Saturday July 21
We left John and Jo to organize their departure as they were stepping off the boat and making their own way to Sandakan before heading back to Melbourne. They have been with us for almost three weeks and I hope they have enjoyed seeing some hard to get places along with sharing the rally experiences.
Lea had organised a day tour to show Ken a bit of the area. The first stop was the Mari Mari Cultural Village. Our guide was a real character and we thoroughly enjoyed his stories about the history of the people and the 7 tribes represented here.
2 of the tribes used to be headhunters while others seemed to have originated in China. Here we posed on a richly decorated marriage couch.
We had a great morning learning about Traditional Clothes made from bark. Distilled rice wine and just straight fermented rice wine.
Natural honey from non stinging bees was delicious. I had a go at grating coconut and we sampled many traditional foods. The staff were all wonderful and very friendly.
Ken got bailed up by the village guards and had to go through a little ‘welcome’ ritual. We all got henna tattoos.
The finale was a very good traditional music and dance performance.
After lunch we went onto the local Zoo. As Zoo’s go this one is set in beautiful grounds and the enclosures are nice and big. It gave Ken the opportunity to see a wide variety of wildlife native to this area.
It was full and enjoyable day which we completed with a seafood meal out at the KK night market.
Monday July 22
Picked up at 0600 for the drive to Mt Kinabalu HQ. and met up with our guide, Arno. We departed for the climb from Timphon Gate at 1866m by 0845.
We rested at all the little shelters and watched the cheeky little squirrels look for food scraps. We also found a few pitcher plants.
It was a long steady climb and Ken was beginning to feel it. We got to our lodge, Pendant Hut, at Labuan Rata at 3200m by 1400.
Settled in then at 1600 we had the compulsory briefing for the Via Ferrata (Iron Roadway in Italian). This was something different for the decent. Not quite rock climbing but close to it, harnessed and tied to a steel cable down some very sheer faces. Should be fun. Ken and I both had slight headaches so we took half a Diamox each. After filling up on a good dinner we hit the sack ready for the 0200 wake up call.
Tuesday July 23
Breakfast of death bread toast was very average. Nothing like we had in 2016 at the guest house 50m down the hill. However, we made some peanut butter sandwiches to take with us. The time taken to complete the Ferrata was a bit of an unknown. The fastest time was 90 minutes, the slowest 13 hours.
We began our accent at 0230. there was some cloud cover but no wind. we soon went down a layer of clothing. We reached the summit (4091m)around 0530 and sat down to wait for the sunrise. As with last time it was bloody freezing.
Then it was time to head down to the top and start of the Via Ferrata at 3800m. This is the highest Via Ferrata in the world.
We were soon harnessed up and our guide Arno handed us over to our climbing guide, William.
Then we were off down our first near vertical face. Here you have no choice but to trust the equipment. The wire is fixed to the mountain in short sections. Once slid onto the wire our carabiner never came off the wire. Sections were joined with 6mm SS plates. Our rigid carabiners had a 6.2mm slot to allow it to pass over the plate. We were also roped onto both the wire attachments points and to each other. We had to move our rope across each attachment point. We soon got the hang of it and advanced as a co ordinated unit. The wire bridges were interesting and some cable junctions were like a puzzle to get the carabiner through.
It took us 3 hours to complete the circuit and it was great fun. By that time the clouds were rolling in up the valley. Back at the lodge our second breakfast was dreadful but we needed the calories.
Ken had a 30 minute powernap then we began our decent at 1145. Ken’s “cycling” legs were struggling and going down is always hard yards. I gave him one of my sticks and that helped a bit. The rain set in but we had umbrellas which we had learnt are much better than hot steamy wet weather jackets. Lea took Kens water bottles, Arno took his pack and I gave him both walking sticks. He soldiered on and we got back to the gate at 1600. We received our certificates and gratefully got into the bus for the drive home thoroughly exhausted but well satisfied with our achievements of the day.
A pre prepared Spag Boll with a couple of glasses of red wine completed the day.
Wednesday July 24
Any stair causes pain! However, we had things to do. Ken and Lea did the laundry while I used Grab to go in search of new bearings for the ensuite sump pump. At the bearing shop I was in and out within 2 minutes with 2 new bearings. Rejoined Lea and Ken at the laundry. 10Rm for the bearings 22Rm for transport. Not bad. While the laundry dried we went shopping for provisions at the nearby mall then loaded everything into a Grab to return to the Marina. Settled the bill, forgot to pick up the laundry John and Jo had left at the Resort Laundry and by early afternoon we were sailing under our new spinnaker headed for Kudat.
Settled for the night in a nice little bay with Mt Kinabalu in the background.
Thursday July 25
We only moved 4.5Nm today, motoring up to the next bay. No wind forecast so a rest day called. Lea and Ken took the dinghy out for a snorkel but they reported cloudy water. They tried again later in the afternoon with more success. We were joined by Psycho Puss, Delaney, Esoterica and Beau Soleil. The Psycho’s came over for sundowners.
Friday July 26
We had a storm through the night with heavy rain and quite a swell had developed offshore. We were off by 0700 with the spinnaker up. We did 30Nm before the wind started to gust over 20 knots so it was time to get the spinnaker down before we couldn’t. Continued on a little more sedately under screecher. We elected to keep going around the tip of Borneo. Rounding the Point wasn’t as rough as we expected and we came round into nice flat water on the eastern side. The breeze held in and we managed to sail all the way into Kudat under headsails alone.It was one of our best sailing days we’ve had in SE Asia.
Med style mooring is always a challenge but with help from friends already there we were soon anchored and tied back to the wall.
That evening we walked into town for the Festival and enjoyed the local talent show and custom dancing competitions.
Saturday July 27
The Festival is in full swing and the yachties have been invited to put in a team for the Dragon Boat Races. We got organised by 0700 for a brief practice before the race at 0800. All things considered we did ok. We came last but we completed the course. Dragon Boat racing has become a bit more serious here than it was in 2016 when our team managed to come 3rd.
In the Kudat Boatyard we discovered an old friend. SV Miami, as she used to be, we sailed with around New Cal and Vanuatu with our friends George and Ute back in 2013. Many fond memories.
After the race we sat through many speeches and music from over amplified speakers. The custom dancing was a highlight with beautiful costumes. The place was crowded and the locals very friendly and wanting to chat and get photos.
Great meal out at a Chinese Seafood restaurant. Ken not so sure about eating prawns shell, head and all. We hoped to see the final of the fashion parade after dinner but after sitting though another 3 speeches in Malay we gave up and walked home. For those with more patience it turned out to be an excellent show.
Sunday July 28
Sleep in this morning then laundry and fresh food shopping. Getting transport for Ken back to KK was proving a little difficult as nobody would commit to a reasonable price and Ken did not want to catch the local bus. All worked out in the end and Ken was on his way in plenty of time. It was great to have him aboard to share a bit of our lifestyle. And it was really special for Lea to spend time with her big brother.
Lea and I declined a big night out that had been organised and enjoyed a quiet dinner aboard and an early night.