Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mt Kinabalu

Did you know that Mt Kinabalu was so named because of a romantic but tragic story about a local Dusun woman who waited for her Chinese prince who promised to come back for her but never did? She looked out for him, day after day, from the highest point of the mountain, till the cold killed her and turned her into a peak. If the story is true, we should have lots of mountains around.

Kinabalu is the local pronounciation for 'Cina balu' meaning Chinese widow. The Kadazans-Dusuns (the biggest indigenious group in Sabah) who live in the mountain valleys as veg farmers, regard this mountain as sacred. I think all Sabahans love this mountain for its cool climate, diverse vegetation and its awesome rugged beauty, and the fact that we were brought up (erroneously) to know this mountain as South East Asia's highest mountain, until recently when accurate measurements demoted it to the 3rd highest at 4095 m. Every Sabahan will climb Mt K at least once in their lifetime. I climbed after finishing high school, and I've never forgotten it! To climb the mountain now you have to book 6 months ahead because of the large number of climbers, plus the authorities are more careful about maintaining the environment.

We stayed at one of the Crocker lodges in Mesilau Nature Resort, which is smack at the side of the mountain, about 2000 m up. If there's a place for you to get away from the madding crowd, this is it. There's no TV in the lodges, food at the cafeteria is 3/10 (I tasted decayed chicken in my noodles. Wey had the hardest piece of Chicken Maryland.), the temperature drops to 13 C at night and the air is pure oxygen.

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Kinabalu Golf Club's course

For RM30 (US$9), you can drive your own buggy around this 9-hole golf course situated about 1800 m. The temperature was cool (24 C morning), air was fresh, the view beautiful yet we were the only visitors.

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Pretty good camouflage, considering Hub moved it out from our room to the open. We took a 2-hour nature trail, the Nephentes Trail, that was led by a knowledgable Kinabalu Park guide called Bin, for only RM5 (US$1.50).

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A specie of the Rosacea family, found at around 2000 m.

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A ginger flower, found around 2000m

There are about 80 species of ginger in the Mt Kinabalu park.

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A wild orchid.

The orchid family has the largest number of species among plants (estimated upto 30000 species in the world) and there are hundreds in Mt K.

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2nd smallest orchid in the world

Our smallest orchid has been upstaged by one in another tropical forest--The Amazon in Brazil.

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Wild orchid

There are many epiphytic plants (plants that attach onto other plants, not necessarily parasitic in nature) in Mt K.

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Tea tree

Nice smell if you pinch the leaves. Somehow the smell reminded me of the sausages I ate in Perth, Australia! Guess I was hungry (all that climbing).

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Slipper orchid

Slipper orchids are very rare and protected species. Unfortunately I didn't get a good shot.

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We always wondered what tree or plant gave off that peculiar but pleasant herbal scent in the Mt K area. Well, the guide tore the old/mature leaf of this plant and told us this is a kind of wild celery. I don't remember the scientific name, but I recognised the smell (not quite like celery)immediately and I'm so glad the mystery is solved.

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Another epiphytic plant. So beautiful.

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The vegetation goes from a tropical rainforest (big tall trees, thick shrubs and overgrowth) to a montane forest (craggy trees, moss and lichen, and epiphytes) to alpine meadows as you ascend the mountain. At the top, there's no vegetation because there's no soil but granitic rocks and the temperature hovers around 0 to -1 C. I looked at the mountain, heavily covered by rain clouds, and I was so glad I wasn't one of the climbers that day.

5 comments:

Shan said...

I love going up to Mesilau. It's so quiet and cold. There was astro and a tv in our chalet.
Sorry to hear about your food experience tho. When I stayed there a few months ago we had the steamboat for dinner and it was delicious.

The only thing that spoiled the experience was one member of the group (American) who insisted on questioning my Chinese friend as to the order of what went into the Steamboat, you know, the sequence of ingredients - and then got really sarcastic when everything was explained to her and she wasn't happy because she had to wait till the end for the noodles to go into the pot. Needless to say, her edgy comments made everyone lose their appetites.

In hindsight, it's amazing how just one person can kill the mood for everyone else. That's why I can't go on holiday with just anyone.

Danny said...

I bet you have a soft spot for Mt K. :)

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

shan: what a damper!u guys r right in how u do steamboat. my dad, who was from the land of steamboat (Guangxi), would never mix the meat up like ppl do now. he would cook each type of meat separately so u savor its flavor, n noodles, mushrooms etc would always come at the end when the soup is rich n sweet.hey, have u tried d steamboat in new Asia City? i'm told it's quite good.

danny: yes, tt's where we honeymooned!

Shan said...

No I've not tried that one but my friends and I go to D'Square Cafe in Likas Square regularly. It's very decent and prices start at RM16 per person.

Would like to look into the new one one of these days though :)

Faida said...

Hi, I was botn in Sabah, but I've never spend that much time at the mount area. Shame on me. Do come back to Kinabalu. Its certainly a wonderful sceenery.You are a great photographer. Photos of you cooking were excellently shot.I like the choice of you dishes too. BTW, I found your blog thru cherryonacake, who happens to be my aunty.

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