Day 5 – Penang to Kota Kinabalu
We got up early and our driver from previous day, Durai, picked us up to take us to airport, he gave us a copy of the daily newspaper (English version of course) and took us out to catch our flight.
Flight was at 1005am
, when we checked in we were surprised to see boarding time as 0905…so we headed straight to the gate AND there was no plane…so we sat in the boarding lounge till about 0955, boarded quickly and off we went (we think perhaps the early “boarding” time was to ensure dawdlers make it to the gate in time)
The flight was 2h 45m so I read a bit, ate some jelly beans and had a nap.
On arrival in Kota Kinabalu we checked into hostel before grabbing some lunch and doing a quick explore. Apart from shops and the night markets, there didn’t seem to be many suggested sights. So we went to check out The Atkinson Clock Tower, which was quite nice but not exactly amazing. Then we headed up to the Signal Hill Observatory – this was basically a viewing platform to give a view over the city. It was quite nice too, but as it’s not all that high, you see a lot of buildings but can’t see past them to the coastline.
The way up to signal hill we walked up the road as we hadn’t seen a track marked on the map, but heading back down we spotted a track and quite happily started wandering through mini jungle. Suddenly there were all these monkey squawks and monkeys all over the track…there was a really big one on the railing and it started advancing towards us. I of course was scared stupid and could be found cowering behind Mark, clinging to his backpack…we quickly retreated and walked back along the road.
After our monkey fright we headed to the city where we wandered around, checked out some shops, had a drink, then grabbed some dinner from the night market and ran back to the hostel through the rain to pack for our hike.
I am of course crazy nervous about attempting a 2 day hike up a mountain on a tropical island that is leech ridden, not to mention the variation in temperature, it is 30 degrees in KK and will be 0 at the peak of the mountain….can someone remind me why I agreed to this?
Day 6 – Mt Kinabalu
the alarm buzzed and we quickly showered, dressed and had brekky; it had been pouring with rain all night and didn’t look like stopping, so we were pretty nervous about the hike. Despite the rain our driver turned up on time and we headed off to Mt Kinabalu, collecting a few people along the way.
The drive took around 1.5hours, on arrival to Kinabalu Park we had to sign in and get hiking permits, and meet our guide Iging. Our driver then took us a little further up the hill to the starting point, Timpohon Gate (1,866 metres). We hoisted our backpacks and off we went – the walk started with a gorgeous little waterfall – kodak moment! Before we knew it we were already at the 0.5kms mark and I thought we were making great time. The rain had mostly subsided and was a light drizzle, which cleared up after a couple of kms. The further we walked the steeper the track got, and the greater distance it seemed to be between 0.5km distance markers. At 2km we stopped briefly at a little hut to eat a muesli bar…which a squirrel promptly started to eye off and was tried (unsuccessfully)to figure out a way to steal it from me! At 4km we stopped a little longer to eat the packed lunch our tour company had provided. From 4km-6km the track got steeper and the rain came back, luckily it was not quite the torrential downpour that it could have been, but it certainly was a bit heavier than drizzle and required us to wear our raincoats.
Feeling a little bedraggled, with 1km left to go.
Feeling soggy and bedraggled, after walking 6km in 5 hours we finally arrived at Pendant Hut (3,280 metres). Here we took off our damp clothing and put on some dry, warm clothes and attended our safety briefing for the Low’s Peak Circuit
, Via Ferrata we would be doing the next day. They basically explained where the path the via Ferrata would take, where the meeting point would be and what time we had to be there, how the equipment worked etc.
After the briefing we headed down to a neighbouring hut, Laban Rata, for our buffet dinner (only people who were booked in to complete a Via Ferrata were staying in Pendant Hut). We ate as much as we could pack into our bellies, had great chats to fellow travellers and watched a beautiful sunset out the window.
Heading back to our own hut we put on head torches and trundled up the little track, by 7:15pm everyone was in bed and it was time for lights out. We were all pretty tired, and nervous about the 2am wake-up call.
Day 7 – Mt Kinabalu
We made it to the summit!!!
Though we were woken up at 1:50am, I don’t think anyone actually really slept much. We all got up, dressed (only cold showers there, and when it’s only 5 degrees outside, no one is keen to get close to the showers!), we ate our toast with jam for brekky and then we were on our way up to the summit with our guide. The 2.75km walk up sheer rock faces at night with a headlamp was actually the least strenuous part of the whole hike for me and strangely enough I was quite chipper all morning!
Well, chipper until we got to the summit (4,095 metres) and had to sit in the freeing cold for around 40 minutes waiting for the sun to rise.
So the highest point of Mt Kinabalu is called Low’s Peak it is 4,095metres above sea level and 8.75km from our starting point. The summit is all granite, without any signs of greenery (I’d say without signs of life, but there were rats trying to get into our backpacks to steal food while we were all huddled around waiting for the sunrise), the rock faces are quite sheer in places, and jutting out in various different directions, creating all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes.
Sunrise from the summit
Finally the sun started to rise and we saw some lovely, vibrant yellows, oranges and reds. It was interesting to see what the summit actually looked like (obviously a head torch doesn’t give you a great overview), and it was beautiful to see the sun’s rays highlighting the cloud bank below.
All too soon (well, not really too soon, because it was so cold I was shaking all over – even in thermals, a down jacket, a rain coat, beanie and gloves) it was time to head down to our meeting point (7.5km marker) for the Via Ferrata.
There were six of us doing the Low’s Peak and we were split into two groups of three. Mark and I were teamed up with a Canadian lady called Hana, and our guide for this part was a guy called James. We geared up with harnesses and helmets and were then all attached to each other with rope.
“I’m on top of the world!”
If I didn’t already explain, Via Ferrata is Italian for ‘Iron Road’ – this meant that there was a steel cable running down and across the mountain face which we connected to with caribiners and rope. While attached to the cable, we sometimes climbed steel ladders, hopped along footpegs, crossed suspension bridges and balanced on tightropes.
Hana found the whole experience rather terrifying, so we didn’t move particularly quickly through the circuit…but man was it fun!!!! I hung from my harness without holding the cable, dangling precariously over cliff edges and LOVED IT!!!!! To top it off the whole day to that point had been perfect weather, dry and sunny with good visisbility.
The Via Ferrata took us 5 hours and by the time we got to Pendant hut to have second breakfast before starting the walk down to the base, we were KNACKERED!!!!!!! We ate a few bits of toast and begrudgingly put our hiking shoes back on to start the 6km descent back to Timpohon Gate.
Just as we we’re leaving Pendant Hut, the rain started, and not just a drizzle this time. So we walked as fast as we possibly could, the longer we walked the more water covered the track – the track was at least 10cm under water in places. I think my trousers were soaked right through by the time we had walked 2kms and my shoes and socks were squelchy after 4km. By 4km I was in so much pain I thought my legs were going to collapse out from under me, scared that if I stopped I would not be able to continue, I keep trudging along with less and less muscle control each step I took. Finally after 3hours of walking down in the wet and cold, soaked through all layers of clothing, we finally made it, 14 hours of walking with minimal breaks and minimal food and I was completely shattered!
Our driver was at the bottom of the mountain ready to take us back to our hostel, and had thankfully collected our certificate of achievement for us. The drive seemed to take forever and I spent a great deal of it shivering as all my clothes were wet and I didn’t have dry ones to put on. Once we reached the hostel we struggled to walk in and up the stairs, but did manage. the first thing we did was have long hot showers and put on dry clothes…it was an AMAZING relief! Since I was such a wreck Mark was nice enough to go get some take-away dinner, which I scoffed down and went straight to bed – I think I was snoring within seconds of my head hitting the pillow (and I do believe Mark will testify to that!)
Day 8 – Kota Kinabalu
After a good solid 11hour sleep, we very painfully got our stiff and sore bodies out of bed, we had some brekky and made a big pile of all our stinky clothes to take to the nearest laundromat. After our laundry drop-off we slowly and cautiously wandered out to Jesselton Jetty where we caught a ferry out to Manukan Island for some snorkelling ad lazing on the beach in the sun. The ferry trip was only a quick 15 minutes and the Island was quite pretty and appeared to have some pretty fishes . We got ourselves some snorkelling gear and beach mats, and found a shady spot to set up camp in the shade of some trees.
Eating fruit on the beach of Manukan Island
Masks and snorkels in, we jumped into the water, even though I whinged about it being cold, the temperature actually wasn’t too bad. There was some coral and some pretty fishes – though everything appeared to only be in shades of grey (at this point I realised just how spoiled we are in Tassie with our clean water, white beaches and brightly coloured sea life). After being in the water for only a few minutes, I felt a sting, then another and another…in a flash I was outta there!!! I had a number of little red welts on my body from jellyfish stings, so I went and had a rinse off under a shower and decided to spend my time sunbaking/napping instead of snorkelling. We lazed on the beach for a few hours,had some fresh fruit, went for a little wander, and then it was time to head back to KK, where we caught up on some emails in the hostel before heading out for dinner and to check out the night markets. It turned out that night markets aren’t really open on a Sunday, so it became an early night.
Day 9 – Kota Kinabalu
Still feeling very stiff and sore we dragged our tired, sore bodies out of bed for a 9:20am pick-up to go on a tour we had booked to the Mari Mari cultural village 25km out of town. The village was one they had created to demonstrate how the tribes of Sabah used to live. We learned a bit about three headhunter tribes and two non-headhunter tribes. We were shown how to make rice wine, vests out of bark, rope out of bark, how to start fire, use/shoot blow darts and other similar things, as well as being given henna tattoos. We were also shown some traditional dancing and given the opportunity to join in with the bamboo dancing (you dance between sticks of bamboo that are being slammed together – kind of scary!) I really enjoyed the cultural village and it was a relaxing and informative way to spend half a day. When we got back to KK we organised flights and accommodation for the remainder of our holiday, we got our bags packed and headed back to the night markets to get some food and check out the handicrafts.
I finished off the evening by blogging – next blog will be from a new location!