Having arrived in Kota Kinabalu on Saturday night at about midnight having come via KL from Heathrow on Malaysia Airlines we were met by Ronan. Ronan is an old friend of my younger brother and we were staying the next two nights with him before going up to Mount Kinabalu. By the time we arrived at Ronan's house and had a drink and chat it was well into the early hours. I went off to sleep leaving my brother and Ronan with the bottle of whiskey and chatting. Next morning we were up fairly early and went down to the market in the next village. Amazing fruits and foodstuffs were on sale. Much of it had been gathered from the forests and carried by hand to the market. With the morning gone it was time to head into KK for a look around and get something to eat. The restaurant was a Banana Leaf restaurant with food served on Banana Leaves instead of plates. (Very tasty food.)
I had expressed the desire to climb Mount Kinabalu and so in the afternoon we returned to Ronan's house to meet several members of the church. Ronan and one of the church members (Samy) had decided to come along on the trek. Brother Bob was going up to the forest park with us but because of heart rhythm problems was not going to go up the mountain itself but spend some time on the lower nature trails and checking out the stocks in the hotel bar. So we set out about 4 in the morning from Ronan's house and drove up into the mountains. The air temperature changed noticeably and the air blower was in constant use to keep the screen clear. Just before sunrise, came the first glimpses of the mountain.
We had arrived in plenty of time at the park office to register with the wardens and arrange a guide, a park regulation if you wish to go up the mountain.
The air was cool and clean and we watched clouds form partway up the mountain and disperse, the top floating in and out of site from minute to minute. A profound feeling of being at home with the mountain could be felt. Difficult to put into words but I know what I mean, as I am sure other mountain walkers will no doubt know. Having got our guide we set off up the track. In the early slopes it is fairly broad and well laid out, like going for an afternoon stroll in the park. The slope then begins to increase but always the path is well laid out with shelter huts to rest every few Kilometres. This may sound like an easy Sunday afternoon stroll but what you have to remember is that it is forever onwards and upwards. There are very few points where you are coming back down a dip. Before we had gone too far (a couple of Kilometres I think) Ronan announced that he was too unfit and was going back down to join Bob and would see us the following evening when we got back down.
The route continued upwards through heavy tree lined paths with rest huts at frequent intervals as mentioned before. Much has been done to stabilise the path and combat the erosion caused by countless boots tramping up and down the path. In many places hand rails have been put in. On the way up I couldn't understand the need for them. It was a different story coming back down, I was so tired and my legs so rubbery that I was glad of them.
We pressed on until we reached the Rest House where we bought some lunch (fried rice) and some fizzy drink. We had a short rest here and then pressed on further up as the Rest House was fully booked up. At this point we collected some sleeping bags at the Rest House.
From here the terrain had changed dramatically. Tree cover was getting less dense and the slopes noticeably rocky. A short walk and we get to do so climbing on real rock (easy stuff). Up the face of the rock are permanent ropes. It's a fairly easy haul up the ropes. Don't be deceived by the photo I used the rock angles to make it look more dramatic than it really is!
After arriving at the hut I dumped my gear and had a short look around the hut. Lots of rock, some running water and view down the valley. I had brought numerous Raisin And Biscuit Yorkies with me and I have to confess that that was my evening meal. Having dined upon such an excellent repast I have to admit I was worn out. Knowing it would get cold in the night I took off my boots and left them close to hand (for the middle of the night pee break!) and then climbed into the sleeping bag fully clothed. I wasn't going to risk losing any body heat by taking any clothes off. Some time during the night I was woken by Samy's chatering teeth, he was feeling the cold. I rooted in my rucksack for the spare pullover I had put in there. When you have lived all your life at sea level in Sabah I suppose you don't understand what cold during the night really is until you experience it.
Before sunrise everybody from the rest house arrived at the hut. However, there was a strong wind blowing so the guides would not let anybody start on the final walk up to the summit.
Just before sunrise the wind abated and we all set off. Shortly after leaving the hut the sun started to come up. The light changed by the second and a few minutes later there was full visibility.
A grueling climb brings us to the top of Mount Kinabalu. Time for a quick photo before the weather turns nasty and the clouds come down.
The first leg of the journey back down to the hut was fairly uneventful. I chatted with a young couple from Singapore, the highest they had climbed in their life was Bukit Timah on Singapore some 800 feet high. I got back to the hut and it was some time before Samy appeared, he was the last one back to the hut and many of the other groups had started on the way back down. By the time Samy got to the hut the rain was falling heavily and streaming off the mountainside. Our guide advised not trying to go down whilst the rain was heavy.
Eventually the rain let up sufficiently and the guide said it was time to go. The walk down was fairly uneventful and we made good time to the Rest House where we quickly consumed a plate of fried rice which filled the gaping chasm in our stomachs. The rest of the walk down was slow and uneventful. When we got down to the park my brother and Ronan were waiting with the car and after signing out of the park and receiving our certificates we made our way to Ranau for a Murtabak, a dish of minced mutton with egg wrapped in a paper thin dough and grilled with vegetable oil. Tasty!
Feeling refreshed but somewhat tired and beginning to stiffen up we drove on to the hot springs at Poring. We booked into the hostel and dumped our gear then had a look round Poring. That didn't take long and although the guide book says that there are three inexspensive eating places opposite the hostel we only found one. It was shut but opened up specially for us and although they had had no beer they did have some rice wine.
In the morning we got up fairly early for a dip in the tubs and got some eggs to boil in the hot spring for breakfast. Regulations require that they have too be done in a plastic bag to prevent the springs becoming contaminated with food. It gives a whole new meaning to "boil in the bag". The springs were developed by the Japanese during WWII. Set in picturesque surroundings the water is channeled into tubs and pools allowing the visitor to wallow in steamy sulphurous water. Hot and cold water is available so you can run your tub to the temperature that suits you.
After Poring it was a drive back to Ronan's house and a quick lunch of chicken before dashing off to the airport to fly to Manila. It is my intention to return to Sabah someday as I am sure that there is much more to see and do.
Contact John Harper
© John Harper 1999
Photographs taken by John Harper on a Pentax ME Super which now has a battered case which took several days to dry out.
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