Borneo Revisited Feb 2005 : Mt Kinabalu

We arrived in Kota Kinabalu (KK) from Johor Bahru at 28 Feb 2005 late evening. Flight been re-scheduled two hours from expected departure time. Air Asia sent sms regarding this matter that allow me to book domestic flight in Borneo. From airport to Borneo Backpacker place we stayed that night we took taxi cost RM17 (15minutes drive). Just booked in and served with dormitory room without AC cost RM20 each. Not too bad though, soon we realized that this time was off peak season and not weekend days.

We couldn’t sleep that night. We reckoned the room was quite hot and loud. The location of the BB lied by the main road in KK. We heard motorcycle drove madly by skidding all around the city at 2am ! Next morning we were heading to National Parks by walk to the shuttle bus to bus station. Only 5 minutes walk from BB. We took 730am bus then catched the 745am express bus to Sandakan. We paid RM20 each on the site and jumped ourselves into it. The journey was quite pleasant with view of the villages and hill side of the Kinabalu. It took 2 hours then we reached the parks at 10am.

I straight to the Sutera Sanctuary Lodge counter to resume our booking. Then register on the Parks counter. All the paper work regarding our climbing and accommodation also pay by cash for climbing permits (RM100each for foreigner, guide RM70, insurance RM7 and plus storage for bag each RM10). But we did not have that all amount the money ! We got to pay in US dollars which is not recommended. We did not have choice, this is our fault that we forgot to get some cash while we were in JB. Never mind …

All sort it then we got climbing permits. Wow fancy badges (hmm make sure that we will swap in when we were on top Mt Kinabalu ) and several forms that gave in to our guide Ben John as checking note. At 1030 we started walking with several people behind. The first 2km were lovely, mainly lots people walked up and walked down. The vegetation just like jungle forest with fern and trees. Then we reached the km 4.5 where we found nepenthes or pitcher plants. Some of them were enormous with diameter of 20-30cm, some were tiny about 0.5cm in diameter. Bright red rhododendron were really pretty while mountain white orchid was everywhere near the path.

The last kilometer was hard and tough. I started feeling exhausted apart from not enough having sleep a night before, but also the gradient becoming more vertical. We pushed our luck to get the resthouse before dark. Ben Jon really helpful with carrying my rucksack on half way up. I was end up carrying camera and video/audio equipment instead. The Nat Park rule about porter carrying load was maximum at 10kg per person and you got to pay them about RM50. But mine was about 11kg !

Around 330pm (about 5 hrs hiked up) we arrived at Laban Rata Resthouse –a two storey building with rooms for rest and a fancy restaurant. Actually there are three more huts in this area but only Laban Rata is the biggest and warmest. Eventually with RM69 per night for dormitory room sound luxury in this altitude. But I thought a cup of Sabah tea was reward for today walking.

We had to share a room with three Malaysian. The dorm itself was OK, quite tidy for us. We just need a good sleep and good food. There is NO hot shower even the parks promise that in their website. Imagine you had to do shower in temperature about 5C water ! The sensation was unbearable. I did manage though ! The foods were fantastic specially chicken and corn soup also deep fried banana with sabah tea. Hm lovely…

We went to bed early at 6pm ahead from the Malaysian gank. Then it came. The sound of snore from the girl next to me was so loud that I can’t believe those irritating sound from. I couldn’t sleep again until 1 o’clock while that girl woke up and put the light on. Oh Dear ! Started climbing about 230 after a light breakfast and cup a tea. The climbing was quite straight forward while we have to do in the dark. The weather helped quite lots. No rain during our walking earlier and those night was clear with stars. A big number of climber that night, I reckoned about 200 people attempted to conquer the summit.

The granite slope of Kinabalu actually not slippery at all. The life line that remark the path was helpful to see the way. But useless to hold your hands while their been set up too low to the ground. I thought it might be set for descent rather than accent Kinabalu. Then after quite taxing climb about 3.5 hours we managed to reach the Low’s Peak (4,095.2m) and watched the sunrise behind King Edward peak. The sheer rock from St John Peak and the Donkey Peak were amazing. After dark out and sun arise we could see the rock formations on the U shape that divide the Low’s peak with others. The chilly wind was not too bad apart from the temperature drop about zero.

We celebrated Mark's birthday right on top of Kinabalu with flag that me and Paul prepared earlier on. The walked down through granite was quite easy. I did not need rope for most of the section, but few of them need descending in right way due the gradient. I can say that most of the stone walks were safe for fit and in good shape after spent hours ascending. The view still amazing, and with morning light was a perfect for photographing the peaks on that day. The weather still on our side, no fog and clouds appeared during our descent. The temperature was improving just like the sun started arising. It was gorgeous !

It took about 2.5 hours to reach Laban Rata. With cup a tea that heal our fatigue from sleepless night we started our day . Then another breakfast that make our morning looked perfect. Two hours later we were heading down back to the main gate. Again the pain of walking down start hurting my legs. We were keep moving specially in last 3km, stopped only when raining poring down. Believe me that was a maschocistic trekking down ..

We managed to take pictures of plants along the path, specially Nepenthes and Necklace orchids. Birds were everywhere, mainly they eats wild berry that grow abundantly in this area. The Mountain Blackeye and Yellow Breasted Warbler were move really quick if we try catch them. Anyway we had many pictures of plants and also many interesting species to see.

We headed down to the gate and arrived about 4pm. The shuttle bus that carry us to the park was waiting. Then we reported our descent and also get the key for our place in Summit Lodge. I need to negotiate with local driver to arrange transport for Mark to Kadazan village –the nearest place to get cash money. It cost RM15 about a half an hour for him before appeared at our pretty lodge. The Summit Lodge has two bedrooms and really cozy. It was quite surprised for me. The interior's lodge looks luxurious for budget backpacker like us. Anyway we cannot complain. That’s what we need. After not much sleep in last two days and a hard 11.5km walking, we definitely need proper rest.

To book the accomodation at Kinabalu Nat Park :
Sutera Sanctuary

More Sources :
Climbing Mt Kinabalu > the track and equipments needed

Fees and prices of climbing Mt Kinabalu

Note :
Booking for climbing permits was quite challenging. You can use credit card to pay permits and the accomodation (specially Laban Rata), but it need paper works such as confirmation sent by email/fax/phone. Only pay for accommodation for secure the booking, but climbing permits, insurance, guide etc paid on the site.
Make sure you've got the permits before book the flight. You can go show to the Kinabalu National Park but you'll relay on other people cancellation. Don't make any gamble without consideration.