Climb every mountain
Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
79Trip End Sep 06, 2010
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By the time we arrived at Kinabalu National Park, everyone knew the rules to the evening card games (it only took 5 days but we got there eventually) so the competition became fierce and we drew a crowd from the lodge staff who found our game much more entertaining than whatever work they were supposed to be doing. They paid us back for the amusement we caused them by bringing us a plate of Malaysian cakes and doughnuts which would have been a lovely treat if we hadn't already secretly stuffed ourselves with the pile of free biscuits and tea and coffee on offer!
On our first full day we visited Poring Hot Springs where we played our luck card one more time to see the wild orangutan who frequently visits the park as well as a flying lemur having it’s daily nap on a tree trunk
The lodge we were staying in was perfectly situated with a stunning view of Mt Kinabalu and we had some drinks in the evening from one of the viewing platforms. At such a serene and quiet time as sunset it seemed so unlikely that this pretty mountain would be causing me so much pain in the coming days, but I looked my enemy in the face and showed it I was ready for the challenge. On our second day here we actually drove up to the start point of the hike and took a nature trail downhill for an hour or so ending up in the botanical gardens at the bottom. During the walk none of us spared a thought about leeches, we had come a long way since our first walk in the jungle, Richard was just wearing sandals and Steve and I had bare legs. Therefore you can imagine our surprise when later that day we noticed Val’s sock with tell-tale blood marks on leading to even more suspicious puncture wounds underneath
We would be climbing Mt Kinablu the next day but spending the night in a swanky five-star hotel back in Kota Kinablu. This allowed us to soak up some luxury before the horrors of the climb began and there seemed no better way to start than to order cocktails at the swim-up bar in the hotel pool. I started to become very envious of Val staying here while we trudged up and downhill for two days but knowing that we’d be coming back here afterwards was enough to make me convinced I’d see it through. We had a good night sleep in another exceedingly fancy room and were the first at the breakfast buffet to get a good innings before we set off. Steve and Richard were cautious about how much they ate in case they felt sick during the climb, I on the other hand managed nothing short of my six plate expectation and filled all available pockets with croissants for the road. I considered this achievement the first mountain I climbed that day.
When we arrived at the Timpohon Gate we were in good spirits and set off for the 4095m summit
Walking into the hut was a confusing moment; in that it wasn’t at all what we had expected to find half way up a mountain. There was an open kitchen with six chefs cooking up a huge range of fresh food for a buffet later that evening and our bunk room was just for four people with freshly made beds and clean towels. The unexpected luxury, and free tea, buoyed us through to a slap up buffet meal as good as any we’d had throughout our trip
The early morning start was made just bearable by the chefs tremendous job on a ‘midnight feast’ buffet and I really wanted to hold myself back but the porridge, pancakes, scrambled eggs and French toast were just too much to ignore. I must have carried more weight up to the summit in my belly than my backpack! We found our guides, Dennis and Man-goat*, donned our head torches and began as we left off, putting one foot higher than the other and not thinking about how much more was to come. The altitude was proving a problem for some but other than some shallow breathing the three of us were largely unaffected which was a great relief. The path kept getting steeper and steeper until ropes had to be used to haul ourselves upwards when it was too steep to walk, all this in the pitch black with a head torch and starlight to go by. I thought it was magical. I surprised myself with how much fun I was having and what a unique experience it was for me. I think that the perfect weather conditions were the determining factor in how much I was able to enjoy the summit climb as we dragged our way up the final granite shelf and the wind picked up I got a dose of what a dramatic difference it can make
As the sun lit up the path we had walked in the dark it was amazing to see the bizarre rock formations and granite moonscapes all around, I had truly never been anywhere like it. Then contrary to all my wishes there was no helicopter service down so we began the long descent starting at 6am and finishing at 2pm with just an hours break (albeit for yet another slap up buffet at the hut). I hate walking downhill, the process doesn’t agree with me and my hatred was proved well-placed when my bum hit the granite for the first time after only 10 minutes into the descent. The three of us all encouraged each other, and our knees, to see us back to the very beginning by which time my legs were shaking so fiercely I was worried I’d start drilling into the ground and Richards legs had given up taking any instruction from him whatsoever. Steve remained the only seemingly unbroken party however a few choice jabs to his quads proved he wasn’t a robot after all! The final 30 meters of the walk to get to the gate was uphill and I had been promising Steve a sprint finish race since we set off so true to my word the two of us see off at a sprint for the finish line with any possible energy left available to us. The effect was much like trying to walk in a straight line after spinning around a broom handle, after a few strides on my exhausted legs I had no control over my feint to the left and crumple to the ground while from the floor I watched Steve made it to the gate victorious and only slightly smug
When we made it back to the hotel the muscle fatigue had started to set in and we were all walking like we’d been fitted with wooden legs much to Val’s amusement. We found a nice spot on the hotel grounds where we could have some local Malaysian food for dinner that we were hoping to be small portions but turned out to be enough to feed a small village. Finally we then dragged our weary and broken bodies to bed in an attempt to help our legs heal. Little did I know that it would be four days before I could walk in a straight line without the occasional yelp, or downstairs without drawing a crowd of people guessing what terrible illness I was inflicted with. The following day was our last day of the trip together, and coincidentally Val and Richards wedding anniversary, so despite aches and pains we made plans to visit the nearby wildlife sanctuary that was wheelchair accessible so we just about thought we’d be able to hobble round the attractions.
It turned out to be a big hit as there was a chance to see the animals we had seen in the wild for a closer inspection as well as the much rarer creatures we wouldn’t have been able to spot
And so ends a wonderful trip that has added even more unforgettable moments to our portfolio and we both want to thank Richard and Val so much for having us with them on their holiday and taking us from rags to riches and scraps to buffets
Lots of Love,
Amy and Scrambling Steve
Featuring Rocky Richard and VIP Val
* Not his ‘official’ name but one he would happily answer to. As you will agree from the photographs it is both fitting and to be expected if one is to grow ones facial hair like a goat and spend all day on the side of mountains.