Friday the 13th. ’nuff said.
6 km doesn’t sound much on flat land, afterall, I can quite easily run that distance in a little more than an hour, but this is flat land I’m talking about. BUT, if the 6km in question involves steps which can be half a meter high and slopes that are at 70 degrees, and throw the highest mountain in Southeast Asia into the picture, things change dramatically. This particularly arduous 6km took 8 whole hours of my life.
Starting strong, we were averaging 1km/hr, which was a rather decent speed and the intial ease also gave us the time to pose in front of the waterfall we saw en route, and also observe plants like the orchid and the pitcher plant in their natural environments.
However, at about halfway, the situation started to take a drastic turn for the worse: apart from combatting a cold and demoralising drizzle and the thinner air, we also had to command our disobedient legs to conquer the next rock/step before us! And all the while, there are porters, young and old, male and female playing the mountains with 35kg packs on their backs, carrying supplies like beer up the mountain for our consumption!
The last kilometer was a killer for me, as I had to battle breathing difficulties, which meant that I had to stop every 10 steps to catch my breath and ease my spinning head that was threatening to knock me out cold. And for all romantics out there who dream of being in clouds, let me describe to you how it feels to be in a cloud– cold and wet. That’s what it feels like to be in a real cloud. It’s NOT fluffy, it’s NOT pleasant– it’s simply cold and wet.
Finally at 4pm, we reached the main guesthouse at Laban Rata, where we were given a place at Gunting Lagunaan, the highest hostel of the cluster, and unheated. By then, the high altitude was beginning to hit me so bad that I totally sore off trying to scale the peak which is another 2.7km, and involved surfaces much harder than what I had just experienced. And of course, rumour that high altitude illness is potentially fatal basically convinced me that I should just stay in bed.
After a three hour rest, my appetite finally returned somewhat, and although I did not finish my food, at least there was something to keep my system going, and to combat the illness.
Trying to sleep at night was a miserable affair, as I was feeling really cold throughout the night that only after adding a pair of dirty shoes, pants and T-shirt that I was able to get some shuteye.
Mount Kinabalu area
Our accommodations in Mount Kinabalu