The moments in my life, breathless, completely numb. Lying on the cold, hard mattress, I could hear the beat of my heart strumming with all its will and strength. Years of my life flashed through me instantly and I was without a friend or a foe, 3592 meter above sea level, gasping for air. What insanity drove me to climb Mt. Kinabalu by myself ?

The decision was made quick and easy. Since, I am celebrating Christmas holidays in Sabah, I might as well seize the opportunity to hike up the highest mountain in South East Asia. Every weekend I counted the weeks to December 2007. My training up Batu Caves, Gasing Hill and FRIM was truly enjoyable. Friendship was rekindled and new bond was fostered. Experiences that enriched my life, so much I never imagined.

Standing with the Summit Trail Map 2 days before the big climb

Two days before the climb up, I spent a night in the Sutera Sanctuary Lodge. Gathering around the fireplace, the warm air emanated in the circle of friends. BBQ lamb and chicken wings filled our stomaches. Sipping hot chocolate after the hearty, sinful meal, I must say was truly gratifying.

Fireplace in the resort home

Carolers with their lovely voice

Not too far distant, outside the resort home, we heard jingles and carolers. Excitedly, we rushed out and stood waiting anxiously. One of the reasons why I love Christmas season, it’s really the season to be jolly and happy. Bursting in enthusiasm, the group of carolers arrived at the doorstep. We sang the hymns and Christmas cheers. Our body rocked to the enchanting rhythm. Hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, our voices filled the cold air with beautiful melodies. I recorded the tune into my new handphone. A tune I listened to, a reflection of year end 2007.

Sutera Santuary Resort

The night spent in the base of Mt. Kinabalu was just an appetizer. The main course came two days later.

View from the reception hall

Arriving at the reception, I clutched my backpack, somewhat nervous. I was eager. I looked up at the view from the Sutera Sanctuary Lodge reception. What I saw was not a mountain. A statement that shouted “Courage”. I embraced myself and thought, “I’m sure I’ll do fine. I’ll have a great guide !” Assuring myself I registered and waited for my guide. Dark and tanned, Rob was introduced to me. “You , Malaysian?” he questioned. I nodded with a beaming smile. “Kenapa panjat seorang? (Why climb alone?) he prompted further. I was taken aback, surprised with the intrusion. “Why is that strange that I am climbing solo? Why do I need to explain myself a decision, an action that I chose solely to hold responsibility to ? ” The silence broke after a few minutes and I responded, “Timing not ngam with friends”. I shrugged off the query and we hopped into the shuttle bus.

Entrance to Pondok Timpohon

The journey in the four wheels to the entrance took estimately 15 minutes. The excitement was clearly building in me. I sat next to a very friendly Malay lady and we started chatting. The minutes passed by me in seconds.

Minutes before hike began

Refreshing greetings from the waterfall

Upon entering Pondok Timpohon, I was greeted with a flight of stairs going downhill. I was forewarned that climbing Mt. Kinabalu wasn’t really a hike, it was more of steps and concrete grounds of different heights. Seeing the waterfall after walking for 20 minutes, I shrieked. It wasn’t my first encounter with a waterfall but I felt such joy as I wasn’t expecting any sight of flows. That instant, Rob knew I was easily entertained with nature. Having that in mind, he showed me flowers, ferns, insects, creatures that marveled the face on earth.

Pebbles along the way

Wooden staircase

First kilometer

The first mile or so the walk was a warm up. Reaching the first milestone, I took a snapshot. Proud of my achievement.

2 hours passed and I was still in hype with energy, despite only slept 4 hours the night before. The next pit stop, Rob made me rest. “Wait here,” he instructed cheekily. I sat there and Rob went into the bushes. While I waited, I heard noises behind me. A furry, brown thing ran out and for a moment I thought I saw a rat, I nearly screamed. Hiding behind the roots, out came a squirrel, poking its curious head.

Spying on the squirrel

A closer look

I was in gasping with awe. Admiring the little creature, I sat closer to the tree.

It decided to come sit next to me

Rob then came out from behind the bushes and saw me playing hide and seek with ‘Alvin.’ I decided to name it Alvin. Old habits die hard, I like to name animals of nature.

Potter carrying a sack of rice

Concerned with time, Rob had to interrupt my quiet moments with ‘Alvin’. We continued our journey. My fascination was soon replaced with yet another interesting encounter. The Sabah Potter. Instead of flying up the mountain using the broom, Mr. Sabah Potter used his strong, lean legs. Carrying a sack of rice and his companion shouldering a gas tank, I was clearly impressed.

The enchanting forest

Drenched but still smiling

I walked and walked, and walked. Then, I walked some more.

The mountain worm

My footsteps up hill was interrupted by a foot long mountain worm. It was slimy and wiggly. I believed the diameter of its body was at least an inch ! Horrified and petrified, I gained strength to plod my way up.

Periuk kera (Fly trap)

By the time I reached Laban Rata, I was completely drained. Hungry, tired and wet. 8 hours of trekking, I arrived speechless. Drenched, I was freezing.

I entered my room and I met the most amazing man …. He was …

To be continued …