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Published: July 11th 2013
We've been in Sabah in Borneo for a few weeks and I'd describe it as very outdoorsy! We started in a place called Kota Kinabalu and we went there to climb Mount Kinabalu, the tallest in SE Asia. It was recommended to us by Beth's sister and I honestly didn't really give it too much thought, just thought it would be alright as tourists do it everyday. Turns out it was the hardest
thing I've ever done!! The first day you climb 6km up the mountain and it was really steep, not really a proper path, mostly climbing from rock to rock. After about 4km, I started to get altitude sickness and got a massive headache, felt quite dizzy and found it harder to breathe. When we were about half a km away from our hostel it started to rain! Perfect. We made it to the hostel, slightly damp and absolutely freezing. I paid 12RM for a hot chocolate - daylight robbery! But I needed to warm up my numb hands! We layered up as we were 3270m/10730ft high at this point and there was no central heating or hot water. We haven't exactly packed many warm clothes or serious climbing
gear so we just wore all of our clothes at once! I ended up in bed by about 6pm, freezing with a pounding headache and praying that the summit would make the experience worth it! We got up the next morning at 2am, began the climb at 2:30 and I instantly felt like my head was going to explode. I was genuinely wondering if I'd have to give up but then I thought that would make the whole miserable climb the day before completely pointless. Also everywhere I looked were headtorches bobbing around me and I thought if everyone else can do it, so can I! I took some panadol and soldiered on and it was just a relentless slog. It took about 3 hours to reach the summit which was 2.7km away, climbing the steep rockface, using ropes to pull ourselves up, and just trudging on. It got colder and colder and the weather was bad, loads of dark clouds. When we finally found the top, we tried to get one triumphant picture by the sign denoting the summit of the mountain and that you've reached 4095m/13435ft and then looked around to admire the view, realising we wouldn't be
seeing anything through the clouds sadly. Our guide asked if we wanted to wait for sunrise but said with the weather we wouldn't see anything. At this point I could not feel my hands so we decided to turn back. The walk back down was just as hard as the walk up as it was wet and slippery, I couldn't use my hands and our legs were now shaking. The views on the way down were pretty amazing once the clouds cleared but it was a shame we couldn't have had better weather at the summit. We made it back to the hostel, grabbed breakfast and then set off again. I was just desperate to get down at that point, I practically threw myself down the mountain, slipping and sliding and gripping a walking stick so hard for support that I bruised my hand. When we got back to Kota Kinabalu and our hostel there, we collapsed and barely moved for two days! Our legs were so stiff and sore, we regretted staying in a hostel on the first floor! Every time we left to eat, we had to hobble down the stairs and back up again one at a
time! Pathetic. I'm honestly not sure it was worth it. I can say I climbed the tallest mountain in SE Asia but it was not fun! It was massively hard, gave me my first experience of altitude sickness which made me feel like death for about 16hours, destroyed my legs for about 3 solid days and we couldn't even appreciate the views from the summit because we were in the middle of a freezing cloud! I hate to be a moaning minnie, I usually try to take something positive out of everything but for once, this stumped me! It's safe to say mountain climbing is definitely not
going to become my new hobby!
After about a week in Kota Kinabalu, a few days either side of the mountain climb, we headed to Sepilok. Aside from the mountain climb - which let's not take lightly! - we didn't really do anything else except chill, go to the cinema, have a few drinks, met a nice girl from Sweden. We moved on to Sepilok for a few outdoorsy days! We started by going to the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabiliation centre which was incredible. We watched about 6 female orang-utans come for the
feeding hour, swinging through the jungle, tight-rope walking, hanging upside down! The most amazing moment for me was when the man climbing up to the feeding platform with the food was given a hand up by the dominant female orang-utan! It was so natural and familiar, I was astounded. The centre was amazing; they rescue orphaned orang-utans and take care of them, nurse them back to health and teach them how to live in the wild then release them into the Sepilok jungle. The feeding takes place twice a day and they always feed them the same food in the hope that the orang-utans will get bored and look for their own food in the jungle and stop coming back. It was an amazing place. That afternoon we set off on another trip, to the Kinabatangan River for a night in the rain forest and a couple of river safari trips. We arrived at the jungle camp and the jetty which made for easy access from the river up to the camp was now sitting at the bottom of the river thanks to a storm a couple of days before and a massive mud slide! We had to scramble up
the massive muddy slope and then had a briefing about what the trip would involve. Other people had chosen to spend two nights in the jungle and as they explained what the two night option would entail (jungle treks to see insects and flora and fauna and optional fishing), I was feeling pretty smug about choosing the one night option! Our first activity was a night safari down the Kinabatangan River and for me the most impressive thing I saw was the sky. The stars were incredible, a perfectly clear night with not a cloud in the sky, amazing! The many owls and herons we saw were a bit of a snore! We have owls in England! We also saw a civet but only very briefly before it disappeared. Spending an hour and a half in a boat for about two minutes of wildlife action was, I'm not going to lie, a bit dull. Luckily we got to get up at 6am next day and do it again! This time we saw more birds, hornbills, kingfishers and an eagle and a couple of gibbons and a male orang-utan! All more exciting but again only about 10mins of wildlife action out
of an hour and a half boat trip! I thought it was all alright but I wasn't blown away. Much preferred the spoon-fed wildlife experience at Sepilok! Also, I saw the BIGGEST spiders ever by the toilets. Couldn't overcome the fear so instead ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction, even happier about leaving that morning!
We got back that afternoon and headed to Sandakan. We went there with the hope of visiting Turtle Island but it was too expensive. We instead decided we'd hire motorbikes and ride around. Sandakan doesn't rent motorbikes boo! Sabah is all about organised tours, there's not much else to do in the towns so we were left with a day stretching ahead of us with no plans! We'd read about an English Tea House so we jumped in a taxi and headed there. We had afternoon tea with SCONES and clotted cream and jam!! It was amazing! So English! The place was really beautiful too, lovely gardens and views. Still, it only killed a couple of hours and we still had the rest of the day to fill. We decided to go to the cinema (again) which was a taxi
ride out of town but the next showing wasn't for 2 hours. We tried to go bowling but it was closed. Tried a pub, again closed. We ended up sitting in a cafe for 2 hours, playing trivial pursuit and monopoly on my iphone while we waited for the film! Absolutely wild. We left the next day, funnily enough not desperate for any more time in that town! Our bus was two hours late and of course it started to rain, classic. We arrived in Semporna pretty late, jumped in a taxi - I say taxi, it was just a man and a car, and went to the nearest hostel. Next day we bumped into Swedish Sophie and had lunch then went looking to find a dive shop who had permits for diving Sipadan, one of the top 5 dive sites in the world and a protected area so only 105 divers can visit per day. It did say in the travel guide to book ahead but we've usually gotten away with just turning up so we thought we'd try that again. We looked everywhere and it was all booked up for weeks, whoops! We walked into the last dive
shop we could find and bumped into guys we'd met on the Kinabatangan River trip. This dive shop had one permit available for the next day but we obviously needed two. We sat down for a bit, chatting to the guys and suddenly our luck was in and another permit became available! We got to dive Sipadan the very next day! The first dive was incredible ... for everyone else! I had dodgy equipment and had a reg which was letting in a mixture of water and oxygen so I felt I was half breathing, half drowning. Also my mask was constantly steaming up, I kept clearing it but had to do so every ten seconds. So annoying and hard to enjoy the dive. Everyone kept pointing at sharks, turtles and I was the last to see a misty view of everything. At one point everyone was pointing at something I just could not see. I kept swimming, clearing my mask, looked up and realised I was in the middle of a huge school of barracudas, swimming in a circle around me! We had a tea break after the first dive and everyone was laughing at me because I'd been so lost down there, almost swimming off with different dive groups. My DMT offered to swap masks with me and they changed my reg and the next two dives were miles better! SO many turtles, reef sharks, barracudas and all the usual tropical fish! It was amazing! AND that evening we watched Andy Murray win Wimbledon! What a great day!
That was a few days ago and we're still hanging out in Semporna. There's nothing to do here except dive but we're starting a volunteering program tomorrow and have had to wait around until then. We've done all of the tours we wanted to do in Borneo so have had to just wait around. You get the longest visa in Malaysia, 90 days, so we've got no problem killing time for a few days. I shan't say too much about the volunteering because I won't really know until we get there but it's a community conservation project, living with a family and helping with village projects. Sounds exciting! You'll have to wait for the next blog for more info! - Ooh a teaser, this blog writing just got serious.
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