Well well well,
Sorry it's been so long since I last wrote, I've been away from civilisation for quite some time...
I left you in Kota Kinabalu, where I headed out towards Kiau village, which is at the base of mount Kinabalu. The journey was a rough one, as the village was down a very steep and rutted track which in places had been swept away by landslides, and the village was extremely remote when we arrived. We were treated to a performance by the locals playing their instruments, which are large metal gongs, while the local children introduced themselves and did a dance. The families are huge and each child had between seven and ten siblings! The performance was very atmospheric, with mount Kinabalu in the background, hidden by cloud. We were all feeling quite apprehensive. We were then given the chance to learn one of the dances and play the gons, we got quite a good tune going!
Our host Sapinggi, who would be our mountain guide, then took us down the road to one of the houses for dinner, where we sat on the floor and ate delicious home cooked food. One of the girls in our group screamed when a snake that had come in from outside ran over her foot! After dinner the locals urged us to try their home made rice wine, which was very strong and tasted a bit like urine. The locals love Sunday nights because there is an Intrepid group to entertain every week and it means they can get completely wasted - some of them could barely stand. They were very entertaining though and made us very welcome. They got us to play a game where you had to pick up a piece of cardboard from the floor without touching the floor with any part of your body other than your feet. We weren't particularly good at it, but the mountain guides were naturally fantastic.
We headed back to the Catholic church, where we were staying in dorm rooms. The stars were incredible because there was no light pollution, but some of the insects we saw were literally incredible, I have never seen any so big, Jenny would have had a fit!
On Monday we woke up to clear skies and we were able to see the mountain for the first time. The enormity of what we were about to do actually hit me - it was breathtakingly high. We went for a monring walk around the village which was a lot of fun, but exhausting even at that relatively low altitude (2,500 metres) because the air was a lot thinner than we were used to. It was beautiful and extremely exotic, unlike anythingI have ever seen before. We had a short journey to the national park at the base of the mountain, where we were staying in beautiful accommodation. We had a brief look around the botanical gardens but the cloud cover was very low and creepy - then it was dinner and an early night for the mammoth climb the next day.
Thwe weather was bright the next morning and after a huge breakfast we started the climb. The mountain is climbed using a series of crude steps of varying sizes, and you get incredibly hot and sticky very quickly indeed. The mountain is 4095m above sea level, and we climbed for 6km on the first day. We were very lucky with the weather as is was fine for most of the way - it often rains in the afternoons because of the tropical climate. The climb became harder as we went on because the air was getting thinner, and we were very apprehnsive because the people coming down the mountain looked so exhausted! Some people say that Kinabalu is harder than climbing mount Kilamanjaru because even though it is lower, it is steeper and done over a shorter period of time.
We arrived at Laban Rata, our halfway point for the night, by about 2pm which was really good, and we spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out and relaxing, before going to bed at about 7pm as we had to get up so early for the sunrise the next morning. I was feeling ok by this point, but Felicity had really bad altitude sickness and was throwing up and had diarrhoea - she wasn't able to make it to the summit because of this. Our accommodation for the night was extremely basic - we were woken up by a rat running round our room several times, it even managed to chew a hole in one girl's bag looking for food. Combined with torrential rain on the tin roof, freezing temperatures and a 2.45 alarm call, it was not the best night's sleep ever!
We had been very worried that we wouldn't be able to do the walk, as if it rains the bare granite peak is closed, as waterfall can wash people away. But when we got up we were delighted to see that the sky was clear, and we started our climb as planned at 3.30am. We had 3km to walk, and this would not have been a problem were the groun not so treacherous, and the air so thin. After 700m the steps gave way to a bare rock face, which was so steep in many places that you had to pull yourself up by a rope - pretty scary. I really didn't enjoy that part of the climb - no one did. It was almost pitch black and too cold to stop for long, but we were constantly out of breath no matter how slowly we walked. But as the sky started to get light we could see the peak, and it became a little bit easier. The last 100m to the summit involved scrambling over huge boulders, and was exhausting. But the sense of achievement when I got to the top was indescribable. The other mountains, and clouds were so far below us that it felt like being on a plane - the most incredible view I have ever seen, and all lit up by the sunrise. The picture at the top of this blog is a library one of the landscape at the top - I can't unload my photos until next week.
I walked with our guide Sapinggi as far as Laban Rata, and his help was invaluable as I was tired and the ground was treacherous and slippery. I have ultimate respect for this man - he has climbed the mountain over 3000 times, and his record for the whole thing is 3 hours ten minutes (I did the whole thing in 12 hours fifteen minutes and was exhausted), he carriefd a bag of provisions the whole way, and he is constantly smiling, friendly and encouraging. And he is 51 years old. I think he's pone of the most amazing, lovely people I have ever met and I wanted to bring him home with me!
After a quick breakfast stop at Laban Rata we descended the further 6km. This was the most punishing as we were exhasuted, and tyhe pain in our legs was incredible - I was walking like a drunk person towards the end because I could barely control my leg muscles. The journey went on forever, but when I finally arrived at the bottom I could not contain my happiness. It was the most rewarding, but the most physically and mentally demanding thing I have ever done, and I would recommend it to anyone. Our group leader, who has taken 11 groups up the mountain, told us that we were the quickest group he has ever taken, which was something to be proud of.
We spent that afternoon and the whole of the following day at a place called Poring hot Springs, where we relaxed in jacuzzis heated by the natural hot springs, had massages and walked in the incredible, exotic jungle. On Thursday night I ahicved one more personal goal, by eatinbg deep fried insect - the cicadas whichmake such loud noises in the jungle at night, and are slightly bigger than an acorn. I can report that they taste fried, and a bit nutty.
That's enough for now, I will tell you about the rest of my trip next time I get on the net. Hope everyone is well and enjoying the sunny weather! xxx