After climbing it last month… let me tell you what I think!
I won’t bore you with details of how I wrestled with albino mountain tigers, or how I seduced village women to show me the “jungle-style”.
I will skip straight to the goodstuff, including a video of me dancing on the top of Mt Kinabalu.
DISCLAIMER: For those who think goodstuff means factual stuff, click here for Wikipedia, or, if it means chronological detail of going all the way up and down a large rock, click here for someone else’s account.
I’m just going to paint the picture the way I remembered it.
Blotchy, random, and not so accurate.
But first, I’ll need to introduce some characters for context….
Due to ill planning and procrastination, what supposed to be group vacation ended up a duo of me and a french rock climber, Julie. We’ve been on some outdoor trips back in Sydney… and here we are again (she’s in Malaysia for an internship in the UN).
Yes, that is her. We’re good friends who don’t hook up. But there was this big momma who ran our youth hostel… she had a different idea!
Big Momma kept winking at me, suggesting I take “Room 12” on the top floor, at no extra charge! She was a warm, friendly woman, but I’m glad she didn’t take part in my climb.
Good thing the other characters weren’t as stupid cupid. A good example? Our tour guide…
LANTING “THE SCORPION”
Ah, Lanting. He has been racing up Mt. Kinabalu since he was 11 years old, then training as a porter (carrying up to 40kg of supplies up the mountain), just to be my mountain guide.
He was born and raised the mountain village of Kiau. He shows his respect for his ancestral land by spitting on it every 100 steps.
“I demam sikit (I’m a bit sick)”, he says.
Wanna hear a story he told me about the mountain? Alright, then.
Once upon a time, Lanting’s ancestors were hunting deer in the woods, and there was this one deer they chased one all the way up, till the clouds gave way to the peak. Then the deer disappeared! His ancestors believe that was how the mountain spirits showed them the way up to the top…
Fast forward a thousand years, the deer hunter’s descendants were carrying the luggage of some white guy name Sir Hugh Low, who asks them for directions to the top, and later, names it after himself.
Lanting also told me he once starred in the film “Only the Strong”, under the screen name, Marc Dacascos.
Haha yes I made that up. But I’m not the only one with tall tales.
Lanting tells me how he had to carry a 70kg man down the mountain once. I just smiled at him (I didn’t ask what they were doing up there in the first place).
Now a 40-something year old father of four, he climbs up the mountain twice a week, awaiting my return.
On the side, he enjoys gardening with his wife. Their favorite plant is rice paddy.
When he visits Kuala Lumpur, I will guide him all the way to the shopping malls. This invitation is extended to his sidekick, Rumiah, too.
We paid Rumiah RM7 (USD2) to haul up each kilogram of our junk.
She reminds me of the bonus stage in “Golden Axe”, where you chop these gnomes to get potions. In the picture on the right, you can see KhaiLee the muscular dwarf getting ready to chop Rumiah.
But she was carrying our luggage, so I spared her life. Besides, she was a nice person, with an inspiring story.
You see, there has NEVER been a female mountain guide in Kinabalu…
But Rumiah will change that. To be a mountain guide, it doesn’t explicitly say you have to have a penis. But you do have to train as porters, then take some courses to get certified.
Rumiah, and two other women just completed their courses, and everyone is hoping their mountain guide certification gets approved…
Who knows, she may go down in history as the first female tour guide in Kinabalu!
Cool huh. Well, I met other fine characters too, and they may pop up later in the story.
OK OK SO THE STORY BEGINS
Before the climb, we spent 2 days mucking around the islands and doing nothing, just like the locals do. I call this “cultural immersion”.
However, there’s always these whackos defying the norm.
For example, this guy pictured below, was trying very hard to camouflage. What is he running away from? His past? I will never know.
There he goes again! So freaky.
Also, I hitched a ride on some other dude’s car… and guess what. He had cassette player. How cool is that? It’s almost as cool as United Airlines and their pull-down projector screens.
The poor sod tried 5 different tapes, and he still couldn’t get it to work. A real pity, as I was looking forward to his Borneo Rock. Or… could it have been 50 cent? It was, with these 2 young lads.
The cute fella on the right knew ALL the lyrics to all the 50 cent songs. He was rapping to the silence of the earphones, while his partner nodded in agreement.
I met them at the back of a small bus, and it made me marvel at globalization, and the hidden need to be a hiphop gangsta thug in every one of us.
They got off at this bus stop, against the Kinabalu backdrop. They made thug-like hand gestures as my fingers said goodbye.
I could see the peak I would conquer the very next morning.
This is me the very next morning, doing some conquering.
And this is me 8 minutes later.
Pictured below, is Julie taking the lead. I’d like to think I’m quite the fit fiddle, but she was always one step ahead of me.
She would turn around and ask me, “Am I going to fast? Do you want to rest?” And I would say “I got your back, you go ahead now.” haha
The trek was pretty accessible, large steps and all. But the Kinabalu cave? Well, that’s scary.
What a scary cave! Especially when it’s really my nostril. Ha!
Fast forward, I’m at the Laban Rata Resthouse. I would chill here till 2am to continue the climb to the peak.
I love random travelers! They have great stories!
- From the left, is Matt, from Boston… just spent the last month in the Borneo jungles looking for elusive rhinos, part of a conservation effort. Accidentally stumbled upon illegal loggers instead, and got his camera smashed!
- Then, there’s Julie Lavoinne, who looks almost familiar.
- Then, there’s Ken Higashi, former Ultimate Fighting Championship trainer, dog trainer, and part time underwear model from Japan.
- Then, there’s Fong, grew up in Kelantan, mastered Mandarin, Cantonese, and other oriental dialects, now working in China.
- Lastly, there’s James, yoga practicing, block breathing, cancer survivor, here to conquer Kinabalu right out of retirement.
Believe it or not, only one of the above stories are inaccurate. Honest!
After a long talk and overeating, we woke up at 2.30am, put on our headlights and winter wear, and trekked upwards.
I arrived at Lowe’s peak 45 minutes before sunrise and had to dance to keep warm.
45 minutes later, a hundred tourists gathered on top of the rock for photos, so I walked somewhere else.
This is me against one of the less popular peaks, called “Donkey’s Ears”.
Do you wonder what it’s like to be up there? Click on the video below and you’ll know! It’s me giving a short, guided tour.
What happened next? Well, I ran all the way down, and went home.
I know I made it sound really easy, but if you keep Julie’s pace, believe me, it’s not. Haha
But really, THE ONLY THING YOU NEED TO CONQUER KINABALU is their best kept secret… I mean it, even if you lose you clothes, your water, you hair… all you need is this…
They call it ADIDAS KAMPUNG (village adidas). And they call it by name.
This is worth more than your RM500 Timberlands, but only costs RM4.50 at a rural village market near you.
I’m not friggin’ joking ok. These babies stick to rocks like glue! Made out of one mold of industrial rubber, you know you ain’t slippin.
Just scroll up to see a picture of Lanting. He’s wearing them too. Pass this secret knowledge on to any of your friends who may be climbing Kinabalu. Use Adidas Kampung!
END OF STORY
We’ll what’s so great about Mount Kinabalu?
Mother nature is always great. Imagination makes anything fun. But the lasting memories I have of traveling and trips, are always the people, the stories they tell, and not the things I actually did, or the places I visited.
I wouldn’t mind going there again. Let me know if any of you are up for it.