Friday, August 18, 2006

Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is big, 4095 metres in fact. A lot of people climb it as it needs no mountaneering skills or equipment. We decided not to climb. The weather had been a bit dodgy for the last couple of days, plus we people had told us that it was a good deal of effort and expense for not much reward. Besides, I was more interested in the flora of the park, much of it endemic, not just to Borneo but to the park itself. It was a good choice not to anyway. The accomodation, as well as being expensive, was booked up, as were the available slots for the climb. This, of course, has been the story of our trip to Sabah.

We met our friendly taxi driver, Francis, in the middle of Ranau and he drove us to the park. He was doing us a cheap deal, but we ended up tipping him anyway. He was a very nice man. In the park we left our bags at the reception and wandered off to the visitors centre. We worked out that we could do a couple of guided tours for a nominal fee. While we were waiting for the first one we tried to get some breakfast but obviously had a bit of a misunderstanding as the woman told us they were closed. Gemma went back in a short while later to ask what time they opened and she replied that they already were. I don't quite know what happened there, but such misunderstandings are not uncommon. Whilst talking to the woman, Gemma noticed a waving from the other room. It was Inger and Henry, a nice Danish couple that we'd met previously on our river cruise. We joined them for breakfast and had a nice chat about what we'd respectedly been up to. We told them that we'd seen their names on the board at Scuba Junkies in Semporna, but not seen them. They told us that the mountain was fully booked, the bad weather preventing people summiting and adding to the problem.

After leaving Henry and Inger who were heading back towards Kota Kinabalu we bought our ticket and joined the first of our two guided walks. This one was through the jungle with a relatively inexperienced, but very nice, guide. She pointed out many different species of plant; Wild Banana, the smallest Orchid, Wild Cinnamon and many more, explaining the traditional use of the plants as she went. If I remember correctly they mainly seem to be used as herbal Viagra or to stop bleeding. The second walk followed straight on and was of the mountain/botanic garden. This is a 5 acre fenced off area in which interesting and endangered plants are transplanted for research, conservation and educational purposes. The guide this time really knew her stuff and pointed out many interesting plants, including the Lady Slipper Orchid, a very rare species, as well as large pitcher plants.

After the informative guided trails we were hoping for a glimpse of Mount Kinabalu but, alas, it was shrouded in cloud, given just the briefest impressions of being there. We started walking up another trail, me with ice cream in hand, and hoping that we'd get a better vantage point and that the cloud would lift a little. Instead it started raining, so we turned around, collected our bags and waited at the roadside for a bus. A taxi driver going to Kota Kinabalu anyway offered us a reduced rate ride for the same cost as a bus would be so we jumped in his cab for the 2 hour journey to the city. The journey was interrupted by driving over something that made one of the rear tires pop. A quick wheel change and we were on our way again, the taxi driver being very apologetic. I don't know why so, as it wasn't his fault at all. This time we booked into the Diamond Inn, on the same street as the hotel we'd first stayed in in Kota Kinabalu. It was about a pound dearer a night, and about a pounds-worth better too.

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