On Friday morning we set off for a three-day, two-night tour in the jungle around Mount Kinabalu. The mountain is, with an altitude of over 4,000 metres, the tallest mountain in Borneo. It is surrounded by jungle, and one can take various tours. Amongst them is a two-day tour up the mountain. On day two, one can watch the sunrise from the peak of the mountain. However, Mizzi and I had deliberately decided against it. We both did not feel in the physical condition for it. Moreover, we were more in the mode of relaxing and exploring than in the mood for challenge. Thus, we had booked a tour that would take us camping at the foot of the mighty mountain, with a few easier hikes included.
We left our hostel in Kota Kinabalu early, dropped off our rental car at the airport, and had breakfast at Starbucks where we were to meet with our guides from Sticky Rice Travel
. Patrick, the guide, gave us a warm welcome, and introduced Terry, who would be our driver and cook on the tour. We left Kota Kinabalu for Kota Belud, a town about two hours north of KK. Patrick showed us the local market,
which was just awesome with all the groceries being sold there. Then we sat in a café for a bit while he did some shopping on the market for the tour. At around noon we set off for another 90 minute-drive to Sayap Substation. Most of the time we had a great view of Mount Kinabalu. It is massive, covered by trees up to a certain altitude, and usually surrounded by a layer of white clouds that make it appear magical. The colours are amazing too: the green mountain, the blue sky in the background, and the white clouds in the foreground. I can see why people used to believe that there are gods living up there.
Up in the mountains there is a village called Sayap where farmers live, and where tourists can do homestays. Just past this village there is the entrance to Mount Kinabalu National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Soon after entering the park, we arrived at the substation. It is located in a valley by a stream and below a waterfall. There are just a few houses there for the park rangers, a few small pavilions, a hut with bathrooms, and
View towards Mount Kinabalu I
Clouds slowly ascending and crossing the mountain range in the morning.
an outside kitchen. We set up our tent in the large pavilion (I liked the idea of the tent being below a roof in case there would be rain since rain here is heavy downpour). In the meantime, Patrick and Terry prepared our lunch. We had it in the kitchen pavilion, and it was very nice Malay food including sticky rice in various shapes, made with coconuts and coconut milk.
After lunch, we had a bit of a rest and then set off for a small hike into the forest. The trail was steep and at times slippery and not too easy to climb; and walking down was sometimes even harder with the slippery rocks. It was helpful though that the air up here was cooler and fresher than down in the lowlands. We walked to Kemantis Waterfall, stayed there for a bit and listened to the sound of the water before walking back to the substation.
After dinner, we set off for a night walk. We did not walk any of the trails since they would have been too difficult in the dark. Instead, we walked down the road for a bit. We did not get to
Climbing steep trails
Our first hike into the jungle around Mount Kinabalu.
see a lot of wildlife, except for a cricket, a sleeping bird, and many fireflies. However, this was more than compensated with a marvellous night sky. The stars were bright against the black sky, and we could see the milky way while listening to the sounds of the jungle at night.
When we got back to the substation, Mizzi and I went to brush our teeth, which was a most disgusting experience. The bathrooms did not have fly screens, and thus, with the lights on inside, they were full of insects. They were everywhere, on the sink, on the toilet seat, in the toilet itself, on the floor… I did not spend more time than absolutely necessary in there. We had an early night, and it could have been a pleasant one with the sounds of the river and the jungle, but it was not. Our sleeping bags which we had borrowed from the travel agency were no good, therefore it got rather cold, and both of us did not sleep well.
The next morning, we got up at 5.30 to go for a morning walk. The day came quickly, and when we left the substation after a
... and a glimpse of what they look like inside.
cup of tea at 6.15, it was day already. We saw different birds, spider hunters and swift lets, amongst others, and we also learned a bit about local agriculture. The people here in the area grow pineapple, bananas, cocoa, and lemongrass. We also got a nice view of the lower part of Mount Kinabalu. The sun had just risen on the other side, and we could see clouds coming up and crossing over to our side.
We returned to the substation for breakfast and then went for another hike on Wariu Trail that took us down to the river and then in a loop back to the substation. The jungle here is different from the one we saw on Kinabatangan River. The earth is dry, the air is warm but dry, and only close to the river where it is more humid one can see moss and lichen on the rocks and on the trees. Vegetation is just as dense as in the lowlands.
In the afternoon, we went for a hike along Bundudahau Trail. The distance was not long, maybe three to four kilometres, but the trail was extremely steep. Physically, this really took me to my
limits, and there were quite a few moments when I thought I simply cannot continue. But I kept going and did not mention anything to Patrick. There were times when the trail seemed to flatten, and I felt a big relief, only to realise that after the next turn the next steep passage came up. In two spots, we had to climb over fallen trees, which was not an easy thing to do because the trail runs along a steep hill. However, we managed, and finally we arrived back at Kemantis Falls, where I discovered that I had two leeches on my hiking boots. For this reason it was good to have worn the leech socks. These are wide socks that you pull over your socks and trousers, and you tighten them with a rubber band just below your knee. Then you out on your boots. I had thought that leeches would live in water only and that they would not bite you unless you went swimming. But they seem to live under leaves in humid areas and wait for their prey there. A bit of excitement in the late afternoon! The rest of the hike was uneventful, and we
Kemantis Falls I
Waterfall not far from Sayap Substation.
were glad once we were back at the substation and could rest for a bit.
After dinner, we went for another night walk, and this time we saw two green vipers, small but extremely poisonous – as a human, you will die within an hour if they bite you. We also saw a tree frog, a lizard, a cricket, and some fluorescent fungi. The light they emit attracts insects that will spread the fungi’s spores. I a, enjoyed the beautiful night sky and the sounds of the jungle once more. Again, we had an early night, and this time the bathroom experience was not as disgusting because the lights were turned off, so there were no insects inside. Also, this time I put on more clothes before wriggling into my sleeping bag, and so I had an okay night and Mizzi seemingly as well.
We got up at six the next morning, packed up the tent, had a simple breakfast, and left the substation shortly after 7. Our guides dropped us off at a jetty near Kota Belud from where we caught a boat to Mantanani Island. But that will be the next story.
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