My name is Alisa and I like TV, but the only view from where I sat was the grand Mt Kinabalu approaching ever so quickly.
Our tour guide had organised for each of us to sit on the left hand side window seats on the flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sarawak which, although I’m sure was to show us the beauty that is the centre piece of Borneo, was making us all rethink our plans for the next few days and question the drink that we had on the day that we decided to climb a mountain. What can I say? It was beautiful, it was daunting, it was adventure and it could be clearly seen from a plane!
But the mountain isn’t the only reason to come to Sabah, Borneo; the place is rich in spectacular flora and fauna. The Rafflesia – the world’s biggest flower, can be found blooming and visited for a small fee and the orang-utans are shown off in Sepilok, a rehabilitation centre for them. Most tours of Sepilok are taken during the day at feeding time where spectators are able to see the animals interact with humans and each other over their meal, however the best time to experience Sepilok is at night. With the crowds parting and the sun setting, our group was able to have the rare experience of coming face to orange face with an orang-utan who welcomed us from the handrail as we slowly walked past her.
After leaving the home of our closest ape relatives, the tour wound into a homestay where we were able to experience life with the Orang Sungai – the River People. The homestay is basic in nature with squat toilets and the main water source being the river, yet the fingers of technology are not fully loose on these villagers. Milo, Angry Bird t-shirts, all day cartoons and Wi-Fi throughout the main parts of the village prove to be a contrast to what is otherwise a conservative dwelling with the river boat cruise and bird watching as its main attractions.
Before the walk to the top began, our tour guide gave us the opportunity to relax by soaking out feet in the sulphur baths that are said to have healing powers, at the Poring Hot Springs. Unfortunately for me, this was after having to walk 60m high amongst the trees on a multitude of suspended walkways. The couch in front of my TV is firmly on the ground. My only guiding thought was that the check point behind me and the one in front of me have no ladder down, there is no way out, I will not sit here waiting to be rescued, I must walk at a snail pace and make it to the end. And I did! Although I think the snail won the race.
With our heart rates elevated and our feet soaked, the climb to the top was the final box on our list to tick off. Two of my fellow travellers are in the Defence Force; for them the race was on. I on the other hand offloaded my bottles of water to our mountain guide and held his hand for the next 8 hours. About 4 minutes into the climb. Apparently walking up the stairs to my 3rd floor apartment is not sufficient exercise. Yet somehow I was able to crawl (on occasion literally) to Laban Rata, our home 8km later, for the night.
Unfortunately, an unlucky glass of water, or a prawn, a few nights earlier meant that I was not able to slither to the top of the mountain on the second day, but I did hold the rope that would have led to the jagged edge which for me, a girl who likes TV, was enough.
A trip to Sabah, Borneo is likely to tickle a fear and adventure bone, ruffle the hairs of wonder and excitement, lick the aura of modernity as it battles with tradition and most importantly touch those who take the journey as they experience not only a foreign culture but also themselves in an environment that is often not kind to those not willing to take a chance.