Quarter Life Excursion

Kinabalu National Park – Summitting, Birding, and Waiting

Kinabalu National Park is two hours inland from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo. It's headquarters is located at about 5000', and the weather, compared to the sweltering heat of the jungle and coastland, is excellent. Kinabalu National Park is home to the richest biodiversity on the planet, hosting thousands of species of plants, bugs, macro-moths, birds, and animals. Finally, Mt Kinabalu is an about 13.5k foot peak within the park, and it's the tallest mountain between New Guinea and the Himalayas. The land is beautiful, and the park is well kept. Even local tourist make their way here whenever they have the chance.

After volunteering on the farm, we spent a day in KK to recover. During that night I was able to find a local group of university students that played ultimate frisbee twice a week, and a group of Chinese international students playing basketball! This was the R&R I truly needed after not playing any sports for so long. The next day we took a bus to the national park for cheap, and we were there in no time.

The ride to the national park is an excellent warm up. As we traveled away from the city, we started to enjoy the green jungle as it surrounded us. As we climbed higher, we began to see the rolling hills of jungle and palm plantations. The green vegetation all around us was highlighted by the bright blue sky and white clouds. Finally, as we rounded a corner, Mt Kinabalu broke through and we were left in awe at how striking the peak is. The mountain is so huge that you're tired just looking at it, and we hadn't even started to climb yet.

Like I said earlier, the park is very nice, clean, and well maintained. It's also expensive. To visit you have to know what your plan is in advance. The interior hostels for example, cost 4 or 5 times the hostels just outside the entrance, and climbing the mountain by making a normal reservation costs $200-350 per person.

We stayed outside the park at a hostel called D'villa that took walk-ins, had a wonderful view of the mountains from the deck, and enjoyed a spectacular show of local bugs as night came. Everyday we enjoyed hiking in the area around the mountain for cheap. Although not at 13.5k feet, the trails around the mountain are lush and beautiful none the less.

Every morning, we waited at the base of the mountain hoping for a cancellation so we could cheaply scoop up someone's mistake and climb the behemoth. We expected to be disappointed, but on our last day, we got lucky!

Day one of the climb to the top was 6km and 2000m of straight uphill. One foot after the other we slowly trudged to our accommodation. Our base camp accommodation was shockingly nice, maybe the best bed we've slept in yet. The food was excellent, and I made sure to carbo-load for the next day of hard trekking, while enjoying the sunset above the clouds.

The second day started at 1:30am with breakfast. Soon after, we hit the summit trail that quickly turned into empty and exposed granite. We climbed the last 3000ft of elevation that morning to make it to the top before sunrise. As the first signs of light began to slip into the horizon, we were treated to a show. The milky way began to melt away and the sun began to light up a sea of clouds beneath us. We felt like we were in a plane, and although still freezing cold, all the hard work became instantly worth it.

The trek down was the worst. Down down down down down down down, 11,000 ft in 6 hour. Ha. The day after the big downhill, we were so sore we could hardly make it to our bus stop to move on to the next city, Sendakan.

Thanks for reading. Remember that high res photos are on Dropbox.

Grant and Danielle