So we have what should be our final rest day but for some reason (I've not heard anything yet) we have it today and then potentially a rush up and then down the mountain on Saturday. This would be perfect after Kinabalu as today's itinerary has been a visit to the Poring Hot Springs, a 45 minute drive from the Kinabalu park gate.
So after a relatively late start, about 8.30 we all piled back onto the minibus, assuming our already accustomed seats (and it's scary how quickly a seat becomes a personal possession with the inevitable mistrust and recriminations if someone had the temerity to sit in another chair - thankfully this hasn't happened as we all seem to be creatures of habit, our reason for being there notwithstanding).
Again I have been amazed at the roads here, they go up steep ridges and then when you think that the engine can take no more it suddenly steepens. The fact that the minibus can do this is one thing, but lorries and heavy trucks use the same roads. In our couple of days so far, we've only seen the one lorry stranded by the wayside. Quite how they recover it is another question.
As the road wound it's way through the mountains Mount Kinabalu was a looming presence on our right, exerting an almost hypnotic glamour, even though it was keeping its head shrouded in wreaths of cloud. From what we could see, and I convinced myself that I could work out the route, the path would wind its way up through ever decreasing forest. Suddenly as we rounded a corner (purely coincidental) the clouds started to clear and we were left to admire the sheer granite beauty of Kinabalu's jagged summit - needless to say that there has been many gulps and muttered exclamations ("oh f**k" "blimey" "how are we to get up there?" and the like, not by me it must be added).
Each trip has its own unique drink, be it the lovely hot lemon of Nepal, Kilimanjaro beer and here we have Sabah tea, Sabah is the region of Borneo/Malaysia we are currently in of course. A black tea, but one which we are quite happily drinking without milk as not only is it quite mild but the milk has a sweet taste. Why do I mention this? Well, as we sat in touch we passed through Ranau and large advertising boards proclaimed it the home of Sabah tea, and they do make a big deal out of it with almost a resort on the plantation it seems.
Having passed through Ranau and away from the hypnotic presence of Kinabalu we reached the destination for the day at Poring national park where we can relax on a tree top walkway before soaking in the geothermal heated pools.
I use the phrase relax on a tree top walkway quite wrongly, an incredibly shaky rope bridge 50m above the ground isn't the most relaxing place I think you'll agree. For those who've never had the good fortune to try it, geothermal pools are a revelation (provided you learn to ignore the sulphuric smell, which after Rotorua in New Zealand all those years ago I'm quite used too). As you get in, the mineral rich water starts to work on the leg muscles easing any tensions there - this would have been ideal in a couple of days time having hopefully fought through and returned from our summit attempt. Still, I found it more relaxing than swimming in the river after our first day in the Crocker Mountains.
After all too short a time, it was time to get out and head towards our overnight stop by the Timpohon gate in Kinabalu national park ready for an early start in the morning. The lodge was really nice, very comfortable beds and rather spacious rooms. Walking out to go for our evening meal several of us found difficulties in locking the door, myself included, and eventually between us we managed to work it out - teamwork is always important on these trips!
The meal was good, again a buffet but there were a selection of veggie options but the nicest was the omelette, so far removed from those I'm used to seeing every week on 'Saturday Kitchen'!