After arriving in a hot and humid Kota Kinabulu Group 2 were able to relax and prepare for their mountain ascent the following day by going snorkelling off the coast of one of Borneo’s small islands. Under instruction not to get sunburned, something the other group failed to realise and with devastating consequences, we had a leisurely day of snorkelling, eating and sunbathing without burning. After getting back to the hotel we packed for the week ahead and the imminent mountain ascent as we would be leaving much of our kit behind.
'Gary’s tales of leeches and bug fighting'
The day started very early with a bus ride through rural Borneo to the outskirts of the National Park where we received our permits, the mountain and the surrounding area is protected for the sake of the environment. Our ascent to the Laban Rata guesthouse took most of the day and we were able to admire to the stunning scenery and were left in wonder by the porters carrying their own body weight in food up the mountain at a jog that we could only imagine achieving. The weather was favourable and so at 0200, the following day, we were roused and made ready for our ascent on the mountain in complete darkness. The climb was tricky in places and the guide rope was used regularly as we traversed up and across the mountain. Mt Kinabulu is the highest mountain in SE Asia standing at 4,095 feet and many of the group started to feel the effects of altitude sickness to varying degrees as we ascended. On reaching the summit we were disappointed that we could not see more than 10 ft due to cloud cover. After muted celebrations and a group photo we moved off the mountain where we were greeted with a stunning view slightly further down as the cloud cleared. It was definitely worth climbing to the top! After a breakfast that would have fed double our number we made our way down the mountain, a process much more painful than going up. We were met by our guide Gary at the base and made our way to Poring hot springs for some rest and relaxation where we could enjoy the warm sulphur water and Gary’s tales of leeches and bug fighting. The otherwise peaceful evening was disrupted as some members of the group tried to get rid of gecko out of a closed window, this resulted in an ‘open’ window and a bug infested room, this proved a vital lesson as to how not to get bitten by all the mosquitoes in Borneo.
'We were immensely lucky to spot a number of wild orang-utans'
The following day we joined up with Eric, our next guide, and were transported across Borneo to the Sabah and the Kinabatangan River Lodge. From here we went on a number of boat trips up and down the river to view the stunning local wildlife. We were immensely lucky to spot a number of wild orang-utans as well as long tailed macaques and proboscis monkeys to name but a few. The following day we paid a visit to the stunning Gomantong cave where the world famous bird nests are harvested, which to say were smelly would be an understatement. After returning to the River Lodge we continued our search for other animals on the river. There were supposed spotting’s of crocodiles and we narrowly missed out on seeing pygmy elephants. On our final boat trip we experienced what the rainforest was renowned for, very heavy rain, yet this did very little to dampen our mood.
'As the day went on it become obvious that the locals were trying to get us to play football'
The following day we made our way by boat to Long Terawan ,the village where we would be carrying out our community project. After handing out the money we had raised to the locals we started work on the Church, finishing the painting that Group 1 had started. As the day went on it become obvious that the locals were trying to get us to play football, we had heard the other group had played and we imagined this would an easy affair. How wrong we were, after being kitted out by the locals and with nearly all of their working men assembled the match kicked off. Some extremely valiant play from Max Keeble and Harry Wilsher kept it a tight game but eventually we were overrun, leaving Mr Ross in not the best of moods as the seemingly too well prepared villagers celebrated their win. The rest of the evening provided us a glimpse into Borneo culture through stands and traditional dancing, which some of us try valiantly to mimic but didn’t quite pull it off.
'encounters with the fearsome leeches'
The following day we made our way to the starting point of the jungle trek and arrived at Camp 5 in the heart of the rainforest that evening. By now we had had our first encounters with the fearsome leeches, Harry Stanton managing to attract more than double anyone else and thus earning him the nickname of Harry the Leech as well as being the unluckiest man on the trip. After visits to the mini-Pinnacles and a day of relaxing, getting sunburnt and eating more rice we prepared for the 12 km trek through the jungle led by our guide Noah. After some dubious sightseeing and facts courtesy of Noah we made it to the boats and started the long journey back to Kota Kinabulu.
the Expedition to BorneoThe trip was great fun and on the final night the two groups could meet and discuss each other’s varying experiences, including the extent of the sunburn that some people had managed to achieve. It was a brilliant experience and it is impossible to fit it all into one report but I speak for everyone who went when I say that we would all want to go back.