Mountain Mania

Trip Start Aug 16, 2006
Trip End Aug 2007

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Sunday, November 5, 2006

Kota Kinabalu is not the prettiest town but it's a great base from which to see Sabah (north Borneo). We stumbled on a great place top stay - the Summer Lodge - it was very clean, relatively cheap (50 ringgit for a double room with aircon - about 7 quid), free breakfast, free tea, coffee and water all day and free internet. We met loads of other travellers there too, who all seemed to be really nice people. The only downside to the place was the live music playing just outside the hotel. The singers sang covers extremely badly every night until about midnight - thank goodness for earplugs!
There was a really interesting Filipino market along the waterfront where we ate a number of times:
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We ate lots of Nasi Goreng (fried rice) or Mee Goreng (fried noodles) and tried other local foods including a rather weird dessert called ABC (can't remember what it stands for), which was made up of many ingredients (pasta, coconut, corn, sugary sweets, concentrated milk, and seaworms - yes, you read it correctly, worms from the sea!) all poured into a bag of sugary water.
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We loved mangostine (a fruit with a hard shell around soft white flesh and a big stone in the middle) but not so much snake fruit.
After 4 days of not doing a great deal we headed out to Mount Kinabalu - a 2 hour bus ride from KK to the Kinabalu Park Headquarters where you check in before starting the climb. There were a few hidden costs that we hadn't expected - a guide is mandatory, as is insurance, park permits, climbing fees, and transport to the beginning of the trail. Anton, a swedish guy who had joined us for the trek (see pics below) managed to reduce his costs dramatically by following Vic's advice and claiming he was below 18 years old (he is in fact 26!). An excellent ploy but certainly not one Vic and I could get away with!
Here we are with our guide Marios before starting the climb.
[PIC to be added]

We set off at 10:30am and it immediately became apparent this was going to be no walk in the park. The trail was well developed consisting of man-made wooden steps or rock but it was a steep and arduous incline. But there was some interesting flora and fauna on the way up:

After 4 hours 20 mins we finally reached our overnight resting point at Laban Rata. The lodge is situated at around 3100m and was enveloped in cloud when we arrived:  
We thought we'd made pretty good time as we had passed many other trekkers on the way up and had not even stopped at all the rest points. However, we ought to have taken a hint from the consistently pained expressions on the faces of those descending (one lady was being carried down by one of the guides and explained "her knees had gone"). We woke at 2am to grab some brekky before starting the final climb to the top in time for sunrise. Here are Vic and Anton looking raring to go:
The 1st hour of the climb in the dark was extremely hard, undoutbedly due to the altitude in addition to the steep incline. We then changed terrain and had to use ropes to climb up the increasingly steep sides of rock as we neered the summit. We used torches to light our way and could see the dots of light from numerous other trekkers going on for what seemed like miles ahead. It was just beginning to get light when we reached the bottom of Lowes Peak - the highest point at 4095m. 45 mins later and we had finally reached the top, and it was bloody cold! But we had dressed for the part:
I took loads of pics but here are a few of the best
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The descent back to Laban Rata was amazing in the light with incredible panoramic views (you can see the lodge in the pic below):
We got a couple of pics in the morning light
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After an hour's rest and a bite to eat it was time for the long slog back to the bottom. And our fears were realised - it was harder coming back down than it was going up! Anton raced on ahead leaving us oldies to complete the painful descent in the same time it took us to go up. The sign below shows the record times for climbing the mountain - to the top and back!!!
We returned to Kota Kinabalu and got an early night!

One evening off and it was back to work (well, not like home, but we were still shattered from the climb and had to be up at 8am). We spent the 1st day doing all our theory in a classroom which was excellent as neither of us could walk very well after our mountaineering exploits (trying to get down any stairs was hilarious and even Rich couldn't run!). Our instructor's name was Ian Edwards and Rich and I were the only people on the course which made it even better value for money.
On our 2nd day we headed out in the morning to one of the islands (Sapi) just offshore from KK, to begin our practical training. Sapi is a tiny island with white sand, clear blue water and lovely coral just off the beach. The day went well and despite my (as Rich phrases it "irrational") phobia of sharks we both completed the majority of the course tasks in that day (although Rich's buoyancy control was not so good - I'm sorry it's just so satisfying to find something he can't do straight away!). The next day in the water was even better - we saw loads, including sea snakes, a large cuttle fish, a mantis shrimp, 2 baby blue spotted rays, nemo fish, a couple of huge trevallies and the usual coral life with its many little interesting fish. There were so many sergeant major fish when we practiced one of our emergenecy ascents that Rich and I (whose masks were about 10 inches apart from each other) couldn't see anything but fish. We got a free fun dive that afternoon as we'd finished all the work early and still had an air tank each left. We both enjoyed the course so much and Ian was a great instructor that we would have loved to have stayed and taken our advanced certificate but we had already booked a later flight that we could not change. So, again, without a day off (oh poor us!) we set off the next morning at 6am bound for Uncle Tan's wildlife safari near Sandakan on the north east side of Borneo - we were off in search of Orangutans...
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