Friday, February 27, 2015

Visiting Sabah Tea Plantation and Facing My (Non Tea Related) Fears

The thoughts that go through your head when you are terrified of heights but doing something that might kill or cure you are overwhelming. When in Sabah, despite signs saying something like “just please don’t do this if you are afraid of heights, ok? OK?!”, I kept schtum and did a very high and very wobbly rainforest rope walk anyway. I have had a year of trying to conquer my fears (doing the worlds longest island to island zipline in Sabah was another one), and forced myself.

It started well. Until I put my foot on the narrow plank and realised just how wobbly the bridge was. Very very very wobbly, and I started to wobble mentally too. But I put both feet on and clutching the rope sides for dear life, I walked on. Someone got on behind me – SUPER WOBBLE – and I started to panic but I curtailed it and thought THIS IS OK! THIS IS OK! In a completely manic way. I reached the end of the first bridge. Just two more to go. Easy, right? Right.

The second bridge was fine. Ish. When I put my foot on the third bridge, I could see the end, and I thought, I have done it! But then I looked down. 30 metres into the rainforest. I noticed all of the whirring and squealing, every animal, insect and bird appearing to do their bit to add to my sense of complete and utter panic.

OH MY GOD. I imagined the bridge swirling with me on it, then me spinning to the ground. And then I caught hold of myself, and I walked, my heart pounding, my breath shallow but I did it. I bloody did it! And I am here to tell the tale. Fear faced, a little piece of my brain quietened for a bit. What next? We will see.

What to do when you have just terrified yourself to within an inch of your existence, what do you do next? Why, head to a Sabah Tea Plantation for lunch! Why not? Sabah Tea is a beautiful tea plantation nestled in the folds of Mount Kinabalu. The drive there is spectacular.

The clouds whirling around the mountain, said to be protected by the souls of the dead of Sabah. Locals, many of whom previously were animists (some still are), are very respectful of Mount Kinabalu and the jungle. They believe that the souls guarding the mountain and the area in general can trap you, make you lost and ensure that you die, if you don’t.

There is a lot of sad history here, it was witness to a brutal death march at the hands of the Japanese army at the end of World War 2 where 2,345 allied prisoners of war died. Incredibly, only 6 survived. The Sabah Tea Plantation shows a documentary about this in the room where they serve lunch, overlooking the rolling fields of tea, and Mount Kinabalu.