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Nobody promised that it would fun. We thought it would be fun, but nobody promised that. Struggles were expected, but the battle in mind was unexpected.
Seeing Panalaban Base Camp is like seeing a Promised Land. Finally! I am here! Con arrived about 10 minutes later. We checked into the Kinotoki Hostel and went to see our dormitory. There were about 12 beds, but it looked like the four of us had the dorm for ourselves. It was great, except for one thing; I did not bring my towel. How was I going to shower? I thought the administration would provide towels for us. I was wrong. I would spend the next hour contemplating whether or not I should shower. I went to the office several times, and it was already closed.
I decided nothing could be done now, Con and I went to the dining hall to have our dinner. Both of us were tired, cold, and hungry. If seeing Panalaban Base Camp was like witnessing a promised land, then entering the dining hall is like entering a place of comfort. There was a place to sit down, it was warm, and the smell of food lifted our spirit once again. However, I suggested that we wait for the others to arrive and have our meals together. After all, it is always great to have everybody gathered at the table and just relaxing after a long and excruciating walk. However, we did not know how long it would take. So, we decided to dive in first before all the food ran out.
At 6.30pm, I went outside. The night was about to take over. At this time, the temperature had dropped to 6 degree Celsius. I’ve never experienced such coldness in my life before! The coldest I’ve experienced was when I set my air-conditioner to 16 degree Celsius. I saw Flo arriving alone. She didn’t look happy, nor was she felt good. She was experiencing dehydration. There was no water for her to drink along the way. She left her drinks, her energy bar and energy drinks inside her bag. Her bag was still with Peter. Peter was with Kai, and both men were still far away. Her morale was not good, but glad that she finally arrived at the base camp. I brought her to the dining hall; to the table where Con was sitting. Flo took her food and then we talked. We were wondering what really happened to Kai. At around 7pm, Peter came into the dining hall. He was carrying three bags, bless him. I went outside to look for Kai, it was already dark.
Then I saw him sitting on the ground. I noticed something was different. He had his beanie on, he had his gloves on, his windbreaker and his long pants on as well. He had to wear them because it was so cold. He was exhausted and wasn’t feeling well. Both his legs cramped. He threw up along the way. He was feeling sick. I told him that I had reserved some food for him and Peter and I told him to get inside quickly to get warmed up. We went to the dining hall, and Peter ate the food I reserved. Kai could not eat. It seemed that the hard journey ruined his appetite. Not only that, he felt nauseated. Unable to tolerate that anymore, he decided to skip his dinner. I told him to try to eat a bit more because he had not eaten anything for the whole day. The sandwiches that he bought; he threw it away because it was already cold. If my memory was correct, he only ate one slice of sandwiches for breakfast. He did not have enough fuel for the whole journey. We stayed there for a little while trying to catch up on each other experience.
Kai told us that he almost did not make it to Layang-Layang Station. Once at Layang-Layang Station, he was contemplating staying overnight there. He had made his decision not to hike for another 2km to the Base Camp. However, Peter would not allow him. We were under his care, he needed to make sure that all four of us could be united at the base camp. Besides, leaving Kai alone at Layang-Layang Station was not a good idea. Whether he liked it or not, he had to force himself to walk the 2km up to the Base Camp. He had some help from other climbers as well. Once Kai arrived at the Base Camp, there were people at the entrance cheering him on. He was the last one to arrive at the camp.
We finally left the dining hall and went to our dorm and Peter to his. Oh, forgot to mention this, Kai brought an extra towel, so I could shower. However, there was another problem. There was no hot water. Apparently, the hostel was experiencing electricity disruption for quite sometimes and now depending on the generator. The heater could not be used. We took turns to take our shower. When it was my turn, I did not expect the water to be icy cold. I was so cold that it hurts. I thought I could handle, but no, I just could not handle it. I remembered that I read from the internet that icy cold water could speed up recovery after exercise. I did not know how factual was it, but still, it was an excellent thought to get me to take a shower. Right? No, it was too cold! So, all I did was splashed my body, cleaned it with a small portion of body shampoo and washed them clean with splashing. That was how I showered, and it wasn’t fun at all. All of us went to bed at around 8pm.
The next day, Con, Flo and I woke up at 1.30am. Kai could not join the climb to the summit because of his legs. So, continued sleeping. I didn’t have a good sleep, I kept waking up every two hours because of the cold. I should’ve taken another blanket from another bed. I checked my Mi Band, and it said I had almost two hours of deep sleep. That was good, although I did not feel like it. Anyways, we got up at 1.30am, and we head straight to the dining hall for our early breakfast. There were a lot of people there, lining up to get food. Our climb would begin at 2.30am, and the cold was crazy. I was wearing three shirts and a sweater and two pants and two socks. I also had my beanie on and my gloves on. At 2.30am, we made our journey to the summit. There were a lot of stairs and usually, I had no problem with stairs, but the thinning air made it so difficult. I decided to crawl instead. Yeah, I didn’t care if people were watching. Again, Con and I went ahead first. Peter decided to stay together with Flo because if we were to wait for one another, we would not be able to make it to the summit. We need to arrive at Sayat-Sayat Check Point by 5am. After walking a lot of stairs, we came to the real mountain climbing experience. There were ropes standby there for us to climb. It was steep. I could not see how high it was because it was dark. But I knew it was really steep. Honestly, at this point, I was scared. Con was already ahead of me. I could not keep up with her anymore. I was on my own. I had a lot of questions in my head. Will I suddenly let go? Will my strength gave up? I couldn’t see it, but I knew it would be a long way down. I definitely did not want to fall. After all, heroism is to go home safely. Well…okay, I made that up. I wanted to go back in one piece. I was too scared to take out my camera from my bag, and I put my phone inside my bag fearing that I might drop it.
I arrived at Sayat-Sayat Check Point at about 4.45am. I could go a bit faster, but I kept stopping to catch my breath, and I was hungry every now and then. I started to feel hungry about an hour later, after breakfast. I stopped once to have my energy drink and to have a piece of Chipsmore. I did not have much Chipsmore left. Took one just to give me a boost of energy to keep going. I spent about five minutes at Sayat-Sayat. Had another Chipsmore and a couple of sips of energy drink and I was ready to go. The way to the summit from Sayat-Sayat wasn’t as steep as before that. Again, I needed to stop regularly to catch my breath. This time, it was every few steps. Everything seemed so massively heavy at this point. My legs were shaking, probably my stomach was giving the signal that I needed to eat. But I could not eat. Not now, I told myself. The last few hundred metres were the hardest. I could see the peak from where I stood, but it seemed to be very far away. I saw a woman crying as I was walking towards the summit. I felt her there. It was the ugliest and bitter moment that most of us were experiencing. I kept hearing her saying ‘It’s so hard! It’s so hard!… I can see the summit … but it’s so hard!’ Her partner kept encouraging her to get up and walk. At about 6pm, I looked behind me, and I could see that the orange line is starting to make entrance over the dark sky. Sunrise! I told my friends that I missed the sunrise. In fact, I didn’t miss it. I saw it. I just missed the sunrise at the peak.
I reached the peak at almost 7.30am. Con arrived there first, and she was waiting for me. The altitude put a lot of weight on me, but I made it in the end. There was a little bit of climbing at the end though. From the peak, it was such a fantastic feeling to stand above the clouds. It was so beautiful. Everything that I experienced; the exhaustion, the cold, the struggles all led to this. I am telling you. It worth every second. It didn’t feel like I was top of the world as I thought it would be at first. It was more than that. It is like looking at the world from a different perspective. Despite the struggles and difficulties, life is still so beautiful if only we persevere. Every moment no matter how ugly it is, it brings a new meaning if we could see the world in a bigger picture. Was there a sense of achievements when I reached the peak? Yes, there was. But nothing compared to the sense of beauty and love and intimacy in life despite the ugliness that the world might give you. Some of us are broken people, but we are not defined by that brokenness. We are not defined by our circumstances. We look to the beauty of life, and we fight for it.
That was what Mount Kinabalu had taught me. Thank You Mount Kinabalu for sharing that beauty to me. Now, I am sharing it to the world. Until next time.