2 porters, men in their twenties, carrying heavy loads walked past me with steady footsteps, then all of a sudden, a middle-aged woman with a carriage twice the size of a 38-liter backpack I carried, outpaced my baby steps, crushed my glorious pride into little pieces.
The porters of Mount Kinabalu are the lifeblood of the national park, in addition to carrying those lazy, weak visitors’ heavy stuff, they’re also bringing almost anything to support the national park’s operational demands, especially to Laban Rata Rest House far above at 3270m. They haul food, toilet papers, sheets, clothes, spring beds, gas tanks, and many other items you’d probably think should’ve been carried by a helicopter. On my way up to Laban Rata, I even saw a cupboard in one of the huts, waiting to be hauled by a porter. A CUPBOARD!! Dude, that was hardcore.
Trekking without any help from a porter for the sake of a national pride and (honestly) to save money, I was with another 8 friends from Jakarta with a “holy” mission to raise Indonesian flag on top of Mount Kinabalu as a tribute to Indonesian Independence day at August 17th. If somehow the regulation had permitted us to proceed without guide, we’d have done it. I mean, how could you get lost in a mountain with clear path, lots of clean water in a shelter every 500-700 meters?
We wanted to keep the mission as “pure” as possible regardless that soon we would sleep in a comfy bunk bed with soft pillows and thick blankets at Laban Rata after having multiple meals in a buffet restaurant that opened until 9:30 PM. I tell you, Mount Kinabalu is just like a Shangri-La for hikers.
The trail from Timpohon Gate to Layang-layang was dominated by reinforced natural “stairs” without any flat ground, it was all the way up. I must admit that I underestimated this mountain. I thought with all the facilities, the climb would be a lot easier. It wasn’t, especially when the rain poured on and off from KM2 to KM6. I finally reached Layang-Layang hut at midday, shivered and a bit weak. The intense, cold rain drained my stamina. I ate a piece of sandwich and an apple that were given as lunch and finally had an extra energy to continue the remaining 2 km walk to Laban Rata Rest House.
The thundering sound of a waterfall and several small streams welcomed me as I approached Laban Rata at 3:30 PM. Inside the warm rest house, there were already a crowd of people gathering and eating at the buffet restaurant. I changed my wet clothes then finally joined my friends at the table. It was time to reward myself with food. LOTS of food.