May 1, 2006-Kota Kinabalu & The Mountain in the Clouds
We are still in Borneo, in KK (Kota Kinabalu), the booming capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah. We last wrote to you from Kudat, also in Sabah.
We left Kudat one morning, headed for KK.
It is calm, no wind, and we are motoring north to the “Tip of Borneo” where we can turn south towards KK. Just before we arrive there the wind comes up, a nice NE breeze of 15 knots. The sky is blue and the water sparkles. This is going to be a nice day of sailing.
The “Tip of Borneo” is not one of the world’s great capes, but it is a scenic landmark never the less. We want to sail past. We hoist the main and cut the engine, and head for a gap between the cape and an off lying island, intending to round inside the island, close to the surge and swell breaking on the point. The wind is blowing and we’re sailing fast. It is exciting, and maybe a little dangerous. At first there appears to be breaking waves and shallows stretching across the whole gap, but the chart shows deep water. As we get closer the passage opens up, just like the chart said it would.
We fly through and jibe to the south.
With a good following breeze we are making great time down the coast but too soon the breeze starts to falter. There are still whitecaps behind us and more whitecaps farther out, but where we are there are none. We are almost becalmed.
We jibe back and try to head out. Soon we have more wind and are moving again, but the breeze proves to be elusive.
For the rest of the day we chase the wind and sailing becomes hard work. We head out, then back in trying to find some pressure, trying to keep our speed up. The wind stays steady for couple of hours once and we are hopeful, only to watch it die again. Always we can see stronger wind behind us and we think maybe it will reach us, but instead the trend is lighter and lighter. We consider setting the spinnaker, but we suspect it would just have to come down right away if the wind quits altogether.
At about 17:00 we are approaching to the bay we have selected as a likely anchoring spot, and just then the wind switches to the west and fills in, making our chosen anchorage, which is open to the ocean, into a lee shore.
With a little disappointment we decide that we must carry on towards Kota Kinabalu. There are few anchorages with protection from the west along this coast, and it will soon be dark. We can’t go into any place on this coast in the dark.
So we sail on through the night, the westerly breeze holding, past several anchorages we might have stopped in other conditions, but don’t because of the wind direction and darkness. This is OK; we are now looking forward to getting to KK in the morning with its promise of civilization, not the least of which is a berth in a nice new marina and a swimming pool.
We arrive in KK at noon the next day, and soon are tied to the dock and hooked up to electrical power. We head off to the pool for a dip and a cool drink.
Fellow cruisers in KK party on WINGS
The Mountain in the Clouds:
Andy and Nita have flown down from Hong Kong for a short holiday. It is great to have good friends visit. We rent a car and head off to tropical rain forest and Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain here in Borneo, and a World Heritage Site.
We leave the humid coastal plain and head up the winding roads into jungle and rain. The air becomes cool. We catch occasional glimpses of the base of Mount Kinabalu, but the top remains shrouded in clouds. We arrive at Mesilau Nature Reserve base camp, where big boned, healthy looking men in slickers and hiking boots are staging their two day ascents to the top. Andy studies the trail map carefully but the peak is more than 7000 feet above the 6000’ level of our base camp and Judy and I know we don’t have the time or physique for this climb. We check into a lodge for the night, settling for the hope of a better view of Mount Kinabalu in the morning.
Mesilau Forest Santuary
We have some time before dinner so we drive down into the valley to Poring Hot Springs for a soak in the sulfur water. Starting back up the mountain it is dark and raining; we can’t see a thing. To add to our misery, fog sets in. Big trucks are coming down hill and their fog lights appear out of the gloom and temporarily blind us. The drive is slow and nerve wracking. We get lost; our navigation on land isn’t much better than it is at sea. The drive turns into something like a night passage on Wings, or a bad dream.
Finally we arrive back at Mesilau just in time for a drink before dinner. Outside our lodge the rain continues to pour down and a stream thunders somewhere nearby in the forest. It is cold up here in the mountains and we pile on the blankets before going to sleep.
Dining at Mesilau
In the morning the sky clears briefly. I catch a glimpse of the granite peak glowing in the morning sun. I grab my camera, but the mountain is gone back into the clouds. No matter, it is a nice stay in the rain forest for us anyhow. We take some walks and enjoy the wilderness setting.
Driving down that day we discover that this area is a big farming region, and we find fruit and vegetable stands filled with local produce. Also some craft shops. By the time we get back to Kota Kinabalu we have a trunk filled with purchases from the Mountain in the Clouds.
Andy and Nita return to Hong Kong and the other cruising boats in the marina have started to start leave as well, heading south, but Judy and I like the modern and bustling town of Kota Kinabalu, and we decide we will hang around here for a few more days… or maybe weeks.
Cruising lets you do that.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Kota Kinabalu