2011 South East Asia

2011 South East Asia #8 Malaysia – Borneo, week 2, High up, down below

Early morning we left Poring Hot Springs and once again we took a taxi, this time to Mount Kinabalu national park main entrance. Today was the day when we should climb, or rather walk up to the base camp on Mount Kinabalu. There we checked in our backpacks and just took the most essential stuff with us. I think we begun our walk up to the base camp around lunch, and 3 hours later we arrived at our destination. Our mountain guide (which is required to walk on Mount Kinabalu) told us that 3 hours is the “mountain guide speed”, the time it takes for a mountain guide to walk up alone without visitors. Normal is that you take 4-6 hours depending on your physical fitness. I guess we did pretty good then because I didn’t feel very fit.

The trek up to base camp provided a lot of nice views, more than enough of changes in the weather and both hot and cold. I’m happy we had rain jackets with us. Still, when we got up everything was soaking wet. We learned that it was possible to pay the mountain guides a little and they would dry your shoes in their cabins. It was about 10-15 degrees up in the base camp and everything was moist so paying for some dry shoes seemed like a good deal. Dinner at the base camp was basic but nice, then we had as much hot tea as we would like. We started to prepare for the final trek to the summit. Our guide would come and get us around 2:30 in the morning so early sleep seemed like a good idea.

About 2:30 the guide arrived at the cabin where we were staying and we could witness a long snake of flash lights struggling up the steep mountain side. Feeling a bit frustrated by the slow movement we asked our guide if there was any way to get passed and he knew a way. So we started on an alternative path alongside the others. Soon we reach the “head of the snake” and passed by them. Now we were surrounded by total darkness, the wind and sometimes the occasional cloud which would drift by. The view from the mountain was great, we could see villages and towns far away as small flickering lights. And then suddenly we’ve reached the summit. And we were the first ones to get there. 4095 meters above the sea-level!

After a few minutes we got company from a Norwegian couple who had been to the other summit first, and then went for this one. Turns out they started after us, and we were among those we started last, but they had walked past us in the darkness and climbed both peaks. Well done! The idea was that we should sit here at the summit and watch the sunrise, but as we waited the wind blew colder and it became cloudier and cloudier until we realized that we won’t see much of the sunrise at all. So we decided to descend and get an early breakfast instead. During the walk down the steepest part I hurt my foot a bit. The last part was not so fun. Back at base camp I stabilized my foot and then it felt okay again. We had some breakfast before we started the long journey down again. It took a bit over 4 hours to walk down again to the entrance to the national park.

I recall riding a minibus back to Kota Kinabalu, checking in to our hotel, the shower, then going out for some steak to eat. But first a massage, that turned out to be a bad idea though since we were extremely sore , specially in the legs and feet. After the massage we went out for food. The first place we went to didn’t have any meat at all, that was a bummer. Then we walked around the corner to a new restaurant and tried our luck there. The waitress promised to ask the chef if they had meat, when she came back she said that she was sorry, specially if we were the guys who asked in the other restaurant. Obviously they shared the kitchen! But we don’t give up so easy. Finally we found a Japanese restaurant that had steak! Victory!

The day after Ove left, he was going back to Thailand and then back home to Sweden. Myself, I took a flight to Tawau on Borneos eastcoast. From there I took the bus to Semporna, a small town that mostly lived of fishing and diving. From Semporna I had to take a 10-15 minute long boat ride to a place called Singamata Reef Resort, located on a reef, as the name suggests. Here I was supposed to spend some time, learning to dive. The first evening I read a lot of diving theory, and the next day I took the test which I passed. Then in the afternoon it was time for my first dive ever. I still remember it, despite being on only 3-5 meters depth and just around the “house reef” as they called it it was amazing! Yes, we spent a lot of time trying to master the art of diving and I think in the end I got the hang of it.

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In the evenings the diving instructors would catch giant prawns and and other seafood that you could buy if you wanted something extra. Very nice indeed. After having a couple of training dives it was finally time to make the final dives and the “just for fun” dives as they called it. This we did around the wonderful island of Sibuan. We did 3 dives around this island and had a lunch break as well giving us some time to explore this little gem. Walking around the island was pretty quick, I think maybe 30-40 minutes, maybe less.

One of the dives was a drift dive, where we floated along with the current. That was a very cool experience! And that same dive we also saw sea turtles passing by. They look very majestic when they swim by you. That evening it was some kind of party at the reef resort and we got hot pot for dinner. Very nice indeed. Feeling happy with my new diving experience and my PADI Open Water certificate I slept very well that night.

My time on Borneo started to run out, my time in South East Asia started to run out and I still had places to see, people to meet, food to eat and beer to drink! So I took the bus from Semporna all the way back to Kota Kinabalu for one last night. I met up with Zera for one final time to have some dinner and sing some karaoke for the last time on Borneo. The next day I stood in the airport ready to board my flight to the final stop on this journey!

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