Before I left for Borneo, I had already registered and paid for a 2-day mountain climb. I was sort of talked into it . . . I thought if I could make it through the climb I did in Thailand, I could do anything this.
After my day of rowing to my own little private island, I took a day to relax and organize everything for the climb. I woke up to the most incredible sunrise, and the most searing sunburn pain.
My sunburn ended up being so bad that I woke up in the middle of the night, too. I can't explain exactly how it felt, but it was far worse than any sunburn I had ever had. If I was laying down, the pain was manageable. But when I would stand up, all of the blood in my legs would rush into the outer most tips of my veins and cause excruciating pain. It was like the feeling you get when your feet fall asleep, times ten: little pricklies all over. So the first thing I did was buy a large quantity of aloe vera. For the rest of the week my legs were covered in about a 1/4 inch of aloe vera. Oh to be pale . . .
While out running errands for the mountain climbing trip and the legs that were burnt, I was able to meander about Kota Kinabalu quite a bit. It was a quiet little city filled with color.
We also popped into a little market, where I did my fair share of Christmas shopping.
I had Mr. Abel drive me around to see several of the large mosques in the city. They were gorgeous!
We also stopped by a cemetery. I was fascinated by the grave sites. They were rather large shrines built to people, tucked into little hills. They were highly decorated and sort of engulfed by the vegetation around them.
The end of the day boasted just as beautiful a sunset as the sunrise I witnessed that morning. That evening I packed away my headlamp, my gloves, and my dignity into a little bag. I was being picked up at 6am the next day for the 2-day climb . . .
I woke up around 5am to prepare for my trip. I was still relatively sore from my sunburn, but at least on this day, I was able to move again without tearing up. Right on schedule my driver arrived. I was alone in a giant white van with him for two hours. We drove through the city and then, up, up, up and away . . . We were getting higher and higher in the mountains, and the roads were getting windier and windier. I was energized and excited, and everything was so green!
We pulled over at a little roadside stand where I picked up some more water and breakfast. I had remembered from my Thailand trip how quickly I ran out of water, so I wanted to make sure that I had enough. Everywhere I turned at this little roadside stand had the most gorgeous views!
I finally arrived to the site where the climb would begin. It was very Yellowstone-y looking. There was a gate at the front, and a few really nice lodges where people were standing around with backpacks on. I stood around waiting for about 2 hours for my guide to show up. Giant buses were dropping off loads and loads of people. It was beginning to get very crowded . . .
My guide finally arrived via scooter. His name was Zul and he spoke very little English. My guess is that he was in his early 20's. He was very kind and patient, and he sort of pointed at a map and showed me what was going on. As usual, I didn't do any research or look over my itinerary before arriving. So I figured this would be a quick climb and I'd leave the next morning.
I was even more excited and positive about the climb when I saw that the path had been paved for us. This wasn't like Thailand at all. I could do this, I thought. Step-by-step I could do.
It was between the 3rd and 4th kilometer that I began to think that maybe steps weren't such a good idea . . .
I kept meeting people along the way. Some of the guys do trips up and down the mountain delivering goods to the top via their backs. From what I could tell, they were carrying eggs, toilet paper, chocolates, ramen noodles, etc. I found it completely amazing that they would be basically jogging up these stairs, sometimes with a cigarette hanging out of their mouths, with these giant packs on their backs.
There was also a college youth group doing the trip. They were hilarious to meet up with as we continued on the journey. Funny, funny guys.
The most spectacular part was the landscape. It was ever-changing. I kind of thought that it would stay sort of rainforest-y looking, but it didn't. The higher we climbed, the more diverse and interesting the landscape became.
One thing that was really kind of annoying to me was how crowded it was. I was able to shoot several images where there were no people, but believe-you-me, there were people. Hundreds of people. The path was relatively narrow, so you either had to stop for people to go past you or go faster to get past someone else. When I'm doing hikes like this, I like to sort of take in my surroundings. I felt that was a little bit harder this time around . . .
Our goal was to get to the Laban Rata Rest House, which was 6 kilometers up. I was sweating like a beast once we passed the 5 kilometer mark. I wanted to take off my jacket, but there was really no place to put it. At 205 meters from the end, we passed someone wearing earmuffs and a stocking cap . . . Are kidding me? It's so hot!!
It was just after this little video that we made our way up and out of the trees. And not a moment too soon . . .
The lodge where all of the meals took place was completely packed and reminded me of lunchtime on a ski slope in Vail. Everyone looked sort of haggard, but upbeat. And everyone was wearing some sort of winter clothing. I went inside to check-in and sit down for a minute. They wouldn't be feeding us dinner for another hour or so.
It was then when I was surrounded by tourists and everything cost way too much money (a KitKat and Diet Coke cost Rm20.50) that I realized I had made a mistake. Not only had I overpaid for this trip (Rm1250-are-you-kidding-me), but it wasn't even the scene I was interested in. There was no personal touch at all. In Thailand, we stayed in a village with pigs running around and kids playing. It was authentic, it was real. This felt a bit manufactured, and like something you would see advertised in an extreme sports magazine.
I mean, I didn't want to be on the top of a mountain in Malaysia listening to Ariana Grande.
But it was really beautiful . . . There was no doubt about that!
After I checked in, they gave me a pass to wear around my neck. My number was AA22, which I could only hope meant "ability of an acute 22 year old". They put me in a cabin named Lamaing Hostel, where I stayed with 14 other people. I was on the bottom bunk.
After they showed me where I was staying, they fed us cafeteria-style in the main lodge and we were expected to be in bed by 7:30pm. Unbeknownst to me, I had to be up to 2am for a 2 kilometer hike in the dark further up to see the sunrise.
Hmmmm. This is when I started giving careful consideration to what I was doing. Mountains are just as beautiful from my balcony in Kota Kinabalu, as they are up close. So why am I doing this?
The sun had gone down, and--you guessed it--it was freezing cold. There was no heat in the cabin where we were staying. Still pondering the question of why did I agree to do this, I looked back through the selfies I took at various landmarks throughout the day's climb. Still no answer to that burning question.
I had firmly decided that I was not going to do the hike to see the sunrise at 2am. But over dinner, some younger kids talked me into it. So there I was up and at 'em at 1:30am. And so was everybody else . . . I put on my headlamp, found Zul, and we took off. I actually had no issues with it being completely dark out. I thought it was actually easier because I had no expectations. I couldn't see what was coming, so I was pretty much good to go. Give me a headlamp any day of the week, and I'll be hot to trot.
It was only when we got about 300 meters from the finish mark that I had to put my foot down. The rest of the way was via rope climb.
Nope. No thank you. Nada.
Not only was I not going to do that, but I wasn't even interested. When I saw the rope, I knew in my heart that I made the right decision. There are some things I just don't need to do in life. And I'm okay with that.
Zul and I both took pictures in the dark. And we were both completely happy (for once) with my decision not to go any further. So we started the climb down.
When we got down and back to the lodge, we were really excited to be able to rest. So he went to his room and I went to mine, and we napped for about an hour. When I got up, it was still quiet. There were no people. So I walked around taking pictures. It really was something to be above the clouds . . .
They served breakfast at 6am. It was really nice to be relaxed and ready before the big 6 kilometer climb down. We left the lodge at 8:15am.
Around kilometer marker number 3, it started to drizzle. I had purchased two ponchos, so I put one over my bag and the other one over me. The rain made the rainforest even more mystical, where the foreground sort of mixed with the background, confusing the image. I loved it!
All-in-all, it took us about 5 hours to climb up and 6 hours to climb down. Over the course of two days, I climbed about 14 kilometers. Completely sunburned. Nothing really humorous or funny happened because I didn't really find this particular adventure enjoyable. Was I glad that I did it? Sure. I'll do just about anything. Have I figured out why I did it? Nope. Will I ever climb a mountain again? Probably not.
I'll stick to water adventures from now on. Cheers!