Monday, September 03, 2007

Conquering Mt Kinabalu

Aunty Jo-Jo @ Laban Rata, Mt Kinabalu in her best "Indiana Jones" pose

After years of seeking adventures abroad, I finally returned to Malaysian shores to experience my own country. And what better place than Mt Kinabalu, in all her glorious splendour. In 2003, Harvey, my long-time travel companion, talked me into attempting the Mt Kinabalu climb. The dare-devil in me agreed but Ms Lazy-Bones soon started protesting when I hauled her to the gym every day, and up 15 flights of stairs twice a week. Training was tough but it had to be done.

We flew to Kota Kinabalu and spent the night at the National Park, before starting out early next morning from the Timpohan Gate. I was persuaded by an Orang Asli to purchase a RM3 walking stick...and it turned out to be a LIFESAVER! There were steps cut out along the trail but they were ginormous! A little five-footer like me had to struggle all the way. The rain didn't help either.

Aunty Jo-Jo and Harvey @ the Laban Rata Rest House enjoying the view of Sabah

Despite the physical strain, I was constantly delighted by the fauna & flora along the way. The foliage transformed from tropical jungles, to bonsai forests to little bushes all within an 8 hour-climb.

It was so embarassing to be overtaken by 50+year old aunties hauling gas tanks up the mountain wearing only Japanese slippers! Sigh..but after a couple of slips and trips, I finally hauled myself into the Laban Rata guest house. What a relief.

The next morning, we started out at 2am and headed for the peak to catch the sunrise. Harvey surged ahead with my camera and several other He-Men we had met the night before. I had to take it slow because I was feeling the effects of altitude sickness. At one point, I had a rather amusing conversation with Erik the guide.

Aunty Jo-Jo: What happens if I make it to the top but can't come down? Can some guides carry me down?

Erik : Sorry Miss, stretcher sudah habis! (We've run out of stretchers!)

At 3200 meters, I started feeling chest pains and developed a ringing sound in my ears (as a result of reduced oxygen to the brain), Erik and I discussed the options. I still had another 800 tough meters to climb, and an even tougher descent the same day.

It was a tough call but I decided to turn back.

Harvey made it to the top, took some photos, and bounced all the way back to the guesthouse, high on adrenaline. He had a look of sheer joy on his face..WELL DONE Ah Boy!

Aunty Jo-Jo & Harvey @ Bavangazo Longhouse with traditional dancers

In addition to the Kinabalu adventure, Harvey had also arranged a cultural side-trip to a longhouse. We were guests of a headman and his family at the Bavangazo Longhouse. We were served delicious meals of vegetables & chickens from the garden, and entertained all night with traditional dances. And that's where the hospitality ended. While the family retired into their modern air-conditioned longhouse (complete with a satellite dish), Harvey and I were left to battle mosquitoes, wild boars and cockerels all night in our "rustic but authentic" longhouse!

Still, it was one of my best holidays ever...

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