Saturday, October 02, 2010

Time to climb Sabah's Trusmadi

Ever heard of Trusmadi? No? Figures. All everyone knows is Mt Kinabalu. Nobody remembers No 2.

Maybe it’s true what they say about being Number Two — nobody knows, let alone remembers you.

Everyone and his brother know Gunung Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia, and many, many people have climbed it. That’s how it is when you are Numero Uno. What about the second highest mountain in Malaysia?

What is the second highest mountain in Malaysia?

Most of the time, there’s a deafening silence because so few people have ever heard of Gunung Trusmadi in Sabah, which, at 2,642m above sea level, is a relative dwarf compared to Kinabalu.

But that’s no reason not to climb it, which was why five companions and I found ourselves in a speeding minivan on a scenic drive across the Crocker Range. This rugged range of mountains is virtually in the backyard of Kota Kinabalu, yet little visited by tourists.

To one side of the road, down a deep ravine, was a rushing river, while a slab of verdant rainforest rose vertically on the other side. Clouds of mist rose, wraith-like, from damp valleys far below to obscure the road.

From the heights of the Crocker Range, some 80km later, we descended into the flat, sunlit valley of Tambunan. There were golden fields of padi in the late afternoon light, a clear blue sky and lush surrounding hills. The air was sweet.

Tambunan could have qualified as the most idyllic postcard-village in the state. The roads were straight and well-paved, the buildings in good repair and the town itself looked scrubbed and prosperous.

We put up at a little resort a short distance from town. Our hut, basic but adequate, looked out to a disused football field beyond which was a shallow, rippling river crossed by a wire suspension bridge. The small riverside restaurant served surprisingly good food to the few customers it had. Hot food, good companions, a murmuring river nearby, peace and quiet in a remote corner of the country — what more could one ask for?

The next morning, our two 4WDs left the tarred road for an unpaved logging road a few kilometres from Tambunan town. The air was cool and fresh, with logged forest on either side of the road. At some point, the gradient became steep enough for our driver to lock the freewheels of the vehicle. Some distance later, we turned a corner and I gaped.

Up ahead was the largest butterfly I had ever seen in my life. It was a Rajah Brooke Birdwing, no less, with distinctive green triangles on black wings, but with a wingspan well over 3m wide.

For a fleeting moment, the thought of Nature striking back for all the indignities we heap upon the blemished land crossed my mind — the Attack of the Giant Butterflies. And that was before I noticed the giant Rafflesia and giant pitcher plant near the butterfly.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Time to climb Sabah's Trusmadi

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