Somewhere in Asia travel blog

Mount Kinabalu

Our hostel room in the park

Beautiful colours

Freddie, our guide (left) and friend (right), also a guide

Incredible vegetation


A very friendly porter

Smiling all the way

He's carrying 30kgs on his back, and he'll be back the next...

Another friendly porter

Quick and steady


Check out his legs

On his way

The guide style

Myles looking back

More vegetation


Tree top

More trees

Big bonsai-like trees

Ready for rain

View of the well-worn trail - not so difficult to navigate

Our guide checking his cellphone on the way up

Freddie's socks

More vegetation on the way

Still more

It's cold up there - feels like Calgary

A girl porter - 29kg of weight

Yes, it's a dandelion





Chilling in our un-heated room at the Lagadan hostel (11000feet)

Gloves required

Cooking indoors in NorthernLite in Malaysia

No view, cold, plastic bags over our heads, but we made it

Check out those socks!

Catching the bus for the second time on the same road, we preloaded with some anti-nausea pills in anticipation. The whole process seemed a lot less painful. Arriving in early afternoon at the park headquarters (1524m), we checked in, and received our instructions for the next day. While delivering our bags to the hostel, we started to feel hungry. We checked out food prices in the park restaurant, and concluded that the short walk out of the park and across the street to an independent restaurant would fit our budget better. The restaurant was run by the local Kadazan people, and served up a mix of Kadazan/Chinese and western style food. The prices were much more reasonable. Later in the evening we cooked our own dinner in the hostel kitchen. Our roommates for the evening were two Chinese women from Kuching. They had us laughing within a few moments of entering the room, as they were trying to unload extra food that would weigh them down. Their plan was to unload food, and carry up booze instead. They planned on climbing the mountain as well, but we both had our doubts not because they were not capable, but we thought it would be more fun for them not to. Agnes brought an origami package with her for the trip. The instructions were missing a very crucial step. Fortunately, our roomies knew the key step. With lots of laughs we fell asleep, waking occasionally to one of them talking to family on her cell phone. Malaysians seem to love their cell phones even more than North Americans, as well as anything to do with them.

In the morning we casually discussed religion over some fruit. Both of our roommates are Buddhist, and curious about our take on religion in general. We went across the road for our breakfast outside the park before meeting our mandatory guide. Our guide, Freddie, had very little endearing qualities as most of the guides do in the park (rumors). However, he did sport some cool socks. Perhaps, it was the fact that he has done it over 700 times, and would rather check his cell phone coverage on the way up, than spend time pointing out flowers on the trail. He trailed behind us 15 to 20 meters the entire way up, and only communicated if we asked a question. Of course its tiring to keep asking questions when you know the person is only answering them because it would be rude not to. We decided to skip the bus ride that takes you up the 4 km of paved road to the Timpohon gate, for 30 ringgit - not so much to be cheap (maybe a little), but to get the full experience. In good fashion our guide said he would meet us where the bus dropped everyone else off (1829m). What he thought would take us over 2 hours took us 50 minutes. He was pretty excited about that. The walk up past the Timpohon gate starts in dipterocarp forest (rainforest) and later passes oaks, laurels, and chestnuts, while higher up the rhododendrons become the dominant tree species. Nearly half of the plant species are unique to the area, such as the insectivorous Nepenthes (nice words huh, insectivoroussssssss). As far as mammals go, just a few squirrels, rodents, and birds are in the area. They seem to prefer the warmer lowland rainforest around the Poring Hot Springs. The walk was beautiful, even on a rather dreary day. As we climbed, the trees became gnarled and stunted improving the views, and black and white photos (in my opinion). Along the way, fresh mountain water brought me back home to the Rockies, as I drank thirstily from the barrels set up at every kilometer or so. Walking upwards towards Laban Rata, we could feel the woozy effects of 3000 meters. Laban Rata (3353m) is the main lodging for the evening before one leaves for the summit. We stopped there for some warm liquids, and a rest before heading up to our more humble lodging, another 50m uphill. We watched the clouds swirl in and out wondering what the next day would bring. Feeling a wee bit tired we both napped a bit before making up a lovely dish of packaged rice noodles, and chit-chatting with some folks. We were in bed by 9pm. Being a 11000 ft even in SE Asia can be cold. With all our clothes on, we slept somewhat peacefully until the first group of climbers woke us up at 2:00am to leave for the summit. Our guide wasn't going to show up until 3:30am in hopes of seeing the sunrise. Waking to rain, and howling wind in the Rockies would have sent me back into my sleeping bag, but not the case here. Knowing that there was a rope leading to the summit, as well as a guide to lead the way we felt at ease. Overnight our bodies had become accustomed to the altitude, and we felt strong for the summit. However, after spending 6 months in plus 30C weather, the cold rain beating on our faces took us by surprise. Being on a mountain that welcomes close to a 100 people daily at its summit, we were not surprised to pass many people along the way. There was a steady line of headlamps in front of us, as well as behind. It would be impossible to get lost. Our guide was able to quickly pass people in the dark, having done this before he knew each turn and step. The last 30 meters to the summit was quite a zoo, people going up, down and around. Reaching the cold, dark summit, the guide gave us his congratulations and was ready to leave. We paused to say a little prayer for someone, as the locals believe the summit to be a spiritual place, guarded by a friendly spirit. Agnes made me pose for the summit photo with a plastic bag over my head. After that it was a mad dash back down to the hut. Walking down as the light was coming up, I realized that since we had no hopes of seeing the sunrise due to weather, we should have just slept in and walked up after the rush in the dim cloudy light. We would not have seen much, but it would have been a little more rewarding then complete darkness. Arriving back at the hut completely soaked, we put on whatever dry clothes we had, and went down to get some hot coffee at Laban Rata. With the weather not letting up, we decided to head down right away, and back to KK for some dry clothes, and our little home away from home. The walk down was long, and tiring. Riding our bikes had prepared our legs for going up, but not down. Eventually we made it down feeling very hungry. We said our good-byes to the Mountain and park and went to the restaurant across the street for our lunch. We jumped on the first chance for a ride back to KK, and got dropped off at the Summer lodge. Happy to be back, we relaxed. Our legs didn't hurt till the next day.

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