7th June 2005 – Climb every mountain!
I said in Monday’s diary entry that the good thing about not touring is having a quiet day. But the good thing about most Saga holidays is that there aren’t too many quiet days and sure enough, today was a hectic combination of tramping, tripping and climbing up the lower slopes of Mount Kinabalu.
Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia. It is protected as part of the Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage Centre. At its peak, (known as Low’s Peak after Hugh Low who made the first recorded ascent), the mountain is 13,435 feet above sea level. As we set off, our guide, Gilbert, pointed out that the peak was visible from the resort, which he said was very unusual, as it is usually shrouded in cloud.
Again, we were a small group; just Gilbert the guide, a driver, two other guests and me. On the way, we stopped at a small village with craft, fruit and vegetable stalls. I bought two handbags (cannot resist a nice bag, only one for me). I didn’t barter – I’m not very good at that. But the stall holder dropped the prices, without asking, from 48RM + 18Rm to 45RM (around £8.50) for both.
We arrived in the national park after about a two-hour journey. Last night’s downpour had brought down trees (one was in the process of being moved out of the road) and there were torrents and mudslides running off the mountain. Despite this and remaining clouds, it was very mild and much better for walking than the heat we had been experiencing.
We walked through the jungle at the foot of the mountain. There were paths but they were rocky, uneven and muddy. Gilbert pointed out some of the many species of orchids which grow there, some so tiny that you could hardly see them. If only I’d had my notebook to write down some of the names; if only I’d taken more stills with my camera and not tried to film it all on video! We did, however, see the world’s most expensive orchid which, we were told, was worth $10,000! It was behind bars as, apparently (an unsurprisingly), many attempts had been made to steal it!
Worn out from the foray into the forest, I fell asleep on the bus back to the resort and missed seeing buffalo in the fields. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and then, when I went back to my room to change, I found the mother and father of all cockroaches on my bathroom floor. I sprayed it with everything I could find. I think the hairspray finally finished it and I squished it with my waste bin. Ugh! I couldn’t bear to pick it up and left it there and went off to the cyber cafe and then for dinner. I spent a jolly evening in the upstairs bar, chatting Jenny whom I had met the previous day by the pool. Fortifide by three “Golden Kisses”, I returned to my room and found the monster gone!! “My god”, I thought, “something even bigger has come along and eaten it”!!!! Then I noticed that my bed had been turned down and realised that the person who did that must have been brave enough to remove it. In the days before Wi-Fi and WhatsApp, I made one of my rationed calls back home to my daughter. (She was the one who always kept me talking and contributed to a big phone bill on my return home). She was going off to hear her brother’s band play at the Virgin record store in Leeds.
Later on in the holiday I met some other Saga guests who actually climbed to the summit of Mount Kinabalu. They climbed almost to the summit on the first day (far higher than I had), camped overnight and summited at dawn in time to see the sunrise. An great thing to do and another example of choices to be made on (almost) the same holiday. Good old Saga!