Monday, 12 May
Of lost baggage, sunsets and carb-loading
I first met Mr Monty under very civilised circumstances. The star of Gail Featherstone’s children’s book, Mr Monty’s Treat, was at the project’s official launch at the residence of the British High Commissioner. There were representatives from Hospis Malaysia, from the High Commission and from British and Malaysian sponsors and organisations. There was even a slice of cake from TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding. Needless to say, the second encounter with the furry green lizard was always going to be different.
The second meeting with Monty was due for Monday, 12 May 2014 as a 17-strong team from the British High Commission (including me and a couple of other friends of the mission) set off to complete Mr Monty’s Mission.
In theory, the mission sounded simple: get the durian-loving monitor lizard (or at least – and I’m sorry to ruin the illusion so early here – someone dressed in a custom-made costume) to the summit of Mount Kinabalu. In reality, getting 17 people to the top of Malaysia’s highest mountain and the highest point between the Himalayas and New Guinea, could prove to be a lot harder.
Not that there was any negativity as we assembled at mission starting point and home of the British High Commission in Malaysia, Menara Binjai, at 10am on Monday morning. The team, with only a couple of exceptions, were bright eyed and ready to get started as we left the city for KLIA2. The destination for day one was Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort in Kota Kinabalu, where we were spending the night before leaving for Mount Kinabalu the next morning.
You have to expect problems when undertaking a trip like this, especially when it involves so many people, and we were prepared for illnesses, injuries, the worst of weather and, of course, the dreaded hunger pangs on the mountain. What we didn’t anticipate was lost luggage for half the party upon arrival at Kota Kinabalu International Airport. But that’s exactly what happened. As we walked through to baggage reclaim, a slightly beaten cardboard box rotated round the conveyer (Monty had made it) but bigger bags packed with shoes, coats, waterproofs and other mountain-ready gear were nowhere to be seen.
Worried talks with airline personnel proved fruitless – they didn’t know where the bags had gone and could offer little more than a phone number to call once the following flight had landed. So onto the hotel it was.
Fortunately, arrival and check in at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort went a lot smoother than the arrival at the airport. Sipping a refreshing welcome juice we laid out plans for dinner (lots of carbs at the in-house restaurant), the evening (a return to the airport in search of bags for some), and the morning (a pre-7am departure and a packed breakfast from the hotel).
The resort's Cafe TATU is just about the perfect stop for climbers preparing to tackle Mount Kinabalu. With a buffet spread spanning Mongolian, Chinese, Italian and Indian cuisines, there were plenty of energy-heavy dishes on which to fuel up for a hard day ahead. We did just that before a very welcome call came in from the airport. The bags had arrived – we were back in business.