Mt. Kinabalu – Only a strong heart might not be enough. written by Will Humphrey

Looking back to the end of the last year, there was one guy posting on a website about all the peaks in this region. As I am a travel buff, thus, I couldn't help myself reading that review. And during the browsing on many details in the review, I got my eyes catching on this one particular picture

Mt. Kinabalu – Only a strong heart might not be enough.

Mt. Kinabalu – Only a strong heart might not be enough.


Looking back to the end of the last year, there was one guy posting on a website about all the peaks in this region. As I am a travel buff, thus, I couldn't help myself reading that review. And during the browsing on many details in the review, I got my eyes catching on this one particular picture.

It is a picture of one sharp peak full of rocks and the sky around looks empty which seems frightening and interesting in the same time. It kinds of attracted me somehow, like there is a sound coming out from that picture calling me to go conquer it. Besides, this is how the journey to Mt. Kinabalu-Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia begins.

Mt. Kinabalu is located on Borneo Island, Sabah State, Malaysia. Actually, one part of Borneo Island belongs to Indonesia and another part belongs to Malaysia. Mt. Kinabalu is a part of Kinabalu National Park which is registered as World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO as one of world's oldest rainforests.

The highest peak of Mt. Kinabalu that was allowed people to climb up is called Low's Peak. Its summit is at 4096 meters height above sea level. The name “Low" was given after Hugh Low, an England guy who is the first person coming up on the plain area of the summit in 1851. Yet, actually, Mt. Kinabalu's summit was first conquered by a zoologist named John Whitehead in 1888.


Day1

My journey started in the morning of 14 April 2016 with Air Asia, flight AK891 DMK-KUL which takes me around 3 hours to arrive at KLIA2 airport, Malaysia.

The atmosphere of the airport overall is rather spacious with a lot of facilities and restaurants inside. As I have to connect flight to Sabah around 02.00pm and I am afraid that there will be unexpected thing happens, thus, I go straight to check-in at the counter and get pass the immigration process to wait at the Gate ahead of time. Well, it turns out that there are only a few people inside. The immigration process is rather fast that I have a lot of time left and I feel really hungry at that time. Well, I feel a bit pity that I should eat from outside before as there is only one restaurant inside. The others are bakery and coffee shops.

Therefore, I would suggest everyone to find something to eat before getting into immigration process. There are a lot of foods outside to choose from and it is rather better than inside. As now I am in the Gate area and there is still more than 2 hours left which I started to get bored so I will just do something just to kill the time. Luckily, Wifi here is pretty great.

Now it is 02.25pm and it is time to get on board flight 5114 KUL-BKI, the journey takes around 2 and a half hours and we will reach at Kota Kinabalu airport. It is a small silent airport, moreover, as it is late evening now so the people is a lot lesser.

After picking up my luggage, I walk to the front of the airport to find the way to get into the town. There are 2 main choices which are Taxi or Airport Bus. Airport bus is rather convenient, it is a large air-con bus and it costs 5 Ringgit per person to the town area. The schedule time is rather clear according to the picture below.

The bus stop is located in the airport building and you could obviously notice it. Upon paying the fee, the officer would explain that there will be 3 bus stops; however, I couldn't remember the details of the bus stops. Anyway, we will get off at the last stop which will be the bus terminal.

It takes around 20 minutes ride to bus terminal which looks like bus terminal in our Thailand's up-country.

My accommodation is called Masada Backpacker which is in a walking distance from the bus terminal around 5 minutes away. It is a small friendly hostel with a peaceful atmosphere. It is full of foreigners here. I check-in, keep my baggage and go out walking to find some foods.

From the hostel, keep walking straight and there will be a large shopping mall that selling mostly everything. On the ground floor, they would sell mobile phone, copied DVD something like this. The second floor and the third floor would sell clothes and the fourth floor is the theater. There is a food court at the basement which offers delicious foods at affordable price.

There is a joking which is not quite funny as I forgot to bring my Iphone power adapter with me, thus, I need to buy a USB power adapter. And finally, I found one shop selling it, I bought it right away which I tried it before and it is work very well, therefore, I paid for the adapter and headed back to the hotel. By the time when I wanted to charge my iphone, it turned out that I could not find my USB cable. After thoroughly thought I remembered that I might leave it at the shop. Thus, I got back to the shop and asked the vendor who selling the adapter to me. He said that he already returned USB cable to me, but I also insisted that I didn't have it back and if I had why I had to get back here. He still insisted that he already returned it to me; I turned my face and found that my USB cable is on the cupboard, thus, I told him that that USB cable is mine and I then grabbed it back and walked out right away. I think the vendor might not have an intention to take my stuff as my USB cable is rather old and they also separated my USB cable to other selling stuffs meaning that they are waiting for me to return and get it back. Nevertheless, that little vendor guy, he just ignored everything.

That's why I have to go to that shopping mall many times. Therefore, when I get back to the hostel, I hurriedly get into sleep as I have to wake up very early tomorrow because I have an appointment with the tour as they will pick me up at 06.15am.

15 April 2016

Last night I felt very excited that I couldn't get into a deep sleep all night long which makes me get up very early in the morning at 05.00am. I cannot get into sleep once again, thus, at last I carry my baggage and put it at the lobby. Then, I get back to shower and pack everything that left in the room. Then I have an easy breakfast, 4 roasted breads and 1 cup of Milo, that's it. I feel very excited and ready to roll.

I choose to travel with Amazing Borneo Tour Company and their tour costs quite expensive. Nonetheless, the service overall is rather remarkable. The bus comes to pick me up since 06.00am ahead of appointed time, thus, I straightly get on to the bus. The driver and tour guide tell me that they will need to pick two more passengers at the hotel nearby.

The bus drives in circle in the town until it reaches and stops at one hotel in order to pick up the other tourists who I notice later that they are Chinese. The bus waits for them for a really long time which is beyond the appointed time. Unfortunately, I just realized that I forgot my mobile phone at the hotel, thus, I tell the driver and he agrees that he will drive me to the hotel to pick the phone up. Well, in my mind, why we don't just go now as we still have to wait for those Chinese tourists so we don't waste any time waiting here. Anyway, I am afraid to ask, thus, all I can do is continue waiting.

When those 2 passengers get on the bus, then the bus driver drives us to the hotel to pick my phone up and when the time we depart from Kinabalu town is around 06.45am already. The bus would take approximately 2 hours to Kinabalu Park Head Quarter. And upon arriving at the HQ, our bus tour guide would get off to register and do the permit for the tourist and then hand out the tourist to mountain guide.

For a little while, a young 25years old good looking mountain guide (really handsome looking) called Jake walks toward and greets me. He introduces himself that he would be my private guide as I have reserved the private tour this time. Jake is a man of few words as I try to talk to him, but he talks only a little that I feel shy instead. Anyway, his English is rather good though. Before I begin the trekking, I did learn the trekking trails information as below pictures.

The trail that we would take a journey on is 8 kilometers altogether which will be divided into 2 parts. We will take the first part today with the distance around 6 kilometers and would start at Head Quarter and end the journey at the accommodation above.

The beginning of the route is a steep way but it is not too slope. There are stairs in some parts. Personally, I don't like climbing up the stairs as it could make me get tired and loss my energy. I carry two baggage with me, one is clothes bag at 10 kilograms and another one is camera bag at 5 kilograms approximately. Thus, altogether I totally carry with me 15 kilograms of weight. Trekking on the beginning part makes me feel tired already as the steep level is getting more and more slope.

Along the trekking route, there would be the stop point in every one kilometer, there would be a tiny hut for having some rest and the rest room for service, and it is quite convenient actually.

The trekking route is quite steep around more than 60 degrees slope of all the way. There hardly is the plain area. I feel really tired, thus, I would suggest if your body is not strong enough, you should better not come here, for real.

We walk until we reach at the fourth kilometer stones which would be around noon and it is time to have our lunch. Our lunch is the box set lunch style that the tour prepared for us. I look to other tour company and notice that the food is all the same which are Sandwich, Fried Chicken, Boiled Egg, Apple and Drinking Water.

I would say it is pretty bad luck as the day that we are trekking on this route, the weather is rather bad with the thick fog around and there is a shower rain too. The atmosphere around is misty and there are plants that growing in the rainforest along the way.

I walk until my energy is about to empty, feel wrecked and tired as we are getting higher and higher. We started at Head Quarter which is 1866 meters high from the sea level and now we are at 2700 meters. We walk until late 02.00pm and then we finally arrive at the accommodation at 3272 meters height above sea level. Altogether, the trail route that we walked is at 6 kilometers.

Our accommodation is called Laba Rata Guesthouse which in front of the hotel would be the helicopter parking spot and now it became to be the football and volleyball field. The area behind is a huge rock mountains and there would be two more accommodations located nearby.

Most of the tour would pick this hotel for the accommodation as it is rather convenient and easily to manage. The ground floor room would be for the tour guide, second floor is the dining room and the third floor will be the guest room. The guest room are provided in dorm and private room style which depends on the guest need. The bad advantage of the dormitory room style is that it is a mix dorm which does not separate men and women. As I check-in and get into the room first, then only a short while when I get back to the room, there are already two more girls in the room. As we talk, they say they feel a little uncomfortable with a man in the same room (Well, I got in the room first, alright?), thus, I discuss with the hotel staff and they explain to those girls that this is a mix dorm room and the guest would have to sleep in the same room which does not separate the gender. (I feel perplexed as in fact dorm room could separate men and women). Finally, I solve the problem by moving to other room instead to make everyone happy.

The dining room is rather spacious with a balcony outside. I reach the dining room around 02.00pm and there are still not much people there. Thus, I hurry to reserve the area at the balcony to take some photos as the atmosphere is beautiful and the weather is rather pleasant.

Although the weather is quite good, however, the sky is close and there are a lot of clouds that I couldn't see anything ahead. It is like someone use to say “Mountain has its own weather, thus, no one could predict the weather on the mountain" and it is true as only a while, the sky is open up and from the balcony, I could overlook to the mountains. Well, badly, only a second, the fog is blocking the mountain scenery again and in a while, the sky is open up again. Thus, if you would like to take a photo, you have to do it at once when you have chance.

The dinner is served in buffet style from 04.00pm until half past 7pm. I am pretty starving as I walked quiet a long distance on a tough route today. The taste of the food is quiet awesome which makes me eat a lot. I stay in dining room about one hour; added up the food a lot of times. The food lines have for example meat, chicken and lamp. There are also Muslim Curry, Rice, Fried Rice Noodles and Pasta. The bad thing is there is no normal warm drinking water offers here. There are hot water, coffee and tea to refill all the time. Thus, there are two choices if you would like to drink normal warm water which are one filling the hot water and leave it cool down or another way is buying it at the shop that located at the lobby area which the price is rather high. I think the price is somehow also acceptable as it is not easy to carry things up here as walking here is quite difficult enough already.

After I finish my dinner, the sky starts to open up and it looks really spectacular with the bright blue color. I then walk down to the helicopter parking spot to shoot some pictures. By the sunset time, the sky starts to change its color to red orange color. It is pity that the sun is set below mountains, thus, I couldn't clearly watch sunset scenery. Like I said, mountain has its own weather, as suddenly there are clouds come blocking all the scenery, but only a while, the sky is opened up beautifully again.

I spend quiet some time taking photos there until the sunset which is around 07.00pm. At this moment, the sky is getting dark; hence, I hurriedly head back to the hotel. The weather around is getting colder and colder. This night I have to get into sleep early again as the real journey will begin tonight. Jake tells me that the dining room will be opened at 02.00am, thus, we agree to begin our trekking to the summit at 02.30am. I plan to get out and take some photos before the journey at 01.00am, therefore, I have to sleep early right now.

16 April 2016

The real trekking journey will begin tonight. I have an appointment with Jake at 02.00am, nevertheless, I would like to take photos of the Milky Way and star trail that I keep an eye on since evening time so I get up since around 12.00am to go out and take photos. The weather is fairly cold and as I wear a big coat, thus, I didn't feel so much cold.

The sky is certainly clear; although it is a half moon night but as the sky is clear so I could see Milky Way by my own eyes. It looks magnificent and it is one of the most stunning Milky Way as I have ever seen in my whole life. I walk around the helicopter parking spot looking for the area to take photos. It is a bit pity that the Milky Way came up at the clear sky side, thus, it is difficult to look for a nice foreground.

I feel indulged with taking photos of the Milky Way that my mind also feel overwhelmed. And now it is time to set my tripod to take photos of the star trail. This time I spend 20 minutes for taking star trial photo as always. Luckily, this time I have downloaded movie to watch to kill the time during the waiting.

I have the hotel as my foreground, thus, I could get pretty great photo. It is pity that if the Milky Way comes up this way, I could definitely get more beautiful photos.

I spend the time until around 02.00am, and then I head up to eat supper at the dining room. The dining room is crowded by people and everyone seems quite ready for the trekking. Personally, I am afraid to eat much as I am scared to have a problem finding the toilet during the journey, thus, I eat only bread and coffee. At 02.30am, Jake comes to the dining room; we talk a little and ready for our journey.

Everyone seems really excited with today's journey. I think it is because no one knows that what the difficulty that we will face ahead, we all only knew from the picture and the rumor, thus, we are excited whether it will be like the rumor said or not.

During the beginning of the walking route tonight, we walk in one line up to the mountain. The route is really as steep as the afternoon route. I and Jake walk pretty fast; thus, we walk long way ahead everyone until we reach the front line group.

The trekking route at sixth kilometer stones to seventh kilometer stones is the route in the forest like the route in the afternoon; however, the slope level is much greater. The most extraordinary thing is that the sky along the way is really clear and there is the large perfect Milky Way. I am overwhelmed of this scenery; it is like the Milky Way is coming after me. Thus, I could not help myself as when I reach at the 6.8th kilometer stones, I have to stop to take photos and set my tripod. It is around 04.00 am during the time and I feel surprised that we spend almost 2 hours with only almost one kilometer distance.


I spend another 20 minutes shooting star trail photos. During the time, there are people lighting their torch all the time and their light did ruin my photos. It is a useless 20 minutes that I have spent. However, it is still good that I also have some time for rest a bit as it definitely is two hours of hard time journey.

At the seventh kilometer stones would be a check point; the officer will count the number of the tourist who go up and down. From now, the landscape will be completely changed.

Since it is very dark, thus, we could not know the condition of the route ahead. Although everyone has a torch in our hands but you just could see only the area that the torch shines to. I feel really wrecked as the landscape is hard to walk on. It is a precipitous rock route with about 80degrees slope and there is nothing to hold on to at all. There is a big rope on the ground to hold up to poise oneself. However, no one using it, everyone walks by themselves. Moreover, at this point, trekking pole is useless as it entirely is a rock ground.

What I feel during I climb up to the peak is I question myself why I have to come here? What am I doing here? Does life have to be this much exhausted? Now, I have to stop for some rest in every 10 steps and as there is no rock to sit on, hence, I need to sit on the ground. Nonetheless, the ground is considerably inclined as I sit I will slip down, thus, I just lie flat on the floor. I could rest only just for a second and need to get up unless I would get cramp and could not go up within time.

I walk further for another 20 steps and need to rest again. All my life of climbing mountains, there is no such time tired and disheartened like this before. Start from keep walking until count the walk step by step as I could hardly step out my legs. Well, how about Jake? He walks easily like there is nothing happen.

At the eighth kilometer stones is a spot that most of people will stop and take photos. The sky begins to bright up and I could see the scenery around, there are some people taking a rest, some walk and especially I could see my destination.

During the 8.3th - 8.4 th kilometer stones, I would call this spot the testing point as after this we need to climb up and most of people choose to stop here as they are worn out already. For me, I feel really exhausted and fatigued; my legs feel numb and do not have energy at all. As a result, I have to sit down and rest in every 5 steps since the eighth kilometer stones. I look into Jake and ask him should I stop here? Jake encourages me and says that you come all the way here already so you should not give up right here.

I look at a Chinese girl who walks beside me; we nod to each other as we fully understand the feeling that we have now. Along the way, what I could hear is the encouraging word “You can do it, you can do it". Everyone all encourages each other. I feel really exhausted and dispirited, but when I think of the money that I spent to come here, I could not give up, thus, I clench my teeth and keep my last gasp and continue walking until I eventually reach at the summit at the 8.5 th kilometer stones. It is now around 06.00am in the morning and the sun already rose up. Well, I finally did it; I spent more than 4 hours with 2.5 kilometers distance.

I sit and wait here until there are less people, then I get up to take a photo with the signboard for proving that I have arrived here finally.

Though, I could not see the sun rising up and the sun rise scenery here might not be the most beautiful sun rise place to watch, however, it is a place that I feel really impressed as it exchanges with my energy and spirit and above of all, it could proof that I can conquer myself, conquer my limitation.

I spend some time above, wait to gain some energy back. Actually, we have only a little time above as we need to hurry to walk down.

After taking some rest, I could get some energy back and I need to rush back as the breakfast will be served at 10.00am. It is around 07.00am when we start to walk down. We spent more than 4 hours walked up here, so how about walking down?

We walk down rather quick as it is a way down, thus, it is not waste an energy. Furthermore, as it is a daytime now and I could clearly see the route ahead which makes me walk faster.

Nevertheless, it is not that easy to walk down as it is a slope route, thus, we could not walk straight, instead of that we need to walk zigzag all the way down.

During the way, there would be a dangerous point which Jake rushes me to walk pass it. There is a rock slide accident that kills a hiker here. The accident happens during the earthquake and there is still the trace of the rock cliff that falls down with the shoes of the death hiker placed there as a remembrance of this accident.

That white mark on the cliff is the point that the rock falls down and those white rocks are a fraction of the rocks that fall down. In fact, although it is only just a fraction of the rocks but it is as large as a small house size.

I spend around 2 hours walking down and since I drank up the drinking water that I have carried with me, thus, I start to feel hungry, that's why I walk quite fast.

I arrive at the dining room around 09.00am. There are a lot of people but it is not that much crowded. I start the meal and agree with Jake that we would start to walk down at 10.00am. At first, he asked me to walk down at half past nine but I didn't agree and got mad at him, thus, he agreed to walk down at 10.00am.

Take shower, pack my baggage and go down to wait for Jake at the dining room. He is also ready to go, nevertheless, I don't know what was he doing as I have to wait for him and by the time we start to walk down is more than half past 10 already.

During first 3 kilometers distance, we walk considerably fast as I am somehow also surprised with myself. I think it is because I am good at walking in the nature route like this. I jump from one rock to another, hold on the trees' roots and walk on the rocks. I spend only 2 hours for first 3 kilometers route. I expect that if I walk with this speed, I could arrive at the below area around 01.00pm.

On the mountain, everything is unpredictable, when we walk through the half of 3 kilometers route; my legs begin to lose energy like I could not stand by myself anymore. Every step I take, my leg is trembling. I step out with torture, I fell and lose balance. I force myself hardly to keep walking. Until the 4 th kilometer stones, I can't hold on anymore and need to take out the trekking pole for supporting. At the 4.5 th kilometer stones, Jake forces me to hand out a big bag to him and let me carry only a camera bag.

The remaining 1.5 kilometers are full of the difficulty, tiredness and suffering. The hardship from last night is dissolved with the blink of the eyes. At this moment, it is the hardest time of entire my life. Every step full of distress, I blame nature, destiny and everything in my whole life.

The walk way since the 2.5th kilometer stones is manmade route which is the steep stairs. Some paths made by drilling the ground and some are wooden stairs which the height of each stair is around half of my leg. Gosh! I really hate walking on the stairs.

Now, I blame everything in the world; however, Jake is still there to encourage me. That moment, I really would like to straightly jump or roll down to below area, a cool guy that walked ahead everyone is gone. Anyway, I feel a little surprised as the limitation of my body makes me walk rather slower than the beginning time, but there is no one walks pass us at all, I think it is because we walk long way ahead to other people.

And now we are arriving at the entrance area. Although, all of the tiredness is still in entire my body, but I feel really good as now I finally make it to the end.

Jake rushes me to get on the van and not allow me to sit and rest. He says that if I take a seat now, I certainly could not get up and walk. After I heard, I easily obey his word. Right now, my legs are useless and I feel ashamed with myself.

We get back to Head Quarter by the van. By the time I arrive there, Jake gives me the certificate and tells me that the dining room will be closed at 03.00pm. I look at the time, and it is just 5 past 2pm meaning that we arrived at the below area around 13.40 and it kinds like we have made a good time.

I have to walk down to the dining room and at that time I feel tired to death. However, I am starving and stingy more; hence, I carry my fragile body to dining room and eat. Around 3pm, the van comes to pick me up and send me back to the hotel.

.................................

The story after this might have nothing much to talk about, just prepare for the journey back home with my fatigued body. Anyway, this trip is full of good memories and if I have chance to go back, I will definitely visit the place once again for sure.

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