300 km to Mount Kinabalu

Well, not actually, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Game plan A for today was to fly to Mulu from Kota Kinabalu (KK) and see the caves in Gunung Mulu National Park. It would’ve been epic. But it didn’t happen. While I was waiting a half hour on Tuesday afternoon for Air Asia to accept payment the MASWings flight from KK disappeared. Out of luck.

Game plan B for today was to climb Mount Kinabalu. Weighing in at 4,095 meters, the mountain is a massive slab of granite. No snow, just a massive two-day slog. We wanted to do it in one. Complication: everyone said we weren’t allowed to do it in one day. Second complication: the two-day, guided, finish on Friday morning and rush to the airport climb costs 950 Malaysian ringgit, or around $300 USD, per person. After we finally bit that bullet, I went to eight different money exchanges to see if they’d let me refill my wallet via VISA cash advance (background: I learned earlier this week I can’t use my OnPoint ATM card with any Malaysian ATMs). Unfortunately, the one money exchange I found, in the capital of Sabah, only accepts plastic with a chip, which mine is not. Out of luck round two.

Alternate game plan K for today was to rent 150cc Kawasaki dirt bikes, and ride from KK to Tuaran to Mount Kinabalu to Ranau to Poring Hot Springs to Tambunan to  Panampang and then back to KK. It was epic, mostly because it started pouring while soaking in Poring and rained almost the entire way back. For 45 minutes or so we were actually in a cloud, visibility was all of twenty feet. Started the trip around 7:30 am, ate breakfast, hit Mount Kinabalu around 11 am, left the hot springs at 2 pm, and returned around 5:30 pm. 300 km of riding over just about seven hours. Personal records for David and I.

KK to Hong Kong tomorrow, overnight there, and then Hong Kong to Seoul to New York City on Saturday. Back to another alternate reality.

Dive log: Sipadan Island, March 7th

Dive day number six, the last one. Beautiful, gorgeous, wonderfully sunny day on Sipadan Island. Almost finished The Star Fraction on the way there and back. Shot with the shop’s underwater camera for the whole day. Saw a hammerhead shark on dive number one, but it quickly swam away. Brought singapore chicken fried rice for lunch which was such a good idea. Dove nitrox on the last dive, first time ever.

Dive #1: South Point

Max depth: 31 meters
Bottom time: 40 minutes

Dive #2: Barracuda Point

Max depth: 24 meters
Bottom time: 46 minutes

Dive #3: Hanging Garden

Max depth: 19 meters
Bottom time: 48 minutes

Dive log: Mantabuan Island, March 6th

Dive day number five. Run in the pouring rain beforehand, which lightened up eventually, and turned to sun by the end of the second dive. Three fun dives all around 18 meters. Had fun chatting about development, aid, and skiing Vail with a UN relief worker named Becca who’s currently staged in the oil-rich Abyei region of Sudan (although possibly not much longer). She counts cattle, people and guns. Lightly burned both of my arms on the boat back to Semporna.

Dive #1: Black Corral Garden

Max depth: 18 meters
Bottom time: 44 minutes
Notes: fun dive; saw turtles, a ringed pipefish, scorpionfish, nudibranches, anemone fish, batfish, and a giant clam.

Dive #2: Aquarium

Max depth: 19 meters
Bottom time: 43 minutes
Notes: fun dive; saw one octopus, zebra morey, and coral shrimp.

Dive #3: Coral Garden

Max depth: 19 meters
Bottom time: 41 minutes
Notes: fun dive; saw turtles, batfish, blue spotted sting ray, and a peppermint sea star.

Dive log: Sipadan Island, March 4th

Dive day number four. Gloriously weatherful day. Hour-long boat ride out to Sipadan Island, three pretty deep dives, and then a nice rest on the way back. Noodles for lunch. Rented the shop’s underwater camera; took it out for two of the dives and David used it on the third. Emphasis on an awesome day. Tops of my feet are rightfully burned.

Dive #1: Barracuda Point

Max depth: 31 meters
Bottom time: 46 minutes
Notes: Dove with the camera; saw wridley’s turtle, white-tip and black-tip shark, sea fan, and a massive school of barracuda.

Dive #2: South Point

Max depth: 26 meters
Bottom time: 45 minutes
Notes: Dove with the camera; saw lion fish, trumpet fish, turtles, white-tip and black-tip sharks, and a ghost pipe fish.

Dive #3: Turtle Cave

Max depth: 20 meters
Bottom time: 45 minutes
Notes: David dove with the camera; entered turtle cave for five minutes; saw turtles, white-tip and black-tip sharks, crocodile fish, and yellow tail barracuda.

Dive log: Si Amil Island and Singamata, March 3rd

Dive day number three. Frigid cold. Sun needs to return to SE Asia asap to battle off the rain. Also, first day of four dives. Pretty wiped out. Planned to photograph with David’s GoPro but it wouldn’t start up as soon as I was underwater on the first dive.

Dive #1: Pygmy Corner

Max depth: 29.3 meters
Bottom time: 49 minutes
Notes: fun dive; saw peacock mantis shrimp, nudibranches, 2 crocodile fish, and banded coral shrimp

Dive #2: East Point

Max depth: 18 meters
Bottom time: 47 minutes
Notes: fun dive; saw a turtle resting on the bottom, murray eels, and nudibranches

Dive #3: Lobster Rock

Max depth: 14.6 meters
Bottom time: 45 minutes
Notes: Navigation dive for PADI Advanced Open Water; 30 meter distance swim (40 kick cycles) return via natural reference; compass 180 degree reciprocal; compass square course; saw morey eel poking out of a hole while waiting for compass and dozens of chocolate chip sea stars

Dive #4: Singamata

Max depth: 13.3 meters
Bottom time: 41 minutes
Notes: Night dive!!! for PADI Advanced Open Water; practiced close buddy teams; turned off touches while kneeling on bottom to see florescent plankton; compass 180 degree reciprocal navigation; saw squid, lots of crab, shrimp, farm of sea urchins, and a long sea cucumber

Dive log: Sibuan Island, March 2nd

Three dives today with Sipidan Scuba. Weather wasn’t that great, overcast with showers, but there were a few sun breaks. First deep dive ever along the wall was wicked awesome. Definitely want to get into deep diving.

Dive #1: Discovery Wall

Max depth: 29 meters
Bottom time: 43 minutes
Notes: Deep dive for PADI Advanced Open Water; color chart comparison at depth; compared readout from depth gauges; saw 4 lion fish, turtle, 2 nudibranches, shrimp, damsel fish and trigger fish.

Dive #2: East Beach

Max depth: 19.8 meters
Bottom time: 50 minutes
Notes: Fish identification dive for PADI Advanced Open Water; Saw fish from 6 groups: trigger fish, bat fish, goat fish, butterfly fish, damsel fish, and angel fish; didn’t kick the coral (environmental awareness); also saw tiger cowrie shell, varicose wart slugs, and lots of yellowback fusilier.

Dive #3: Frogfish Corner

Max depth: 14.3 meters
Bottom time: 56 minutes
Notes: Peak Performance Buoyancy dive for PADI Advanced Open Water; buoyancy check at the top; slow decent and neutral buoyant circle around a pile of wood; vertical hover, horizontal face-down hover, horizontal face-up hover; efficient, long, slow kicks practice; saw sand, rubbish, massive sea cucumber, and damsel fish.

Two weeks on twenty liters

Tonight at 12:50 am, I’ll be leaving NYC for Seoul, then Hong Kong, then Kota Kinabalu, then Tawau, and finally arriving in Semporna mid-afternoon on Monday. For two weeks, I intend to dive and explore Borneo with my old roommate, David (don’t worry mom, he’s working on his divemaster certification as we speak). In the pursuit of minimalism, I’ve managed to fit everything I need in to my 20 liter Black Diamond pack. Except for my book to read and the guide book. Hmm.