Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Years Eve. Yin and Yang.

A New Years Eve that will not soon be forgotten. Firstly I'm now in Borneo. Tintin and I arrived on Christmas day. We stayed in the city of Kota Kinabalu for 3 days, exploring the city and doing some day trips outside the city. On the 29th we began our trip to the top of Mt. Kinabalu, the tallest mountain on Borneo at 4,095 meters (13,435 ft).

We started with a 92 kilometer bike ride from K.K. to the Kinabalu Park Headquarters. We tried to get as much information on the route's road as possible. It appeared on the the map to be a nice road, following the coast for 30 kilometers than heading inland towards the mountain. Most people told us the road was littered with hills but that the park was more or less at the base of the mountain. We thus were expecting a somewhat easy ride. We were very wrong.

After 20 kilometers of flat gorgeous road, we began to climb, still on nice roads, but at ridiculously steep inclines. This continued until we reached the park. 70 kilometers of intense climbing. Around the 50k mark we finally found a small restaurant. It was the first we had seen since beginning the bike climb. Both Tintin and I were famished and were excitedly expecting to eat. We were told the restaurant was closed. I was not a happy person. We bought a few sodas each and climbed upon our bikes to continue onwards, praying to any God to supply us with some meager rations. Just as we were peddling off a lady came running out of the restaurant telling us to come in and eat! I very obediently obeyed her command. It turns out the restaurant was closed for her 7 year old son's Birthday. After gorging ourselves on noodles and pechoy we than took pictures with the birthday celebrant and all his friends. I than thanked him over and over, if we hadn't been able to crash this young man's birthday party, well I don't know, but it would not have been good!

Fifteen kilometers from the park we came across our first town, it had a number of Malay Noodle houses and we stopped to eat again. We struggled with communication, pointing at random things we wanted in our food before a man came up and began talking to us in fairly decent english. He helped us with our orders and we than asked him if the remanding 15k was uphill or downhill. It was running late and if it was uphill we knew we had to eat and head off ASAP to avoid biking in the dark and rain, as both were coming. He told us it was all down hill from here. We were relieved. So relieved we had two full meals each and sat around for a cup of tea.

He lied.

That or there was some minor breakdown in our communication process. I prefer to think he lied and to blame the resulting 2 1/2 hours of riding my bike in the pitch black cold, raining weather on steep roads that traveled along deep ravines on him. I used his name in vain very often. I may never forget him...."Wilson."

An amazing hot shower at the Kinabalu Park Headquarters dorms lifted my spirits and prepared me for what was to come the following day. Hiking up 11,000 feet to the base camp accommodations of Mt. Kinabalu. Or at least I thought it had prepared me.

The hike took us 5.5 hours. A total of 13 kilometers. I started off fine, I thought I had a touch of a cold from the previous nights cycling adventures, but all and all I was in good spirits and ready to go. I stayed that way till we got within 2 kilometers of the base camp. From there it all went down hill. Unfortunately not literally but only figuratively. I thought the cold was gaining ground. I was feeling horrible, out of breath, no energy and very nauseous. Upon arriving at the dorms I quickly ate some food and retired to bed, we were to be up at 2:00 am for the summit push.

I didn't sleep a wink. I did throw up. At this point I should have been smart and realized I wasn't sick, but in fact was reacting very badly to the altitude. I'm stubborn and couldn't fathom not summiting. So at 2am on New Years Eve day I climbed out of bed, drank lots of water, cold meds, energy drinks, etc. As soon as I began the climb I entered a bit of dream world in my own head. Most of the climb I was far from the people in front of me and behind me. Leaving me lots of solitude to dive deeper into this dream world. I was fully dedicated on reaching the summit.

At 5:40am I did. I was exhausted and cold. It was zero Celsius. The coldest I have felt in 3 years. That didn't bother me, the exhaustion did. The sunrise was spectacular, the views stunning. I couldn't really appreciate either of them in that moment. I took some pictures, Tintin took some videos. Than all I wanted was to be off that bloody mountain. We started down.

By noon we were all the way down the mountain, at the Park Headquarters. Somewhere on the way down, about 2 kilometers below the base camp, I went from feeling like death himself to feeling like a kid in a candy store. I was chipper, talkative, full of energy and so happy I had not only summited but had gone from Kota Kinabalu to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu all on my own power, by bike and feet. Its amazing how quickly one can forget the misery of an event. This is when I started thinking clearly again and I began to realize I had not had a cold but in fact I had had Altitude Sickness (AMS). And yes, I know it was very unwise for me to summit, and yes I know I'm very lucky to be fine now. Lesson learned. Either way it was one hell of a New Years Eve morning. That was the Yin....

Than came the Yang. After getting to Park Headquarters we were to sore, tired, and excited to do anything other than be on that mountain for NYE night to bike the 92k back to K.K. Even if it was down hill. We threw our bikes on a taxi and headed into town. We got in to our pension house, had a nap and dinner and headed out for beers and to celebrate the New Year along with our morning's achievements. It was only when I was down the mountain that the mountain made me feel on top of the world. The evening was grand, we went to some bars on the ocean front, met some really interesting people, a kiwi (New Zealander) that joined us on the mountain, a Brit who was in KK studying brain sugary, another brain surgeon, an Indian who had done Mt. Kinabalu 5 times and Everest base camp, and many more people. It wasn't that crazy of an evening but a very fun one. We sat and had far too many beers talking the night away till 5 am. It was a New Years Eve of extreme opposites and contrasts. It was my Yin and Yang to bring in 2008. I hope the year can have the balance of that day, minus the extremes....

Happy New Years to you all!

1 comment:

airiq_p said...

Hey Lloyd and Tin Tin.

In my mind it doesn't get much better than working your ass off to reach the top of a peak, nothing in this world can really replicate that feeling or view. But second to that is the taste of a cold beer flowing down your throat and a couple friends to share stories and enjoy it with.

Good story and great pics. I hope the two of you get a chance to climb in the mountains with me one of these days.

Miss ya both. Happy New Years!