From the start at Timpohon Gate, the guide led and walked in a slow even pace. It was too slow for me, so I overtook him – which was a hint to him that I was capable of walking much faster. It didn’t last long though. The path was like a staircase, every single step was going upwards. Soon, I was tired, soaking wet in sweat, and decided it was better for him to lead and walk in a slow pace. You can see I was new to climbing mountains and committed the cardinal sin … never overtake a mountain guide.
Mountains: Kinabalu, Malaysia
There are two main things that I have to think about prior to heading off to Kota Kinabalu: equipment and fitness. Although I’ve been doing a lot of hiking in the Quy Nhon area over the last couple of years, they’ve generally been over relatively short distances. The longest hikes were around 9-10 kilometres, although to be fair there was a 560m peak in the middle. Still, the only things I had to carry were water and a packed lunch and the only hiking equipment I had – or needed – was my trusty pair of Merrell off-road running shoes. I’ll need more than this for Mount Kinabalu.
Unlike Malaysians, Vietnamese people aren’t very keen on hiking. The only hiking/outdoor shops that I can find in Vietnam are in Hanoi and Sapa. According to the reports I read they mainly sell cheap knock-offs of brand-name products, stuff that falls apart almost immediately. I’m not keen on travelling the 700 kms to Saigon or the 1,100 kms to Hanoi on what will likely be a fruitless search for hiking equipment.
My options locally are virtually nil. My new (lightweight) backpack that I picked up a couple of weeks ago has failed. The zipper keeps separating and one of the plastic clips holding the shoulder straps broke. This is after perhaps half-a-dozen hikes with only 5-6 kilos aboard. It’s a pity because the material and stitching seem to be good quality, and it was quite comfortable. What would have been a solid budget backpack is spoiled by substandard fittings. I hope I can replace the existing plastic adjustors with metal D-rings. The brand name, by the way, is ‘Camel Mountain’ – Chinese made but widely available.
Online shopping has its own pitfalls. I won’t buy footwear or clothing if I can’t try it on. Amazon won’t ship to Quy Nhon, and in any case the shipping costs from anywhere outside of Asia are horrendous. There’s a Chinese online shopping company called AliExpress that looks dodgy as hell. I’m suspicious about companies that offer an 80% discount on “genuine” Leki trekking poles. Further research into AliExpress showed that customer comments are overwhelmingly negative. No thanks.
Several weeks ago I looked into a Vietnamese online shopping web site, Lazada.vn. They seem relatively reliable and I know people who have ordered through them with no real issues, so I took a punt. I ordered a pair of Coleman trekking poles from them. This, by the way, is the ONLY hiking equipment they carry. The poles arrived three days later and were exactly as represented, so no complaints there. Since then I’ve also purchased a head lamp from them, which I’m also happy with.
2Stroke and 4Stroke have kindly offered to buy what I need from Darwin and bring it up to Borneo for me, but my comments about clothes and shoes still apply. And I still like to fondle the merchandise before I buy.
Which brings me to my last option: waiting until I get to Kota Kinabalu and going shopping there. A little more research led me to this page: Hiking/outdoor shops in KK. It looks like I’ll be able to get just about everything I need there.