Brace yourself for an epic tale of adventure.
Sabah, Malaysia...(cue: tropical bird squaking and bongos...) aka the north
lands on the island of Borneo. Beaches, mountains, monkeys...mosquitos...some cliché
expectations stirring? A huge island quite close to the equator...as we had
informed several unaware locals there. I was quite excited to trek through the
oldest rainforest in the world...and have an insane jungle adventure.
Panic. Yes. Panic and uncontrollable chatter filled my head as and I saw the
jagged mountain summit peeking through the clouds....getting closer and closer
as the bumpy, jungle roads twisted up towards Kinabalu National Park. Against
my natural instincts, we were also chugging up on the left side of the road
full speed ahead. For months, I'd gotten ready for
this...packed...trained...but the day had come! 4,000 plus meters of thin air
and rock were minutes away!
As optimistic as I was, approaching a rainy park headquarters, was actually
a foreshadow of the downpours to accompany us the ENTIRE climb. It took 6 1/2
hours to ascend to the Pendant Hut where we would rest up and prepare for the
remaining 3 km to the summit. Did I mention how thin the air was this high up?
Did I mention I climbed over 2,300 wooden steps and climbed rocks in a washed
out river bed (which later turned back into an actual river on the descent...)?
Step...breath...step...breath. Waterfalls caught our attention as we neared the
top...The stilted, wood paneled hut was a sight for sore eyes considering we
were drenched and exhausted...yet as the night went on, and the temperature
dropped to about 30 degrees F, served only as four walls from torrents of rain
and gusty alpine climate. Met some fun characters as the night rolled on...and
curled up in a nice warm sleeping bag to grab a blink of sleep before the
ceiling above us shook at 2 am with our mountain guides stomping us awake.
My freezing, wet shoes waited for me as we prepared to climb three more
hours up to the summit and hop onto the Via Ferrata for some rope fun. FREEZE!
Yes, I mean stop...and literally freeze...With headlamps and ponchos, we kept
trekking up as all other groups were turning around...the wind picked up...the
rain blew harder...a small river started hogging the path up...we had to turn back. After bickering back and forth about
the crap decision that had to be made, we figured that 3 more hours of this
would be torture to find a closed Via ferrata.
Back to the hut...shivers and all...waiting for 7 am for sunlight to aid in
the descent down the mountain. I stuck boiling water in my water bottle to
sleep with and keep warm. Sunrise slugged through the fog. Sooo.... under two jackets, and two ponchos
I was still soaked to the bone headed down the flooded trail. My only aim...get
to the bottom. Just a note, if you attempt Mt. Kinabalu request Friendy (with
no L) for your mountain guide. He was great. Also, don't do the climb during rainy
season. Which, being a rainforest is most of the year...
If you think this account was a bad experience...think again. IT WAS SO MUCH
FUN! I found myself laughing most of the time. The Borneo jungle was amazing!
Tree frogs, foot long-red leaches...people from every country trekking up with
you...Epic. Epic. Epic fun! No, that wasn't a stutter.
Another adventure worth sharing is white water rafting! Kiulu River wasn't
quite the ferocious river I was anticipating, but still met some great people
and had some laughs paddling. I wondered, only people in our boat were falling
out as we hit rocks head on....our guide was an idiot. haha. So were the Asians
that kept splashing parasitic water all over us. We got them back...and paddled
away as our guide fell out of the raft. Need I mention, a raft full of young
American girls obviously calls for obnoxious male attention...
I was quite intreagued in the main shopping center in Kota Kinabalu when I saw an "Ear candle" sign. This was by far the funkiest thing my body has felt. A burning tube in each ear for about fifteen minutes managed to suck out about a 1/2 inch of ear gunk. GROSS! I know...but it brought on uncontrollable laughter from my part (and my partner in crime Melissa). The mute man and his son that did it for us served as even more ironic laughter.
Christmas day was spent island hopping to Sapi and Manutuk Islands. Sunny,
beautiful, relaxing. The water was more green than I'd ever seen. The
snorkeling, after finding the right places on the reef were beyond words. At
one point I was floating in the middle of a school of tropical fish-clown fish,
angel fish, parrot fish...I floated there amazed at how much effort must have
gone into creating each one of those fish. God creates beautiful things for us
to see...not to mention things to laugh at...considering I got bit twice by
this obnoxious spotted fish protecting his "lawn".
I was pretty ecstatic when I found that the entire country, being mainly
Muslim, eats no pork...so I definitely tried chicken and beef in every new form
possible. From Indian, to Malay, to Christmas Eve room service...the food in Sabah rather
mediocre. Jungle BBQ after white water rafting served the best meat ever! The fruit was amazing! Mangosteen (exploding looking plums...) and spikey green and pink Rahmutan (spelling?) are by far my new favorites. I still gag at Durian. Sorry...not happening people.
tried my hardest...but despite my efforts, suffered almost-dysentery for about
30 hours at the close of the trip...
Sunsets were by far the most spectacular sight I had while in
Borneo....every night an explosion of colors overtook the skies to the west
over the ocean... reds, purples, and oranges...along with the company of puffy
clouds reflecting the sky's fiery colors. Breathtaking.
The weather was fantastic from Christmas Eve until we left today...my tan proves the nice weather! I wish the climb would have been the same...oooh well.
So…Christmas in Borneo. If you are still reading, wow...thanks family. Ha. Not the traditional holiday I have taken part in for
the past 24 years. It was a great change. So now, on the way back to Taiwan and
back to normal life…I’m glad to escape the cat calling of creepy locals…but I
loved every minute (well, give or take a few…) of this trip. The language is
fascinating. The weather amazing, the people helpful…the wild life out of the ordinary (like the
well know Probiscus, long nosed monkey…) One’s comfort zone needs to be thrown
out once in a while. Plus our stay at Sutera Harbor Resort helped recuperate at
the end of our hike…ha.