Kinabalu was not my intention when I booked my July trip to Borneo. Even the trip itself was spur of the moment. Air Asia had a seat sale and the offer was too good to pass up— less then Php 1,000 on a return Clark-KK flight. Fortunately, I managed to grab hold of Doc who readily booked the trip. I had long given-up on climbing Kinabalu due to its prohibitive cost — RM860 for the 3D/2N package that Sutera “bloodsucking” Sanctuary Lodges forces you to book. Compare that to a trip to the Sungai Kinabatangan at RM440 for a 3D/2N at Nature’s Lodge Kinabatangan. More importantly, unlike Kinabalu, free enterprise still roam free and alive at the river.
So the plan was fly to Sandakan the day after our arrival for the Kinabatangan then spend 2 nights at the Kinabalu National Park to do trails around the base then back to Kota Kinabalu for the flight home. But sometimes, even the best laid plans, or in this case, mindset can make you take back all that you’ve set out to NOT do.
Like all the bookings I do, especially spontaneous ones, it all started with google. “Kinabalu climb packages” brought in a variety of deals from different tour agencies. The initial rate was disheartening– RM 1,200 for a 2D/1N package. People at the travel blogs said it was a downright rip-off. At the extreme was someone who said that she wished people would stop climbing the mountain until the rates go down. One said, it all depends on how much I really wanted to do the climb. I wasn’t desperate enough. I thanked everyone for their comments and said I’m back to being level-headed and it’s not just worth it. There were reports that if one can call Sutera directly, you can get a space at Laban Rata. Booking online was out of the question as it was just filled-up. So I gave up and started looking for cheap accommodations outside the national park.
But still, the mountain beckoned. And I know that this nagging feeling meant I wanted it. Desperately.
I was back googling. I knew I was going to climb Kinabalu when I had an excel sheet to summarize all the quotations I got. I had fallen into the abyss of wanting it and could not or rather would not get out. Finally, I saw a better figure— RM 780 from Mountain Trails. That was good enough and I was ready to book.
Then came the Via Ferrata. I’ve checked the website of Mountain Torque before and I figured it was going to be expensive so I never bothered to inquire. But then reading reviews, seeing videos and pictures, somehow makes you want to re-think things. Maybe it’s not really THAT expensive. So back to googling and to my excel sheet. Either the gods must be smiling at me or I’m just really good at googling. I stumbled on a small independently-run tour company called Whoa Adventures that was offering the Low’s Peak Circuit and climb at only RM850! Even if it did not include the park fees, it was still waaayyy cheaper than all the quotations I got. An additional RM 162 that the entire package was only RM1,012! That was cheap at Kinabalu standards as others like ABC Tours was offering it at RM 3800 and Peterson Travels at RM 2000. More importantly, the July 28-29 dates I wanted were available. Anyone who has tried to book a Kinabalu package knows that after the rates, the date availability is the next frustration. Just when you’re willing and able to pay your dates might not be available. I signed-up with PayPal and made the transaction.
I did have second thoughts about doing the Via Ferrata as I have never even tried the cable at Mt. Manalmon. But If I was going to do Kinabalu might as well add the Via Ferrata for bragging rights. And I did remember how much I wanted to do the cable cross at the Xcelerator in Davao but was deterred when I was told it was part of the Php 500 package and couldn’t be added-up to the Php 450 I already paid for2 zips. I did ask about doing the Walk the Torque route instead which was shorter (2-3 hours) and was described as Easy and the “perfect introduction to Via Ferrata.” The response from Josen Lim, my contact at Whoa Adventures woke me up “Are you sure you want to the Walk the Torque? It’s a short climb. You might not be back to Kinabalu anytime.” Ok. Hit the click here button. Low’s Peak Circuit here I come.
I got my confirmation today in my email. We are definitely climbing!