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The Borneo Expedition

  • Written by OJ
  • January 30th, 2006
  • 8 min read


One of the few things that gives me much pleasure in Farangland these days is planning my next trip to Asia. It's so sweet when your plane is booked and you can start planning the details. Normally planning to many details in advance is pointless because its much better when a holiday takes on a life of its own and you more or less go where the wind blows. But this time I cant help myself – I'm simply too exited. If the plane ticket is the crust of the pizza its time for me to pick the toppings and I want everything on it cause I am starving for pizza!

So surfing the web for ideas and information I stubble upon the Air Asia website. They got all these cheap flights to places I have never heard off. Johor Bahru, Penang, Xiamen, Kota Kinabalu etc. To some of you these are just normal places you have been to countless times but to me this was as alien as an "Air Mars" promotion space shuttle trip to the Rings of Saturn, Moons of Jupiter and the odd Black Hole surprise trip (that incidentally reminds me of a night out in Cactus Bar on Soi Cowboy… yahoo :-) So in the spirit of my newfound sense of adventure and a sudden and a little bit disturbing "it can't ALL be women and beers" mood I booked a flight to Kota Kinabalu. That's it. No prior knowledge of the city let alone what country it was in!

As it turns out Kota Kinabalu is the capital of the Sabah province in Malaysian Borneo. Hmmm… ok, but what in hell am I gonna do there!? Where's the women at? Its a Muslim country… my god, where's the beer at??? My sense of adventure left me quicker than a bargirl after I accidentally confessed to not having 2 satang to my name. Oh well, no reason to panic just yet. Ill do a Google search on the place and see what kind of trouble in have gotten myself into.

Lets see hmmm… kinabalu+gogo – hit search… no, nothing. kinabalu+bargirls hit search… nope nada. kinabalu+blowjobbar hit search… (ok, that was a long shot). Note to self: Get good and drunk and fool around with plenty a women in Bangers prior to takeoff. It cant ALL be women and beer after all now can it? I have spend many a lonely nights here in Farangland so I can easily do 3-4 days in Malaysia. Noooo problem.

So what will I do with the time in Kinabalu. Lets see what else Google has to say… kinabalu+tour hit search… "Climb the majestic Mt. Kinabalu – stand on the highest peak in SE Asia 4100 meters high. No prior experience necessary" Wow, now that would be an adventure! "See the wonderful nature of Borneo as you climb through different climate zones to the very top. Its safe and every reasonably fit moron ehrr I mean person can do it". Double wow, even I can do it! Ill do it!

So now that the scene for my little Malaysian expedition is set we can skip ahead to the foot of Mt. Kinabalu. I had just spend 5 days in Bangkok and was lucky enough to get a guided tour from the world famous local mystery writer extraordinaire Mr. Dean Barrett. Cheers Dean! It was pretty crazy and was indeed ALL women and beer. So as you stickmanites can well imagine I had no problem getting away from the city for a couple of days. I needed a rest! A bit of fresh air and nature would do me good. It was about 8 in the morning and I had spend the night in a squaky bunkbed in the national park surrounding the mountain. Funny thing is that because the mountain is so engulfed in clouds all day the only time of the day you can actually see the damn thing is early morning. So here I stand looking at it for the very first time and all I can utter is a pitiful "uuuh fxxk". I don't care how "reasonably fit" you are. THIS IS GONNA HURT!

So this is where all the fun starts. The trip breaks down like this. You leave the park three persons and a guide at a time so even if a hundred persons climbs the mountain each day you wont feel crowded. My newfound climbing pals where 2 local girls with names filled with Xs and Zs. Really cool Star Trek names if you get my drift. Super nice girls. And also our guide Mr. Dtoni or Mr. Vulture as I would later call him. And off and up we went. Up, up and up through what seemed like an endless, steep beautiful staircase. And there we went. Only armed with chocolate to eat and share with the squirrels and a water bottle we filled with rainwater from tanks as we went along. This part of the climb was fantastic! Seeing the forest slowly change as we went higher and higher for hours and hours was so cool. But don't take my word for it. Have a look for yourself.

So in the early evening we reached the base camp Laban Rata (I think that means "place of sacrifice" in Malay). We were so tired. Even the 2 local treckies were exhausted. Here you get a bunkbed in a very small room you share with 5 others. In my case I shared with the cheerful five from Singapore. They were a very nice bunch but I was too tired to be social. We were now so high up the mountain you were gasping for the thin air just going to the can and a nasty heavy headache sets in. I could now have a little sleep before I was woken at 3 in the morning to make the final accent to the summit. The idea of climbing so early in the pitch black darkness is because the mountain is usually cloudless in the morning and the sunrise is really something to see from the top.

Great fxckup mistake #1

This is were I make "Great fxckup mistake #1". I did not have any breakfast. I'm just not a breakfast person. My appetite usually sets in at lunchtime so I usually skip breakfast. Oh boy, stupid me. Not being the athletic type I realized too late how much you need the energy food provides when you are pressed way beyond your normal physical means. Anyway, off we went in the dark. This part is insane. Nothing grows anymore. I'm now holding on to ropes on wet slippery rocks in darkness. The full moon gives you enough light to notice that if you let go of the rope in certain spots you die. Not just die but splattered on rocks not meters but kilometers below you die. Is it safe? Is it bollocks! This place is cold. Its barren, ugly and cruel. This is what Mordor should have looked like in Lord of the Rings. No way Sam would had carried Frodo that last bit up Mt. Doom. On those small legs? No way! Oh, and I just remembered… I'm shit scared of heights! What have I done – I'm sooo stupid! As long as I'm going upwards it don't seem so bad but I know I have to go down again. And that means facing the abyss. At that point I was scared of dying. I know I sound like a pussy now but I was alone in the dark and I wanted my mommy. But then something actually wonderful happened. The sunrise happened… that wonderful sunrise. Sitting there on top of world watching the sun rise is really something I will never ever forget. This ugly place suddenly seemed beautiful and not just seemed – it was. I felt so renewed and so much better I almost forgot how tired I was. But there was still one thing left to do. Reach that darn summit!

Wishing I had some breakfast I made the final accent. Having fought my demons on that cold slippery rock some hours before I think reaching the summit was not a big deal for me. Feeling the height of 4100 meters and total fatigue I was however relieved, very relieved that it would be downhill from now on.

Great fxckup mistake #2

Some dude climbing Mt. Everest once said "reaching the summit is only half the trip". That guy was so right. Here's a handy tip to anyone with a hankering for trying mountain climbing. Make damn sure your boot is a perfect tight fit on your foot. If there is just a

little room for your foot to move around inside your boot you are in a world of hurt. Just like stupid old little me. After 5 minutes of descend my feet were cut open in 6 places.

Somehow I think that the point of a guide is to guide the less enlightened ones. I think maybe Mr. Dtoni could have shared some advice along the way. Maybe I would not be in so much pain. Nothing. He is now my shadow on each painful step down the mountain. The girls have gone on ahead. They probably believe its bad luck to see a grown farang cry. Its just me, the vulture and the mountain and a bucketful of pain. What if I faint, fall and break something? Will Mr. Dtoni carry me or simply put me out of my misery? Leave me for squirrels to feed on probably… I'm was in a bad way. It felt like a death march. Needless to say I eventually made it back in more or less one piece. For 5 days I could hardly walk and would often ask myself if it was worth it. It was and I recommend it to anyone. Just take heed of my advice and respect the mountain 100% – its just so much bigger than you are. When its bad its hell – when its good you are truly higher than heaven.

PS. If you do decide to go and somebody at the park asks you if you want to buy a walking stick. BUY IT! It will be your best friend.

Stickman's thoughts:

Sounds like you had fun.