Mount Kinabalu to Sepilok – Borneo – Malaysia

We arrange transport from Kota Kinabalu to Mount Kinabalu.

(Note: this entry contains no original photos because we accidentally deleted the photos from our camera. We offer grateful attribution to the entire online universe.)

Mount Kinabalu
Kinabalu, at the top

Departing at 6:30 AM from Kota Kinabalu, we get a van ride to the park.

Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu from about 20 KMs away

It’s 4,095 metres high.

Mount Kinabalu
Kinabalu, from the bottom

(In reality, we never see the mountain this free of clouds.)

Unlike other climbing we’ve done, this trail is steep. CRAZY steep. We’re in pretty good health, but I’m soon puffing like a steam engine. We fight for every metre of ascent. The thinning air doesn’t help.

All supplies for the lodge up top is carried up by porter. They pass us as if we’re standing still.

Mount Kinabalu

There was an earthquake on Kinabalu recently – 2015 – that killed 18 people. You still see parts of the mountain face that have collapsed.

We persevere and make it to the Laban Rata lodge for a meal and a sleep.

We meet up again with Nico and Annabelle, a hybrid Italian-German couple who travelled up with us in the van. (Interestingly, they speak fluent English with each other. Not surprising, since Nico attended Cambridge and Annabelle, who works for IKEA, spent 8 months in Australia at one time.)

Mount Kinabalu
Gimme Shelter

We awake at 2:00 AM, have a quick breakfast, and head upwards again in the dark. At a near-vertical incline again.

After an hour, I reach my limit. I can scarcely take twenty steps without stopping for a rest. I look up at the near-vertical headlamps twinkling above us, turn to Maria and say I don’t think I can make it. Thankfully, there’s no argument and we turn back to the lodge. Silver lining: we get to go back to a warm bed for the next few hours.

Everyone says that going down is harder than going up. We disagree. Sure, it’s tough on the knees, but at least there’s no energy-sapping scarcity of oxygen.

Reaching the bottom, we undergo  a minor odyssey trying to get to Sepilok, our next destination. In theory, it’s possible from the outskirts of the park to flag down a bus travelling from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan and ask to be dropped off at the Sepilok junction.

We rendezvous with Nico  and Annabelle again. Together with Blake, a pleasant woman from Oklahoma currently teaching English in China, the following happens:

  • We successfully flag down a Sandakan-bound bus. 😊
  • But it’s full. 
  • They pick us up anyway. 😊
  • We have a four-hour bus ride to look forward to sitting on the stairs. (It’s a multilevel bus.) ☹
  • But as soon as we get on, a torrential downpour begins. At least we’re dry. 😊
  • About 15 minutes later, the bus breaks down. Totally. ☹
  • Nico makes friends with a taxi driver who drives us into Ranau, where he’s sure he can use his contacts to fix us up with a hired van ride on to Sepilok. 😊
  • Despite his attempts, we draw a blank. No drivers available. ☹
  • Our taxi friend finally convinces someone to take us to Sepilok. 😊
  • After we stow our luggage and cram ourselves into the van, he turns the key. Nothing. ☹
  • We can’t even rent a van and drive ourselves. We head out to the main road, to the bus stop. As luck would have it, our original bus comes along and picks us up! 😊
  • At around 10:00 PM, we’re dropped at the Sepilok junction. There is no other transport at this hour. We have a two-and-a-half kilometre walk in the dark to Sepilok, with all of our luggage. ☹
  • This is not a great hardship after the punishment we’ve had on the mountain. Setting off – we all have lights – we soon arrive at Nico and Annabelle’s booked guesthouse.😊
  • We look for our guesthouse, Blake looks for hers. We can’t find them. It’s now nearly 11:00 PM. 
  • We ask a man outside his property about the whereabouts of our lodgings. He drives us in his car to our respective guesthouses and we all arrive at last. 😊

As a coda to this tale, while we drive along a dirt road, we spy a large black snake crossing the road in our headlights. The snake takes its time. I’m about to jump out and shoo it away when it moves on. I ask a guide the next day what it might have been. He thinks it was probably an equitorial spitting cobra, even though it was night (these cobras are diurnal, apparently) .

‘Yesss? Looking for sssomething?’

Here’s a link to an amusing encounter that an expat family has with one of these puppies.

Sight or Insight of the Day – Mount Kinabalu

Time passes. We grow up. We grow old.

I love regaling people with the story of how I trekked up Mount Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa, in 1987. Easy as pie. I was more than thirty years younger, of course.

It was hard to throw in the towel on this ascent, but what the hey, this is not an endurance test. As I mention in an earlier post, you gotta know when to fold ’em.