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Epilogue - Presentation of Certificates at the Waters of Golden Fire

I AWOKE to the soothing sound of small waves lapping at the foundations of the stilted hut I was staying in on my final night in Borneo, six days after conquering Kinabalu.

Water lapping on the beach
Water lapping on the beach

The lethargic wavelets broke on the soft sand from the almost mirror flat water reflecting the sky and the clouds framing the horizon beyond the islands offshore, along with the wispy cirrus clouds high above. I could see the mud flats beneath the water, with small fish quietly foraging the perfectly transparent water under the morning light.

I walked along the beach for about half a kilometre to a rickety jetty which I walked out onto.

From the jetty I had spectacular views back to the hotel, towards the city (although I couldn’t see the city behind the forests), and of the bluish grey hulk of Mount Kinabalu far behind. A mountain range extended from the mountain out into the ocean on one side, and another swept around the city running parallel to the coast on the other. Looking at the jagged mountain I could clearly make out the small summit. It was the first time I had seen it since reaching the summit a week ago. It appeared terribly small especially with remembering how hard it had been scrambling over those huge boulders in the chill dawn. I recognised the other crags also clearly visible on the main dome.

There was a layer of scattered cloud across the bottom of the mountain, and a bit of mist in front of the small forested ridge about ten kilometres away. The cloud and mist accentuated the mountain’s sheer height. Mount Kinabalu rates twentieth in the world in prominence, and it certainly seemed huge from here.

I sat on the jetty reflecting on what conquering this mountain meant for me.

Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu

Sometimes circumstances and environments dictate limiting beliefs in you. Before travelling to Borneo, I had only climbed mountains in New Zealand. I had climbed the highest mountain an amateur mountaineer can safely climb – the 2518 metre high Mount Taranaki near where I was born. This set a limiting belief that I could never be able to climb anything higher than 2518 metres.

I recalled last night upon our arrival back at Kota Kinabalu following another week exploring northern Borneo. It had been a picture-perfect golden sunset.

Richard had collected our Mount Kinabalu certificates from Sapinggi and somehow managed to keep them from being crinkled throughout the entire trip across the island. That was an impressive effort. I have never been able to keep a piece of paper unwrinkled under any circumstances.

One by one he gave them out to us, and we had each done a little acceptance speech about our trip up the mountain. Our speeches were as follows:

Nadia had found the climb to be a huge challenge for her, especially as she had not climbed any mountain in the past. She felt sensationally proud to have done this one. I agreed, given she had never done any sort of climb before, and had done a mountain over four times the height of any mountain in her home country, that was an amazing effort.

Being awarded my certificate
Being awarded my certificate

I mentioned that the highest mountain was 2518 metres and I had convinced myself I couldn’t ever climb anything higher. This trip had broken me to entirely new levels and made me believe in myself to the extent that over the next couple of years I will be doing the Inca Trail, Everest Base Camp and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Robert, like me, had been absolutely fascinated by the plants on the way up the mountain. He was a bit of an orchid nut. He had been amazed with the terrain on the top and glad when he reached the bottom.

Suzanne didn’t even know she was going to climb a mountain as part of this trip. She had booked it thinking it was all about seeing wildlife and relaxing on beaches. She had cried the whole way up between Laban Rata and the summit in those early hours of the morning, but was very happy to have reached the summit of this most mysterious mountain. She had looked at buying boots before coming after discovering a week out that she was going up a mountain, but didn’t buy any, so she used some running shoes instead. Fortunately her background as a nurse and her fitness as a netballer made the climb bearable.

Tobias was pretty crook with no appetite at all. Until now his appetite throughout the trip had been voracious to say the least. He must have caught a bug, so he didn’t really want to say much. Though climbing the mountain was one of the highlights of his world trip with celebrating turning twenty one on summit day. The character of the mountain had been amazing for him.

Casper was also quieter than usual tonight, but he also mentioned the mountain was a pretty amazing experience.

Geoff was the only one in the group who didn’t want a certificate when we had all be asked upon reaching the bottom of the mountain, so we didn’t have one for him. He had already done the Inca trail and Mount Kilimanjaro as part of his trip around the world in this his gap year. He told us that both were higher than this mountain, so honestly he hadn’t thought anything of it. He was actually a bit embarrassed by that so he passed on to the next person.

Jessica simply mentioned she had an amazing experience up the mountain, not having climbed anything like this before.

This trip had taught me that the limits of what I had previously explored can be stretched by opening my eyes to beyond the horizon. The world was now my oyster.

Now I realised the more I will be exploring the world, the more my eyes would be opened to possibilities previously unseen. Not only will I be able to climb higher mountains, but I would be able to experience different cultures in ways I would never have imagined before.

The trip opened up new horizons for others who had travelled with me on the mysterious mountain. Later Richard would tell me that he did get the transfer to South Africa after I had helped him with his resume on the trip, and ended up doing tours there. Robert and Jessica did move to London to work for a year. From there they travelled to a new country almost every weekend. Before this trip they had never imagined themselves doing that. The rest of the group went their separate ways to new life challenges.

For several of us, this was a trip that expanded our horizons. If we had not taken this trip, we would have perhaps remained locked in our boundary conditions.

Now that I had broken through, the challenge that now lay ahead of me was how I as a traveller could even further extend my horizons to new heights.

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25 May 2010


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