Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas 2011, In which I go for a rather steep walk (Part 1)

Way back in...September? October? I was talking with a friend about travel options in the area, and she mentioned a hike in Malaysia that was supposed to be quite good. I filed it away in the catacombs of my mind, and at some point while talking with another friend about Christmas plans, the idea was exhumed and later brought back to life via a series of emails and bookings with tour groups, airlines and hotels.

I've been looking forward to the trip since all the details were planned, but I didn't want to find out too much about the climb. I'm fairly active, but a) I can talk myself out of nearly anything, b) I tend to panic about things if I'm too well informed, and c) I ran out of time. The last few weeks have been busy ones, so I knew in the back of my mind that the hike was looming,, I'll get there when the time comes.

Thus it was that on Christmas Eve I found myself scrambling to find my waterproofs (which, alas, seem to be in a Chicago basement), buy some gloves and a headlamp, print off my travel documents, and cram five days worth of things into my little Gregory overnight bag. Thus aptly equipped (or...we'll get to that), I headed to the airport, passport and boarding documents in hand, to catch my flight.

It's a short flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. About 2 hours and 20 smooth minutes got me there, followed by a roughly (and rough) two-hour van ride to my hotel. The hotel itself was quite nice - very basic, but quite clean and with a courteous staff. I slept somewhat poorly that night, and got up the next morning ready to start the adventure.
The view from my balcony

Mt. Kinabalu in the clouds
My chipper guide picked me up at the not-unreasonable hour of 9:45 and we headed to the park. Kinabalu Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Center, and boasts a wide variety of flora, including a huge number of orchids and pitcher plants, ficus and ferns. It's (spoiler alert!) 35% tropical lowland and hill rainforest, and the verdant greens of the plants and richness of the moss give ample evidence of this makeup. I walked around the Expo Centre for a bit, and then went for a short guided walk of the Botanic Garden and a section of the Silau-Silau Trail.
The park's trail system

Our guide talks rattan

Nurse log
There's a pitcher plant in there somewhere

Another pitcher

Pretty and tasty!

Me, in a somewhat dry moment

Growing the orchids
Post guided walks, I snagged a quick lunch, watched a short video on the area, and then headed to check in to my hostel. It had been foggy and misty all day, and on my way to the hostel the first drops began to fall. And then to fall harder. And then it was a full-on, steady downpour that was to last the remainder of my stay.

Ah well, though, what does one do when in a rainforest in monsoon season? One walks.

Getting soggy

Trilobite Beetle

I spent the afternoon and early evening wandering the trails in the park, sitting occasionally at a shelter to shake off the droplets and ponder the year behind me. By the time night was beginning to fall I was drenched through and ready for some tea and a book, so I headed back to the hostel where I chatted with my lovely Australian and Canadian hostel-mates and dove into Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. We all headed to bed fairly early in order to be ready for the next morning, which would have worked wonderfully well had it not been for our late arrivals. Never mind - sleep is for the weak!

Next: The Climb

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