Great Heights

Trip Start Mar 14, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Saturday, October 27, 2007

I told the van driver I wanted to go to a guest house near the park headquarters on the mountain.  I got kicked out on the side of this mountain road in the middle of nowhere.  It turned out I actually was near the headquarters and there was a cheap guest house just up the hill a little, so that was nice.  I was one of three people staying at this beautiful place run by a nice Philipino lady.  Got some info from headquarters for the next day, ate a big dinner at a nearby roadhouse, and went to bed early that night. 

I was able to leave my big bag at the guest house the next morning, just taking my day pack filled with food and warm clothes, which was still entirely too heavy.  After breakfast at the roadhouse, I ended up waiting at headquarters for about half an hour before I found a group of people I could join to cut costs (the park makes sure this is not the cheapest hike you've ever gone on).  The group I joined was two Austrian girls and a Malaysian couple from KL.  We took a bus to the beginning of the trail up the mountain.  The first bit of the hike was nice - it was actually downhill to a waterfall and we saw some monkeys on the way.  But, it was all uphill from there, quite literally. 

Four and a half hours and six kilometers later, I arrived at the mountain huts, some 3,000 meters high (not as much oxygen there as one might like to have), where I checked in for the night.  I had to pay about $14 for a dorm - by far the most I've paid for accommodation on my entire trip.  I had to walk another ten minutes up to my actual hut from there.  I went to go take a hot shower as it was quite cold up there, but the hot water at my place wasn't working.  So, I had to walk over to the next hut in my towel, which was a lot of fun.  Luckily, they had hot water there, and I took the longest shower of all time not wanting to go back out into the cold.  Eventually I did though, making some noodles in the kitchen before heading back down to the main lodge.  Enjoyed the view there and played some cards with the other people in my group.  Before going to bed around 8 o'clock, I had the most delicious tuna and ramen dinner.

I couldn't sleep that night.  Perhaps it was because I was too excited to begin the ascent to the summit at two in the morning.  Soon enough, 2 o'clock came, and I was awake and layering in preparation.  Around two thirty, my group met up and we began up the trail.  It was slow going at first as there was only the one path to take and all 100 of the tourists left at about the same time to get to the top before sunrise.  Even still, I couldn't stop sweating and had to completely de-layer.  If it wasn't for the slight breeze, I would have gone up topless.  It wasn't until I was just a couple hundred meters from the top that I had to start layering again.  By this point, the trail had widened out into endless rock face, and I had been able to leave the other tourists behind.  The climb was arduous with little oxygen and being steep enough to need the help of a rope at some points. 

When I got to the top, it was very peaceful as there was no one else around.  But, I got there a little too early and had to huddle up in a crevice until sunrise came.  When the sunlight came from behind a cloudy sky, it was beautiful.  The bare mountain top and the surrounding countryside below.  I could see as far as the ocean to the east, which I'm sure had to be quite a ways away.  Just as I went to take a triumphant photo at the peak, my camera died.  I was able to finagle some photos from the experience though as you'll see. 

After spending some time at the top, taking it all in, it was time to head back down.  My legs were pretty tired, but the going was much quicker in the other direction, especially knowing that every bound brought that much more delicious oxygen to my overworked lungs.  Had to completely de-layer again as it was getting warmer and I had become active once more.  On the way down, I met this Australian guy who was kind enough to give me some batteries for my camera and who I would eventually see again on the Kinabatangan River.  Back at the hut, it was still early so I took a brief nap.  When I awoke, I cooked up a noodle breakfast and checked out.  Then it was time for the decent in the rain.  Again, going down was much quicker than going up.  But, by the end, my legs were shaking, and I wasn't sure just how much longer they could hold me up.  I would pay for all this exertion with extreme soreness over the next three days. 

The flatness of the real world was magnificent.  Oh, the beauty of a normal step.  But, it was back to business - I collected the rest of my gear from the guest house, got some lunch, and waited for the bus to Sepilok.  Now, waiting for busses in Asia can be tricky - it's an exercise in constant vigilance.  You know about what time the bus should have left from its starting town, so you can guess when it should get to where you are.  Around that time, you wait on the side of the road and wave your arm violently when you see it finally hurtling towards you.  Surprisingly, it worked, and I was on my way off the mountain and on to the orangutan rehabilitation center at Sepilok. 
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