Saturday, February 24, 2018

Quest Mencari Buah Hutan Di Kota Raya

Siapa tau ni buah apa?

First time find out mengenai buah ni dua hari lepas. Ada yang mencari untuk buat ubat sakit buah pinggang. Baca dalam blog mengenai buah hutan ni... smells a lot like garlic katanya.... persoalannya mana nak cari buah hutan ni di KL?

So as a good Spy Leman that I am, tanya Mr Google... ada blog entry in Jan 2018 cerita buah ni boleh dapat di pasar Chow Kit. So, ada chance nak dapat. And the quest begins....

Sampai di Pasar Chow Kit lepas hampir sejam perjalanan sebab jam dan susah parking. Mula2 isteri Spy Leman tanya makcik gerai sayur... dia kata cuba tanya kat kedai belakang..... takkan begitu mudah kan?

Spy Lemanpun pergi kedai belakang... yes, ada! That was easy... ada 2 biji jer tapi dah kering dan tak ada isi pula. Weird, bila buah ni kering tak ada isi. Kakak tu kata cuba pergi kedai hujung tanya gerai "abang pakai cermin mata".

Explore sampai jumpa gerai kecil agak tersorok kat hujung... sah, abang cermin mata. Hmmm.... "abang dh tak ambil stok sebab kurang sambutan, customer banyak pulangkan balik buah ni sebab bila buka isi dah kering atau rosak".... pelik buah ni. Mana lagi boleh dapat? Cuba pergi bangunan belakang tingkat 1 kedai herba, ada satu jer kat situ. Ikut lorong ni (imagine lorong paling kecil antara gerai2 kat Chow Kit k).

Sambil Spy Leman susur lorong... dalam hati terfikir, betul ke abang tadi ni. Dalam tertanya2 tu, ada pulak abang Alam Flora duduk sambil hisap rokok.... agaknya nampak sangat Spy Leman mcm lost so dia tanya..."Nak pergi mana?" Nak ke Tkt 1. Mula2 abang tu kata Tkt 1 semua gerai makan jer. Tapi bila kata nak cari kedai herba, dia terus kata yer ada satu kedai herba kat atas tu; jalan sampai tengah, belok kiri, ada tangga besi, naik atas terus jumpa kedai herba tu.

Spy Lemanpun jalan ikut arahan abang Alam Flora yang memberi panduan sambil hisap rokok dan guna hand signals. Ternampak tikus gemuk di susur tepi lorong tapi buat dek jer. Yes, belok kiri dah nampak tangga besi. Lambai ucap terima kasih pada abang Alam Flora.

Pakcu Herba Antik & Mistik cannot be missed at the end of the stairs. It is not your usual herbal shop. From antiques like keris dan badik, to all sorts of akar, all sorts of exotic herbs, pelbagai tongkat, sampai rokok Marlboro dan top-up semua ada.... ada banyak benda kat situ Spy Leman tak pernah jumpa seumur hidup... so the very unique, termasuklah buah hutan yang dicari ni! Nak buah *****? Tunggu kejap. Tak lama abang tu bawa keluar 2 biji jer. Dah lama juga buah ni. Ni abang pilih yang agak berat sikit, buah ni makin lama makin ringan, biasanya kalau berat sikit buah masih ok. Then abang tu masuk ke belakang semula dan bawa keluar lebih kurang 20 biji buah ***** yg diletak dalam tudung saji plastik yg diterbalikkan. So pilih ler nak dapatkan buah yang lebih berat berbanding yg lain2. Last2 dapat pilih 6 biji buah ***** pada harga RM15... Abang tu kata kalau yg betul2 baru sampai harga dia RM5 sebiji. Buah yang makin lama makin ringan hingga kalau yg dah betul2 kering ringan macam tak ada apa2 isi di dalam. Yang Spy Leman beli tu masih agak berat dan terasa ada isi di dalam, hopefully memenuhi keperluan orang yang berhajat tu.

Hasrat tercapai dalam quest mencari buah hutan di tengah2 kota raya. Khususnya Chow Kit yang penuh seribu misteri serta pelbagai liku warna2 kehidupan. Spy Leman susuri lorong2 penjual buah, penjual sayur, penjual ikan2 dan ayam & daging (siap display kepala lembu, ekor dan kaki2 lembu beratur). Dalam 2 jam sahaja, pelbagai pengalaman sebagai Spy Leman yg membuatkan terasa macam dalam dunia khayalan, another dimension unlike what I see every day.... all within 1km plus from KLCC, and  me having the opportunity to ride through the experience and coming out thinking.... what did I just experience there?


Sunday, November 19, 2017

My latest conquest – Mount Kinabalu Climb 28-29 Aug 2017 – Part II

The journey of a 40 something not so seasoned climber who is not so fit also – you may find this useful if you are in this category

(Story of my climb)

After the one-month-long preparation, I was as good as I could prepare myself physically within the time given.  It was not enough obviously but I hope I could make up for the lack of fitness and endurance with sheer determination I knew I always have in me.  The one month period was not only fully utilised to prepare physically but also other preparation such as my hydration plan, food consumption plan, as well as the overall climb plan.
See my preparation phase here.

Arrival Day:

Kamal, Hidayah and me flew Air Asia from KLIA2 at about 0930 and reached Kota Kinabalu International Airport at about noon.  

My bundle of joys sending me off

Ready to go with my training partners

We waited at the airport until the rest of the group to arrive.  A mini bus was provided to carry us up to Kinabalu Park.  

We are set to o from KK Int Airport

I slept almost instantly as the bus left KK and only woke up when the scenery around me was that of the mountain range.  We made a quick stop at Nabalu town where I had a glimpse of the majestic Mt Kinabalu.  I was finally face to face with what could be my dream come true or my worst nightmare.  Was really excited though, and felt that I was ready. 

I shall conquer

Nabalu Town - a short drive to Kinabalu Park

We arrived at Kinabalu Park hostel shortly after sunset.  All seemed to be on track so far.  We checked in, and then headed down for dinner at the Balsam Café.  I only had small portion of pasta and vegetables for dinner.  No spicy food, no meat.  Must avoid any risk of stomach trouble the next day.  I was a competitive rugby player, and my sportsman routine kept me reminded on what I needed to do almost instinctively.  And finally after dinner, it was time to settle in at the hostel and get ready for the big day.

My modest dinner at Balsam Cafe

At our hostel with the guys

Simple but cozy enough

It was a very basic hostel but comfortable enough to rest for the night.  I repacked my things immediately after arriving at the hostel.  Needed to go to bed as quickly as possible.  Left behind items not needed for the climb in a separate suitcase. Decided I would carry all my things in the main bag pack, and carry it myself during the climb to Laban Rata, not a wise decision as it turned out later.  It really was a mistake which I would painfully discover only after reaching the base camp.  Despite my desire to go to bed early, I finally got everything sorted out at almost midnight.

Climb Day 1 (Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata) Distance 6 km:

It was 28 Aug 2017 and this day was my twins 13th birthday.  Here I was away from home, and away from my family on this special day doing something for myself.  I am forever indebted to them for their undivided love, support and understanding.  Love you guys!

Happy 13th Birthday to my daughters from the Land Below the Wind

I woke up at 0500 to get ready and was down at the café for breakfast by 0630.  However, timing for some others was way off, leading us to struggle to sort the administrative such as registration, hiring of guides and porters, making payment, climb briefing etc.  

Early risers and sharp on time for breakfast

Morning chat while enjoying the view of Mt Kinabalu

Finally we were done and ready for the climb well after 0900.  We hopped on a bus which took us to Timpohon Gate which was still another 4.5km from Kinabalu Park.
The whole team of 19 climbers

Excited to begin the challenge

A final briefing by the guide then it was time to climb. My spirit was high and all systems go as far as I was concerned.  Without much of a fanfare we set off to begin the climb. It was already 0948 when I signed in at Timpohon Gate to start the journey to Laban Rata.  We were the last group to depart, and needed to catch up for lost time.  The weather was relatively good, and more importantly it was not raining.

Me and my training partners roaring to go

Final photo opportunity (me 4th from right)

Initially it was rather pleasant and easy for the first 200m, with a small water fall (Carson Fall) waving us good luck just 50m ahead after we started.  Then slowly it began to dawn upon me that this was not going to be a walk in the park after all. Reaching the first hut, Kandis Shelter about 1km from Timpohon, after 1.5hour was not a good sign.  However, I continued on and let my ex-military and sportsman instincts take over.  Hydrating myself regularly (never drank too much, small quantity at a time with small interval between them) was essential for my body.  I felt some pain in my knees but nothing serious that I doubted my ability to reach the base camp.  Making little stops was necessary for me throughout the climb; to hydrate myself, to eat small bites of food, to allow my heart beat to slow down when I got worried after hearing the loud thuds in my chest, and of course to enjoy the nice view of nature around me. I was trigger happy with the camera and felt wanting to take picture of everything I saw. 

Carson Waterfall 50 from Timpohon to mark the beginning of 4km journey to Layang Layang Shelter

It began to dawn upon us this was going to be quite challenging 

Catching our breath before pressing on

Beautiful pass across this range

Initially, I was together with Kamal and Hidayah but eventually I was alone as they decided to take longer break to recover.  The following photos should reflect some of the early challenges of the climb. I stopped at every hut along the initial climb before finally reaching the main resting place, Layang Layang Shelter (4km point) at 1300.  Still high spirited and roaring to go at this stage.  I had my lunch of sandwiches and fruits while I waited for Kamal and Hidayah to arrive.  

Now all alone making my way up

Home alone?

My feet remained dry thanks to these shoes

It was still all good although the pain began to kick in

Should I be excited after seeing this?

This I like very much

Layang Layang Shelter in sight

Lunch break while waiting for the rest to arrive

After almost 1 hour and still no sight of them I decided to continue on….. again I was alone.  It began to rain rather heavily before I resumed the journey, so I put on my rain coat and soldiered on.  Time check was 1350 when I left Layang Layang Shelter.  I knew I stayed a bit too long there so it was time to catch up again. And the final stretch of 2km to Laban Rata base camp was even tougher! See the photos for yourselves. 

My  gear kept me comfortable despite the rain

The next phase 2 km... here we go

This way to base camp.  Are you sure?

Beautiful but eerily quite

How else to motivate oneself? Just layan jer

Yeah bring it on

Didn't know when this was going to end

The landscapes were also significantly different as I reached higher up the mountain.  Fatigued, braving the rain alone and seemingly snail pace progress I was making really started to take its toll.  It felt forever to reach each 100m mark but I was not about to give up…. It was never an option.  One small step at a time, inching my way slowly but consistently, taking a breather where necessary.  The view as my reward, and the perseverance I knew I always have….. I had the perfect recipe to push me thorough.  Physically I was far from being fully ready for this, but when combined with what I have in my heart and in my mind, I was super optimistic that I could complete this challenge.  Well, seeing the porters carried up to 30kg of load on their back and moved at lightning speed up and down the slopes really put a huge dent on my spirit, but it would take much more than that to break me down.  The training at Bukit Tangki Air Wangsa Maju and the surrounding trails did some to prepare me but it was far from enough.  While I felt my fitness level was something I could manage through maintaining certain pace during the climb, the entire muscles in my body were however, screaming in pain and said “we did not sign up for this!!!” Hahahaha….

Watch your step. Jangan sampai terkehel

This is a real pro

Still raining. I could hear waterfall sound but could not see it

The scenery told me I was quite high up there already 

See the veins on my forehead.... I started to have headache as I push myself harder

Another hut to recuperate at before pressing on

Finally at about 1630, the high altitude volleyball court and Laban Rata Hostel finally came into sight.  Elated but extremely exhausted, I slowly made my way to the entrance.  The first day challenge was finally over.  Although almost completely drained, to actually see the next stage of the mountain for the final climb right in front of me was a good reason to rejuvenate my spirit.  Not to mention the spectacular view from the balcony of Laban Rata….. what a treat to see the carpet of clouds as the sun set beautifully over the horizon below me.  After dinner, hot drinks and Yoko Yoko treatment for my aching muscles, I was set to go to bed early.  It was going to be an early rise the next morning with the final climb to the peak planned to begin at 0240. Despite the fatigue, I was probably the last one to doze off at about 2100. No blister, no altitude sickness, fully hydrated, still in high spirit.  It was a challenging first day but I was as ready as I could be for the final stage.

The last 100m that felt like eternity

This is how you take selfie using Samsung

The background reflected what lied ahead for the final stretch to the summit

Carbo loading to prepare us for the next day

The view when you are above the cloud

Volleyball anyone?

Spectacular sunset that kept me mesmerised

Sunset views that even photos could not do justice

Even video cannot fully capture the view I saw

Note: Kamal and Hidayah made it to Laban Rata a good 1 hour after me just in time to see the sunset.

Climb Day 2 (Laban Rata to Low’s Peak) Distance 2.7 km:

I woke up at 0100 and quickly got myself ready.  Kamal looked a bit shaky but still confident to attempt the last stage.  He asked me to use his small back pack as he didn’t think he could carry it.  I had a very light breakfast and waited for the briefing to take place.  Again the timing was off to get everyone together for the briefing.  When we gathered everyone, turned out 4 have had enough and wouldn’t attempt the final climb (3 due to extreme exhaustion and one due to altitude sickness).  Left with 15, each with varying optimism, we began the final climb in the dark hours of Day 2 at about 0300.  At least it was not raining, though a bit windy and chilly.  After the briefing, we checked our gears one more time and slowly made our way up.  The guide reminded us to make it to the Sayat Sayat check point (at 5km point) before 0500 in order to be allowed the final climb to the peak.
Light breakfast to start the chilly morning

Geared up for the morning climb

Short and sharp briefing as we were already running behind

Still groggy from being sleep deprived, my body aching from Day 1 climb to Laban Rata, chilly and windy with no idea what was ahead……..well, suffice to say it wasn’t an ideal way to start my morning.  Barely 50m ahead it was nothing but steep stairs (and bums of strangers in front of me), pitch dark apart from the circle of light created by my head lamp, and the trails of headlights beckoning up as far as my eyes could see.  That could only mean I was behind the pack as we started later than other climbers, again.  I lost sight of the rest of the team shortly after, I could barely see anything beyond what my head lamp was shining at.   I struggled to numb my mind off the pain and fatigue as I climbed the endless stairs. Again avoiding making big steps, continuously I progressed up, all the time seeing the long trails of headlamps already ahead of me telling me “you are behind!!”.  I kept telling myself, “It’s okay, just keep moving until this landscape of bums and endless stairs change”.  Yes, the stairs challenge was far more punishing than Batu Caves.  The training was necessary, but was nowhere near enough.  Finally, I was out in the open where I could see a small wooden platform jutting out, and the killer stairs were finally gone to be replaced by rock formation.  Time for a short break to catch my breath.  That was when I saw the lights at a far distance below and the clear sky over my head full of stars.  It was an indication the weather was probably going to be great at sunrise and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of see it from the summit. 

Very few photo of the climb in the dark.... this was more than half way to the summit from Sayat Sayat

I reached Sayat Sayat at 0438.  I made it in time, and was allowed to continue on to the peak.  I registered my name at the counter and was ready to move again.  After all, it was not yet Subuh for me to perform the prayer. At Sayat Sayat I also met a team member, Fathel, and we agreed to finish the final stretch together.  As he was fitter than me, it was a God-sent additional motivation as now I have another reason to push myself harder.

I am indebted to this guy, Fathel, who kept me going all the way to Low's Peak

The condition was quite breezy as we followed the trailed up to the peak marked by unbroken chains of climbing rope.  My gear was more than enough to keep me comfortable (see clothing guide in previous entry).  And sweating profusely all the time also helped to keep me warm.  The track was always marked with the climbing rope so no reason to be lost as long as we stayed with it.  I felt more comfortable on the rock surface, and having good climbing shoes really helped to boost my confidence.  At this stage, my mind was set that I would eventually reach the peak…. only a matter of time.  I was still irked by the sight of the headlights way ahead of me, but the excitement of nearing the destination after all the pain I had endured was ample to set me on auto-cruise, one small step at a time.  All the time keeping Fathel as my benchmark, I made slow but consistent progress upward the rocky slopes.  We stopped at some point of the inclined rock surface to perform Subuh prayer.  Felt blessed to have this unusual, but fulfilling chance to perform prayer at the slope of Mt Kinabalu.  Performing the prayer in inclined position with strong crosswind blowing was really an experience to remember.  Thanks to mobile phone connectivity even as I was near the summit, I could determine the Kiblat using Waktu Solat Malaysia app on my phone.

The first indication that I was getting nearer to the top was the shadowy image of the South Peak at 3992m (also known as Puncak Seringgit due to the reason below). 

Puncak Seringgit for the obvious reason

South peak glimmering at sunrise

Then slowly the rest of the peaks started to show their faces as the eastern horizon started to turn bright orange.  With about 300m more to go, I knew I would not be at Low’s Peak right at sunrise.  However, the view of early sunrise was still just as spectacular when I climb my final 50m to the pinnacle of my journey. 

By now I knew I would not make it to Low's Peak before sunrise

Sunrise and all its glory kept me speechless

A bit more push before I could get there

Almost reaching the peak when I saw this

I was literally running the last stretch to the apex of Mt Kinabalu.  I wanted this. I had waited for this opportunity since 2008, not knowing when my rezeki would come.  I never really counted that I would actually have the opportunity to realise this dream.  As I came closer to Low’s Peak, I was brimmed with strong sense of accomplishment, joyful that this dream is now a reality, and mostly thankful to God for keeping me strong and safe, and giving me this wonderful opportunity to experience His wonderful creation… the majestic Mt Kinabalu.

The last 30m


At the peak, the last groups of climbers were still busy celebrating in their own ways…. Of course a photo shot with Low’s Peak signage was a must.  My mission was finally accomplished.  My PCL Survivor quest was now fulfilled.  Overjoyed internally but well-composed on the outside…. Me now on top of Mt Kinabalu, unbelievable!!!  All the pain and struggle were all worth it, every precious second felt extremely sweet here.  The view was Subhanallah!!!  I am really here, another check in my bucket list!

The sacrifice finally paid off
PCL survivor quest fulfilled

Well, I also came with additional mission, to have my photos at the peak of Mt Kinabalu not just with my climbing attire, but also with Weststar and RMC shirts.  After the mandatory photo opportunity in my climbing attire upon reaching the summit, I waited a while longer to let other climbers their opportunity for glory before returning for additional photos once the bigger crowd had dispersed to start their descend. “Change Parade” from Climbing attire, to Weststar corporate shirt, then to my alma matter striking orange t-shirt… all over and done with within less than 10 minutes.  More photos of me basking in my glory here.

Change Parade ala RMC newboy

A proud Weststarian

OP 8488 that's me

RMC Boy at heart

Some of the Weststarians who made it 

No that wasn't me but proud to show this nonetheless

For the record, 7 out of 19 Weststarians made it to the peak.  Unfortunately my 2 training partners, despite their brave attempt, fell short and did not make it to Sayat Sayat in time.

Less than half an hour at Low’s Peak, and as the sun’s heat began to intensify, I decided it was time to start me descend.  Taking it light and easy, I began my journey down the same track marked by the climbing rope.  The weather was still holding which helped me to enjoy the stunning view.  Everything was picture perfect.  I felt very blessed to be allowed to relish this exceptional panorama. 

As I savour the view during the journey down to Sayat Sayat, there was a stretch where it was really serene with only the sound of wind blowing.  I was relatively alone, around me the rocky surfaces reflected nicely in the sun rays, and the lush green of Sabah beckoning all the way down towards the horizon…… my adrenaline has somewhat subsided… Then it suddenly hit me, the feeling of my only tiny existence within this incredible creation of the Supreme Being.  Feeling undeserved of this treat, while at the same time ever thankful that I was chosen to cherish this experience, I began to shed uncontrollable tears.  Indescribable feeling, I felt really emotionally fulfilled.  As I write this entry while reminiscing the close to God feeling I had at that moment, I could sense tiny droplets at the corner of my eyes.

The view that touched the deepest part of my soul.... Subhanallah

Still teary-eyed from the experience

Sayat Sayat in sight

Check out from Sayat Sayat. No photo of check in because it was still dark

The journey down to Laban Rata was relatively uneventful.  As I neared the base camp, I also saw some remnants of the earthquake that shook Ranau and the surrounding areas, including Mt Kinabalu on June 5, 2015.   The quake with magnitude of 6.0 which lasted for 30 seconds killed 18 climbers and porters on that fateful day. It was the strongest to hit Malaysia since 1976.  (Source: Wikipedia).  May their souls rest in peace.

Can you top this?

Priceless balcony view

Earthquake of 2015 that took 18 lives.... the memory remained

Trail of rocks rolling down the slopes inflicting damages to all in its path

When disaster struck in 2015

The stairs from hell.... not so bad going down as oppose to climbing up

I reached the base camp at about 0915.  I hurried to have breakfast as I needed to check out before 1000.  Now with my body aching and my knees wobbling unsteadily, I still had another 6km to walk down with the aim to reach Timpohon Gate before 1600, or else I would miss the last transport to Kinabalu Park hostel.  With my mission already accomplished, it was really a struggle to push my lethargic body to begin the journey back.  Again, a solo walk with only my own self to keep me motivated.  Considering the condition I was in, passing my big backpack to be carried down by the porter was the most sensible decision.  I could only bear the thought of having a small backpack and drinking water for the rest of the journey down.  I never imagined the trip down would set me up for another challenge physically and mentally.  My advice to you first time climbers in similar fitness state, you will have your work cut out for this one for sure, so be prepared to endure the pain and agony.

Cabin No. 7 was my little sanctuary away from home, now it was time to leave

Trying hard to remain motivated despite the fatigue and the lonely walk

This pass provided improved scenery on the way down

The trip from Laban Rata to Layang Layang Shelter (2km) was not too bad for me.  Although having some difficulty especially with the pain in my knees, I thought I was doing relatively fine.  However, the final 4km was an excruciating step, one after another.  I was in agony the whole way.  It got really bad especially when I needed to climb down the many stairs throughout the journey.  I had to resort to climbing down each step sideways; feet together, down one step, feet together, rest and more rest in between.   I decided not to stop at the resting huts, taking my much needed small breaks in between each short stretch.  This helped me to gain some precious time, and 1.5km before reaching Timpohon Gate, I managed to catch up with the group that left Laban Rata one hour earlier than me.  As I could see that they were going even slower than me, I decided to press on alone.  I had very little left in my tank, and needed to muster every ounce of my remaining energy to push through till the end.  Man, the last 1km was really miserable, with my knees telling me they could only hold on for a short while longer.  Then came much needed booster to my spirit, the distant sound of water splashing from Carson Fall indicating that my journey was about to complete.  What a relief!!! Carson Fall finally behind me, and a short 50m later I was through Timpohon Gate at about 1440.  I DID IT!!!!  My Mt Kinabalu journey was finally over.  This PCL Survivor tale has been etched in history.
Did not take many photos enroute downhill. But managed to capture  this agonisingly steep stairs where I had to walk sideways to climb down

Carson Fall was the clear sign I was almost there

The PCL Survivor did it!!!

Totally spent, I was more than happy to see Gatorade being sold at Timpohon Gate.  Gulping down every drop of the 250ml liquid never tasted better.  As I rendezvous with some team members who either arrived a bit earlier or later than me, we exchanged tales of our own conquest.  Most have one common thing to relate; it was not only Mt Kinabalu that we tried to conquer, but more so it was ourselves.

The transport came, and after one last look at Timpohon Gate, I finally bid farewell to Mt Kinabalu. Total distance walked according to my phone GPS was almost 38km (return trip from Timpohon Gate-Laban Rata-Low’s Peak).  It was apparent that the training I had was insufficient, but combined with my willpower and determination, and the obvious grace of God, yes I did it!

Upon arrival at Kinabalu Park, lunch was an indulgence of the tasty food at Balsam Café.  Time to recover all the lost calories (I later weighed myself upon returning home and discovered that I lost 3kg during this journey, and that was my weight after my binging on all the good food at Kota Kinabalu and PTKK Naval Base the day after the climb). 

I collected my Certificate from the Administrative Office and bought myself the climber medal as the official testimony of my conquest.  However, I can assure you no amount of certificate and medal can completely capture this entire experience. Not even this blog entry. Nevertheless, I hope by jotting down some of the experience in this blog will help to trigger the memories when I read through it in the future.

Throughout the 2 hour journey from Kinabalu Park to Kota Kinabalu I was immersed in my own thoughts and chatted very little.  Arriving at Le Meridian Hotel at sunset, I was glad to be reunited with my wife and just turned 13 daughters there.  They flew in to be with me in KK so that we could celebrate this feat together.  

Mt Kinabalu, yes I did it.  Alhamdulillah.

Time to celebrate with my family

Seafood what else

Everything tasted soooo good after all the hard work