencongan 2

…go down the slope here and up the slope there…

Lencongan 3

…twisting and turning like a snake…

Lencongan 4

…and it would not be so bad if these lencongans had been well-made. Maybe it is because they are meant to be temporary so the quality is bad and they have been done hastily in a slip-shod manner so give it a week or two, there will be potholes, BIG ones, all over, a whole lot of very uneven parts and going over those, I would hear the LOUD crunching sound of my car being dragged along. Suffice to say that with the construction of what we call the Pain-Borneo Highway, the once rather nice road has been completely ruined!!!

I hear that construction has been held back pending investigation of the main contractor and the sub-contractor and the sub-sub-contractor etc…etc…etc… Word has it that the ones right at the bottom line, doing all the work, get paid very little, if at all.

Our population is smaller, our traffic volume is much less than over in the peninsula – personally, I do not feel we really need a highway. It would have been a lot better if all the money had been spent gradually and progressively on maintaining and upgrading the road and at most, a few more of those overtaking lanes would do fine but I guess it is too late to turn back – the whole road is one horrendous mess and it gets worse by the day! Looking at the progress going on so very very slowly, I really do not think I, and many of those at the top as well, including the one at the very top, will get to see its completion…in our lifetime.

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