Friday, January 14, 2011

King of the Hill

So my month long stay in the U.S. has gotten me way out of shape. Sure interviews were a totally exhausting experience, but much more mentally than physically, leaving my body to atrophy a bit. Good thing then that a week after I came back, a bunch of us from SBC (Gilbert, Holed, Sabda, and Sukri) decided to climb Mount Santubong, a pretty tough 2-3 hr. hike up. (~2600ft) around 35 km north of Kuching city. Before describing our trek, I want to briefly mention some etymological/historical significance of this mountain. First off, let me quote Wikipedia for the Etymology of Santubong: "According to the Encyclopaedia of Iban Studies the original inhabitants of Santubong were the Iban. Si-antu-ubong means 'spirit boat' in the Iban language. Antu is hantu in Malay which means spirit or ghost. Santubong are boat like coffins made from a single hollow log designed to represent the vesell in which a dead person will travel from this world to afterlife. Following another theory, the name Santubong is derived from "san choo bong" in the Hakka Chinese dialect, meaning "wild pig king" or "king of wild pig" "
Based on the first two translations of the name, my prospects did not seem too good for making this trek.

Another thing I've read about is that Alfred Russel Wallace wrote the 'prequel' to his theory of biological evolution based on studies he conducted on the animals in Santubong ( , via Kind of cool to know that the biodiversity in this place could inspire Wallace's mind to think of evolution, or to at least gear his mind up for that. But then again, I'm a science nerd, and this wouldn't get most people nearly as excited as it did me.

All geared up with water, bread, biscuits and canned sambal (the stuff of champions I tell you), we started the hike. I won't give you a minute by minute report of the entire trek, but I'll say that the first half is not so tough compared to the second part, at which point things get pretty steep. Luckily the thickset roots of the many trees surrounding us could be used as natural ladders. I dropped all attempts to hike up upright, rather I was on all fours grabbing and climbing these incredibly sturdy roots. It's always funny the transformation that one might undergo during a trek- at first you think you can keep your hands clean and just move with your feet. Oh how erroneous this thinking becomes, as it did when I started climbing this steep section of the mountain. And it really did not take long for me to feel comfortable with the combination of dirt-covered hands and waterfall of sweat that was my body. For some reason, climbing in this really involved manner made me feel closer to the rainforest, as if I were going back to my roots, and could re-imagine myself relying on this jungle for my sustenance and survival. I would have no problem just eating grass raw at this point.

Then there was a series of wooden+rope ladders, and eventually we reached the summit at around the 2.5hr mark (we were faster than the expected 3-4 hour walk, so I was pretty happy). And let me tell you I was exhausted at this point. My knees weren't trembling just yet, but the intense muscle soreness had set in, likely from a deluge of lactic acid flooding those tissues. We did not spend all too long at the top, maybe 30-40 minutes at most. We munched on our bread and canned fishy goodies, drank some water, and snapped some shots.

It just was not too pretty up there- the view of Kuching was cool, but the overcast sky made it less than ideal and convinced us that a downpour would hit us soon. So we rushed down. I'm not terrified of heights, but I do take my sweet time going down. Combined with my aching, trembling, knees and ankles, this trip down was pretty bad. Sabda, Sukri, and Holed waited around an hour for us at the base. it took us around 2 hours to make it down. Gilbert and I were relieved to make it down, and we lucked out big time that it did not rain. Going down was scary enough, without having any slippery surface to worry about. I did feel like I had so much to learn about proper trekking technique, though I've made some progress from day 1 of my time in Borneo. I think I need to make sure I keep my weight back, and spend more time looking at the path ahead to plan my steps in advance. Doing these things better should improve my stability, while speeding up my hiking pace.

After suffering through this hike, I was on cloud 9. Endorphins were flowing; I was high

How did we treat ourselves afterwards? Nothing says "No Pain, no Gain" like KFC's spicy fried chicken and cheesy wedges. It was all worth the agony once we sat down.

And it only took about 3 days for the soreness to disappear.

No comments:

Post a Comment