The day of joy began on the 9th of August 2017. We were picked up by a driver from the tour company at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport who dropped us off at pine resort at Kundasang, located at the foothills of the mountain.
It was a joy and awe looking at the mountain from our hotel. I was supposed to be somewhere on top in the next 2 days. Really? I did climb this mountain before but that was a long time ago and I could hardly recall the details. All I knew was that I was not at all prepared and I didn’t make it to the summit. Well, I was better prepared this time. Fitter than I was 15 years ago. So I thought…
The joy continued the next day on the 10th of August. We were brought to the Timpohon Gate at the foothill of the mountain where we were introduced to our mountain guide named C. He was a typical local tribesman, short, stocky and muscular (smaller version of Vin Diesel 🙂
Joy was to find many porters going up and down the mountain porters carrying loads of stuff on their back. Many would give you encouraging smiles and some would say ‘pelan pelan’ ( which means slowly) as they whizz passed you. My vin diesel would patiently slow walk with me and constantly making sure I was ok, showing me where to step , occasionally pulling me up the step as high as my waist as I am short with short legs. He offered to carry my backpack halfway. Thanks C.
Joy was to see much nature and inhale just how incredible life is. Kinabalu Park is a Unesco world heritage site awarded in 2000 due to its incredible variety of species of plants and animals. It’s one of the most important biological sites on earth. Climbers pass through several distinct habitats. Large rainforest trees in the beginning then after Layang Layang rest hut, the alpine type vegetation was unique, the trees were bare with curvy branches with moss what looks like white beard hanging from the trees.
It was a jolly good weather when we started our hike. The treks consisted basically of steadily rising steps. There were lots of steps, wooden steps, rooty type, the steps continue.,,.small rocky type, boulders type It felt like endless of steps. The steps were getting steeper and tougher as the terrain changed .I was puffing and huffing getting breathless every few steps I took in the last 2km or so… asking C “are we there yet?”every few minutes or so… reminding of a movie … The air was getting thinner too. Joy was to see a plateau suddenly emerged after a steep climb , the Laban Rata. We reached our rest point for the night. It was freezing cold at night. I was thankful for the little bit of warm water we could wash off the salty sweat smell. We had early dinner at 430pm and retired early for the day.
Joyous early morning at 2am in the restaurant where eager climbers had hot breakfast before the summit climb. We were blessed with perfect weather. This climb again consisted of more steps with staircases built against the rock face but steeper. It was dark, I could only hold my head down to watch my steps with the help of the headlamp. I glanced up occasionally to see what was ahead. The roped part before Sayat-sayat check point was really strenuous for me where I was to hold a white rope in the dark fumble my feet and climb up. I couldn’t help but thinking what if I lost my grip or somehow I became unconscious and fell off the mountain cliff? ? What am I doing here? Why don’t I just sit at the office doing my reporting. I had come too far to turn back now.
After Sayat-sayat check point, I became increasingly breathless and I could feel my heart beating away.
Joy, joy, joy! I saw the distinct triangular Low’s peak…the views up here at the summit were just majestic – St John’s Peak to the west, the Donkey’s Ears to the east and the distinctive South Peak to the south make for incredible scenery. I was standing on dark grey slates and slabs of granite… something like the grey ground that I saw on some space movies. I spent some moments immersed myself with the nature. The view was spectacular. I was above the puffy clouds and looked down the green earth in between the clouds. The sky was changing colour as the sun rose brightening up the earth. I felt I was so minute in this vast universe. Our problems were even smaller.
It was such a joy to have C and I would be ever grateful to him. I never thought the descent could be even harder than the ascent. I was already having calf muscle pains at the beginning of the descent and soon the right knee was giving way. It was like the knee was going the other way when I wanted it to go that way. There was heavy downpour and mini waterfalls and rivers started to appear on the path. I made every step slowly and carefully, putting one foot in front of the other. Stabbing pain shot through my knees and made me swallow my grimace with every single step. C was very patient and guided me all the way out and supported me when my knees buckled . My legs were just so wobbly.
I heard the joyous sound of the waterfall. I was finally near the gate. I finally came to what was the longest half a kilometre of my life. At this time, I thought my legs had melted. I barely survived. My legs would not agree with me if I said I was …successful. The mixed emotions of joy throughout the journey, the determination and will I never thought I had, the awe of nature, the rewarding panoramic views at the summit, kind gestures from complete strangers, the pain while going down …all these emotions are all tied together making an enriching experience. This journey has touched something inside me. I am ever more grateful for all the things and people around me. I would come again … stronger …very soon.