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Published: March 29th 2015
Mount Kinabalu Park
Visitors are coming to the flat in Kota Kinabalu from Hong Kong so we plan a trip away. A quick tidy round and we leave by taxi for the bus to Mount Kinabalu Park. The minibus is already full so Carole and I sit in the Wee Lee Coffee House and wait for the bus organiser to fetch us when the next minibus is ready to leave. Breakfast of 2 fried eggs, toast and coconut jam - never quite sure when the next meal will be!
Off we go - a full bus with luggage and extra parcels for delivery. A new route into the mountains with very slow traffic up the steep hills. We are tipped out at the Park entrance which is in the middle of nowhere. No where yet to stay - only posh lodges in the Park are recommended by surly park staff. A local guide tells us about accommodation just down the country road. The first lodge is dorms only - but the second 500 metres further down is a gem. Run by a lovely lady the Bayu Homestay is very simple but very clean and organised. There are hooks and
shelves to hand where ever you need to pop something - (unlike many places where you need to be an octopus to juggle all your belongings). We are the only visitors. Just us in dorm for 4 . Only £5 each a night and 8 minutes walk to the Park. We are now 1500m. Much cooler here and I am grateful for a vest and my new merino jumper.
We wake to a thick swirly mist but by 7am it is sunny. We arrive at the Park just in time to see the summit of Mount Kinabalu before it is shrouded in mist for the day. Beautiful. It is Saturday and crowds arrive in coaches and minibuses. The young Malaysians are very noisy, excited and busy taking selfies as they prepare for the 2 day climb. Visits to the summit of Mount K are well organised and expensive. Each visitor pays £250/£300.
The climbers depart for their epic adventure and the Park is quiet. I take a guided walk to learn more about the vegetation. There is only me and the guide, Johann. I see a range of medicinal plants and plants and trees formerly used by the
local tribes for everyday living. I also see the smallest orchid in flower. Now a tour of the botanic gardens with only 2 other visitors from Rumania. There are only a few flowering and fruiting plants including the sexy lady orchid and a pitcher plant in a pot, but the walk through the garden is pleasant.
Mount Kinabalu Park was designated a World Heritage Site in 2000. It's importance lies in its botanical and biological diversity hosting plant and animal species from both hemispheres. The mountain itself, a granitic intrusion, is flanked by rocks of metamorphic origin and the Crocker range of sedimentary sandstones. It's range of altitude allows zones of tropical vegetation, lower montane, upper mountain and alpine vegetation and their associated habitats. I wish I had enough umph to climb to the top to see the wonderful range of habitats.
It must have been good in 2000 - but now we are disappointed. The park infrastructure, paths and buildings are very run down and in need of maintenance. Board walks have broken planks, benches are green with mould and buildings are deteriorating because they have not been painted. Park staff are poorly informed and unhelpful unless
you want a posh hotel room or a taxi. Several advertised events for example a slide show never happened and the weather forecast was out of date even though dozens of people were about to walk up the mountain. Very few tourists here. We only saw a dozen or so western visitors in 2 days.
We leave Bayu Homestay early in the morning for Poring, another part of Mount K Park. No idea about buses to get there or where we will sleep tonight. - All part of the adventure. Yesterday we saw people wait 45 minutes before they could flag down a passing bus. Today we are lucky. A minibus to Ranau stops to drop people at the park main gate just as we arrive. We pass through a market gardening area. All the veg is grown on steep terraced slopes. Along the roadside are market stalls with pre packed veg so there must be a veg packing station locally. Interesting that there is often a long line of market stalls all selling exactly the same thing. I don't know how shoppers know which stall to buy from or how all the stall holders make a
We are in Ranau by 10am. Carole needs to buy a towel and we go to the bank and a supermarket. Our staple food for snacking is crackers, raisins, cashew nuts and bananas. We can't find a local minibus so we take a taxi to Poring. A good choice as the driver just knows of the perfect place for us to stay. It is just opposite the Park gate and costs 78RM for 2 nights (£15.60) for a twin room with ensuite.
Poring is very small with only about a dozen small shops and restaurants. However it is very busy with cars, coaches and minibuses. People everywhere - some coming to visit the Park and bathe in the hot springs. But we soon discover the very rare rafflesia flower is in bloom locally. The largest flower in the world! A short walk for us and a 30RM fee £6 each. The owner of the land where this rare plant is in bloom must be making a fortune! Another bus arrives but we manage to find a gap and are fortunate in having the flower all to ourselves for a short while. The flower is amazing - the
size of a car tyre. It only flowers once every 7 to 8 years and the bloom lasts for 4/5 days. It is reputed to be very smelly - but only in the early morning. Our guide also shows us other interesting plants including cinnamon and beetle nuts.
Morning and a different world. Not a soul in sight. Half a dozen dogs roaming in a pack, the odd cat with a stumpy tail, a few chickens and then a local farmer leading a water buffalo bull up the street.
Boiled eggs for breakfast. We eat at 7am to get to the canopy walkway in the Park before the crowds. No problem. We are the only visitors swaying through the canopy. It is interesting to look down on the trees. some bird song but no sign of any birds. Lovely also to be alone in the butterfly garden. Dozens of butterflies fluttering in the breeze. Hard to take photographs but the iPad video captures the moment.
We are in Poring for a reason. It is the beginning of our next adventure. We are excited about our forthcoming 3 day trip deep into the jungle.
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