an unexpected adventure

It all started with a conversation over dinner and the 2-day/1-night weekend trip to James’ resort, The Village at Mesilau up at Mt. Kinabalu for the alumni in the tourism industry was conceptualised and subsequently confirmed by Serena, the president of our alumni association and two fellow alumni James and Roger.

I was initially not interested to join the trip but a week or two later I changed my mind as I realised it had been more than 10 years since my last trip to Mt. Kinabalu (unbelievable I know!) and this would be a great chance for me to revisit and see what has changed over the years. Besides, I knew the cool and fresh mountain air would do me good.

The organisation of the whole trip was in good hands from the arrangements of the accommodation, food, transportation to the itinerary for the two days. We were told we would be twin-sharing in houses with 3 bedrooms, a barbeque with lots of merry-making beverages was expected in the evening after a trek along Mesilau River in the afternoon and there would be another trek in the morning after before we depart for Kota Kinabalu.

Excitement and anticipation for a great trip was detected from the text messages flying around in the two days prior to the weekend but what we were never prepared for or anticipated was what James had in store for us where the trekking was concerned. Not a single one of us, of course except James’ best pal Roger who has been to the resort before had any inkling of what kind of excitement we were going to experience or the kind of memory that we were going to create!

I got a lift from James in the morning of Saturday and we arrived at The Village ahead of the rest of the gang. I had plenty of time to explore the garden filled with colourful flowers that James’ dad has painstakingly planted over a period of two years around the resort built with reclaimed materials. I roamed around the place until the rest started to arrive from 1:30pm onwards.

There were 11 of us altogether with 10 alumni plus Tommy’s friend Richie not including Roger’s and Mike’s respective young families. Before the sumptuous lunch we were introduced to one another as not everybody knew each other being graduates from different years. This fact was unbeknown to Richie until the second day and he admitted that it had impressed him even more after seeing how we helped one another and the care and concern demonstrated during the hike.

We took our sweet time and did not start our journey until 3:30pm…

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we were taking a leisurely stroll and even stopped to enjoy the scenery (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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wilderness! this was exciting, for city folks like us!

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vegetable patches along the hillside – agriculture is the livelihood of the mountain folks here in cooler climate

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all were fascinated and stopped (again!) to look at the veggies

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at long last we moved past the vegetables (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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still we stopped, to admire the scenery

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yeah… we are ready for the hike! (really, are we? )

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James was excited to show us what lied ahead… the Mesilau River!

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all stopped to check it out…

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you see, this was what it was like before — before the devastating earthquake last year! (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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and this is now — the source of the river was affected by the earthquake and it is no longer a rapid but just a stream!

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we continued our journey to the river… in front of us was where a huge bridge once stood! (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

This was where our REAL adventure begun…

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you mean go down there? ohhhh… ok, I’ll try… (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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now, how do I get down to the river? this is so steep! hmm, let me think first… with my arms akimbo you could almost see my brain cells going crazy! (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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while I was trying to find a better way to get down to the river without the risk of sliding down the steep rock face, this was the action taken place up at the top… it was just too darn slippery and we were not in proper hiking gear! (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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while Theresa was struggling to get down, the others on the top were busy posing and taking pictures!

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after they had gone past the first hurdle, they decided not to take the path I took as it was too steep so they hang around to decide for an alternative route

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so I waited, and waited… and I whipped out my camera and took as many pictures as possible while waiting! (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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so they disappeared for a little while from my line of sight and went round the back to take a different path down… look at those macho guys in actions, ever ready to lend a helping hand 🙂 (photo courtesy of Serena Liew)

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ok, here they are, they did not abandon me after all… phew!

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huh, getting in to the water? this is just the beginning of the walk!

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I was determined to keep my shoes dry but by this time I realised getting my feet wet was inevitable! Tommy and Richie the two spidermen managed to keep dry and hence this amazing shot taken from higher ground! (they succeeded in not getting their feet wet throughout the whole journey which means they were going through a course tougher than ours!!!) (photo courtesy of Tommy Chaw)

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this was just the beginning of the walk and we were taking it easy… we had no idea, absolutely no idea that this would go on for what seemed like forever… (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

Here was the commencement of the EPIC journey, the “exodus”…

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the scene in front of us would be like this for 1.5 km

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the boulders seemed to get bigger by the minute!

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we went over… (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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we went under… (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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some times we kept dry… (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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other times we got wet… (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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throughout the whole journey we forged ahead (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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we needed hands to help lift us up as by this time we were all simply worn out! (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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how victory looked like! (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

We completed what for most of us, the toughest hike ever after dark and got back to the resort at 7:00pm. The whole journey of only 5 km took us 3.5 hours to complete and out of that we spent 2.5 hours in the 1.5 km boulder river trail. Needless to say we were absolutely knackered!

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the sustenance — barbeque, beer and wine! (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

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good food, great beverages and wonderful fellowship! (photo courtesy of Roger Fong)

the day after…

Majority of us could not handle another trek the next day and decided just to take it easy to enjoy the cool weather and to nurse our painful muscles.  Furthermore, there was a light shower in the morning.

We went down to the river again at the back of the resort when the rain had stopped and everything seemed so serene… it was a little hard for me to think that this was the same river that we struggled going upstream just the day before.

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everyone looked relaxed and refreshed

The earthquake might have caused a lot of damage to the mountain, taken lives, changed the course of this river and altered the landscape forever but we human are overcomers.  After the pain and the loss, we picked up the pieces and moved on.

Our conquest of the hike upstream yesterday demonstrated the exact human fighting spirit.  Most of us were not prepared for the hike, physically or mentally.  What took place really was due to a host’s enthusiasm and eagerness to showcase what the nature has to offer and his overestimation of the physical strength of a bunch of urbanites comprised mainly of office bound career women.  Despite of all that, we completed the trail; drenched or not, drained or not, we made it!

We fell, we got up; we slipped, we lifted ourselves up or were pulled up by the strong hands of our comrades; we were exhausted beyond words and we struggled but we marched on and forged ahead.

In the end, all the guys with better and stronger physique admitted that this was their toughest trekking challenge ever and what impressed them the most was the ladies’ courage and determination to finish the course and there was never a “prima donna” in sight.  The ladies accepted the compliments graciously and thanked the gentlemen for their every-readiness to lend a helping hand along the way.  They have never been prouder of themselves; the sense of achievements and the ability to overcome all was simply exhilarating!

How we conquered, helped one another and bonded — those are truly the precious memories that we will hold on to for a long time to come.

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how small we are

We lingered on at the river bank, breathed in the fresh cool air and absorbed the view in front of us with a totally refreshed and renewed perspective.  While strolling along, I stumbled upon this…

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life!!! calamity might have struck and the landscape changed forever, yet life continues…

When we got back to the resort, I looked around and saw these…

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bees buzzing

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new leaves sprouting

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flowers blooming

there is life, and that, is enlightenment!

 

— END —

(an amazing trip to Mesilau, 27 – 28.02.2016 )

 

Note:
To my comrades — what can I say, you are incredible and what a great bunch you are!

James – thank you for the lift, the chit chat in the car and your great hospitality! Thank you also for pulling us up all those big boulders and keeping your cool throughout the hike. Refine the trekking arrangements for the enjoyment of others and I’m sure in due course you will not be short of takers for the challenge! The Village is a great place to stay, keep up the good work! May God bless you and in all that you do so that you can be a blessing to others!
(please convey our sincere thanks to your worker Freddie again, he played an instrumental part in the adventure!)

Serena – thank you for initiating this trip! Truly history in the making and memories to treasure!

Karen, Theresa & Rose – thank you for taking care of our stomach, being encouragers and suppliers of love and care!

Tommy & Richie – thank you for being the “sweepers” trailing behind to look out for us during the hike! Appreciation to Tommy for being an excellent cook and to Richie for keeping us entertained.

Roger – thank you for all the amazing photos!

Michael – thank you for giving us a helping hand during the hike when needed!

Vivienne – thank you for keeping me company!

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