20.02.2013 - 22.03.2013
We made our way out of Cameron Highlands catching the early morning bus that was bound for KL. Not before having a delicious breakfast of Roti. The trip back to KL was a little uncomfortable due to the winding roads but we managed to crash out during the trip to catch some sleep. I missed an altercation that occurred with the bus driver and one of the passengers which Sarah later told me about. Apparently the young passenger hadn't taken too well to the winding roads and decided to be sick. But instead of using a bag he had used the floor, so you can understand the drivers annoyance however I was surprised to hear that the driver was physically taking his anger out on the young guy smacking him on the head and was adamantly making sure that every other passenger had a bag and used it! I was thankful for missing all of that I must be honest.
Upon reaching KL we needed to get a taxi from Pudaraya bus station to KL Sentral so we could get another bus to the airport. We pulled it off with little problems apart from the non-metered taxi driver charging what I thought was too much but when he is the only one available and you've got your bags to carry and its stifling hot and raining you just have to lump it.
We had to buy our ticket for the bus to the airport but there was plenty of guys organising people so we got on the right bus, double checking to make sure we were going to the right airport as it was an international flight. Which didn't really make sense because Sabah is part of Malaysia. Anyways I think it was due to the fact that we were flying with Malaysia Airways and not Air Asia. We had reached the airport in good time and needed some food. Looking around it seemed all that was available was a food court which to be honest didn't have the most appealing choices for what we were after. It wasn't till later that we walked towards the arrivals area and found more places that were up our street and succumbed to having a Burger King, we only had some chips though.
The flight was good although delayed somewhat and we made it to Kota Kinabalu in a couple of hours. Our hostel had agreed to pick us up from the airport and had waited for us despite it being late evening and we met up with Prince (a name he gave himself) who was the local driver come guide come frontdesk worker for Bunibon Backpackers. He was really friendly and helpful giving us some info on Kota Kinabalu or KK and even tipped us off about the local fish cuisine being potentially dangerous due to red tide disease, and three people had already died from it so we weren't going to have fish for a few days that's for sure.
Knowing that our booking was sorted with Sutera Sanctuary lodges the day after next to start our climb up Mount Kinabalu we took time the next day after landing to walk the city and gather supplies and essentials for what for both of us was the first time tackling a mountain climb.
Needless to say, the nerves were present but we distracted ourselves buying new stuff which we hadn't done in ages. I bought a new raincoat and Sarah bought a new warm jumper. We also found a great outdoor store, oddly called Tech City, which is rammed with anything and everything you could possibly need for any type of outdoor adventure where Sarah picked up a head torch, walking sticks, batteries and I grabbed some hand warmers you shake to make warm.. (Little did I know at the time how important this purchase was going to be).
Whilst we stayed in KK we met a nice fella from Canada called John who had just done some of Sabah attractions and he invited us to join him for dinner and we heard some stories from him which was quite fun. We didn't do much else in KK mainly due to there not being much there. It's quite a uninspiring city if I'm honest, and it really is just a launch pad into Sabah from what I could fathom.
The next day at 7am we were waiting for our taxi that we booked with Bunibon the night before only to find out the Prince wasn't aware he was taking us to the Mount Kinabalu Park entrance. This didn't help because we needed to be there before 9:30am to register! We got to the entrance in the end with half an hour to spare but that was only due to Prince driving at some speeds that certainly would of been breaking the law back home and I think Sarah kept her eyes shut most of the way there. It wasn't pleasant but it was made a little easier as he was giving us mini tour of sights as we whizzed by them. We got our first glimpse of Mt Kinabalu from the car and it was huge and we stared at it and wondered how we would get to the top whilst Prince joked that it wasn't too late to turn back! I was glad for having Prince drive us as he was really helpful making sure we got our guide and the paperwork done before setting off.
He also gave us three tips to remember
1. Respect the spirits of the mountain
2. Take in the nature and don't always look at your feet
3. Don't listen to your heart as it will tell your head to stop
It was in this time that a fella came up to me and asked me about our guide and when we we going. His name was Mark and he was from Germany and he was asking whether it would be cool for Sarah and I to split the cost of the guide with him and his friend so we could save a bit of cash. Seemed like a good idea and with a bit of to'ing and fro'ing we sorted it out and were jumping in the shuttle bus that would take us to the entrance gate for the Timphon Trail.
Before taking our first steps on the trail we posed for photos which I think visually shows the difference in size between Mark and Christina compared to Sarah and I.
It proved to play a part in our ascent being different, and to be honest fitness levels were against Sarah and I as well as short legs I reckon. That being said the first 5k was sort of even and we were able to meet up with them at each shelter stop for a little while. But as we got higher and the air got thiner everyone needed to walk at their own pace and so we split up.
On the way up we were met with rainfall almost immediately and I was thankful for buying my new coat. As you walk up the trail you begin to see why people say the trail is harder on the way down mainly due to the amount of steps that you have to walk down which destroy your legs!!
For the moment I didn't think about that and tried to enjoy the trek, taking Princes advice.
This guy has to be some sort of hero for tacking these steps with that huge thing on his back. It kind of made a mockery of your struggle but if you did it everyday then I'm sure it would be easier.
On the way we managed to get a photo of the pitcher plant in full colour.
There were friendly squirrels at the breakpoints.
And even met up with the resident cat of the mountain who resided at one of the stop off points where the guides have a sort of office.
On the way as well there were markers for each kilometre we reached and we stopped every so often to grab a photo.
As we got higher and higher it was decidedly more difficult to try and stop and take photos all the time as you needed to rest and get your breath back. I had a little second wind before reaching our stop off point at Laban Rata.With this second wind I managed to grab some photos of the mountain side and fortunately as we had gotten higher the weather had improved as well. Sarah and I posed for a photo and the backdrop showed one of the peaks that we would have to climb towards. It looked a looooong way away!!
It wasn't long before we reached the make shift helipad and we knew we had made our first target of Laban Rata which was a 6km along the trail and 3272m above sea level! We had made it in 5hours which was a decent average time.
At this point poor Sarah was starting to really feel the affects altitude so we were thankful that what laid ahead for the rest of the day was food and sleep!
The food was very nice and as it was a buffet we got our fair share before deciding that we needed to go to bed at 5pm just to make sure we were awake enough for the next morning as we would be leaving for Low's Peak at 2:30am the next morning.It was pretty easy to have a nap at first after the walk we had done but we both found that we woke up during the evening and it was quite disorientating due to the change in sleep pattern. I ended up needing to sit out in the corridor of the dorm beds and play Tiger Woods golf for a while just to have a change of scene before trying to get some more sleep. It was a decent round of 18 holes and I managed to bring my handicap down!
Sarah didn't have the best of sleep and the effects of the altitude was doubling up with her general feeling of being ill and when it came to morning there was a moment when we thought that she couldn't go. But to her testament she forced herself to get up and eat a little before starting the next leg, which was in the dark.
The group shot before was obligatory.
The start of the walk was slow as the crowds on the steps were meeting each other too soon and it actually made it harder because you couldn't get into a rhythm. Fortunately we managed to push on passed the small crowds and from there it was a test of patience and determination to keep walking up steps and steps and steps.
On the way Sarah was feeling more and more feverish and so was very hot and therefore she decided to wear only one top for the first couple of hours. At the time it was helping but what we realised after was that really she should of forced herself to wear her warming clothing. I had looked at her to check for any signs of hyperthermia and tried to convince her but I think in her own mind it felt better not to and when you are sure of your own state of mind it is hard to take advice. We later realised also that the guide although was good at showing us the way was non-existent in terms of advising about the cold weather in combination with the altitude. It is the problem that occurs when young guys are employed to take tourists up and perhaps not given any training in order to help.
So with her body and mind against her, Sarah battled on up the steps and even up the cliff face which needed to be ascended by pulling yourself up a rope. As it was dark the rock faces felt steeper and more dangerous and as we got higher you could see in the distance the lights of towns that were easily 50-60km away.
During this time it wasn't possible to stop for photos due to the combination of staying warm, staying alert and not holding up people. But when we got to the 8km mark (having pushed on passed quite a few people it has to be noted) I managed to grab a photo and it is here we realised just how much the effects of the climb had taken its toll on Sarah, at least she had put some layers on by this point, but a little too late.
Not far beyond this point we had to stop and it was so close to the top we could see the lights of the people who had made it up earlier, but by this point Sarah knew she couldn't push on any further and she stopped just 300metres shy of the top. It was then a worry because she was really cold so I got out the foil blanket and the guide offered probably the best thing which was his thick coat which really did help. I also got out the hand-warming sachets and it proved to be a saving grace because as the sun started to rise it was hidden by the clouds and therefore the warmth Sarah needed wasn't there.
Once Sarah got warmer she was able to offer me to go to the top which I was reluctant to do as the guide had gone onwards to check on Mark and Christina, but she reassured me and I decided to go. For some lucky reason I found the altitude no problem and although the climb was difficult I found going at a steady pace meant that I felt fine at the top. I was in an adrenaline mode after Sarah said I could go to the top, thinking that I needed to get up and down quickly so that she wasn't on her own too long. With that I raced up the top climbing up the rocks passing people and managed to get a porter to take a photo of me. I even managed to get to the top in time to have photos with Mark and Christina who I found out had waited for us at the top a which was really nice of them and it was just a shame that Sarah had had a bad climb that we couldn't have the group shot of us all. At the top it was freeeeeezng!! My fingers were starting to ache and that wasn't even for very long so I can't imagine how Mark and Christina felt. After getting the obligatory top of the mountain marker I raced down to meet up with Sarah, and found her still perched in the same spot looking out at the morning mist.
Despite not getting to the top together we were both proud of what we achieved and the guide told us she would still get her certificate. Yay!!
As the light creeped passed the mountains edge and the plateau we had ascended revealed itself we really began to see the sheer size of the mountain and also how barren the area was. I managed to grab a cool photo of Mark with the sun in the background which kind of summed up the that feeling of being on top of the world.
We got a picture of Sarah at the 8.5km mark two prove she had made it almost to the top.
From then on it was the long descent we had to contend with. The best thing about being at heights we reached was the skyline and we got our fair share of stunning photos to remind us that we had been there and climbed a Mountain!
Afterwards we cursed every step as we made our way down back to the bottom, stopping off at Laban Rata for a rest bite. It is true to some extent that going down is a lot harder mainly because the days after your legs hate you and want to make you fall over because you can't even walk down a sidewalk. Sarah's luck had ran out during the trek down and she even managed to slip on some of the wooden steps, smacking the back of hers leg and fortunately being stopped by a bush. Thankfully her backpack took the brunt of the impact but as always she still bruised like a peach!
We were so thankful to be at the park entrance to have some food and the prospect of getting back to the hostel to sleep was almost too good a notion. Unfortunately we had to wait a while as we got stuck in a traffic jam on the taxi ride back to KK but we did meet a nice couple from USA called Adam and Mandi who we shared the taxi with and were doing a similar trip to us. They were kind enough to give us some tips about Sarawak.
I think I can speak for Sarah and say that she has no desire in the near future to climb another mountain but really glad that she did it. I for one am glad because its been on my bucket list for a long time and I was surprised how much fun I found it. Who knows maybe another mountain is beckoning me to climb it before too long. Watch this space ....
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