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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Braving Mount Kinabalu

***backdated to last year, 27 June 2007***

I heard a sms ringtone. OH...that's familiar. It's mine! Checked and read in the dark. It's Sam. He'd awaken and coming over at 3.35am. Before long, the 18 of us were making our way to Kinabalu Park in 2 vans. I slept along the way, not without knocking my head on the window steel.

Arriving early for registration, we snapped a few pics. Mist were around us that morning , 27 June 2007 at 6.30am. I was already trembling with cold. At that point, I started to put on more layers of clothes and wore my winter hat...another trick to lighten my backpack.

A bus took us to the Timpohon gate and we were briefed by our 3 guides. We had a total of 8.5 km to the summit of Mount Kinabalu but first we'd stay a night at Laban Rata at km 6.

"Any ques before we start?" asked Lawrence, the guide. Silence...

And so the journey began....downhill....?????????? but for only a few steps till the waterfall...still fresh and full of energy, we took a few photos here. Moved on...this time uphill..the trail at the beginning were of earth steps...too big steps to carry on for long...eventually, looked for small alternatives.

The sights and sounds at the beginning was of the typical tropical forests'. Along the way, there were signboards of our distance, a rest area, toilet and a tank of untreated drinking water supply.

Apparently, Mount Kinabalu is never lonely. There's ppl ascending and also ppl coming down on a daily basis. Besides participants, there're ppl making a living here.... the porters. This porters may be male/female, young/ old helping to carry participants' extra luggages with a fee. There are also workers who brought contruction materials up i.e metals lengths and sand. "Wah, berapa kg?" the curious me asked. Answers I got ranged from 25 to 45 kgs and it's 7 times a week, 6km distance.

Climbers were of different nationalities. We exchanged pleasantries and greetings along the way with "hello, congrats, good luck, ni hao, jia you, etc.." Some descending Taiwanese reminded us to move on fast before it gets slippery when it rains and that the next stop is just around the corner. We moved on....

Tired...my leg muscles started to sore. I stopped every few steps. Ppl passed me by, mostly the stronger westerners, I must admit. Tried alternating my sling backpack from shoulder to shoulder, back to carrying it in front. Refusing to sit, I shaked my legs as I paused, taking in the views around me.

The trail was partial stones and rocks with earth. Proper steps no longer available. The air was getting thin. Mist surrounded us. Trees were of short, crooked types with small leaves. Plants were getting scarce along the way. It gave me a feeling of being in wonderland, normally portrayed in tv when one's lost in dreams.

Inhale through nose, exhale through mouth... my couz's tips kept ringing in my ear. I did not want to risk a faint here. From time to time, applied some ointment, took some sweets and energy supply from choc.

Finally at 2 pm after approx 5 hrs or hiking, we finally reached the guesthouse at Laban Rata at km 6. Many has arrived and it was cold. At 8pm, the temperature fell to 9.7 degree celcius outside. The westerners were still in shorts and a layer while I was in 3. Some were seen smoking outside. Inside, food were prepared.....but at a price. Rm 14 for a big plate of rice. "Come on.. they carried the cooking gas up, you know," I was reminded.

At 2.30 am and 9 degrees celcius, the ascent continued. With torchlightw and a rope to cling to, we managed the remaining 2.5km uphill. It was rocky cliffs this time. Every once a while, I looked behind me. The sleepy neighbourhood far underneath still had their lights on while closer behind and below, there were glimmering torchlichts and whispers and sounds of deep breathing. Before me were more torchlights. I could see the end now...I'm coming closer. Those assembly of torchlights marked the summit. Above me, the sky remained dark. There were stars..and the moon.

Here I came...yeap...my feet hurts. My muscles giving way. Every steps seemed a torture. I couldn't go on anymore. Ppl took over me. I fell on my palms a few times - wrong steps.some water seeped into my socks. I paused, moved..paused moved. The summit I thought it was.. wasn't the summit afterall, there were longer way to go. I just didn't see it from those locations just now. I shone my torch to my side..wow...i was standing at the edge of the cliff. One wrong step and I risked falling and rolling down to God knows where... I kept asking myself why I paid for such torture in the first place. And this will be the first and only at the same time pushing myself to let this end perfectly.

My leg was aching immensely. The muscles..calf and hamstring...that I hardly use were crying out in pain. They're doing hard work gripping and supporting my body weight on the steep rocky ground.

5.45am of 28 June 2007 marked my accomplishment reaching the summit. The sun started to rise from it's slumber. "Magnificent, marvellous" I heard a voice nearby said. I sat within rocks and ppl as wind barrier, looking at the sun. "I'm on top. I've made it!" my inner voice screamed. My fingers were getting numb. I took out my hotpack and kneaded it but of no use. It turned immediately to solid instead. I took out my remaining choc bar and enjoyed quietly.

I must have looked silly up there. I don't know. I didn' t look into any mirrors then but I could imagine I looked silly. Imagine someone with a swimming goggle on, and a winter mask overlapping another winter hat inside. I estimated I spent at most half an hour at the summit of Mount Kinabalu (4.0952 km height but 8.5km trail). I walked down, slowly, this time,,..digesting the scenery. Now that the sun has risen, the green pastures beneath was clearly visible. Distant but same level was the floating clouds. Nearer, the various shapes of the other peaks.

After breakfast at Laban Rata , we packed our things and started descending the same trail we took just the day before. Descending was not an easy task as percepted. The large steps resulted in large impacts on our knees as we landed on them. I descended just like an old folk... having both feet on the same step before braving another. With such serious sore, descending too seemed like eternity and this time I only said hello and good luck to ascenders.

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