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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Mount Kinabalu

MALAYSIA | Thursday, 20 November 2008 | Views [2552]

Mon 17th Nov - After a good night's sleep with less disturbances than last night, it was time for some sightseeing. Got the city bus (yellow) for RM1 to the Menara Tua Mustapha building north of the city. This is supposed to be nice in the evening to see the city lights from. It is also home the @Mosphere bar and restaurant. On the walk from the bus I spotted two enormous white-breasted sea eagles soaring overhead. Whipped my camera out and...that heart stopping message...no SD memory card inserted. Damn, I had left it in my laptop last night...bugger! So no photos then....had a walk around and then thought I should go back and get my card. Took a different bus back as it passed first. Bus no.1 was more interesting as it went around the village of Likas. A down to earth place, full of non-city dwellers and shacks. A nice feel to it and glad I took this bus instead of the city bus again.

After picking up my card and having a re-think about the day's plan, I decided to go and check out the Air Asia office around the corner for a flight over towards Semporna, the connection place for Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai for diving. Made a quick decision to book a flight for the 22nd Nov to Tawau, the nearest airport. Could have taken the overnight bus direct to Semporna taking 10 hours or so, but wanted to take advantage of Air Asia's cheap flights. Cost 127 ringgits total, so nice and cheap and only taking 50 minutes. Will then have to get to Semporna, but that should be easy enough.

Well, now I have a flight booked, just needed to sort out the diving. Checked out some options and booked a 3 day/2 night package at the Mabul Backpacker lodge. Was going to do the Seaventures package which is based at a converted oil rig platform, but that was 1200 ringgits PLUS a 50% surcharge for me being a single person! And this didn't matter if I shared with someone when I got there...still the same surcharge. Now, why is this? I hate being penalised for being a single traveller. There is no excuse at all and spoils the opportunities. Anyway, have booked a deal, and will spend a night in Semporna before getting picked up on the morning of the 23rd. Should get 6 dives in, spread around the three islands and can extend when I get there if I want to. There is a RM40 fee to pay when entering Sipadan itself. The Malaysian government forced the removal of all dive operators from Sipadan as part of a conservation move. So now everyone has to stay outside of the area and pay a fee to enter. Sipadan by the way, was made famous by the entrepreneurial influence of the late Jacques Cousteau . I remember as a kid being hooked on his sea adventures, thinking....one day...that might be me....well...in a few days time...it will! Rated as one of the top ten dive sites in the world, everyone who goes reports a jaw-dropping experience. Bring it on!! I might even do my advanced diving course whilst I am there. Even if I don't I was offered an internship deal by the guy I have booked with, for a special rate to dive as much as I want from KK, and do and of the courses for a good deal too. Much to think about....

Well, after a bit of time melting my credit card, needed time to recover, so off to Little Italy for lunch in celebration of the excitement....and watch the beautiful ladies of KK pass by. Isn't life wonderful!

May as well have another attempt at seeing those eagles now that I have a card in my camera. This time I took the OMO bus destined for UMS (University of Malaysia Sabah). Still only 1 ringgits, and got talking to a couple of girls who were studying Japanese and taking their exams tomorrow! I was impressed, as it is a hard language.

Got to the Menara Tun Mustapha building and was lucky enough to see one of the eagles soaring around. Thought it would be nice to go to @Mosphere, which is located on the 18th floor of the building. It is a rotating restaurant, but not during the day. The views of the surrounding area are wonderful, and must be even better on a clearer day. It was now overcast. The interior is a bit 1970's funkadelic, with retro-modern seat and bright use of materials, including swave wavy cups, a cappucino was the natural choice to soak up the view and the laid back music. The dining here would be very chic, although a bit pricy. Atmosphere is just what it exudes....

Walked back along the coast road and stopped off at the city mosque. Surrounded by a large moat, the reflections in the water make it a good photo opportunity.

Was supposed to get an early night to feel refreshed for the morning, but didn't manage it as there is always something happening to warrant staying up for. Played guitar again, so enjoying a bit of indulgence with that.

Tue 18th Nov - Mount Kinabalu climb today. Got picked up from the hostel at 7:15am and then drove for 2 hours to the Kinabalu Park HQ. Apart from myself, joined by a french couple on the minibus to the park. Didn't speak much during the journey, but we did get talking later. As the road climbs to the mountain, a veil of mist gave way to a stunning view of the mountain, set against a crystal clear ble sky. It's a long way up there!

Durian sellers abound along the roadside, and the lower terrain is a carpet of jungle in every direction. It is going to be a superb day I think.

After registration, proceed to Timpohon Gate, the starting point of one of the two available routes. The climb took about five hours and is tough. Non stop uphill with some fairly large boulders to navigate. The compensation though is the awesome environment. For anyone, like me who loves nature, it is a beauty. I saw so many varieties of wild orchids...a large array of pitcher plants, one of which (Nepenthes Villanosa) was the largest I have ever seen. The colours of the vegetation was astonishing too. As the climb progressed, the scenery changed from multi-coloured dense vegetation to more open alpine terrain. The range of coloured mosses was noticable and the drop in temperature too. About every half kilometer there is a rest stop, with toilet facilities...very tourist friendly. The mountain squirrels were in abundance around these areas, scurrying around looking for cast off tidbits.

The overnight base at Laban Rata hostel is about 6km from the start of the trail and 3290m above sea level, and occupies a fantastic location facing west. It is split into two, with the option for extra cost to stay in the main building, or the hostel part Gunting Lagadan, a further ten minute climb up the hill. It is essential to have a torch and plenty of warm clothing as it was only ten degrees when I arrived. The prediction was that it would go to freezing as the sky was fairly clear. We were lucky as previous days had rained every day from the afternoon onwards....wet and cold do not mix well...a good recipe for a miserable experience if you weren't suitable clothed. I had brought a random collection of clothes which all went on and I must have looked like a vagrant. The last time I had done this was in Laos, when I was with Victoria. We had put all of or clothes in for laundry and the temperature plumetted. Had throw on anything that we had, which looked a mess, but felt great.

After a quick rest....it had been hard work getting here...dinner was a full buffet of good food and free flowing hot drinks from 5:30 onwards. The sunset was awesome...contton wool clouds drifting around with a slight breeze, and the diffusion of golds through to pinks giving a dynamic light show, with the occasional flash of lightening in the distance. A flat area just below the lodge was a good spot to see the sunset. It also has what must be one of the most awesome locations for a volleyball net! Imagine a ball going over the edge...your turn...I went last time! Actually, they use the basketware balls that are common here, so they don't bounde much, so ok really.

Back in from the cold and hands around a nice cup of coffee. The atmosphere was wonderful, everyone happy and chatting as many groups appear at random who started out later in the day.

After dinner was the climb back to the hostel, up a rough track with a torch. There were a few folk who had set off before me with no torches and were on their hands and knees feeling there way. Ridiculous really to come to somewhere like this without a torch. A few were struggling to breath and were quite old, so I guess might have mis-judged what was involved...it's a mountain!

Wed 19th Nov - There had been a school group staying in the hostel who were so noisy last night. Consiering we were expected up early, their leader didn't seem to have any consideration for others staying there. Had to wake up early to start the ascent at 2:30am to the summit, Lowe's Peak at 4092.5m above sea level. It must rate as the toughest climb I have ever done. Starting off with a mass of people queuing at the start, it eventually thinned out as it got harder. Already at a height where the effects of oxygen depravation begins to take effect, the higher I went, the more difficult it was to breathe properly, and the heavier my heart was beating. Taking regular breaks in the dark with a bitter wind blowing made the ascent heavy going. I do think I am in fairly good shape for my age, but this was pushing me quite a lot. The thoughts of giving up started to enter my head, but then I looked upwards, and in the faint light that was reflecting from the clouds I could see many torchlights and the outline of what looked like the top. Then I reached that point to find there was plenty more to go, at near 45 degrees, with many sections requiring ropes to pull up on. It must have only been a couple of degrees...fingers were numb even with thinsulate gloves on, and my nose felt like it could have been snapped off!

With my heart working overtime and shear determination to not give up, I made it to the peak. Many people vying for their photo by the height record sign. Many people had fallen by the wayside and returned to the lodge unable to carry on. Not a problem, as it is more important to recognise your limits and stop when you feel it is too much. The guide confirmed that many have had heart attacks doing this! Helicopters cannot reach this heoght, so they have to be stretchered off the mountain down to a lower altitude.

As the amount of light increased, the view was stunning. Clouds bubbling away a few kilometres down below, the sun breaking over the horizon, the tired sounds of fellow climbers wilting under the strain, accompanied by the burgeoning outlines of the granite rock formations...fanbloodytastic!

I ached in places I didn't expect, but that didn't matter now...everyone shakes hands and congratulates each other.

After catching breath and thinking that enough energy had returned, time for the descent back to the lodge for breakfast. This is the point when I always feel more pain than going up. With constant pounding of my joints and having to lean so far back as I walked to stop breaking into a run, the legs react with a few grumbles. The guides who do this regularly must have muscles of steel!

At this altitude not much grows, but what does can display a minute beauty. Beautiful flows hidden amidst hardy leaves battered by constant winds, but still in full display...magic...

Made it backto Laban Rata at 7am or so for breakfast. A superb choice of western offerings and hot drinks...didn't touch the sides. I was starving by that stage. At about 8:30am started to descend back to Timpohon gate, arriving at 12:30pm. That descent was a killer. A while ago I had a bit of a knee injury, which has left me with a weak right knee. Boy did I know about it. I was in agony and had to side-step for nearly 4km with pains shooting through the cartlidge and requiring more than regular stops. Will be back to normal once I get some analgaesic treatment on it. A great coincidence on the way down...bumped into the two guys I went to the longhouse in Kapit with. A nice surprise. Another thing I love about this country is their respect. The amount of people who stop to talk are many and all addressed me as sir! Nice and friendly people to talk to, young and old. I never cease to be amazed at the strength and toughness of some of the peoples of the world. The porters here work so damned hard. They have to carry huge boxes, heavy gas canisters, food packages and  heavy bundles of building materials up this mountain, suspended on their backs from straps around their foreheads. They push on relentlessly, with sweat pouring from them like rain...but onwards they move...you have to be in awe of these guys!

Every year there is a climbathon here, rated as the toughest in the world!, where superhuman nutters run up and down this mountain in times you just wouldn't believe to be humanly possible. If you were to take out the breaks and add together the actual climbing time, I probably did it in about 12 hours (plus breaks). Get this...the men's open record is 2hr 39 min 10s (Spain), the ladies is 3hrs 44 min 8s (Spain again), and the veteran's is 3hr 24min 3s ( a Malaysian thankfully)....a total of 21km round trip! Makes you sick how fit some people are!

I was relieved to reach the bottom and be on the

transport back to the Park HQ. Straight to lunch at the excellent park restaurant and then collected our 'Certificate of Achievement' before returning to KK.

The weather conditions had been near perfect...not a drop of rain...so it was with relief that it chucked it down on the return journey back to KK..phew...lucky eh?

My knee was being a total pain for the rest of the day, so had to take it easy.


Thu 20th Nov - Woke this morning and fingers crossed my knee was feeling much better. The muscles at the top of my legs were definitely passing messages on to me that they weren’t happy with being pushed to places they didn’t want to go! The crazy thing is that before I went on the climb, I had this silly notion that I could come straight back and go straight out on to the ‘Borneo Survivor Island Adventure’ for a couple of days. This is on an island a short way from here. Sounds cool fun as it involves going to a ‘Mud’ volcano. The reality is that the past couple of days have been harder than I expected and I need a couple of days to get over it, so will maybe do that another time. Also gives me an opportunity to catch up with friends on-line and plan out a few things. In a couple of days time I will be flying over to Tawao to go diving in the Sipadan/Mabul/Kapalai area, after which I want to do some wildlife trekking in the Kinabatangan National Park. The problem is that the timing can be a bit tricky with weather in that area. If it rains a lot then the lowlands flood and can get cut off in parts. It doesn’t seem to matter though as there are ways around that. Fortunately, I found some information about ‘Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Camp’. This is located next to the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation centre at mile 14 of the Sepilok road. No on-line booking system, only by phone and e-mail, so rang them up to book in there for a few days. Will sort out the details of what I will do when I arrive. I had checked to see what the options were to get between Semporna and Sandakan and flying or an odd bus journey seemed to be the only options. There is only one bus leaving at 8am from Semporna and arriving at about 1:30pm. MASWings fly direct once a day, but that costs RM147 inc taxes and goes from Tawau, so would need to get back to the airport an hour or so away, and that involves either an expensive taxi or a couple of mini-buses, so will go the bus option. That sorted, I can relax…..

Out for a meal later at Little Italy. The reason for mentioning this wasn't for another boring fact...it is because they were putting up their Christmas decorations! I hadn't given it much of a thought, but this is a predominantly christian society, and so Christmas is big stuff here. And of course, fairly soon after Christmas is Chinese new year. Back in Europe you generally get Christmas and then it's over. In Asia, you get all ethnicities celebrating their respective major events, and all respected by everyone.

Bye for now folks.......


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