Margo's onderzoeksstage Korea travel blog

A squirrel on the way up, they are really spoilt!

You must admit, it's beautiful! The higher you get, to rougher too...

...

...

On the way down, no rain (yet!). KK is in this direction,...

Well, this were I came from.

View from the waterfront, back in KK.


Dear readers,

A story in English this time! I'd like to give my new found friends, if they find their way to this weblog, a chance to read this story. It's always a little challenge for me, to translate my experiences and sensations into words, so I wonder how things turn out using English words... :-)

It's going to be a long story. A story about a girl on a voyage of exploration, to a country where she partly grew up, and into herself. It's about tropical islands, inspiring meetings, worlds below the surface and about confrontations, poverty and alcoholism. If you feel like continu reading, make yourself comfortable, maybe get yourself a nice cup of tea (or coffee, so you like) and enjoy! Or so I hope... :-)

The story starts at an early friday morning. Very early, like 5am. My flight would take off at 11am. but since I wasn't really sure about the busses, I wanted to be certain I would be able to deal with surprises. Everything was still dark, misty and cold, increasing my longing to the tropical warmth. It's the first time taking such a journey on my own and I was a little freigthened. But that evening, arriving in Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah, Borneo, my fears ofcourse had been surplus. The next morning I would start climbing the Mt. Kinabalu. A more than 4000m. mountain, an hour and half driving from Kota Kinabalu offered by the Beach Lodge, which was also providing me a place to stay. I checked in late that evening and I asked if I would still be picked up at 6.30am. next morning to go to the mountain. Surprisingly, my host looked half knowing-this-question-might-come, half confused, asking if he had actually used the word confirmed after he learned that I was single traveller. Somehow, where ever you go, single travellers are discriminated! I had printed out our correspondence and no, he hadn't actually used the word confirmed. But no worries, I would get a place on the reserve-list, go to the mountain anyway, pay the Beach Lodge for the arrangement and I could probably still go up the mountain!

Indeed, next morning I had a guide and a fellow climber, a moslim-girl who was panting already after the first couple of hundred meters. We run into some other groups and I met some malay girls that had decided to use their Christmas weekend to climb the mountain. One of them is Maria, who works for a travel agency. I learned that all these people had a voucher for their bed in one of the lodges that night, except me! No worries, I could just get up and show my climbers card. I was quite faster than my fellow climber, so I went up alone. My guide staying behind with the moslim girl. I ran into three Japanese men who I joined. Step by step, we got up... The higher we got, the more tired we were, the more difficult it was to get some air, the worser the headache got. What started like a nice hike up to mountain, ended in the most exhausting experience I ever had. It wasn't even my legs, or the rain that kept falling but somehow all the energy was drained from our bodies. When I got down again, the next day I learned it's called the 'Altitude sickness', caused by a lack of oxygen at such altitudes. After yoga-breathing and meditation it was simply the thought that every step would bring my closer to a bed, was the thing that kept me going. I reached Laban Rata at 3300m. at 5pm. Indeed, the mountain looked magnificent, ominous and solid. Maria reached the hotel half an hour later, but the rest wouldn't be in before 9pm. All I wanted was to sleep, but, I didn't got my bed. Thanks to Maria, the first of many times I could rely on her, I fell asleep in one of the dorms around 8.30pm. The next day I learned from Maria, my package had included a private room in the only heated building. I had decided I wouldn't wake up in the night to climb for the summit. I had used all my will power to reach this far and things would only get worse! The last couple of hundred meter involves serious, slippery, windy climbing wich in the best case is only ligthened by the moon. Though doubt has never left me that night if I wouldn't miss out on the best part simply because I was lacking will power, it's tough to be out there on your own, with no one to chear you up and to encourage you to continu. After hearing the stories of even sporty, good looking boys, I'm quite sure I did the wright thing! :-)

Getting down the next day was easier to me, though not to everybody. It involves stairs after stairs after stairs, not the decent ones you have in your home, but the one made by tree roots or carved in stones or simply following an old, steep river. I would go to the hot springs after the descendent, again arranged by the Beach Lodge, but the exhaustion and the fact that the Beach Lodge so far had handled my climbing-package made me cancel this. When confronting the Beach Lodge with the fact I didn't have a place to stay at the mountain, I was replyed with the question why the Kinabalu National Park (supervising the whole climbing) allowed me to climb the mountain in the first place, without the arrangement of an accomodation. I stayed at the Beach Lodge one more night, paid the room and cancelled the rest of my reservations. The next morning I headed for the buss (again very early morning) to go to the other side of Sabah, Semporna, where the tropical bounty-islands are to be found for some snorkling and diving!

It was my first experience with public transport. Travelling with family actually always involves getting the plane for such travelling, there is an airport nearby my destination. But not so this time. I wanted to learn about the country, experience every single bit of it, so I took the buss. Another aspect is the pricedifference between a bussticket and a planeticket. :-)



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