What a Colorful World

I wish I could write poetic words like Elif Shafak in The Forty Rules of Love or bring you into another world like Rumi or describe the surrounding greenery and mountainous terrains in vivid detail like Cheryl Strayed in Wild.

But I am a journey and so are my words.

However that shall not stop me from attempting this colorful daily prompt!

Write about anything you’d like, but make sure that all seven colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet — make an appearance in the post, either through word or image.

When I see red, I see anger. But I also see boldness. A red lipstick, in warm and cool tones. I am also reminded of the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities, red being the auspicious color for the Chinese.

When I see orange, I see cheerfulness. But I also see uniqueness. Someone or something who does not want to be ordinary. Someone who wants and dares to be different.

When I see yellow, I see the sunflower! The color of someone who always brightens up someone else’s day. Someone who is always smiling and putting others first. I also see happiness 🙂 See, even this smiley face is yellow. 😀

When I see green, I see tranquility. Green is always associated with envy “green with envy”, but green to me is the color of peace. The surrounding greenery, the trees, the grass, the many shades of green that encompass our everyday lives peacefully without disturbance.

When I see blue, I see business. Corporate. Efficiency. These are the first things that come to my mind when I see the color blue. Also, Facebook. 😛

When I see indigo, I see a deep passionate soul. Indigo is a very specific and unique shade of blue/purple, sometimes leaning to blue, sometimes leaning to purple, but overall a deep, intense color. Kind of like a deep and intense person.

When I see violet, I see orchids! Orchids being the flower of Singapore, and because my favorite color is this shade of purple. Which, I just realized, explains my link colors. I am suddenly reminded of eggplant and mangosteens.

Inspired by – Daily Prompt: Roy G. Biv

Happiness is Knowing that God is Always There For You

I previously mentioned that my family went to a seminar in KL by Prof Dr Muhaya. Well, the planning was not smooth sailing; there were some challenges but Alhamdulillah, Allah made it possible. Here’s what happened in the morning of the trip.

“Oh no, we’re late!”

I had just woken up. The ringing alarm clock showed the current time of 6.30 am, the time that we were supposed to already be at Golden Mile Complex where our bus to Kuala Lumpur was scheduled to leave at 7.01 am. Panicking, I woke my mum and sis up and scrambled to shower as fast as a lightning bolt.

“We still have time,” assured my mum, after she had finished her Subuh prayer.

I called a taxi soon and it arrived within minutes. I went downstairs first to meet the taxi driver and asked him to wait. After 10 minutes, my mum and sis still had not came down. I called them up and my mum told me she was waiting for my sis to finish praying Subuh. Suddenly, I turned to see the taxi driver zooming off without even informing me.

“Uncle! Come back!” I shouted.

But it was of no use. I guess he was impatient. Stupid taxi driver, I thought. So unkind. Couldn’t you at least let me know before leaving? I grumbled silently. My mum and sis finally came down a million hours later and we proceeded to hail a cab which fortunately came within seconds. Thankfully, we did not have to wait.

However when we arrived, we were 10 minutes late. The lady at the counter said, “I’m sorry but your bus has already taken off. You need to buy new tickers for the next bus.” My heart sank. There goes my money, I thought. It seemed like we had no other choice. We couldn’t just leave. Upset, I told my mum to handle the payments because there was no way I was going to pay for the bus tickets again.

Just then, just as she had selected the new seats (which were more expensive than the online rates I had paid for) and was about to pay, my phone rang.

“Hey, I’m from Starmart. Where in the world are you?! The bus is going to move off already!” Said the voice of an Indian lady from the other end.

Whoa…what?! It was the bus lady from the bus service I had booked from. They’re still here! They haven’t left! OMG!

“Go go go! They must be at the far end! Go quickly!” Told the lady at the counter, who was about to process the new tickets payment just seconds before, upon hearing my latest call.

At the speed of light, the three of us hurriedly scrambled to the far end of the Complex in search of our bus. The problem was, we didn’t know the plate number as it wasn’t stated in my online bus ticket neither did the counter lady inform us, having rushed us off. We saw a Starmart bus but it wasn’t our bus. Finally. I saw the lady who looks to be the one who called me, standing beside our bus. Our bus! Which had not yet left!

“Aiyo…three of you right?” She grumbled as she confirmed our details and assigned us to another bus nearby. Turns out that it wasn’t the bus I had originally booked – in fact, it was a bus from a different company, but hey I’ll take what I can get seeing the circumstances. At that point, our original bus had just left. Perhaps they had assigned our seats to someone else. Or perhaps they just don’t bother with latecomers like us.

Whatever the reason was, I never checked. I was just grateful, and so were my mum and sis, as we proceeded to board the bus, quietly ignoring stares from other passengers and showing them our most “I’m sorry we held you up” expressions along with sheepish smiles all the way to our seats which had the novel inconvenience of being at the far back.

Thank you Allah, for this miracle. We missed the bus and almost had to get new tickets, but you saved us and our money – Your money, to be more precise.

Thank you to my mum and sis who did not miss to perform their Subuh prayers even though we were running late. Never underestimate the power of prayers.

Thank you Allah for making the Indian bus lady from Starmart call me.

Thank you Allah for reserving the space for us in the bus, even if it is a different one.

Truly God is with those who seek knowledge. Alhamdulillah! 

Daily Prompt: Happy Happy Joy Joy

A Good Date (Weekly Writing Challenge: Ghosts of December 23rds Past)

December 23rd is actually pretty significant to me.

On 23rd December 2006, my father passed away.

On 23rd December 2012, I got engaged.

On 23rd December 2013, I am a one-year old fiance.

Looking into the future…

On 23rd December 2014, I would have already became a wife.

On 23rd December 2015, perhaps I will be a mother? But I can’t imagine myself as a mother yet and though I love babies and kids in general, the idea of me as a mother terrifies me – for now.

I’ve already written about the December 23rd of 2006 here, and the December 23rd of 2012 here.

I spent 23rd December 2013 pretty ordinarily. I decided to fast my last few days of Ramadhan. I dressed up in a grey long sleeved top and my favorite blue flower skirt with Cath Kidston inspired flower prints. In the morning, I wished my fiance a happy one year engagement-sary. Then, I continued my never-ending wedding errands, liaising with my wedding card designer and friend on the final edits of the card. I also queried a potential printer to send my cards to. I managed to tick off some items in my to-do list.

In the evening, I met up with my best friend who is also my maid-of-honor, for a catch-up over dinner at Old Town White Coffee. She had just came back from holidaying in Europe recently and was ready with goodies from Paris and London. We also exchanged gifts – not because of Christmas since we don’t celebrate it – but because we were both born in December and are just a week apart from each other. After dinner we rushed to the nearest mosque to perform our Maghrib prayers, and I had a few moments of calm as the Imam recited some selawat on Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. We walked and talked a little bit more after that, and then headed back to the direction of our homes shortly after.

It was a beautiful day. Ordinary… and beautiful. 🙂

Weekly Writing Challenge: Ghosts of December 23rds Past

Happy Tioman Memories

tioman sunset

My favorite holiday was when I went to Pulau Tioman during my childhood years. I went with my dad, mum, younger brother and youngest sister. I was only 14 but for some reason I remember the trip vividly. Perhaps because I learned to snorkel for the first time during that trip, or because I have a memory of clinging onto my dad for dear life in the waters (although I was wearing a life jacket) or because I was just feeling happy and excited during the holiday. We don’t need a specific reason to be happy don’t we?

We departed from Singapore to Mersing via bus. The journey was about 2 hours, after which we took a ferry from Mersing to Pulau Tioman as the island is only accessible via sea transportation. My siblings and me were so excited that we were going on holiday! No matter how busy my parents were with work, they will always make sure to bring us on a holiday at least once or twice a year during our school holidays.

As for us kids, it didn’t matter how near or far they brought us, as long as it was a holiday and it was out of the country. Sometimes we would go just as one family, and sometimes we would go in a bigger group with the rest of my cousins, uncles and aunties. Alhamdulillah, I have happy memories of my childhood holidays which I have to be thankful for my parents for planning and organizing these trips for us.

At Tioman Island, we stayed in this very rustic 2-bedroom chalet with one bathroom. I remember seeing big ants in the bathroom (like I said, very rustic…) and avoiding it while showering. Surprisingly, I wasn’t very scared of it, just a little squirmy haha. It was also football season so I have a memory of my dad going to the open-air restaurant watching the match (there was no TV in our chalet, hotel policy – must be the no distractions kind of chalet) together with a couple of guys while we hung around enjoying the cooling sea breeze. Ahh I also remember the delicious seafood that was served, it was so fresh and yummy.

Recently, I went to Tioman Island again in 2011 and was pleasantly surprised to find that the resort had been expanded and renovated. In addition to the chalet, they added more types of rooms such as honeymoon suite and deluxe chalet which comprised of 2-storeys; this was where we stayed for my recent trip with my cousins. However, I am glad that although they have expanded the place and have had more visitors these years, the quality of the island still maintains somewhat the same as 10 years ago.

Renggis Island, where we went for snorkeling, still had beautifully maintained corals and clear waters. I say this because this is different from Manukan Island in Sabah, where the influx of visitors have led to a deterioration in the quality of corals and snorkeling experience there isn’t fun because you can’t really see anything much due to the less clear waters. But I guess that is just for the overpopulated tourist spots in Sabah because I do know that Sabah has amazing waters as well and I have not experienced it yet – like scuba diving at Sandakan one day please.

Daily Prompt: Memories of Holidays Past

Grand Elephants (Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand)

grand elephants

Well, it’s not everyday you see elephants strutting down the street like they do in Krabi.

Apologies for the photo quality, but I managed to capture this while in a moving van, being amused at a sight I had never seen before living in an urban country like Singapore. The elephants look so grand compared to the motorcycles!

Taken during my trip to Krabi, Thailand in December 2010.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

Ignore the Notifications – Go Immerse Yourself In a Book

I get attached to characters.

I’ve been reading the Harry Potter series again and as I came to the end of the Order of Phoenix with Sirius’ death, I can’t help but feel very upset, even if I’ve read that years ago and knew what was going to happen.

I’ve been on a novel-reading frenzy these days; it’s become increasingly difficult for me to sit and read a whole chunk of paragraph from a book without getting distracted by alerts from my smartphone. Without needing to take a picture of something “interesting” as I am in the middle of reading a thrilling scene. Without needing to check “something” I suddenly thought of, or a word I don’t really understand. I used to be able to do this very well – before smartphones came ugh – so I forced myself to be immersed in a book I once enjoyed.

Ahh.. How wonderful it has been to be immersed into a whole different world, the wizarding world through J. K. Rowling’s eyes.

I still and will always love Harry Potter seeing that I just finished book no. 5, which I started re-reading from, and now I’m supposed to be off to the Half-Blood Prince but I can’t find it in my house, so I’m going downwards to the Goblet of Fire.

The experience of reading a book you enjoy is something that can never be captured in photos. Okay, so you can capture someone reading a book and enjoying it and it may turn out to be an awesome photo (bless all amazing photographers out there).

But the feelings that come with it, like Harry’s excitement of being in the stadium watching the Quidditch World Cup, anticipating his on-off relationship with Cho, annoyed as you the reader enjoy a giggle or two as Ron and Hermione banter yet again over random nothings, laughing as Fred and George played yet another of their silly pranks and getting Mrs Weasley all worked up, enjoying the camaraderie of being surrounded by friends (and enemies) in Hogwarts, and getting heartbroken sharing Harry’s pain as his godfather was killed by Bellatrix Lestrange…

These feelings (oh so many of them!), while reading a book – can’t be Instagrammed even if you want to.

I started reading Harry Potter when I was in secondary school, which was 13 years ago. Being with the characters, with their stories and happenings, their lowdowns and happy moments, helped me a great deal then. Many times, it made me feel less alone.

To a certain extent, the characters live through you. Sometimes, I think of the happy and funny moments and smile to myself.

When I think of my favorite books, there’s always a character or two that I will always remember. Non-fiction characters are not real, but they are inspired by real people one way or another.

When you read about them, you read about their feelings and experiences. You feel what they feel.

And that’s something you just can’t snap.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Snapshots

My Battle with Acne (I Won).

I guess if I were to pinpoint a fear from this experience, it would have to be an irrational fear of breaking out in cystic acne again. Because even though my skin has cleared up, when I breakout now I tend to get very paranoid. Then I take all measures to make sure it goes away quickly. (Daily Prompt: Fear Factor)

Like Tracy from The Love Vitamin and Jill who recently guest posted from Heal Your Face with Food, I am also a former acne sufferer.

My history with acne started from my late teens until in my early to mid-twenties. The acne was not just a couple of zits but it was the severe kind. If you have experienced this before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I hope you never do because it does things to your confidence and self-esteem. That was my battlefield during those days.

Currently, by a change of lifestyle and food and a couple of other factors as well, I’m happy to say my skin has greatly improved. It is not perfect and not completely “clear”, but I am happy with my skin now 🙂 I do have scars, but no more cystic acne and any kind of inflammation which I used to have previously. Alhamdulillah.

When I was in secondary school I didn’t have acne. I only had a few zits at my forehead when I was stressed. It all started when I was 16, after my O levels. Secondary school had ended and I was waiting for my O level results.

I started working in a factory producing spare parts for machinery. So I was part of a factory line and I had to wear a jumpsuit and shower cap, the works. I worked for 10 hours a day and we had to meet a certain target by the end of each day. It was during this time that my acne started to flare up. My skin started to get inflamed, I started breaking out like crazy and getting cystic acne (I didn’t know that was what it was called then) on my forehead, cheeks and chin. I reckon the heat and stress levels were the main factors that affected my skin.

I tried everything to make it go away. I relied on over the counter products like Oxy and Clearasil but it didn’t work for my skin. Benzoyl peroxide helped me dry out the acne, but it ended up making other parts of my face dry. At that time, I didn’t really know about moisturizers and what I know about skincare today, so I just did what I thought was right (but not realizing how wrong they were…).

Then I got to polytechnic and well, since my acne did not clear by then, I wanted to cover it up. I went to the nearest pharmacy and bought a face powder from Clean & Clear which claimed to improve my skin as well. Biggest mistake of my life. Okay, it’s not the biggest but it was not the right decision. Instead of improving it, it made things worse. I came back a couple of weeks after and unfortunately, the saleslady who suggested the powder to me in the first place, was not much help at all. Like, thanks? And for the record I never use any C & C products anymore. None of the products has ever helped me with my skin and never shall I touch any C & C products anymore.

At this point my skin was becoming from bad to worse. Especially at my cheeks, sadly. My mum didn’t know how best to help me and brought me to this beauty place called BML. I was diagnosed with oily skin and then that was when I had my first facial. “Painful” does not even describe it, it was excruciating. They recommended me some in-house products which I eventually bought and also made a second facial appointment. Needless to say I did not go to that second appointment.

Among the products, which were not cheap by the way, may God bless my mum, was this lotion that I had to put on daily. This lotion aimed to peel off my dead skin and had a peeling effect. The thing is, it’s not the non-painful peel-off mask kind, but this was really powerful, in a not so good way. It truly did peel off my dead skin, but I was still in school and walking around with peeling skin is not something fun to do. When I got home, I had to continue with the series of products. The face soap, which contained sulfuric acid made it more painful that I had to soothe my face in front of the fan to cool it off the first time I used it. That’s how bad it was. The products aimed to clear up my skin by stripping off all moisture from it including the essential oils it’s supposed to have. My skin was red all over and I was not feeling that great either. So I stopped using them also.

In the meantime I continued experimenting with other less painful cleansers such as those with salicylic acid. My acne started to improve in my final year when my father suggested me to try this cleanser by Herbalife. It had a gel-like consistency and contained lemon and chamomile which calmed my skin so much. My skin became less inflamed by then. And to me it was like a God-sent product because it was so good and it worked! My breakouts started to slowly disappear and even my cousins saw the difference. At this point also I had begun making some adjustments to my diet by drinking more plain water and inculcated it more daily in my diet.

But my diet was still not very healthy then, because at that point I didn’t know that food had a huge impact on my skin! I had been told it was hereditary and even hated my family a teeny wee bit for this. But now, I hate it when I hear that acne is caused by your genes and there’s nothing you can do about it. Because it is NOT! And you obviously and jolly well CAN do something about it. No grudges whatsoever towards my family now.

Even though my acne was still there but seeing some improvement, I had also started building a healthy social life and made friends through joining various clubs and societies. My acne was bad, but fortunately God surrounded me with awesome people. I also picked up rockclimbing and running. I read and educated myself on skincare and beauty knowledge and treat my skin and body better too. Alhamdulillah, my skin is happier now too I believe. Currently my forehead is clear, and so are my chin. I do have some scars on my cheeks but I no longer have huge breakouts. When I do breakout now, I know the cause as well as how to treat it.

Fast forward to today, I’ve learnt that having clear skin for me is a combination of factors. They are:

1. Eating the right food. More plants; fruits and veggies especially leafy dark greens. Less red meat, more white meat and fish. Smoothies work best for me.

2. Water, water, water. If your body does not receive enough water, it will strip off the moisture from your skin and that’s when you get dry skin which results in acne.

3. Sleeping properly. By 1 to 3 AM I must be asleep to ensure my liver is detoxed completely. If not completely detoxed, the un-detoxed properties will go to your skin, hence the acne.

4. Exercise. I rarely rock climb now but mostly run, jog and take long walks.

5. Healthy mind and healthy social life, being in happy, healthy relationships.

6. Last but not least, good skincare does help but most importantly be gentle with your skin. For daytime, I now use The Body Shop’s tea tree cleanser (also has a gel-like consistency which works best for oily skin), a toner with witch hazel, and a moisturizer with SPF. At night, after cleansing and toning I use tea tree oil to combat any breakouts (I still get the occasional breakouts sometimes but they are nowhere near my previous acne times) and Raspberry Roots Sleeping Mask (it’s a gel-like overnight mask) from The Face Shop. I scrub and put on a face mask once a week.

Wow, what a long post! If you’ve managed to read this far, I thank you! I didn’t expect to write this long but reading Jill’s article motivated me to share my battle with acne over the years. I’ve probably also cried as much as her too. I understand the physical and psychological effects that acne brings and I hope this has been helpful in any way.

This post is also inspired by Daily Prompt: Fear Factor.

My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 4 – How to Overcome Altitude Sickness

Last week, I shared about my experience climbing up and descending Mount Kinabalu. Today I thought of sharing some tips on overcoming altitude mountain sickness (AMS), which can occur from an elevation of 2,400 m onwards. This post is also in time for this week’s “Weekly Writing Challenge: Dear Abby“. If I were to title this post with a question, it would be “How Can I Overcome Altitude Mountain Sickness?”

AMS can affect anybody, regardless of whether the climber is an expert or beginner. My buddy was not able to continue to the summit due to AMS, hence this would hopefully benefit you climbers out there who are planning for an upcoming expedition.

view of south peak

As Mt. Kinabalu is of 4,095 metres in elevation, you are prone to experience shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and talking at the same time somewhere above 2,400 metres. AMS can be minor or major depending on the individual. In certain cases, it can even be fatal.

Here are some tips taken from my own experience:

1. Water, water, water. Always hydrate yourself!

As the atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, the air density (the number of molecules of both oxygen and nitrogen per given volume) drops. Which means the available amount of oxygen to sustain mental and physical alertness decreases with altitude. So we need to replenish the lack of oxygen by drinking lots of water.

2. Packing the right nutrition is extremely important. (See below paragraph for detailed explanation).

3. Recognize your body’s needs and take frequent breaks

Because of the climate change, you will find yourself out of breath more regularly, especially if you are climbing and talking at the same time. Take frequent breaks so that you will be able to pace out better, and use this time to drink up. Furthermore, take this opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and the scenery around you. The view does get better when you are higher up the mountain.

4. Listen to the rangers and the limits of your body.

[A side story regarding AMS which the ranger had shared with Khadijah; there was a case when a female climber who was climbing with her husband, felt some tightness around her chest and felt nauseous as she was climbing up. She ignored these symptoms and continued on despite experiencing the symptoms more and more. It was a fatal mistake because eventually she collapsed and passed away that very moment. To God we came from and to Him we shall return. The ranger had to carry her body down to base camp…]

nutrition_berries

Nutrition is very important and I believe it helped me a lot despite my inadequate training.

Here are some good foods I ate throughout the climb:

1. Goat’s Milk (Malay: Susu Kambing)

I drank this every night before going to bed, before and throughout (during the overnight rest at Laban Rata). It helps restore your bones and also provide the required calcium you need in your body.

2. Cranberries, Raisins, Figs (Malay: Buah Tin)

These are excellent supplements and energy boosters for during the climb. They provide natural sugars and have the right tinge of sweet and sourness to keep the AMS nausea at bay. [Fun fact: The figs hardened as we got higher due to the pressure and coldness. Interesting, aye?]

“By the fig and the olive…” – At-Tiin, 1

There’s many reasons why it was mentioned in the Quran. It has so many benefits!

3. 100 Plus

This goes without saying. Besides plain water, I had a 500 ml bottle with me which I drank *very sparingly* throughout…

I also kept some Snicker bars but it did not help much as it contributed to my nausea the higher I progressed. Natural sugars are the best.

Hopefully these tips can be beneficial to anyone planning for any upcoming expeditions. Best of luck in reaching that summit!

This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Dear Abby

Mosque Meets Sky. Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

horizon_masjid-alkaff

That point where the arch of the mosque’s minaret “touches” the horizon.

That day when the sky and the clouds seem to be having an adventure of their own.

That time when you just have to say, “SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah). Thank you God for creating such a beautiful world.

Taken just before dusk, with my Samsung Galaxy Note 1. (Mosque: Masjid Alkaff Kampung Melayu)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

Summit. (Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue)

“Where are you?” I asked Khadijah, my sole female climbing buddy for the Mount Kinabalu expedition.

“I couldn’t make it up,” Khadijah replied.

“What do you mean?”

“The altitude sickness got to me and I had to climb down halfway. I’ll meet you guys back at the start point.”

My heart sank. Five of us had reached Laban Rata, the mid-point rest house where we were to rest for the night before climbing up to the summit. We were now waiting for the rest of our team members and I was on the phone with her, separated by an altitude of 2,000 metres.

Khadijah went on to explain that she was having breathing problems and felt nauseous at 4 km onwards, and as much as she wanted to continue on, the rangers had advised her to stop. There have been been several cases of climbers meeting a fatal death due to the decreasing oxygen in the increasing altitude so I was thankful that Khadijah was okay.

But this would mean I had to continue the rest of the climb up to the summit without her, as the only girl in my team. I felt upset, scared, and somewhat, alone.

Girlfriend company

Khadijah, or Dja as she is affectionately called, and I first met during a rockclimbing gathering with some friends. She was a friend of a friend, and our similar interest in adventure brought us together. This expedition was our first trip to the mountains together so we had developed a sisterly bond through our trainings.

There were only 2 girls in the team, which meant I depended on Dja for girlfriend company. Our 18-men team had consisted of 13 Malaysians, all guys, and 5 Singaporeans, consisting of Ezriel (who is also Dja’s fiance), Musaddiq, as well as his uncle, affectionately known as Uncle Man. Team captain was Abang Amirul from the Malaysian team.

At the start of Mesilau trail, we had positioned ourselves at different points for safety reasons, seeing that we were outnumbered by the number of guys in the team – me at the front and she at the back. So I was not aware of what was happening until I reached Laban Rata, 3,272 meters up in altitude. By then, there was nothing I could do but wait till the next day when we would reach Timpohon Gate, the end point…

Strength

After finding out about the news, I conveyed it to the rest of my team who was as shocked as I was. Later on I found out from Ezriel that Dja would be spending the night at a place near base camp, alone. I tried to gather as much strength as possible afterwards.

I prayed to God to keep both of us safe, in two different places. I prayed to God to keep me warm enough as the temperature had dropped and it was almost freezing. I prayed to God to protect me from altitude sickness as we were going to be in higher grounds. I prayed to God to give me strength to reach the summit and the wisdom to be OK if indeed reaching the summit was not meant to be for me.

Night Climb

At 12am we started our climb up to the summit. Coupled with our headlights, thermal wear, jackets and windbreakers, we headed off in the dark and cold night into the dark, always mysterious forest. There were many climbers from various countries and nationalities, but in the night only their accents differentiated them out as quiet chatter filled the air.

It is this same air, silently thinning as we go up, that threatened the breaths of several climbers. As we go along, some people had thrown up due to nausea from altitude sickness. It was scary to hear this in the silent night as every sound was magnified. I made a silent prayer for them to be okay. Also, I found myself getting breathless and so sipped my hydration pack of water more frequently than usual.

Lost…

My group had planned to gather at Gunting Lagadan hut, where some of us stayed, before proceeding to the gate leading to the start of the summit climb. However, in the darkness of the night I had unfortunately lost my sight of the hut and by the time I realized this I was already several steps ahead.

Fearing being lost of the tracks in the dark and ending up not knowing where I was, I did not turn back but instead continued on following a group of Japanese climbers in front of me. Ironically, I found comfort with their presence as it indicated that I was going the right way, and that I was not lost.

…and Found

Halfway through, I stopped an sat on a big-sized boulder to take a break and drank some water. Few minutes later, I saw 2 of my team members, Ridzwan and Baizuri, the fastest guys in my team. At that moment, the sight of them had never been so comforting. I had been climbing on my own with a different group and now, seeing them meant I was in familiar ground again. Perhaps God wanted me to feel this way so that I could appreciate the struggle. As happy as I was climbing alone, I was of course, happier climbing with my group. There is nothing like familiar territory to make you feel comforted.

This familiar territory then went on to question me, wondering why in the world did I start the summit climb without them. Umm, sorry guys. Totally didn’t mean to. And then another 2 of my team mates Musaddiq and Ezrieal appeared, wondering the same thing. You can question me all you want, I thought, I’m just glad I was found. At that point, they were my family for the expedition, and you know how families can be. They annoy you but you love them anyway. I must add that they were also happy to see me as they had been wondering where I had been all those while. Thanks, guys!

Step by Step

By now the terrain had gradually changed from dirt tracks to steep boulder-like tracks. It was more difficult because boulders can be slippery. Hence due to the absence of trees and easily accessible branches, there were strategically placed ropes at certain spots and these really helped me navigate my way up. It was also getting harder to breathe as per normal, and we had to stop every now and then to catch our breaths and drink up. I just went step by step because at some points, I just did not have the strength to speed up. It was all mental from then on.

The last checkpoint we stopped by was the Sayat-Sayat Hut, which contained a small office where the rangers would record your name by checking your tag as you go through this checkpoint. This was for the certificate that you had indeed summited Mount Kinabalu. On the way down, the rangers would double-check again with the climbers to make sure who reached the summit and who did not. Every climber would get a certificate regardless of reaching the summit or not, but the difference would lie in the color (summit in color, non-summit in black & white) and of course, the text. After a brief rest at this hut, we continued on.

I swear this last few moments to the summit felt like the longest journey ever. The summit was just right in front of me, but it was not. Every time I get close to it, I’m not freaking there yet. It was so frustrating and the mental aspect of it was excruciatingly painful. Trying not to think of my tiredness, as well as accompanied by my team mates who put their strength and ego aside to wait for me, I tried with all my might to just put one foot forward and go.

Finally, the summit!

After an excruciating and very slow climb, finally the summit, the real one, was now in sight. It was already daybreak and we had been climbing for almost 6 hours. But there was one last obstacle. The terrain here was an all-kinds-of-sizes-boulders, vertical uphill climb. The good thing was that even though it was uphill, it was not as steep as the previous terrain and there were a lot of literally climbing up with your whole body, hands and all, to get up. Again, all mental from now on. 80% mental strength and 20% physical strength.

When I finally, finally reached the summit, Alhamdulillah, all thanks to God, I was just…speechless. Just in awe of the smallness of myself against God’s majestic mountains. And the view, it was tremendously awesomely amazing beyond words can ever describe. As I stood at the summit point, thinking of Dja, thinking of my late adventure-loving dad, thinking of my upcoming wedding, and then everything else that happened prior to this expedition which almost did not happen, I thought, it’s not about reaching the summit. It was about many things, but it was never about the summit to begin with.

Out of the many things it was, one word was what it was to me: Humility.

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mardmood: This post is also part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.