Mount Kinabalu, It's the primary reason tourists stop off in Kota Kinabalu - either to climb it or gawp at it. KK is the nearest major place, being just a 90 minute drive and so, every weekend sees a hoard of Malaysians and Japanese descending on the city snapping up all the affordable rooms, well, that's been the case these past 2 weekends anyway. Most of the guests staying here are at some stage planning to climb that mountain, not me though, no thanks. It's a strenuous climb, over 2 days for most, but hardy and experienced climbers can do it in a day, and suffer the consequences as a result. At least a couple of guests here have returned with injured and aching limbs, having payed anything upto £200 for the privilege.
7am and I'm going to Kinabalu Park, the place where the mountain is situated. At least I get to see it, and get to wander around some of the less strenuous trails that are supposedly free, we'll see. Getting there is either a minivan from downtown, or a bus from the long distance bus station about 6 miles from the city. Prices are all similar, about £3-4 one way, so it's the mini van I opt for, less comfortable maybe but avoids the hassle of trying to get to another bus station on a Sunday morning. Even before I step foot into the minivan parking area, a taxi driver comes up and offers a ride to Kinabalu Park for 20 RM. it's the same price as the minivan, but of course a much more comfortable ride - done deal!
It's a scenic ride towards the hills and mountains, a little misty, as we drive through the northern suburbs before turning towards Kinabalu Park. The mountain itself is soon visible in the distance, but there is still an hours ride to the park explains the driver. Deep forested valleys, rolling hills and then more rugged terrain as the journey gradually takes an upward direction. Good roads, wide and well maintained, but a surprising number of lorries holding things early on a Sunday morning. Mount Kinabalu is majestic with a defined peak as we approach the park area. It's exactly 90 minutes as the driver pulls into a parking area, just outside the park gate, about 9.30. There seems to be plenty of activity opposite the park, at a cafe and transport area with about 20 landrovers and various four wheel drive vehicles taking part in of event - investigate!
The 'Borneo four Wheel Drive Club' are having a Sunday outing, proudly displaying their vehicles to a handful of passersby, and the Chief Minister, so I'm told as I get ushered into the cafe. No police motorcade nor is there any evidence of a bodyguard, not one to be noticed anyway. Better grab a coffee here then make my way into the park. It's a nice spot with panoramic views across the hills and mountains, but no sight of mount Kinabalu since this is now obscured by jungle clad hills that form Kinabalu Park.
There is a trail beginning just outside the park gate, the Kiau trail according to the sign post. Might aswell start here then and see where I end up' hopefully in one piece somewhere in the park. It's a dirt track, over tree roots, with the occasional platform over boggy flats. The trail shares the same route as a watercourse, so in places is gets rather muddy with no option but to try and pick out the least muddy spots whilst attempting to keep dry feet. It's cool at least. The humidity of KK has gone, and there is a breeze every so often. Not really anything to see other than thick jungle, although quite some interesting plants as the track follows a stream. The smallest Orchid in Borneo, probably the world, but getting a photo in absence of any good light is challenging. It's turning out to be a long hike, about 2 1/2 hours and disappointingly haven't spotted any wild animals - no snakes, no monkeys, just a few tourists.
The trail is coming to an end at last as jungle gives way to open spaces. One nicely laid out path leads to the Botanical gardens, and the other to a gift shop, which sells drinks and coffee. Time to rest a bit and replenish some liquid. Two directions to go from here. Right heads on up to the start of the mountain climb whilst left leads to the park HQ. Towards the HQ because for one, I don't really have the energy for more uphill, and two, I want to catch the 2.30 bus back to KK.
The area around HQ also has a restaurant. Today they are having a buffet and its 50 RM, that's about £12. It's a big place, about 50 seats I would think. Just 2 people in there and it's lunchtime! Another restaurant by the Botanical gardens earlier, cheapest item there was 19 RM, £4 with just a table of four in another sizable place. The cafe across the road from the entrance is an ideal place to get a packed lunch, highly recommended by locals. Quite a few spiders hanging around this area. I haven't seen these before, green and black stripes, looks quite poisonous actually.
Again a taxi driver offers a ride back to KK for 20 RM, so off we go, into the afternoon storms. Yep, they start in the mountains and roll down to KK City. The Kinabalu Mountain is now completely covered in clouds, the dark and wet variety - no panoramic views today for the climbers. The clouds actually start forming from around 9 am so any views from the mountain are gained as early as possible, with some climbers starting their ascent to the summit at 2.30am, so I am told! Oh, and I didn't pay the entrance fee since the trail bypasses the ticket booth.