Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mount Kinabalu National Park

When we first looked into the activities available to us in Sabah we were both interested in climbing Mount Kinabalu. After our previous experiences of mountain climbing we hadn't given much attention to the practicalities of this idea in advance, on the assumption that the price of this activity wouldn't be at all prohibitive. However, as we got closer and actually started to look into it in detail we discovered that for all bit the very fittest of people climbing Mount Kinabalu is a two day hike. This in of itself was no problem, the problem is that there is only one option for accommodation on the mountain, which must be booked well in advance and charges an absolutely exorbitant amount of money for dormitory beds. As much as we would have liked to climb the mountain, we were just not willing to be so completely ripped off in the process.

However, we did want to at least see Mount Kinabalu and enjoy the surrounding area, so we stayed the night just outside the National Park in a grim but slightly less exorbitant guesthouse opposite a lively karaoke bar to enable us to go trekking through the park the following day. To put the accommodation prices in this area into perspective we paid twice as much to stay in that guesthouse as we had paid to stay anywhere else so far on our trip; to have stayed inside the park would have cost double that amount; and to stay part way up Mount Kinabalu would have been more than double that again.

The weather on the day we arrived was nothing short of awful – cold with continuous rain and extremely low visibility. We could see enough to enjoy the nice views from the restaurant at our guesthouse, but had no chance of seeing Mount Kinabalu. The following day was better in that the rain mostly held off, but unfortunately visibility was still too poor to see the peak. Even so we made an early start to make the most of the trekking opportunities, and enjoyed a nice walk through the misty jungle.

We didn't see much in the way of wildlife apart from this li'l fella:

Even in cool weather the trek was thirsty work.

After our trek we stopped at the National Park's modest gardens.

Apart from Mount Kinabalu itself, the park is famous for the giant Corpse Flower, so called because when it blooms it emits an odour that is apparently reminiscent of a decomposing mammal. Monique informs me that there was once a false alarm at the Houston Museum of Natural Science when a foul stench convinced everyone that the corpse flower was about to bloom, but when the media arrived the stench was was determined to have been created by a child's bottom.  I suspect that this was not the real thing, because it was free of such smelliness.

We then collected our bags from where we had left them and made our way to the nearby bus stop in the hope of snagging some empty seats on a bus going to Kota Kinabalu. No buses passed for a while, and nobody nearby could guarantee that a bus going in that direction would stop, so we negotiated a taxi ride to Kota Kinabalu with a Japanese couple. Mount Kinabalu National Park had been pleasant enough, but without being able to see the mountain itself it was much like a lot of jungle we had trekked through so far this trip, and didn't really justify the high cost of accommodation. If we were to have our time over again we would probably go back to Mount Kinabalu National Park, but would do it as a day-trip from Kota Kinabalu rather than staying in/near the park; that way we could pick a day with more suitable weather for enjoying its more unique offerings.

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