6.5 hours of walking later, and we come to a zone where the bushes become sparse and the ground is full of rocks.
Black rocks pockmarked with little holes, a product of rapid solidification of lava which flowed while entrapping air bubbles. These are old basalt rocks. Walking on these loose pebbles is a real challenge - you don’t want to fall and slide down the hill.
Looking down, I admire the lush vegetation which marks the border between the green and rocky zones. We are close to 2500m.
Of course the mandatory pose with the valley (Marapi-Singgalang saddle) in the background.
At 2500m and we make camp here to have our belated lunch. It’s already past 2pm, and we are starving! The summit is still 300m above us in the clouds.
Ridzuan finds a comfy spot for a quick snooze …
… while son Shafiq makes do with the plastic sheet.
The clouds come and go, and with them, a drop in temperature and visibility.
This trek makes climbing Mt Kinabalu a walk in the park!
As the cloud clears a bit, we see Kotobaru. Our starting point this morning is somewhere down there.
Looking up, the peak looks daunting. For this reason sometimes I prefer to climb when it is dark. Everybody rests as guide Fahmi prepares lunch, first by boiling some water.
The rocks and backpacks shield the flame from the cold, gusty wind.
Aina takes off her shoes to admire her hardworking feet.
But eveything is fine, except for soiled clothes.
For lunch we have a 3-course meal: high-energy cereals, bread, and …
… instant noodles. Here, everything tastes great!
We soon wolf down everything edible, collect the wastes into a plastic bag to be brought down (though the mountain trail is littered with small rubbish) and are ready for the summit.
After packing up, I make for this odd plant for a quick pee.
The others are making their move already, and usual, I’m the last in the line. We are climbing up the outer side of the caldera rim atop Marapi.
I pause to admire some hardy bush, hanging for dear life on the rocky slope.
My fellow climbers are already taking a rest, while enjoying the marvellous views.
In between the bassalt, another tough guy.
The rocky slope is so steep that we have to zig-zag to climb the huge caldera rim.
At the head of the line, Shafiq and Aina.
Suddenly another cloud envelopes us, and we have to don our raincoats again.
As mentioned, the slope is pretty steep, hence the very slow progress upwards. Also need to be mindful not to step on the loose pebbles as you can slide away (downhill).
I climb over the edge of the caldera rim, and I find myself in this bizarre landscape … or ‘moonscape’ as they call it. This mountain has a flat top littered with rocks and stones.
I notice my 3 kids walking to a peak.
Yes, they are now at 2800m. Well done, guys!
In a distance there seem to be a crater rim, and we make our way towards it over the rocks and stones, and in the cold wind. We are in the Bancah caldera, 1.4km across in diameter.
The rocks strewn across the moonscape must be a result of previous eruptions, extending to hundreds of thousands of years ago. Nothing seem to be able to grow here.
In the thickening cloud, I saw silhouettes of the others.
As I come to the rim of the crater, I see another flat area, layered with black dust and sand.
Suddenly the cloud disappears and behind me I see Mt Singgalang, and our entry point into the caldera.
And in the flat sand-filled ancient crater, I found a film crew! I just could not believe myself. After more than 8 hours of climbing, we find ourselves atop Marapi, and a film crew?
As the weather improves, 2 choppers appear out of nowhere and land.
[In Malaysia, Astro is currently showing "Man vs Wild" every Thursday night at 9pm, on Discovery Channel. Great programme, catch it!]
And this is the hero himself - Mr Bear Grylls - gesturing to a landing chopper.
He then dashes to the chopper, …
… which makes a circuit and returns.
Bear jumps off and crouches on the sandy ground (with the videoman), shielding his face from the debris blasted by the chopper’s rotors.
It is quite fun watching this unexpected show from Bear and gang. We spend some 40min here, which significantly delays our descent later, which is not good. By the way, Bear says this episode will be shown soon on Discovery soon (and according to his blog, this coming spring), entitled ‘Sumatra jungle’ or something. So look out for the show, maybe they’ll CGI us into naked natives … hahaha!
> Please continue at the Next Chapter …
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