....and the 4,095m StairMaster.
11.02.2007 30 °C
So it was across the state line and into Sabah for my next stop - Kota Kinabalu the state capital. I travelled with Yugi, a Japanese guy who was staying at the same hostel as me in Miri and who happened to be on the same flight. Once we'd ditch our packs we headed out on an exploration exercise to see what KK had to offer.
The best way to describe KK is as "a grower". It's much bigger than Kuching and therefore lacks the charm and coziness I had become accustomed to. More a place of function, after a few days kicking back I soon found myself warming to KK and it's wares.
But I was here on a mission - to climb Mount Kinabalu so enough of the jollies and down to business.
Set as the centerpiece for the vast 754 sq-km Kinabalu National Park, Mt Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the mighty Himalayas and New Guinea. Standing at 4,095 m it is also the highest mountain in SE Asia. Researches have found that it is still growing at a rate of 5mm a year so I didn't want to hang around too long before I started my climb.
The climb is a two day affair so after a brief stop to pick up some mountain climbing threads (it can get very cold up top) I was good to go.
After an initial 2 hour drive from KK out to Kinabalu National Park I duly signed my life away under a mountain of paperwork, handed over my Ringitt and was assigned my personal guide. Jennius was a middle-aged local Malay guy with a broad, toothless smile, he was responsible for getting me up to the summit and back down again in one piece.
So off we set for an initial 7km climb to base camp. With Mt. Kinabalu serving as Sabah's main tourist attraction steps have been cut for quite a large chunk (approx 2,500 steps) making it feel more like climbing a massive stairmaster than a mountain. However, the scenery was stunning offering generous panoramic views of the National Park below.
Kinabalu National Park at 3,000m
As we climbed higher the steps disappeared and the going grew tougher although never quite in the same league of The Pinnacles climb. My relationship with Jennius was also more one of function than anything else. Despite venturing down many an avenue to kick-start a lengthy conversation he was a man of few words and I feared I was destined to a climb of silence. Luckily, we hit a large group of Japanese walkers about an hour in so they provided the entertainment from then on.
Mt. Kinabalu - My little Hut
We hit base camp after a speedy 2 hours and 50 min's ascent, even Jennius seemed pleased. Lodgings for the night was a tiny little hut set into the mountain side with spectacular views. We agreed to meet again at 3am (I know... how early..?) so we could reach the summit in time for sunrise.
Sunset at Base Camp
Spent most of the night wrapped in multiple blankets in an attempt to shield myself from an early onset of pneumonia. I was settling into my brekkie when Jennius breezes in - what do ya know, Yer Man's a barrel of laughs at 3am. So off we set into the darkness of the the night / early morning and he's chatting, chatting, chatting away. Turns out he's an avid Man U supporter so the conversation is slightly one-sided, he does the talking and I do the agreeing and chip in with the odd throw away comment "I know, I've heard he's a very talented young striker" and other such like pearls of wisdom. The conversation inevitably turns to the World Cup I am pleased to have the opportunity to drop my favorite footie line of all time about the England squad "on paper - we are a very good team"
Mt. Kinabalu summit at 5.30am
So before you know we have reached the summit. It's 5.30am so there is a quick photo opportunity with the summit sign then a brief wait for sunrise. It is frickin' cold at the top but I am all toasty in my Nike ACG Thermo-fit top and hat / ear muffs combo. Others aren't fairing too well, one young lady rather rationally exclaims that she is "so cold she just wishes she could just die" - suck it up sweetheart!
Sunrise - Mt. Kinabalu
Sunrise is an all but too brief glimpse of Borneo down below. Unfortunately it's really cloudy so the visibility isn't great but you can't beat the feeling of being 4,095 m high at 6am in the morning and I get some Ok photo's of alot of cloud with abit if mountain chucked in for good measure.
Me with "Donkey's Ears" in the background
The decent goes without hitch and I arrive down at the bottom by 12.30pm with a very content feeling and a pair of aching knee's.
Back in Kota Kinabalu the whole place has gone Chinese New Year crazy. I treat myself to a proper hotel room for a whole 8 GBP complete with a TV, Tea & Coffee making facilities and my own personal favorite - a phone in the bathroom. I mean who in their right mind is ever going to make a phone call whilst on the Jaxx..?
My plan is to settle down for the evening, rest my weary legs and watch HBO in bed but I can't ignore the parties on the street below so head out to join the festivities. There are big slinky Dragon's and dancing Lion's everywhere. I watch one amazing performance where there are 2 of the two person Lion's balancing on poles which must be about 6-8 ft high doing a whole manner of hair-raising stunts and dances. I tried to film it on my camera I was so impressed but a lady with particularly flyaway hair obscured my view. You'll have to trust me it was hellacool.
Next stop - Sandakan (but shhh... I want to surprise the Orang-Utans)