Friday, July 3, 2009

Summiting Mount Kinabalu

Yeah, I know, I've been living in Singapore for 4 years now and I've only just made it to Borneo... worse, I was only there for a few days. As many people can confirm, including some of the travellers Iet there, you could easily spend 2 months just hitting the highlights. GO! ENJOY!
Being a bit of a slacker in my travel plans, I didn't research anything about where to stay in Kinabalu City, so when I arrived I just hit the airport's tour stand.
I was pleased to find out several of the peeps running the place are Christians. Despite my later realization that they make 20ringit (S$10) comission on hotel bookings, they were great. In fact they saved me 20ringit on a cab fare by taking me directly to the bus station. But not before taking me to their favorite restaurant for lunch. After hoppng into the car with three complete strangers I realized my mom definitely wouldn't approve.
I love that feeling: what in the world have I gotten myself into here? Is this really happening? It's so surreal and lately I've become rather accustomed to it. I wonder if that's a little closer to how God would have me live my life - completely at His mercy and trusting Him fully with complete control of my life.
Well I arrived safely at the bus to Kinabalu park. My favorite line that came from the bus jockey was in response to my inquiry as to how often the bus goes (yeah, I did very little research beforehand). He said "Full house, OK!"
I got shotgun in the 10 person van, and all seemed to be going well until we stopped at what I was positive was NOT Kinabalu Park. Turned out we were just picking up one passenger's wife and kids.. I love the way these things work when people aren't stuck in rigid "must do it this way" mindsets.
Arriving at the park I checked in and all was well with my reservation, the one thing I did plan. Next up: shower and dinner!
I sat down with 2 other travellers, sharing travel stories and excitement for the climb in the morning over a rather large buffet. Chris and Viv were fun.
In the morning we hooked up with Tom & Rachel and met Martyn. Let me digress for a moment and tell you that Martyn is a Scotsman if there ever was one. Picture William Wallace's red-haired friend in Braveheart, funny and hard as. I was glad to share a guide with him as we challenged each other to push it and go hard.
Speaking of the obligatory guides, if possible, make your reservation with some mates and share one. They don't really do much except report to someone if you get hurt and you need one to get past the 2 checkpoints on your way to the summit.
What else do you need? Winter hat, warm coat, an impermeable, light longsleeved shirt, tshirt, 2 pr smartwool socks, shorts, hiking pants, waterproof hiking boots. 2 pr underwear, long underwear, winter gloves-waterproof if possible, trekking poles, head lamp, sunglasses, sunscreen. If you can: flip flops, panadol, moleskin, band-aids. You might also want a small waist pack so you can summit with just a few little things whilst leaving non-essentials behind at Laban Rata, but I've gone way off course now.
Martyn and I reached Laban Rata in 3 hours and were pretty soaked and cold by then. I'd refused to put on my fleece as I didn't have much more than a worthless rain poncho to keep it dry. That's the unfortunate end of leaving winter stuff on another continent, lesson learned.
The afternoon and evening were spent warming up with tea, scrabble, cards, and great conversation. That's what you get at 3,300 meters.
2:00am wake up so we were early to bed. One poor bloke was altitude sick. Remedy: lots of water, paracetomol, and rest. We 6 were fine. 2:30 breakfast. If you want to move quickly to the summit, get out before the crowd as the trail is narrow and it only takes one to slow down 80 in single lane traffic. We were able to pass here and there and at the checkpoint Martyn & I were the 3rd & 4th climbers through. Passing #2 in short order we set our sights on first. As the air grew thin so did our chances. In the end, Barney prevailed and we settled in as the 2nd group to summit that day, after just 2 hours climb (Barney took 2.5!).
No complaints though as we had it all to ourselves for a while and took amazing photos of the mountain landscape as the sun rose.
There few things that have quickened my soul like reaching a summit and just absorbing as God paints an ever-evolving tapestry across the sky all the while revealing His earth below bit my bit. What a beautiful metaphor of His relationship with each of us. As we pursue Him with our all, He responds by slowly revealing Himself and His beauty to us. What an amazing God we have!
All good things must come to an end (else we wouldn't appreciate or recognize them when they come) and we had to make our way back down once again.
A phone call to mom at first sight of the cell tower, a stop for breakfast at Laban Rata, and down we came. This is where trekking poles are essential... If you value your knees!
7hours down hike and a lovely bus!
So, 5.5 hours up and 7 down... Did I mention the annual race? The record holder did it in 2hours, 37minutes - that's up AND back. 21km, and don't forget the nearly 2.5km up/down!
Needless to say I was WRECKED! Food, shower and back to KK City.
I was meant to take the 15ringit bus, but I stumbled upon a car hoping for 20ringit & a passenger heading back, plus he'd drop me right at my hostel. Thank you very much!
Not much exciting at the end... Massage, dinner, sleep, ill, rest, fly back to Singapore. What an amazing few days!
Next stop - the Best Holiday in the World in Tropical North Queensland courtesy of Toursim Queenslan!
Check out my facebook (gregreynen) for photos of Kinabalu

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