Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Kinabalu National Park
September 22 (Saturday)
After a buffet breakfast in the hotel G Cafe we waited for our tour van at the lobby. Thinking it must carry the Masenang name or emblem, we waited and waited until a Malay man in red tee shirt approached me, "Are you Mr. Peter Yew?" I replied "Yes" and I could see the relief on his face. Apparently he was waiting for us for the past 15 minutes but wasn't savvy enough to carry a card or ask around. Soon after boarding the 7 seater van I asked who else would he be fetching and he replied, "Nobody, only two of you". And I thought to myself isn't this great, a private tour for the fee of a group tour! The last time we enjoyed this was when we were holidaying in Hanoi last year.
At 8.35 am Roy, that's the driver's name (later he admitted it was his trade name, his real name is Nik) took us on a slow drive north east from the city towards this World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Kinabalu National Park, established in 1964 and covering an area of 754 sq. kilometers. The Park surrounds the Mount Kinabalu which at 4095.2 meters is the highest peak in SE Asia. It is home to more than 4,500 species of flora and fauna, including 326 bird and around 100 mammal species. The trip will take us near to the mountain but not near enough to climb. It was never our intention, nor our capability or readiness to undertake this challenge. Suffice to say all I wanted is to see it as close as possible. First this is where the Park is.
Although the weather forecast today is cloudy with likelihood of thunderstorm we were glad the skies didn't break at all. It was cloudy but white on blue skies with a good sun. Heading towards Tamparuli, Roy start to point out the famed Mt. Kinabalu in the distance. I asked to find a good vantage point to stop for a photo shoot. As the roads are narrow and windy we didn't manage to do so. The roads were double laned with dividers up till Tamparuli, 38 km outside KK, when they merged into trunk roads and they started to become windy and steepier for the next 52km. All along the drive a strange sight greeted us, at regular intervals of 1-2 km we could see prominent signs of Catholic churches built by the early missionaries to serve the natives who live in these areas. Here is one I managed to capture from inside the van.
There were a few of other denominations such as the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) and Seventh Day Adventist but the majority are by the Catholics whose presence in Sabah make them the majority Christians.
We arrived the Pekan Nabalu at about 10am for a rest stop. It was here that we caught the magnificence of the mountain and took several pictures for remembrance. The sun was bright and the visibility great. There were several stalls selling local souvenirs and fruits but we weren't interested in them.
As you can see, it was cloudy but the peak of Mt. Kinabalu is visible. We arrived the entrance to Kinabalu Park at 11am and proceeded to the exhibition centre. I am amazed at the cleanliness of the place and high standard of maintenance and upkeep.
We next drove to the Botanical Garden to get a feel of the various types of flora found inside this national park. After Roy bought the entrance tickets costing RM4 each we went inside. There weren't many tourists there but later after left we saw a larger group arriving.
It is very cooling and peaceful inside the garden with the sound of mountain stream running through it. To the uninitiated this may just pass off as a forest but botanists and nature conservationists will find this a piece of gem as there are hundreds of different species of small plants, especially wild orchids, found inside. I can't name them as this is not my speciality nor interest but I am impressed by the harmony these plants co-exist with each other in a small space of just a few acres. Many trees are homes to saprophytes and parasites that live on each other. I saw orchids growing on tree trunks. Makes me wonder why human beings cannot be like plants. Here are some pictures of these marvellous plants.
It was an educational tour of the garden and I came away deeply appreciative of the Park management for their commitment in preserving this reserve. After a simple lunch we made our way down the hill (1200 meters above sea level) back to KK. On the way down Roy pointed out the clouds that has circled and nearly choked the peak. Here's proof.
As a Christian it is my belief that God has kept His wonder for us to see. Tonight we met up with our nephew for dinner before we went back to the hotel. He showed us a nice Chinese restaurant to have our breakfast tomorrow.