Monday, November 2, 2009

Sabah Orchid Tour Day 4 - Oct 3 2009

Day 4 started with breakfast at the cafeteria just down the hill from park HQ. There was an issue with the breakfast vouchers but once that was sorted out we sat down to a buffet breakfast. Many of the servings had gone cold as it was quite chilly that morning. After breakfast, we each collected and paid RM30 for our packed lunches, then drove up to the Timpohon gate to walk up the summit trail. Mist all around, I knew it was going to be a wet day!

Misty morning, taken from just outside the park cafeteria.

The Timpohon trail is a very busy trail as it is the main trail used by climbers who trek up to Laban Rata for the night and the summit the next morning (they start at 2AM to catch the sunrise at the summit). Many also choose to just climb a quarter of the way and return. A registered park guide is compulsory for climbs to the summit. Along the way, we crossed paths with many porters, guides and their chargers. Some of the porters were carrying 10kg bags of rice, eggs, water and other supplies. Silent and focused, they trudged along at a slow and steady pace never once looking up for us to greet them. The muscles on their calves were huge!

Walking sticks can be bought at the park souvenir shop as well as the restaurant’s snack shop. Rattan ones are RM18. Sturdy ones made of tree branches are much cheaper, at only RM3 but they are sold out fast.

Word of the day, RAIN! So much rain fell that it was a wonder we could take any photos at all! The rain eased up just long enough for me to take off my raincoat and walk more comfortably. I pitied the others who had to walk in the “portable plastic saunas”. Those ponchos are not as easy to get on and off like a proper raincoat, which buttons up the front.

The first orchid we saw, an Eria.

The first orchid we saw on the trail was an Eria species. It was a good sign as we found more species flowering further along the trail. Apparently it was Coelogyne season as we found a number of species blooming.

The first waterfall we passed. The water must be freezing cold.

The Timpohon trail is an easy trail to do because no special climbing equipment is needed if you intend to climb to the top of the mountain. However, an overnight stay is required at Laban Rata and every year thousands sign up to do the climb. This means space is limited and advance bookings are necessary. It costs about RM700 per person to do the summit climb, lodging included. The air gets thinner the higher you go and the temperature plus wind chill can make things difficult. This is the main reason why the climb may be tough for many, because of the cold and the drop in oxygen levels, not because the trail is particularly strenuous.


Many orchids, particularly coelogynes such as the ones above were in flower.

We saw more orchids but the rain would not let up. Snapped some pictures but soon had to keep my SLR tucked away as water was getting onto the lens barrel, not a good thing! Shot with my pocket cam the rest of the way (a less expensive piece of equipment to risk getting water-logged).

This is Bulbophyllum catenarium.

And this is Bulbophyllum anguiliferum.

Two of the most interesting orchids we saw were two small Bulbophyllums, Bulbophyllum catenarium and Bulbophyllum anguiliferum. These have small pseudobulbs and a short creeping rhizome. B. catenarium has striking yellow flowers while B. anguiliferum has flowers larger than its leaves.

A porter carrying a heavy water barrel.

We stopped for lunch around 12:30pm at a rest stop but the stench from a nearby outhouse was unbearable so I moved on in searched of a better spot. 12:40pm and we were unpacking our packed lunches in a shelter further up. No nauseating smell here so everyone settled down to eat.

Our RM30 packed lunches contained 2 sliced sandwiches with cheese and turkey (or was it chicken?). No tomato, no lettuce, no mayo, no chilli or tomato sauce or anything else. They were so dry and bland we had to force ourselves to chew and swallow. Along with the sandwiches were a spring roll, an egg, a piece of fried chicken, a 500ml bottle of mineral water and a can of Sprite. An egg can only taste like an egg, but I can offer no comments on the spring roll as I got two eggs and no roll. No one had anything good to say about the packed lunch which was probably overpriced by RM20.  And, apparently no one was hungry enough to clear up their packs although I don’t know about that Gary, he’s a living food disposal machine! He probably weighs only 60 kilos too! : )

Put an extra egg in there and it’ll be too obscene to publish. : P

Note the tiny piece of over-fried chicken thigh on the right. More like pigeon-thigh!

It was a very wet day to be walking up a mountain photographing orchids. Wet as it was we met many other climbers. This was a seriously popular trail! Some climbers were wearing only sandals and one in particular, flip flops! Ponchos on almost the entire time and by the time we got to about the 2350M elevation mark, my hands were starting to freeze. We walked passed the TM comm tower branch-off and went further up a bit more before deciding to call it a day. It was getting too cold and the day was growing old. Plus, the orchids were getting harder to spot as we had come to an area with big, tall trees and the gems were all high up in the canopy.

Hobbits on a mission! Rain or shine!

On the return journey, Maxine was far ahead of everyone else but once I caught up with her, I mowed my way down at a speed that astonished myself. I was passing by groups of people and going down steps like a hurricane was behind me. With the rain pouring down, the trail got very muddy, slippery and dangerous so I took caution going over certain parts.

The last stretch just before the slope back up the gate, my momentum was broken by a small group of friends helping one of their own who looked dehydrated, tired and extremely weak in the legs. She appeared like she could use a stretcher, poor thing. I believe I overheard “Not what I had in mind…” from one of them too. Please make sure you know what you’re getting yourselves into or know your own limits before attempting the summit trail folks! Anyway, their guide and porter let me by and I began to run up the steps just because I had so much adrenaline rushing in my system. Halfway up, the guide raced by me but I overtook him again just before the gate. The time was about 3:00pm and it was still raining.

There were many groups of young people waiting for their friends, or waiting for their transports at the gate area. I was glad to leave that noisy chaotic scene and head back to the car. Changed into a clean t-shirt, reclined the seat and just laid back to relax while my heart found its regular rhythm again. Not long after that, the rest of the group arrived and we all drove back to the Nepenthes Lodge.

After showering, I took the opportunity to drive down to Kundasang town about 7km away to pick up some batteries for myself and Mary. It was 5:00pm, the sky had cleared up and the evening sun was out. The valleys to the south were bathed in beautiful hues of orange, yellow and red. It was so pretty and I felt relaxed and happy. Happy to be away from work, happy to be traveling with good company, happy to be surrounded by nature and happy to just be there.

Mount Kinabalu, as viewed from Kundasang town in the evening.

When I first visited Sabah in 2008, I noticed that there were many road side stalls selling grilled wings. On my previous trips, I had come to know which ones sold the best tasting BBQ wings and I couldn’t resist stopping by to get some. Grilled wings are much cheaper in Sabah than in Sarawak. They are RM1.20 each (at time of visit) while in Kuching, they go for RM1.80 to RM2 each. I wanted everyone else to have a taste so I got 40 wings, 4 per person. A lady who just got off a tour bus was quite alarmed when the seller started bagging my wings, she tried to push me aside (how rude!) to get an order in. I don’t know, maybe she was too transfixed on my large order on the grill that she completely missed the rows of skewered wings hanging right in front of her.

Grilled wings! Yum!

So it was back to the park. I had to pay my entrance fee of RM3 again to get in as the entrance ticket is only good for a particular day. It’s RM15 for foreign visitors. Malaysia practices this segmented fee system not to discriminate against foreign visitors but rather, to encourage locals to visit and appreciate local attractions. They would never want to pop by if they had to pay regular price because they can go hiking in a jungle in their backyard at anytime! School kids in uniform often get in for free at many places and senior citizens (foreign or local) pay a much reduced price. If you are a college student, it is a good idea to carry your student ID with you as students (not in uniform) often are given discounted rates too.

Met the rest of the group having tea at the park restaurant and got them all to meet over at our unit in the living hall to dig into the wings. Good stuff! It was one of the rare moments where we all actually sat down together instead of being dispersed doing our own thing or in separate units when off the trails. Some off days are nice when traveling, just to sit back, relax and share an interesting conversation and get to know everyone better.

At about 6:30pm, we filed into the park restaurant for dinner. We ordered some interesting local Sabah dishes and had a good meal. I do think the night chef does a better job than the day chef. My table bought me dinner so thank you guys! After that, I accompanied Jeong to the HQ for her to place a phone call back to her relatives in Korea. It was the harvest festival and in Malaysia, we were also celebrating the Moon Cake festival. Unfortunately, we couldn’t work out how to place a call using her calling card.

To cap the evening, we went down to the AV room to view a short but interesting video on Kinabalu Park. It was RM2 each. Then we spent a moment to discuss the itinerary for Day 5 (Poring and Kundasang War Memorial) and it was back to the rooms. I promised Jeong I’d join her to watch the Korean drama, “The Iron Empress” over at her unit at 8:30PM but I only watched part of it before saying goodnight as I was too tired to continue.

Do visit my Day 4 Flickr photoset here:


1 comment:

thelocalguide said...

really looks like it was a great trip!

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