Monday, March 2, 2009

Ascending Mt. Kinabalu ... Malaysia's Highest Peak [Part I]

With a slight delay in our flight, we arrived into Kota Kinabalu at 12.30 pm. It was a very hot day. We headed by cab for the designated bus station to catch a ‘kereta sewa’ (rental car) that could take us on a 2-hour journey to Kinabalu National Park.

We did not stay at the Kinabalu National Park but at the D’Villa Rina Ria Lodge, some 700 metres away. After refreshing ourselves, we checked ourselves in at the Sutera Sanctuary Lodge to avoid the morning rush the following day.

Next morning, we headed excitedly to the park to meet up with our appointed guide, Marcelius and started our 6 km climb through the Timpohon Gate at 8.00 am. We decided against the alternative entry at the Mesilau Trail that would require an additional 2 hours' hike. We climbed up through the rainforest where we could hear a symphony of the bugs, birds, monkeys and the wind rustling through the trees. At the same time, I could also hear the sound of my heart beating and the heaviness of my breathing. The ascend was fairly safe but still grueling and exhausting. Along the way, porters carrying heavy loads of groceries sped past us to deliver them to the resthouse at Laban Rata. We were really at awe when they told us each load weighed at least 40kgs. As we made our way up, we even met them on their return down the mountain. Imagine, I had cheekily told Ray earlier, “let’s follow that porter, don’t let him out of sight!”

The weather was cloudy when we started out but by the time we were about 3km into the ascend, the clouds were rolling across the mountain and started to drizzle heavily intermittently. Although we were already drenched in our sweat, we still had to wear a raincoat to protect our backpacks and this was so much of a hindrance to our movement. We took a number of breaks along the way to catch our breaths. Ray had made sure that we came prepared with energy bars and endurance drinks to help keep our energies in check. Almost 2 km before reaching the half-way mark and as the air thins, Ray started to feel the effects of altitude sickness. We reached Laban Rata Resthouse at 1.25 pm. We made it in 5 hours … quite a good average pace according to Marcelius.

Marcelius checked us in and after a rest and a hot shower, dinner was served from 5.00 pm onwards. After popping some Panadols and a short nap, Ray recovered from the headaches and nausea. We mingled and chatted up our roommates, 2 guys from West Malaysia too, Kit and Lee. We also befriended a young couple from Singapore. Lights went out by 8.00 pm as everyone needed to be awake by 2.00 am to ready for the final ascend to the summit, Low’s Peak. While the guys snored away in their sleep, I started to feel a headache developing. By 1.30 am, I could hear the pounding of my headache, as if someone was playing a drum at my ears. By then I had already popped 3 Panadols.

By 2.00 am, everyone hurriedly and excitedly got ready to continue their journey to the summit in total darkness. Everyone either had a headlight on their forehead or a torchlight in their hand. It started to rain alittle. In case the rain got any heavier, Marcelius had advised us that we may have to abandoned the hike up. It will be dangerously slippery and there will be forming waterfalls along the way. Unfortunately for me, my throbbing headache wasn’t letting up. Shortly after setting out a distance of 200 metres, I was starting to feel nauseous and my head felt like exploding. I popped another 2 Panadols and some medicine for nausea. It was still not letting up and Marcelius had to guide me back to the resthouse. Ray proceeded on his own until Marcelius catches up with him after sending me back. Disappointingly I cannot give any first hand description of Ray’s journey to the summit.

I tried hard and managed to sleep some while waiting for Ray’s return. Due to the headache and nausea, I lost my appetite and could barely managed much of the breakfast served. On top that, I was also worried about Ray’s safety as our roommates claimed to have not seen him at all along the way upon their return at just before 8.00 am. Thoughts of him getting lost or slipped or … arghhhhhh! … my mind was running wild! Even the guys started to worry as the minutes ticked by with no signs of him!

Alas, behold! Congratulations to my dearest honey, Ray! “I came, I saw and I conquered!” … the elation written all over his face as he opened the door to our dorm upon his return from the summit at 9.45 am, all drenched and completely exhausted but nonetheless, triumphant!

Kit, Lee and myself were so relieved to see him. Stay tuned … I’ll continue with the rest of our journey descending down Mount Kinabalu tomorrow …


2 Bubbles:

awesome!!! can't wait for more stories and pictures...kudos to both of you!! :)

Hi Amelia
Thanks. I am glad you are enjoying our adventure.

By the way, love to hear you had a wonderful holiday too to Rawa Island. It's not easy when there are young kids tagging along.