February 15, 2007

Kinabalu Park and Canopy Walk

Kinabalu Park is Malaysia's first World Heritage site designated by UNESCO in 2000. It covers a staggering area of 300 sq. miles, and is bigger than the entire nation of Singapore. The park is dominated by Mt. Kinabalu which stands at 4,095 m or 14,435 ft. and is a botanical paradise blessed with an astonishing variety of flora and fauna.

Only 4 of the 8 of us were going to the Park so we asked the concierge to book us a car and driver for the 2 hour trip. We had no delusions of grandeur of trekking up to the summit, which normally takes 2-3 days so climbers can acclimatize, but we did want to see this majestic mountain and do the canopy walk we read about in the brochure. So after a heavy buffet breakfast, off we went.

As we gained altitude, the temperature dropped, until we were pretty much engulfed in a chilly blanket of fog. Our wise and thoughtful driver suggested we visit Poring Hot Springs first and do the canopy walk and hope that by the time we go back to Park Headquarters the fog would have cleared and allow us a clear view of the mountain's peak.

We paid a minimal 'conservation fee' of 15 rm to enter the Park at the Poring Hot Springs where the trail to the canopy walk is at. We followed the signs over a running stream and past pools of hot springs until the start of the trail. Believe me, I had no idea what the trail was like. The brochure said nothing about having to climb up a steep mountainside (didn't we just decide there were no mountain climbing expeditions for us?), to reach the suspension bridges that connected the treetops 200 feet above the forest floor.

Twenty minutes into the trail, I was still clueless as to what I was getting myself into. If you read my post about the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan, you know I'm not fit for climbing. I can walk for hours on end, in fact I am notorious for taking my London visitors on personalized walking tours of the city that would last 8 hours give or take an hour or so for lunch. But make me climb anything taller than an anthill and you'll hear cussing that would make any sailor blush. Ok so I exaggerate a little. I can do anthills.

So there I was, huffing and puffing up the trail, telling myself we were almost there, when my friend A saw a sign that indicated we were only halfway up. Only halfway? But we've been at this for 30 minutes! I felt deflated and almost gave up. I seriously contemplated turning back.

I thought about the canopy walk that awaited us and how great it would be to walk among the treetops, something I had wanted to do in Cagayan for so long. I imagined how I would regret turning back and hate myself for it, and reminded myself how much sweeter the victory is when you push yourself to the limit.

So in a sudden burst of self-motivation, I looked at the glass half-full and told myself, "Self, we're already halfway up! You can do it!". With that I pushed myself, one step at a time. With the rest of my 'Team Sabah!!!' friends encouraging me, I made it! (But not before I made a mental note to increase the grade on the treadmill at the gym.) All of a sudden I felt like I could conquer the world! But in retrospect I think that was due to a combination of vertigo and fatigue hehe.

When I saw the first bridge, the pain of the climb was instantly forgotten. In it's place was a thrill, a rush. That feeling one gets when they're about to do something so wild and crazy that it involves the possibility of putting your life at risk. I couldn't wait to get on it. I let everyone go ahead so I could take their photos.

There are 3 bridges that run a total length of 158 meters. All it really is, is a wooden plank less than a foot across supported by a steel ladder and suspended with sturdy ropes. Netting is woven into the ropes on each side which create a safety net in case you slip from the plank. (It failed to give me any peace of mind though). Each bridge is connected by a circular observation deck where you can stop and smell the tree tops. Looking down all you can see are more trees, the forest floor is nowhere in sight.

Every so often we would catch a glimpse of spectacular scenery through the branches and the mist. I loved being here, surrounded by nature like this. It was an exhilarating experience to say the least. Being high up in the forest is one thing, but being able to actually walk from tree top to tree top is just a whole other story. Now if only they could install escalators or cable cars to the top. Just kidding! We wouldn't want to disturb this untouched jungle with such a monstrosity. How about a chopper that drops you off at the first deck? Ok ok. I admit, the entire experience was all the more memorable and satisfying because of the climb. :)

The trek down was definitely much easier and took us about half an hour or so. The unpaved trail was very muddy so we had to do it slowly. By the time we reached the base, the heavens opened and it started to pour, as if to cleanse us of the sweat and grime we accumulated during our adventure. We stopped at the restaurant lodge for a quick drink before we hopped back in the car and made our way to the Kinabalu Park headquarters. By the time we got there, it was 3pm and we were starving. The fog was still too thick and we couldn't see the Mt. Kinabalu in the background. So we freshened up and hit the restaurant where we feasted on tom yam soup, satay, roti, and teh tarik. The food couldn't have tasted any better. It was the prefect reward for us tired folk!

We needed to get back to the city by 6 so we started heading home. Mt. Kinabalu seemed to be eluding us today, there was nothing we could do about it. But as we drove off we kept an eye out anyway, just in case it came out of hiding. Through the fog, it started to play peekaboo with us. And each time it did, we would scream at the driver (who was only too willing to try-out his Evil Knievel moves as he swerved to the wrong side of the road to pull over) to stop so we could take pictures. It was definitely a spectacular sight, and I wished the rest of the gang could have been there to see it too.

Up Next: ATV Safari & the Shang


Senor Enrique said...

Wow! What a wonderful travel entry, Christine! And the photographs were all nicely composed.

I have to tell Kyels to check out this post of yours. She's from Malaysia.

joey said...

Beautiful! I remember doing this in Cagayan...I also felt like I could conquer the world! :) And I also did not know that getting there involved a trek! Hahaha! But all worth it no? :)

christine said...

Eric, thank you! Coming from you, that's a huge compliment! :)

Hi Jo! Yes, super worth it! And honestly, I would do it again. So if I do make it to the Cagayan one, I won't hesitate. :) Gotta build my stamina first tho! haha

Anonymous said...

What an amazing post! When I saw the picture of the bridge my heart skipped a beat, I swear, you are SO BRAVE for walking across it. :-o

Ari (Baking and Books)

Mick gordon said...

Hi, I run a travel portal - (http://www.thetravelnet.org) and we would like to re-post some of your articles. We would link to you and blogroll your site. Would you be agreeable to this arrangement? Mick

christine said...

Hi Ari, thanks! Well, you say brave, my mom says crazy. Tomayto, tomahto hehe :)

Hi Mick, sure thing! I'm flattered you asked, and I'm so glad you dropped by and led me to your wonderful site! I'm on my way there now to read more entries. :) Thanks

joey u. said...

hey your post on KK was so funny. I loved your comments... anthills, Halfway!, Team SABAH!!!,

But inspite of all that you still had to take photo's.

And I loved your photo's, it's not gang pictures, it's real scene and food photo's. The kind of photo's a traveller wants to see rather then how their friends look.

I also couldn't believe how much information you put in. You remembered all those facts about height, length of bridge, area...

But I also couldn't remember what the pastries were called.

How come you didn't reply to all when I asked you about your blog. I'm sure the others would love to read what you've written.

Can I forward the link to Team Sabah?

christine said...

Hey Joey, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

I try to put in as much info as I can, cos this serves as my travel journal of sorts. So if and when I go back, I can use it as reference. Also, I do it for whoever reads my blog that is directed there while doing research for their trip.

Sure, go ahead and forward the link. Thanks Joey! And hey, i have some plum powder for you. When's our dinner?

www.muebles-en-galapagar.com said...

To my mind one and all must go through this.