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Gunung Kinabalu, Borneo

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Gunung Kinabalu, Borneo

Postby Ikan Mas » Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:07 pm

Well, you saw Fuji and you wanted more. This one is pretty far out. Hang on to your knickers, we’re goin blessedly exotic.

Gunung Kinabalu in located in Sabah state of Malaysia, on the north end of Borneo. My wife is from another island in the region, and it was a relative that suggested we take a trip to Borneo. We spent a couple of days off the coast in Sipadan, enjoying the diving, and then flew into Kota Kinabalu and drove up into the mountains. Here, a sort of adventure began. Sort of adventure because although climbing the mountain is physically demanding, following the trail up to the lodge and the top is not much of a mental challenge. Nonetheless, in an effort to provide some benefits of tourism to the local people, the ever so paternal government requires that you hire a guide to take you to the top on an extremely well marked trail. Unfortunately ours spoke little English and knew little about the sights in the jungle. We did pick up things from other peoples’ guides. It’s all part of the game of extracting money from the rich Orang Puteh (white man). I am very familiar with the area culture so I’m used to these things that tend to drive other visitors mad.

So the deal works this way. When you arrive, you have to stay in the lodge at the park entrance for a night. The next day a bus takes you up to the trailhead and then you hike up to the Laban Rata resthouse at 10,000 feet with your guide, stay overnight, and then get up early (3:30 a.m.) to hit the mountaintop for sunrise the following day. After taking in the sights, you head on down the mountain to the trailhead and park entrance. Here’s a photo essay of the trip.

After driving up a couple of hours, you arrive at Bundu Tuhan, just outside the park. It’s a truckstop of sorts, but you can see a bit of local culture and the mountains here.
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Here’s the local mass transit:
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The next morning we headed up the trail which looked like this in the mist:
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It was slightly drizzly, which kept it cool, but we had no views. There were some nice flowers and orchids along the trail:
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I was hoping to see some interesting birds, but I later learned that birds had long been hunted in Borneo, and they had good fear of humans. I did see some brilliant birds on the way down, but they really wanted to stay in the tops of the trees.
As we approached the 10,000 foot level and the lodge we really began to feel the altitude. I kicked it in gear and pushed on; my fellow hikers dawdled:
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Soon the resthouse came into view……
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…. And we were soon able purchase some hot food at the grill, which really hit the spot.
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I went out and explored the area around the resthouse and found lots of interesting plants;
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and the mountain going in and out of the mist
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It was a bit surreal. Added to the scenery, I was hearing what sounded like robins chirping about. Robins!? In the southern hemisphere!? It must be the altitude. Eventually I was able to sneak up on some of these birds, and sure enough, they were darn close to robins, Mountain Blackbird, Turdus poliocephalus, and had a similar red breast. I returned to the resthouse, watched the sunset:
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and hit the sack early. Next morning at 3:30 I was up and ready for the mountain as were the rest of the hikers. I soon stretched into the lead and left my guide and everyone else behind. Here the trail to the top was marked with a white 1-inch rope. Since there was nothing else to see, I put my nose to the grindstone and made time. I was the first on top and had to wait 20 minutes for the next hiker. The sunrise was interesting as colors changed emerged from the blackness. Here are some of the views:
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Over the next hour the mountain top became rather crowded… Image
….and I headed down to see what I had missed in the dark
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Here’s the rope:
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Looking back at the mountain:
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The subalpine vegetation was interesting
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Going down was a bear due to all the steps
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We ran into another guide who was able to point out the pitcher plants that grew just off the trail. These were so big that they found drowned rats in them.
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The rest of the hike down was drudgery, but I felt good to finish and have a unique experience. This is one hike I would recommend to anyone that is in that part world.



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Re: Gunung Kinabalu, Borneo

Postby mokelumnekid » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:27 pm

Super-cool! Thanks. Doubt I'll ever get there, but enjoyed your report.
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Re: Gunung Kinabalu, Borneo

Postby balzaccom » Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:39 am

Terrific report! Thanks for showing us another part of the world!
Balzaccom

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Re: Gunung Kinabalu, Borneo

Postby BSquared » Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:23 am

Wow, talk about "beyond" the Sierra Nevada! Thanks for a great report; beautiful flowers!
—B²
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Re: Gunung Kinabalu, Borneo

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Feb 17, 2011 2:19 pm

Extremely cool! Thanks for the report & photos (and the Fuji report as well)!
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Re: Gunung Kinabalu, Borneo

Postby maverick » Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:20 pm

Very nice, love the peak, and the beautiful tropical flowers.
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