It had been a steamy couple of days in Kota Kinabalu, the ocean breeze just enough to offer some respite from the humidity. We were ready to escape, head up the mountain to enjoy the chill of the fresh mountain air. Leaving the city in the early hours of the morning we gradually made our way out of KK towards Mount Kinabalu. The roads heading out of the city slowly become more open and eventually veered off to the south where we began to climb the mountain.
The long winding road gradually gave way to long views back towards the coast giving a great perspective on the lay of the land. As we climbed higher and higher the temperature began to drop and the air became misty with a light rain shower. By the time we made it to the Kinabalu Park Headquarters we were completely shrouded in cloud creating a mystical atmosphere. The cooler climate was a welcomed change and it was nice to wear a jacket to keep warm, not something you would normally consider needing in the tropics.
Arriving at the Kinabalu National Park entrance we began our journey up the mountain. There is a certain feeling you get when you are tasked with a feat that requires physical strength and mental will to complete the mission at hand. The morning air was crisp and cool, clouds would occasionally part providing a peeking view of the mountain we were about to conquer.
The rocky granite summit stood out above the green lush forest below, a stark contrast against the floating clouds. It didn’t take long to get into a rhythm, taking it step by step soaking in the surrounds of the forest. The change in vegetation as we gradually increased our elevation up the mountain was incredibly fascinating.
I’m not going to lie here I hadn’t done any preparation for the hike, although incredibly rewarding it was a tough climb and it was only the beginning. We reached the lodge for our overnight stay by the afternoon and made it an early night as we had to be up at 1:30 am to reach the summit in time to watch sunrise. I’m not really a morning person but the coffee definitely helped. Walking by the light of our torches, like a ghostly trail of flickering lamps we climbed the remaining section of the mountain to the summit. Above us the Milky Way was in full view, by luck the sky was crystal clear. Below us the mountain was skirted by a sea of cloud giving a false sense of how high we really were. I’m glad I packed warm gear, after cooling down from the walking the ice cold temperatures became apparent. It can get as cold as 2Co so the layers I had packed to take to the summit came in incredibly handy.
Watching the sun slowly peak above the clouds and brighten the morning sky with its beautiful orange and yellow rays was a pleasant reminder that we had indeed made the right decision and were experiencing something few people ever have the chance to do. I have to say it was by far the most incredible sunrise I have ever seen. In the morning light the bizarre rocky landscape we were perched upon became more evident. It was like walking on the moon, completely bizarre and unique, it’s like nothing else.
I wanted this feeling to last an eternity, if I could bottle this feeling and sell it to the masses I would be able to retire I thought to myself. I allowed myself to absorb the moment I was in for as long as I could whilst ignoring the cold chill that had come over me by now.
Inevitably the moments we shared together on top of that mountain had to come to an end and it was time to make the slow descent back to the park headquarters. There are few experiences that come close to the humbling feeling you get discovering this truly magical place especially when gaining an aerial perspective of Sabah.
Photography: Charles Ryan