12,000ft above sea level

I took my sweet time going to this place.
I took my sweet time going to this place.

After swearing off climbing a mountain in 2012, I finally got the courage to climb another one. This time, I was alone and I traveled to a different country just to rekindle this passion. I used to climb mountains in college, back when I was fit and young and crazy. I guess when a person grows older she tends to complicate things and thus, forgets her basic pleasures. After reading hundreds (yes, hundreds! because I was paranoid!) of blogs about climbing Mt. Kinabalu, I was convinced that I want to do this. I have to do this.

I made the necessary reservations with Sutera Lodges around April. In fact, I was initially told that there are no more slots available. But I made them put my name on a waitlist and luckily when some cancellations were made, I got in. I don’t think I have the right to tell you how I prepared for the climb, because truth be told, whatever preparation I did was very inadequate and practically useless. What propelled me to the top of the mountain was not my physical fitness, but my mental toughness.Β  My guide Nordin said so.

I experienced a lot of firsts during this trip. Just to share a few…

  1. First time to do backpacking. I have not tried room-sharing or backpacking before, because I snore and I am not very trusting with strangers (which this trip totally changed). But since the activity called for it, I tried to go out of my comfort zone. It was not that bad, so yeah, I might try it again.
  2. First time to share a room with three men… three hot, GQ-looking, Swedish men! At Laban Rata, I was already too tired and feverish to go to Gunting Ladagan hut, so I requested to be transferred to the main Laban Rata Resthouse. When I opened the door to my room, I was shocked to know that I will be sharing the room with them, but I did not complain. πŸ˜‰ But nothing happened. They are kids and again, I was too tired to even think of possibilities.
  3. First time to share a cab with a stranger. And I was pleasantly surprised that the guy I shared the cab with was a Dental Medicine sophomore from Harvard. I did not believe him at first. I mean, why would a guy who goes to Harvard stay in a guesthouse and share a cab with me? If stereotypes will be believed, he should stay in a posh hotel and rent a car to go around Kota Kinabalu. But I guess that is what traveling does to people; it throws them curve balls and opens their minds.
  4. First time to run out of money. Actually, I still had money, but it was in my ATM and there were no machines in sight. When I reached the Kinabalu Park I actually had enough money to take a taxi back to downtown, but I figured that if the mini bus costs only RM20, then I can give a hefty tip to Nordin, who patiently guided me in my 7-hour ascent and 5-hour descent. So I gave him the tip and suffered the consequence of waiting for 2 hours for a mini bus, which eventually did not arrive (thus, I had to share a cab with a stranger).
  5. First time to consciously teleport (I guess). I am not kidding. One kilometer before Laban Rata, I was already having out-of-the-body experience. There were times when I just stopped and I felt like my soul left my body for a few seconds, saw my own body standing from a distance, and finally returned to it. Perhaps I was just very very very physically drained that my mind started playing tricks. But it was a cool experience. I have not felt that before. I must admit, I was so charmed with that feeling that I wanted to try skyrunning just to feel that again.
  6. First time to make genuine friends on a trip. Aya and Satomi, if you find this blog, please get in touch with me. I regret that I did not wait for you on the way down. I hope we’ll see each other again in our future travels. You guys are the most awesome Japanese 40-something women I know. I am not afraid to grow old single if I can be half as awesome as you guys are.

My trip to Kota Kinabalu is definitely one for the books. It is the most expensive (so far), but it was worth it. I kept replaying in my mind the moments I shared with the people I met and the experience I went through. When Satomi told me that that was already her fourth time to climb Mt. Kinabalu, I was puzzled. But when I got home, I finally understood her, because all I could think about was going back to that place and climbing the mountain again.

PS – I googled the Harvard guy’s family name and found out that his family owns a group of companies in Chicago. Knowing that, I find his humble nature and way of traveling truly admirable.


Author: Elaine

Curious. Strange. Awesome

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