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Saturday, 01 September 2007

The Wild Island of Borneo - Page 5

Written by Sherry Ott
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Borneo…maybe you’ve heard of it - but do you even know where it is? I’m sure that if I gave you a globe you’d all have trouble putting your finger on it. What if I told you that it is the world’s third largest island…and it contains three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. At one time it was a wild place inhabited by headhunters, but it’s now a lush island in the Pacific near New Guinea and the Philippines. My curiosity with Borneo started about seven years ago when I was living in San Francisco. I was up late one night watching television. I came across the show “Eco-Challenge.” It was an adventure race that was shown on cable (before the craze of reality TV).


I struggled through the first day, sweating like a piece of lard, huffing and puffing as if I smoked 2 packs a day, but I did make it. Russ took off in front of the pack early. The last time I saw him was at 2.5 km at a rest hut. As he came into my view – he was sitting on the bench talking on his blackberry. After that he was on a mission to get to the lodge.


Mick and I sort of hung out and would walk about the same pace. Yet there were times when I couldn’t keep up with him. That would leave just Francis and me. I wondered what the Malaysian words for “slow, out of shape American” were. My paranoia got the better of me - I was positive that he was making fun of me to all of his guiding friends. He would walk behind me – right on my heels and work on text messages on his phone. I would stop to catch my breath fairly often or to look at flowers (which was just an excuse to catch my breath). When I did stop, it felt as if my heart were about to explode it was beating so hard. There’s just not enough oxygen to go around once you start climbing up a mountain!


I made it to the Laban Rata Hut in the early afternoon in the drizzling rain. (10,800 ft) I met up with Russ who had been there for about an hour. We had a chance to set down our packs and relax. We made our way up to our dorm room and got settled in. The hut is a basic, unheated wooden structure that pretty much resembled most of the hostels I had been staying in. Bunk beds, Shared bathroom, lukewarm water, at best. We were in the center of a cloud – therefore when we arrived you really couldn’t see a thing.


viewAt 4PM the skies cleared and we could witness what surrounded us. The hut was situated right at tree line, and when I looked up – all I could see was naked granite rock. Our task would be daunting the next morning. We had a good dinner full of carbohydrates at the lodge and were treated to an amazing sunset above the clouds. To top off the evening, the one television in the lodge had “American Idol” on; even at 10,000 ft. in Borneo you can’t escape it!


Francis suggested that we get started the next morning at 3AM. So we tried to go to sleep early to prepare for the next day’s climb. It was going to be cold and windy – so we laid out all of our winter gear and laid down for some zzzz’s. Unfortunately, I was quickly reminded that in altitude, you don’t really get good sleep. Sure, you lie down, you sort of doze off - but it’s not fitful sleep. I lay there sleeping on and off for a few hours – my mind racing with thoughts of the summit and anything else that I could worry about. Needless to say when our alarm went off at 2:40AM – I wasn’t feeling very well rested. We put on our layers of gear, mittens, hats and headlamps and took off in a semi-awake state.


The climbing was a bit more technical including steep steps, and big rocks to negotiate. In most places the granite rock was so steep that you needed a rope to get up the incline. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that it was dark out.


topWith the headlamp, you feel like you are in a tunnel for 3 hours – you can’t see more than 4 ft. in front of you. Russ took off pretty quickly and I didn’t see him again until the summit. Mick also got ahead of me and had a successful summit (even though he was freezing in his shorts – the Chinese woman failed to tell him how cold it would be at the top!). That left me with Francis – slowly climbing to the top in silence.


(Page 5 of 8)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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