The Last Wander (for awhile…)
After spending my summer in Scotland and Thailand, I returned home and went back to work – I was holding a part-time job in a school and was prepared to work till November (when I had to enlist into the army). I assumed that the summer was my last go at wandering for the next 2 years. So when I found out that we had a week off in September, I took the opportunity to get out – I was looking into nearby destinations where I could wander on a budget and possibly do some adventurous things…
Kota Kinabalu came up top of my list for a few reasons; I had been once before and loved it, it is only 3 hours on a plane from home, and I’ve been wanting to climb Mt. Kinabalu for awhile.
I arrived in the city and had 2 days to myself before a friend was to join me for the climb. While searching for the office to book a climb package (all climbers – regardless of climbing experience – are required to purchase a permit and pay for a mountain guide on your trip), I encountered many travel agents selling packages for the climb up Mt. Kinabalu – you want to book your climb through the official organisation as the prices these agents were offering were double, if not more, than what you would otherwise be paying (see here).
Mt. Kinabalu – located in Sabah, East Malaysia – is the highest mountain in the Malay Archipelago, reaching a height of 4,095m (13,425 ft), and is not a difficult climb at all if you are in good physical condition.
We started our climb in the morning after a 2-hour ride in a cab from our hostel that was in the city. The terrain starts out easy and smooth as you make your way through the lush jungles of Borneo and increases in difficulty as you proceed, due to the change in terrain – it felt very much like climbing up an endless flight of steep, high stairs after we emerged from the jungle. While I was trying to get my old hip (I fell in a deep-ass drain walking around the city with my face in a map) up the rocky terrain, it started raining cats and dogs on us…
Charlie, being the fitspo that he is, was ahead of me and setting the pace. I don’t think I would have finished that first day of climbing and arrived at Panalaban (rest-stop) that quickly if I were by myself or with a normal human being. As we arrived at Panalaban, drenched from the rain and absolutely freezing, and with a few hours to spare before dinner, we changed into dry clothes and (tried) to warm up in bed in a non-heated room…
Because we booked at the last minute, there weren’t any spare rooms in the main building – where the restaurant is located. Our room was about a 5 minute walk from the restaurant which is not a fun trip when it is cold, wet and slippery.
The trek up to the summit on the second day begins early in the morning in order to get you up there, in time for the sunrise. It didn’t feel that early to me anyways as I couldn’t get much sleep due to a throbbing headache that was probably due to the altitude.
You want to be prepared with altitude sickness pills (just in case), warm clothing, a waterproof bag saved my life (and my clothes, money and phone). A headlamp would prove useful as there is a section of climbing where you need both your hands on a rope, though Charlie and I survived with a mouth-held torch.
The climb from the restaurant to the summit is much shorter than the climb up to Panalaban. It is also extremely beautiful as you trek in the dark, under the stars.
The Tip of Sabah
After the trek, Charlie left for home and I had a few days before my flight back home. When I arrived to KK on the first day, I met 2 backpackers at the hostel and we had spent some time together before they left the city for the tip of Borneo; where pristine beaches are undisturbed by massive crowds of tourist and businesses.
I decided to head there and meet up with Francesca and Michaela (“the greatest British girls in existence” – Fran) and spend my last few days lazing on a beach.
After a long, uncomfortable, stuffy ride in a shared taxi (this is quite the norm in KK), I finally arrived at Tampat Do Aman – an eco-friendly sanctuary surrounded by the flora and fauna of the jungle in Kudat and only a short drive from the coast. I then proceeded to spend my final days in Borneo doing what I really needed at that moment – nothing.
This area of Kudat where Tampa Do Aman is situated is incredibly tranquil and peaceful. I recall there being a number of outdoor activities available in the area through the resort, however after the climb I just wanted to spend the rest of my time lying on soft white sand or on a bodyboard in the clear blue waters.
We were told that otters would occasionally come up to the shore in the evening, however we didn’t spot any while we were there. On my first night, in hopes of spotting cevit cats on the power lines, we opted out of transport back to the resort and decided to walk – which we very soon regretted after realising how long the walk back was and the number of angry dogs that had nothing better to do than scare the living shit out of us in the dark. Oh yes, we did not see a single cevit cat!!
I spent all my time in Kudat on the beach before heading home which turned out to be the best way to end the trip before heading off to the army for 2 years. This gem I found was paradise hidden in an area I never thought would provide such peaceful, relaxing, beautiful moments.
Keep searching and wandering, safe travels!