Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Borneo: Mount Kinabalu

Some people, including myself, are as stubborn as a goddamn bull. Like the ones in Pamplona, Spain. You don’t want to come across one of those puppies. Evil puppies. Kinda sad actually. Another issue. With me, an English teacher who at the time was living alone in a three bedroom house in Thailand, sometimes that stubbornness can morph into urges. Like the urge to be “independent” and put myself in sometimes uncomfortable situations to achieve that skill.

To me, independence is a kind of skill, I guess. When I was younger one of my biggest fears was eating alone. As you can see, I have gotten over that. Now, my urge was to climb a mountain. Alone.

One of the highest in South East Asia at 4,095 meters, Mount Kinabalu also offers the terrifying form of climbing called Via Ferrata. And this Via Ferrata takes the cake for the highest in the world. I first heard of this style after watching YouTube videos of Huashan, China.

It made my stomach drop just watching it. From that moment on I needed to do it. Why would I want to do something that frightens me? Probably roots back to my stubbornness in one way or way or another and the urge to prove that I could, independently. It’s healthy to get the shxx scared out of you if you’ll respect yourself after. I think.

It was school holiday and I had already done two treks with some friends and fellow teachers in Thailand and Laos. Now it was my time to venture off by myself. I flew to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo and prepared myself for the trek. I shared a taxi with some New Zealanders to get some extra gear and then dinner with a group I met at my hostel. We all were telling travel stories and eagerly bantering about the climb.

It only takes two days and one night to reach the summit and back so this trek isn’t particularly long. I started out at Timpohon Gate at 1866 meters where I met my required guide. He couldn’t speak much English but he was friendly enough and we started our ascent to the Pendant Hut. There, I would receive a required informational and safety briefing on Via Ferrata and a place to sleep for the night.

The path from the Timpohon Gate is absolutely stunning. The world’s largest stair master of course, but one that was filled with insectivorous pitcher plants and a luscious, buzzing jungle. A little bit of rain didn’t stop me for my legs were empowered by the threat of not making it to the briefing. My guide urged me to take breaks along the way and I tried to resist as much as possible.

Not wanting to stop the flow of my momentum I made it to the Pendant Hut two hours faster than I expected. Alright! The views from the hut were unforgettable. In parallel with the clouds the setting sun illuminated the surrounding skies with purples and pinks.

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