South East Asia :: March - June 1995

Subject: Mount Kinabalu (Part II)
Date: Date: April 1, 1995 10:14Continued from Part I

8:55 Holidays Hotel; Kota Kinabalu, Sabah-Malaysia :: 1 APR 95

After the sunset, we ate an early dinner. That is, 7PM seems early for dinner in this country since many restaurants and food stalls don't open until well after that. The intention was to make it an early evening but the usual yahoos assured that would be an impossibility. It never ceases to amaze me how many people go through life believing themselves the only people on the planet. That's OK, they'd get theirs later.

So at 2AM, after a couple or three hours of sleep, the alarm goes off. I imagine bent, twisted travel clock parts falling like rain all around a smoldering crater. But I get up anyway. We pack up a few things: chocolate, peanuts, water, crackers and a tin of sardines. Then we walk 200 meters down to Laban Rata to meet the others.

It's cool, like a crisp autumn day back home. As much as I'm enjoying the heat and even the humidity, I prefer the cool. I miss curling up in thick toasty covers in the cool of the night. At Gunting Lagadan Katrin and I had to ourselves a four-bed dorm room, equipped with four sleeping bags. Two each! And the perfect weather for it.

At 2:30 AM we're sipping hot Milo and eating toast and jam. Anne, one of the debutantes, looks like an ICU patient. I imagine a coffee IV She sneezes a few times. They got no sleep, probably because the heater in their room made the air too hot to breathe. (RM5 extra for the heater) On the other hand, the hot, dry air finally dried our clothes. We'd washed them two days earlier but in the moist air of the rainforest they'd refused to dry.

At 2:58 AM the guide shows up. Smart fella.

At 3AM we're on our way, five torches (flashlights) in the darkness. 200 meters later, we pass Gunting Lagadan again. I'm already breathing hard. On the trail, we're joined by a dozen or so more torches. From the vicinity of each yellow glow comes the sound of laboured breathing.

After Gunting Lagadan, the 6 kilometer mark of the trail, the going gets STEEP. All I see are the feet ahead of me that define the path of my own foot falls. The world is centred about a small circle of illumination cast by my MagLite, and the beating of my heart that thrums from diaphragm to forehead.

Anne fairs not too well. The sneezing proved an indicator of more significant problems; she feels ill. So do several of the Yahoos who purge the large bowls of Ramen they'd consumed just before departing. Anne manages to keep the toast down but must stop to rest every 50 meters or so.

This is not a steep grade, nor even a staircase. Traversing this trail is like climbing a ladder with every second rung broken off. Lungs heave in the thin air and even in the cool night I'm sweating beneath just a T-shirt and singlet. Beadlets run from the hat band of the Akubra. I'm shocked to find my hair wet, as if I'd just showered. The occasional gust wicks the heat and reaches down inside your soul, chilling to the centre. But with the gust's exit comes the next heaving step, and the next, and the soaking of your clothes continues.

At every stop, Anne sits and leans against Marie, head on her shoulder. We are not yet a Kilometer into the 2.9 kilometer climb. She'll never make it and try to explain what's ahead, hoping she'll turn back. Afterall, I know that this is no nature trail, secure and safe, within 500 meters of the ranger station. We are in effect no less isolated than those who assault Everest and, given our level of preparedness, the conditions are only marginally more favourable. The situation is potentially dangerous. Never underestimate 21-year-old grit.

Continued in Part III

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --

The clouds above us join and separate,
The breeze in the courtyard leaves and returns.
Life is like that, so why not relax?
Who can stop us from celebrating?
  graphical element Lu Yu
Chinese Poet

Enjoyment of the process is the secret that erases the myths of the Great Reward and Saving Time.
  graphical element Benjamin Hoff
The Tao of Pooh