Yes, you read that right.
How can one accidentally climb a mountain? Well, let me tell you!
I was in Kuching for the Sacerdotal (Priestly) Ordination of a friend, Rev. Fr. Galvin, over the weekend. We used to go to the same University, were of the same intake and was part of the same community, called Young Catholic Undergraduates (YCU), so of course, his Big Day (Ordination to the Priesthood) was bound to be a reunion of old friends.
But on the day after the Ordination, some friends suggested we head up to the Catholic Memorial Pilgrimage Centre (CMPC), located at the Slope of Mount Singai, Kampung Tajong Singai, Bau. It is a venue for the Catholic Community to organise retreats, training and religious related events. CMPC was an integral part of our group of friends as we would go up to CMPC at least once a year back in the day. Some of them still do even now, but the last time I went up was 10 years ago, so of course, I agreed to join them.
The Ordination was all I packed for this trip (read: ill-equipped), but since it was plank-walks and staircases all the way up to CMPC, I wasn’t particularly concerned. Everyone insisted I not use my ladies’ sandals though so I took up Nico’s offer to wear his crocs sandals instead, sans socks. And up we went…
As I recall, going up to CMPC had always been quite a challenge – even back in the day – as some parts were pretty steep. For those who have not been to CMPC, there are Stations of the Cross along the way up that also double as rest-stops. I have gone up without any stops years ago and I have gone up by stopping and praying at each Station as well. But I have never had my knees feel like jelly, which was what happened this time (the difference 10 years make). Lest my knees fully give up on me, I had to stop at almost each Station after the first five, but I still made it up, Thank God.
But that’s where things started to get really interesting.
After a brief picnic (we brought some food with us) at CMPC, Nico suggested, “Hey, shall we go to the top (of Mount Singai)?”
There were 6 of us in the group – 2 (Syl and Nick) have been to the top before whilst the rest of us (Nico, Ted, Edwin and myself) have not. Prior to this, I never knew it was even possible to go to the top. Needless to say, in excitement, it was a unanimous YES from all of us, although I was starting to feel concerned. I mean, having only brought dresses, dress shoes and a handbag for the weekend (and jeans, tshirts and ladies’ sandals for “casual wear”), I was in no way equipped for climbing a mountain!
“It’s not that high,” said Syl, who had been up a few times.
“How many minutes or hours is “not that high”?” I asked.
“Depends. Some parts are quite steep.”
And so we started… There was also a group of foreign students from a local private university that coincidentally started their ascend the same time.
My knees were fine during the climb. I wish I could say the same for my feet. Wearing crocs (sans socks!), my feet was starting to blister. And my hands as well, from the rope we use to pull ourselves up along the steeper parts… My handbag – that was just an inconvenience. I was just thankful I could sling it across my shoulder.
After a considerable amount of time and climbing a steep part, I asked Syl, “This is the steep part you mentioned?”
“It’s still a long way up.”
We continued our ascend. The group of students earlier had started to split up as some were faster than the others. At one point, our group of 6 became 4 as Nick and Edwin were left behind. When Nick rejoined us, he reported that Edwin could not go up any farther and would just wait for us where he was. And so were 5…
But one steep slope after another, it became 3 – 2 as Syl, Nico and Ted went up faster, leaving behind myself and Nick who was kind enough to keep me company. My feet was really uncomfortable but there was nowhere to go but up. Fellow climbers (a few from the student group and others) were also taking their own pace (some above us, some below) and Nick would be cheering us all to continue: “Almost there!” “You can do it!” “I can see the sun!” “5 more steps!” “5 more minutes!”
In reality, we were nowhere near the top yet.
Small talks with fellow climbers along the way was interesting though. It made the climb more bearable.
One of the students exclaimed (dramatically): “Someone should make a documentary of me, before I die!” as he huffed and puffed up a steep slope.
Another climber retorted to Nick’s “5 more minutes!” cheer with a “That’s what you said 5 minutes ago!!!” and to his “I can see the sun!”, “I can see the sun from my room, man!”
Funny exchanges happen when people are exhausted. Hahaha.
I passed a climber who was taking a break on the way up.
“As you can see, I am in no way prepared for this climb.” I said, as I motioned to what I was wearing.
“Neither am I”, he agreed. “Just got back from the club and my mate was like, ‘Hey let’s go for a climb!'”
“Doesn’t sound like a great idea now does it?” I quipped.
“No! And I’m tipsy to boot!” he exclaimed.
I chuckled as I considered the next slope…
There were also a few climbers who were on their way down as well and passed us by. I was tempted to ask them how much further we had to reach the top but decided not to, for fear they would say it was still a long way to go.
The most interesting thing that happened on the way up was when one of those on the way down locked eyes with mine as I climbed up a steep slope. It was a familiar face that I had not seen for almost 10 years.
“Fancy bumping into you here!” both Kevin and I agreed. We had a brief catch up as his group was catching up and Nick helped take a photo of us.
Turned out Nick in turn, knew one of Kevin’s friends.
“I’m with him,” she said, pointing at Kevin.
“I’m with her,” Nick pointed at me.
“So is it still far up to the top?” Nick asked her.
“I turn back halfway,” she replied.
My heart stopped beating for a second. We’re not even HALFWAY up???
Fortunately, she laughed and continued, “I finished already lah. It’s not much further…”
My heart started beating again.
After what seemed like ages and after I don’t know how many “5 steps” and “5 minutes” later, we finally reached the top!!!
Was the view worth it?
Actually, I don’t know.
It was hazy and we couldn’t really see much.
But considering how ill-equipped I was and I reached the top anyways (and it was my first mountain!), I was really pleased.
And that my friend, was how I accidentally climbed a Mountain!
For the record, it took me 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the top – not bad for an ill-equipped first-timer hahaha!