Dec 25, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Travelogue : Post Mortem (Day 8-24 May 2012)

Merry Christmas! I simply couldn't surpress the joy of not stuck in the office during this festive season. In fact, my Christmas started last Friday. It was cool that way, and most importantly, I like it that way.

DooDoo is happy to be wheeling!

Back to the soul seeking journey of Mount Kinabalu. After we reached Timpohon Gate, we checked into the same lodge we stayed few days ago, City Park Lodge on Jalan Pantai. Considering the 25kg (or more) luggage we had to lug it up three floors, we settled for a windowless queen bed room at second floor.

It was where the misery started. The four walls were constrictive and I felt suffocated, notwithstanding the lack of day light rendered my sense of day and night useless. Even the air cond was coughing its lung out to keep the room chilled.

That was not the end as I started to feel nausea. It could be the van ride or the icy cold (or perhaps contaminated :S) fried rice provided by one of the restaurants of Sutera Harbour Resorts. I couldn't remember when did I fall asleep in my groggy state but one thing for sure, I woke up feeling more tired than before. To add on the list, almost every inch of my body felt like ass, almost immobile. It was magical that I managed to crawl down two floors and head to Kedai Kopi Melanian 3 for a bowl of hot pork noodle.

Super delicious pork noodles, no innards please!

Whilst the rest seemed much recharged, I felt the contrary. Even the supposed to be delicious pork noodle was bland on tongue. Thank goodness we were flying back on the same day but wished it was earlier. As we had checked out from the lodge, we couldn't rest in our room. Both of us, almost crippled, walked aimlessly on the street. Finally, we found Suria Sabah Mall and decided to camp there until it was time to head to airport.

The lessons of the trip:
  1. Go have fun before the climb - we did water rafting and island hopping before our climb. No regret!
  2. Get a hostel with lift or not few floors higher after the climb - you wouldn't want to lug your luggages up the floors after the tiring climb.
  3. Train until your muscles can't recognize who is who before the climb - this is to mentally prepare your muscles for the shock!
  4. Lots of sunblock for island hopping - I came back with natural bikini and perhaps 5 tones darker (it still persist now, albeit 2 tones lighter?)
  5. Water rafting in smaller group - so you get a smaller raft and experience capsizing. No worries, your guide can rescue you in a matter of seconds.
  6. Travel light - most of my clothes remained unworn coz I recycled my clothes. So yea, except the winter gear, it would be good to go light on the normal wear.
DSC_0033
It's Me! I have made it to the top of Malaysia!

Never have I thought a climb would be so self enlightening. Talk about determination, talk about the sense of fulfillment, plus the things we see, we feel, along the way. I like the way this holiday was and I crave for more.

Canterbury, New Zealand


I wanted a challenge, I wanted to see a bigger world out there, beyond the 9-5 routine, the usual weekends. Life as a traveller, it is. I couldn't wait for the days I would be spending in New Zealand as a working holiday worker. So many uncertainties but it would be worthwhile.

Signing off with lots of PB love,
Hitomi 
*apparently photobombed by DooDoo*

Dec 2, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Travelogue : Conquering Low's Peak (Day 7-23 May 2012)

The temperature was beyond my usual encounter which rendered that thin nylon blanket purposeless. I slipped on my long john and wrapped myself up like a cocoon on the upper bunk bed of Laban Rata Resthouse. There was no electricity at Laban Rata after cable damage in September 2009, hence everybody have a chance to experience the olden days where electricity was non existence. 

I was semi consciously asleep. I could hear people talking outside the resthouse; I could hear the squeak of bunk beds as others wriggled in their thin sheets of blanket. My mind was uneasy with the extremely low temperature, so was my body. I woke up on and off and then 5 hours passed by. The next thing I knew, everybody was already having breakfast at Laban Rata Restaurant at 2am (the only restaurant in Laban Rata Resthouse where we had our dinner the night before).

My tanner half had altitude sickness, which got me all worried and my mind was literally fucked up with part of the thoughts that he wouldn't be able to make it to the peak with me. I took longer time to get ready with my gears (padded windproof long pants and jacket, wool cap, gloves and headlamp) and I was really really thankful for the rest of the eight for waiting for me, albeit I was seriously dragging them in their progress. 

It was 4am when all of us (except my tanner half) moved our way up to the mountain in the veil of darkness. Every step I took was with utter gingerness and I was so glad that my tanner half got us headlamp. The first part of the 2-km climb was mostly staircases, both wooden or stones. I felt the exhaustion was creeping over my body. As I plowed on, I felt harder to breathe due to the thin air and I could feel the warm stream of sweat in my windproof jacket against the touch of chilly air. 

All of us moved in a line, along with other teams. At certain points, we stood in front of slanted granite and everybody had to hold a rope and slowly move up. I could only see the shining street light from the town faraway in the darkness as I held myself tightly onto the rope. The climb had just got harder as we moved higher. More and more ropes and slanted surface and I kept telling myself, "Breathe slowly and deeply".


Sayat-sayat Check Point (3668m)

The sky was still wearing its darkest cloak as we reached Sayat-sayat Check Point, 1km from Laban Rata, where we registered our names, filled our bottles before we moved on to greater challenge ahead. I took ourtmy Snicker bar and started to "feast" on it. As much as I thought I would enjoy some chocolate at this altitude, it was so stiff and cold that it was not appetizing at all. 


The South Peak (3933m) in blue

I couldn't remember how we eventually got onto the long stretch of steep granite surface but all I knew was I had to incline my body 20-30 degree as I inched my way up the peak. I couldn't surpress my delight when the South Peak came into view, despite the fact that it was almost fully lit by the morning sun.


4095m - 3929m = 166m above sea level to go

As much as I would like to speed up, my feet remained at the same pace. The higher we were, the longer time we stopped to take a breather. I was so close to get knocked out of breathe, but I kept reminding myself, "Breathe slowly and deeply". Soon, the 8KM mark came into picture, so was the Low's Peak (4095m), which laid right in front of us.


3-in-1 (from left to right): Alexandra's Peak (4003m), Oyayubi Iwu Peak (the tilted tower in front of Alexandra's Peak) (3975.8m), Dewali Pinnacles and the half missing Victoria Peak (the huge prominent peak on the right)

We were so close to the Low's Peak but again, the surface was tricky that I could barely move faster towards our final destination. Half way from the 8KM mark, one of the mountain guides was kind enough to lend his helping hand. I grabbed his hand and together we moved around the puddles, huge stones around the rocky terrain. I must admit that I couldn't keep up with his speed, at all. My hand was often stretched to the maximum whenever we had to move up the huge stones in wide steps.


Yours sincerely at the Low's Peak of Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak at Malay Archipelago

Nevertheless, I made it first among my team mates, many thanks to the helpful mountain guide, whom I forgot his name. Due to the tight surface on the Low's Peak, everyone have to wait for our turn to capture our glorious moment with the signboard marking the Low's Peak (4095.2m to be exact). It was 6.48am and the sun was already high up. No more beautiful sunrise to be capture but a tiny victory of ours.


9 of us made it to the top of Malaysia! (Missing one: Chi Ming, the cameraman)

Of course we wouldn't be able to make it if it weren't because of Chi Ming, whom had experience climbing Mount Kinabalu more than once. His words of motivation kept us moving even though we kept slowing down and took our time drinking and eating.  We also wouldn't be able to make it if it weren't because of our two mountain guides, whom always there to help us with our climb and also saving our lives.  



The view of picturesque mountains, the palm-shaped and pointy granite from the Low's Peak

We took about 45min to take in the beautiful scene that laid in front of us. All the effort and suffer was totally worthwhile and I felt so proud of myself for going through all these. It has somehow changed my perspective of life; that if you want something, you have to work hard for it.


Ugly Sisters Peak (4032m) I think?

Now that the sky had started to brighten up, I had a chance to appreciate the chilly air while I took in all the many things that I had overlooked on the way up. Amazed by the force of nature, all these pretty textures made Mount Kinabalu a place to visit, albeit not without any hardwork.

Lying down there should be Low's Gully

These huge stones were very pretty in their own ways. Alone, they might be insignificant but together, it forms the highest peak in Malay Archipelago which I can now officially announced that I have been there, done that.


Donkey Ears Peak (4054m)


St John's Peak (4091m)

It was then I realised, there are more than just the South Peak and Low's Peak that I was paying a visit to. Standing high and proud was other unique granite formation like Donkey Ears Peak and St John's Peak. Although they are not the highest in Malay Archipelago, they are the evidence of beautiful creation by the force of nature.



Snowy white South Peak against the crystal blue sky and of course, a picture with it!

The way down to Laban Rata Resthouse proved to be a more tricky one. Instead of incline 20-30 degree, we had to recline 20-30 degree while trying to get a strong grip in every step we took. At this point of time, I felt my toes were squashed in agony.


Ah, I just couldn't refrain myself from capturing more...

Magical as it seemed, every second I stopped and stared at these picturesque scenes, my body and mind felt recharged and my agony was somewhat subdued. My feet refused to leave but my mind was hinting the looming hunger that might strike anytime. Breakfast was early, you see.



Me at Sayat-sayat Check Point again!

It started to feel warmer as the sun shone at the summit plateau. I took off my jacket and wore only a layer of long john. It was a good buy, else I couldn't imagine how would I be able to survive this. After Sayat-sayat Check Point, it was another horror to most of us!


Oh gosh, look at how tiny the yellow-roof Laban Rata Resthouse is!

Looking down the slope we came up from, a pang of realisation slapped hard on our face. Did we just climb up from this? "Hell yea!", the brain said. It was so horrifying that if we slipped on the way up, we would be dead by now.


Down, down, here we go...

Nonetheless, my advice to those who are intending to climb Mount Kinabalu, "Listen to your guides, please!". Mountain guides are like the most agile person in the world. They can save you the moment you slip and fall; they can jump from one rock to another rock, without fumbling for stability.

My mind was almost forgetting how large steps each staircase or stone was on the way up. As we climbed down, I felt like endless torture on my knees. Climbing sticks would be of greatest help now! By the time we reached Laban Rata Resthouse, I wished I could just lie down and rest but I couldn't as it was about check out time. I literally dumped everything into luggage and wore a sleeveless top and shorts to join the rest for lunch.

Thank goodness my tanner half was well recovered by the time I was back at Laban Rata. After lunch, we waited for quite some time for the two mountain guides to meet us at Laban Rata Restaurant to begin our way down Mount Kinabalu using Timpohon trail, which is 1km shorter than Mesilau trail we took on the way up.


Last view from the high ground before we rushed down to Timpohon gate

For fear that high altitude sickness hit hard on my tanner half, we decided to start our journey as soon as we settled the luggage transport. We moved down as fast as we could (which we thought we were) with the walking stick. However every step down exerted some impact on the knees, so we had to be quick yet not to hurt our knees, which explained why we were still moving down at 1km per hour.


Love is in the air

Half way down the Timpohon trail, fog started to veil the path lying ahead. At times I lost sight of my tanner half and got worried. It was like those scenes in the magical land, where fogs usually associate with lurking danger.


Purple orchid at last 2KM

The sky started to drizzle at the last 3KM. However the ground was somewhat level and less tenuous as the first few KM from Laban Rata. Quicker we plowed on and we managed to get a brief shelter and refill until the drizzle had subsided.


Another waterfall, hooray!

At the last KM, we managed to catch another waterfall. I had the split second joy before we rushed to the end of our journey. Before 7pm, we caught sight of the Timpohon gate and I literally ran and registered myself for completing my journey of Mount Kinabalu. I felt like a winner, very smug of my own achievement. My joy was shared with my beloved tanner half, and I must say, if it weren't because of him, I would probably not doing this.

Will I come again? 
Mount Kinabalu, my answer is a firm Yes.
2014 it will be.

Regards,
Hitomi Ng
Accomplished climber of Mount Kinabalu
(Graduated on 23 May 2012)

Nov 5, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Travelogue : Mesilau Trail & Laban Rata Resthouse (Day 6-22 May 2012)

Staying over at a foreign place would always sound scary to me, noting the possibility of existing non human form. I was glad that I had quite a fair bit of good sleep, albeit I remembered waking up in the middle of the night and got freaked out by the unidentifiable sound. I literally ran back to my room.

Sun shiny day!

Breakfast was served at the same restaurant where we had steamboat last night. Mesilau Renanthera Restaurant it was. I believe temperature had partially led me to think that breakfast was pretty decent; egg was cooked well, scrambled egg was great; nasi lemak was not too bad either.

My grumpy tanner half and Yours sincerely with Coco Crunch and milk

About half an hour or so, we collected our lunch boxes before meeting up with our mountain guides for the day. Tanner half and I paid the porter, which was also our mountain guide, to carry our 10+kg luggages up to Laban Rata for a fee of less than RM150 (if my memory serves me well). We bought a walking stick (broom stick or mop stick actually) each as well to assist in our climb for RM5 (I think!).

Mount Kinabalu mountain trail

The green light seemed to be forever as we waited for the queue in front of us dissipated. I reckoned it was another half an hour of delay before we actually first stepped foot on Mesilau trail. Tanner half and I were initially middle of our group but it did not take us long to overtake the front.

View of the mountain before the first 2KM sign board

At times, I slowed down and hoped to catch a glimpse of the rest but they were nowherer to be seen. Eventually I moved on with my tanner half as he wished to reach Laban Rata as early as he could should the altitude sickness attack.

Sad and tired mode at 2KM of Mesilau Trail

To be frank, the first 2KM sign board seemed like forever. The route for the first 2KM was not tough, to begin with. We thought we were quick enough as we bypassed those who were ahead of us, but no, the 2KM sign appeared after countless of "Are we there yet?"

Yours sincerely doing superwoman pose at the waterfall

To spice up things a little, I told my tanner half, "Let's take picture at every sign board" and he concurred. After 2.5KM sign board, I guessed my tanner half caught the sound of distance splash and the smell of damp air which he sped up for. Seconds later, I heard him shouting, "Look, there is a waterfall!". At that sheer moment, I quickened my footsteps to the refreshing prospect.

Soaking wet mosses

The sound of waterfall had this miraculous calming effect on me. My body felt energetic, so was my mind. I couldn't be more ready for the challenges which may come across our journey through the Mesilau trail. True enough, we reached our 3KM mark faster than we thought we would.

Two hangmen at Jambatan Gantung (Kipuyut)

OmaalibeeliiiOmmm!

Before we reached the next 0.5KM mark, we came across an unexpected flow of stream. Lying across the stream was this Jambatan Gantung (Kipuyut) where the naughty us decided to be a little dramatic. Hee, it was fun! Our long climb just got less dullish :D

Us again at 3.5KM and 4KM

The 5KM mark was unique, I must say. Instead of another wooden mark, it was a huge hut, namely Pondok Lompoyou. Before we managed to reach the shelter, the sky started to drizzle. I could sense the imminent pang of hunger it was about to strike. I quickened my foot step, and as usual, I lost sight of my tanner half.

Pit stop at Pondok Lompoyou

I waited for what seemed like 10 minutes or so before I finally caught sight of my tanner half. Before he appeared, I had already started performing magic on my lunch box. Slowly, my sandwiches was gone, my apple was gone, so was my bananas! We were almost running out of water at this point of time. Instead of risking ourselves dehydrated, we refilled our bottles with the slightly murky natural water.

Tired him, excited me at 5.5KM mark

After resting for another 10 minutes or so at Pondok Lompoyou, the drizzle started to stifle. We bet it was a good time to move as there might got heavy pour on the way up for the next quarter of our journey. The exhaustion started to take hold of my tanner half while me being hyped and all. Oh, did I mention that I bumped into another 10 group mates whom I started to talk and tease with? One of the guys even gave me his raincoat *touched*

The convergence of Mesilau trail and Timpohon trail

2KM more to go, yes! It was an exhilarating fact that I managed to hike despite the slightly dragged speed. However, my poor tanner half started to experience slight headache and the first thing he asked for was high altitude sickness pill. We rested for awhile before we plowed on.

Eh, terbalik KM mark?

Instead of 6KM mark, what was indicating here was somewhat unusual. Confused I was as it started to "reverse", if I may put it that way. Nonetheless, the altitude was getting higher and higher and the climb was getting steeper but manageable. To be frank, the first 3KM was an easy walk before it started to venture into more and more steeper wooden staircases.

Wizard of Oz

As we went higher and higher, the landscape started to change; from damp floor to rockier surface, from green surrounding to slightly misty and duller atmosphere; not forgetting the temperature too! This Wizard of Oz scene was the most unforgettable stretch to me; surreal, yet mysterious. The more I indulged in it, I more I refused to move. Right now as I am typing here, I had the urge to go there again, which I know I would!

Mosses and mushimushiroomie!

Demurely so, little Miss Pine

Accompanied by Miss Orchid White

Despite the chilly mist wafting around us, my body was hotter than I expected it to be. My mind, on the other hand, couldn't be more happier looking at the pretty mosses, little pine, and orchid which dominated the 2KM stretch up to Laban Rata. Among all these pretty little plants, I was most impressed by the adaptability of flower at this altitude and I couldn't help but to stop and give them the attention they deserve.

Clouds on par with us! Luckily it did not rain

Soon we came to an open area where the rocky slope was nearly 45 degree. Every step I took was with utmost care; every step was angled to grip should any glitch happens. Once I had reached a safe spot, I turned around and all I was shouting in my mind was "Oh Maiiii God!". I couldn't believe I had came this far but yes, I was proud of myself!

The confusing 5.0KM mark and the rockier path ahead

1KM more to go but it felt like forever. Every step towards Laban Rata was so much laborious, thanks to the steeper prospect that laid ahead. What you saw here was considered decent. Imagine your body is exhausted after more than 6 hours of climb and you have 2 hours to rush to Laban Rata before the night fall...
The opposite trail which we ought not to take

0.5KM closer to Laban Rata!

Another 0.5KM to go, I wouldn't say it was short. The challenge laid ahead was getting treacherous and subconsciously I kept asking those strangers on the same path, "Are we there yet?". The answer I got was always, "I see nothing yet!". Never mind, I came this far, and I wouldn't give up. Just a few more steps and we shall scrumptious dinner and good rest!

View from Laban Rata Resthouse (3273m)

I was heard, I guess. An hour later, we were rejoiced by the shout of happiness from the stranger ahead of us! My feet were literally running on air and my heart cheered at every step I sped on. Our hard work was partially paid off, at last! No neighboring mountain, no sign of trees, we were above the level of cloud!

Hooray to Laban Rata Resthouse!

We took minutes to enjoy every single second at the open area of Laban Rata; the air, the view, and the feeling of accomplishment; but the greater view had to be from the balcony, in the cold breeze, which you would be presented soon enough :)

Sunset from the balcony

The whole inner dining area was packed with people, fighting for tables, chairs, food and also warmth. We, on the other hand, adopted another strategy, which was to take the alfresco area. You must be wondering, "Why are you sacrificing warmth by grabbing a seat outside?" but my answer was obvious. The view of sunset from the balcony was simply amazing. However we were a little too late as the sun was nowhere to be seen but its aura. Nonetheless, it painted a beautiful canvas for me, and that was worth it.

Humble but good dinner

All meals in Laban Rata Resthouse (buffet dinner!) and Mesilau Nature Resort (steamboat dinner) were redeemable with coupons provided when we first checked into Mesilau Nature Resort. Starving, we must be, for we had climbed 8km for 8 hours. Buffet dinner was an excellent idea, thoughtful or not. That homeliness of hot wintermelon soup warmed my heart and soul and it was a blessing to have hot steaming soup and decent dinner to be served here (3273m above sea level).

Yellow daisy at 3273m above sea level!

If I were to complain about Laban Rata Resthouse, it would be the lack of electricity at this altitude. Imagine having to shower with no heater (say, 10-15 celcius?), I couldn't even wash my hands for more than 3 seconds. Nonetheless I managed to brush my teeth and wash my face (struggling hard!). Moreover, the blanket and bedding was thin and barely sufficient to keep me warm in air conditioned room. 

We both made it!

Our journey had not come to an end, for it would be another 2KM the next day in the middle of the night, in the veil of darkness. Sleep, we shall!

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