Kota Kinabalu is one of those places that invites multiple visits. I found myself planning a trip to the National Park of Kota Kinabalu yet again, not to climb the peak this time, but to do some sketching.
Kota Kinabalu in Sabah
I went to Kota Kinabalu with only one intention and, that is, to visit the Botanical Garden that’s located at the foot of the mountain. I went because I wanted to sketch the pitcher plants there. Yes, I got some really good drawings but I also had a most eerie experience while there. And you can’t say I didn’t ask for it!
The Botanical Garden
I had the entire day to spend at the Garden. Cool and quiet. Hardly anyone was there. Just the occasional visitor walking past. I started wandering deeper and higher up. Really quiet. I made myself comfortable pulling out my sketching things and as I sketched, I quickly lost track of time. Before I knew it, the mist had started descending. All of a sudden, it was cold and damp and eerily quiet. Not even a sound from bird or insect.
An extra presence
And then my hair started to literally stand on its end for no good reason other than the feeling that i was not alone. Yet there was no one else there. Just me and all the plants around. But no, the presence began to feel really strong…. Quick, quick. Pack up. You need to leave. I threw everything as fast as I could into my backpack and flew down the steps and just as suddenly, my driver stepped right into view. Boy, I could have hugged him.
I didn’t know it then but my driver later told me how the gate had already closed and the girl who manned the ticket counter had started to leave when he caught sight of her at the carpark where he had been waiting.
He quickly turned her around to re-open the gates and to let him in. Imagine if I had to spend the night there! I don’t think I would have made it out sane! It was that creepy.
Climbers lost and never found
Later I learned that there’s a local myth about how the mist can come and take you away and how some climbers never made it down from Mt. Kinabalu because of that. Yes, people have disappeared on the mountain.
I mean, was I ever in danger of being taken away since the botanics garden is actually part of the mountain and not a separate garden per se?
I’m sure these climbers must have lost their way when the mist came. But how can they just disappear? I mean, there are marked trails and the guides are really strict about staying on the trails. Everyone knows that. And bodies can’t just disappear, right?
Incidentally, when I was climbing Mt Rinjani, my guide and porter would always put out incense each time before we camped. They would also pray for safe passage for all of us before we set off each time. It’s the same with my own culture. I still remember the simple request we need to make to even pee on the grass. Don’t want to offend anything that could follow you home, right?
Well, though the park trails were well-paved with stone, I guess the lesson in the whole incident is that one must never forget that the park itself is part of the mountain. It springs from the same soil and the same forest surrounds it. I really had no good reason to forget the time nor lose my awareness. If I start out on a walk, I must know when I should be heading back. And I need to let others know, too, when I will be expected. Consider it a lesson learned.
~ ॐ ~