The Summit

10-June-07 (6am):

A few minutes later the team was near the summit, lead by Rama, who was guided by Romeo through the easiest terrain that didn’t require holding on to the umbilical cord. Rama graciously waited for Nick, knowing well that he would throw her off the summit to claim he got there first!

As they arrived at the peak, they experienced overwhelming feelings that caused them to cry uncontrollably. Many hugs were exchanged, words of support and congratulations and before they knew it, the Cigars, Vodka and Whiskey where out!

The view was indeed breath taking; standing on top of the world, above the clouds, under clear blue skies and rising sun rays, witnessing awesome natural colors of white, blue, green, orange and gray so harmoniously intertwined, feeling the cold brisk wind after having ascended 4095 meters was more than the sense could take. It was simply divine.

Second Hike – are we there yet?


The last stretch was a particularly grueling one for the team. Having woken up at 2am, after five hours of continuously interrupted sleep, with no access to breakfast food, which was being served 150 meters south in the main lodge and feeling sore from the previous climb, the team was less than fit to move on.. or rather, up! In a brief talk, Victor, our prime guide, reminded us of the distance remaining, and asked us to remain quiet as not to disturb the spirits.

Jacko was coughing, Nirmz cold, Rama scared of heights, and the rest, well, they were on something or another. Irrespective, everyone set their head-lights, no pun intended, on and started climbing.

Despite the steep steps, darkness and depleting oxygen, the climb was tolerable; things started turning ugly when the ropes appeared. The rocks were getting rounder, more slippery and stood at a steeper incline due to weathering. This called for strong rope anchored to the rocks with large metal hooks. We had to abandon our walking sticks and use our hands to hang on to the rope with dear life. The rope was for the reminder of the climb our umbilical cord.

This rope climbing went on for what felt like eternity; dark skies above, wind chill factor of 100 kilometers per hour and less oxygen than an ant’s lugs require made for conditions that would bring The Terminator to tears.

Then, a booth appears out of nowhere to signal the entrance to the summit. This was an encouraging sign for the novices among the group. Regardless everyone was happy to show their badge of honor and sign in the book of Mount Kinabalu Summit for having reached this far.

The climbing continued as the sun began to rise; something that prompted Kermi to get her second wind and call on the rest of the KK-12 to “hurry up, we want to reach the summit before sunrise”! A task that was virtually impossible given that by this time, Nirmz was hugging the rocks, and getting wrapped in the Outer space blanket, Jacko sat firmly on a rock that wouldn’t be shaken by her sever coughing bouts, Rama raised the flag of victory and declared she made it as far as her Ticker can take her, Hussein threw up everything he ate and smelled the past week and billy goat had traded in mountain climbing natural abilities for a massive asthma attack.

Amidst the growing desire among the KK-12 group members to halt the climb, Slave Driver appears to rally the troops; he tries his Gym motivation, it fails, he tries humor, that fails too, he screams a little about something or another, failure again. Finally, Slave driver says a few words about the reason the KK-12 embarked on this journey and reminds the KK-12 of the true beneficiaries of this effort and walks away.

Base Camp – 2nd Lodge


As the roof of base-camp appeared, a rush of energy enabled the remaining team members to accelerate, slightly! It might have been seeing the first signs of civilization, the hopes of a toilet as opposed to a hole in the ground, or a warm meal that wasn’t dried fruits or chocolate! Whatever the reason, the lodge seemed to be approaching rapidly.

The first sign that raised concern about the mental state of the lodge designers was the volley ball court. As if the hike hadn’t been enough of a cardiovascular workout, an architect on crack felt it could be nice to have a game where a penalty shot could have you dangling from 3000 meters, not to mention the performance enhancing levels of oxygen in the air!

The sense of humor of the lodge designer/architect was apparent through the first class, unisex, alternating temperature, mildew infested showers; made comfortable by a paper thin towel and a bar of soap the size of a Tic Tac.

However, the state of the accommodations wasn’t going to deter the KK-12 from getting some rest. We all piled on plastic chairs that were designed for size 2 models, heads on the table, we slept soundly! Well, not so much! It seems karmic debt caught up with us, and the disturbances we caused our Japanese fellow climbers was returned and then some.

The Scottish, well-endowed, marathon talker sat behind us telling her table mates what appeared to be the tale of time. All we heard was “yeah but, no but, yeah but, no but” at 100 miles per hour and 250 decibels! Jacko was most offended by the diarrhea of words coming out of the woman’s mouth as she felt the lady gave Scots a bad reputation. At one point, Jacko was so distraught by the disturbance, she lifted a fork and proceeded towards the lady’s table with the intent to extract her vocal cords. Luckily, the water retention in her ankles kept her from reaching her target.

Furthermore, to take the well-endowed Scottish female down, we needed the forces of all the KK-12 members. Unfortunately, Ali had been paralyzed by a tooth cavity, MouRnir and Mahmoud by the amount of food they consumed, Nirmala by the lack of modern amenities, while Iva and Rana were incapacitated by the absence of a clean mirror to refresh their makeup post shower and the rest couldn’t be bothered!

Despite the strange accommodations and the annoying lodge mates, the deck offered a stunning view of the sunset. One by one, the team stood admiring the cloud formations, the yellow, orange and purple hues of the setting sun and the majestic view s of the rain forest below.

To avoid ruining the “romantic admiration of nature“ moment, none of us shared our deep seated fear of what we had gotten ourselves into and only silently wondered how we might make it back down! It did not need to be said; the fact that most of the team proceeded to drink shots of vodka and Whiskey excessively, gave it away!

When Nick mentioned that the sleeping accommodations were a couple of steps away and without heat, everyone thought he was kidding; forgetting that an ex-royal marine is stripped of a real sense of humor and is solely capable of bullying and sarcasm. We attempted to revolt, however, due to the lack of oxygen, the fatigue and low IQ, Nick diverted our attention using a photo opportunity with our newly acquired head flash lights. We quietly proceeded to climb and after 100 meters found ourselves facing the cabin, under a bright sky dotted with beautiful stars and galaxies.

We quickly off-loaded their bags in the 4×2 meter room with 8 bunk beds, and returned outside to marvel at stars we hadn’t seen in years. While some members had vague childhood memories of starry sky’s, most have lived in light polluted cities deprived of the site of starts for the majority of their lives. We were quiet for the first time since we began our trip; left speechless by the beauty of the velvet black, diamond studded blanket that draped overhead.

This state was apparently too much for the slave driver. Worried that he might have to return alone, he broke the silence by mooning the group!

  • Evening stars
  • Mooned by Nick

Nick names

  • Mounier – Billy Goat and MouRnier a misspelling on his ticket that was carried through to all his official travel documents
  • Mahmoud – Moody
  • Nick – Slave driver/boss/Sputnik
  • Iva – Diva
  • Souheil – Beaver aka Castor
  • Rana – Kermi/Superstar
  • Nirmala – Nirmz
  • Dany – Rambo
  • Rama – There was debate about my name. The initial suggestion “Fart Machine” was suggested by Billy Goat because of my keen sense of smell and my ability to smell gas miles away. The team deliberated, and found terms such as Tant Adele, Ticker and finally Goddess far more appropriate.
  • Jackie – Wako Jacko aka

I was selected one of eight to sleep in the 4×2 room. Having never experienced a slumber party in my life, this was a welcome first. In spite of the Motel 4 accommodations, I was determined to have a slumber party before the age of 40.

It wasn’t long before the band of 8 decided which bed each would claim. The problem was the walking space between the beds could only fit two people at a time. Hence, the team mounted the beds while two at a time occupied the walking gap to extract their sleeping bags and toiletries from backpacks.

Midnight chats

  • Rana wanted sauce, or was that socks? Dany wasn’t sure, cause he was so scared of bugs, he wrapped his sleeping bag tightly around his head.
  • Jackie coughed a lung & had bladder control issues.. truth was, she loved the bathrooms and had to go back time and time again to savor the sights and smells.
  • Mounier couldn’t sleep – he tried to play “house” with Tant Adele; when that failed, he wondered the hall talking to random strangers and moaned the rest of the evening because Mahmoud slept so deeply
  • Rama froze & contemplated slipping into a lower bunk for warmth.. she was also scared of falling over because the bunks had no rails.
  • Being the largest one of the team, Nirmz guarded the group in her door side bunker
  • Diva and Moody slept through it all!

We got told off for being too noisy for the dorm – curfew was at 9.

The two adults, Nick & Souheil slept in the other room with Ali & Hussein; the excuse was, the boys wouldn’t share a room with the girls. Rumor has it, there was a mid-night bag carrying strategy session.

Kinabalu National Park – 1st hike

9-June-07:

Armed with enough supplies for a month on the mountain the team journeyed on what most thought would be a leisurely, perhaps briefly challenging stroll. Backpacks included:
sufficient bug repellent to endanger all insects in Kinabalu National park,
two tons of dried fruits and nuts and another ton of chocolate
12 emergency blankets designed for outer-space trips,
a supply of wool socks that can warm all north pole inhabitants, including penguins,
12 first aid kits; one designed to reassemble a human who’s taken a fall off the Mount Kinabalu summit,
video and camera film sufficient for 365 days of TV-airtime on 7 channels.

The KK-12 was dressed head to toe in the Summer, Fall and Winter Peak Performance Great Outdoors 2007 Collection. They were indeed the best looking team to ascend Mount Kinabalu. That was proven time and time again when random fellow climbers would slip as a result of paying little attention to the path and a lot to the magnificent fashion statement the team was making.

Given the significance of the load, the health state of some, and the social status of others, all females in the team decided shamelessly to hire porters to carry their bags.

The males felt confident that their mighty backs and shoulders can bear the load. The male team consisted of one Royal Marine, and six 20 something and thirty something Arab Males. Did anyone mention EGO?

The first to collapse under the weight of 100kg was Souheil. It came as no surprise since he managed to smoke 10 pipes before ascending and was seen hiding the beer keg under his shirt the evening prior. Luckily, his roommate came to his rescue. According to Souheil, the first aid kit was the load that did him in!

As the group stopped to refill water and answer nature calls in first class restrooms made of tin and equipped with the same buckets found at the airport VIP lounge, the “OCD” behavior and Creature comfort life-style inclinations of the ladies began to surface. Nirmz had to sanitize water with drops that rendered the water undrinkable due to high acidity, Rama used 60 wet-wipes per stop, while Iva and Rana kept up their lip-gloss and mascara. Jackie went through 6 inhalers and 100 anti-dehydration pills (which will later cause her to question who that 300 pounds, moon-faced person wearing her clothes is in the pictures!)

The climb was tough. what seemed like a never ending stream of uneven stairs, rough terrain and winding path of vertical slippery rocks kept appearing before the team’s eyes and under their feet.

As the team struggled up particularly rough patches, Billy Goat, would suddenly, with great energy and enthusiasm overtake members of the KK-12 and begin to race Rambo up the path. This was accompanied by chanting “To to to ruru… kinabalu”, a tune introduced by the youngest member of the group who had recently been weaned off Sesame Street. This act of disobedience would prompt Royal Marines Commander turned Slave Driver to use profanities to shame the team back into proper group formation. The phrase “For F#&%’s sake, stay together!” was repeated at least twice per meter climb. This passive aggressive behavior was obviously caused by Sputnick’s inability to command a team of Royal Marines and a desire to command any team who would listen!

Along the way, the team members kept each other entertained with off-beat songs, random jokes and plenty of sarcasm; on occasion, the team would break out in laughter and call out at each other using sounds that would assault any ear. This was evident as the KK-12 passed groups of elderly Japanese practicing meditation and adhering to Fung Shew order; the KK-12’s obscene voices were so severe, it caused one Japanese national to slip, suffer serious neck damage and be forced to abandon the climb. He was the lucky one among his group; the rest endured continuous sound assault and abusive language in many tongues.

The challenging climb did not stand in the team’s way of admiring nature; something Kermi had to be broken into gently since her only encounter with nature was at Chiva Som Spa in Thailand. Purple, black, orange, pink and beautiful red mushrooms were photographed extensively by Souheil and all others with Cameras. Rambo and Billy Goat wanted to know the Mushroom’s “magical” qualities.. for scientific reference of course. Occasionally the group came across a pitcher plant and gleamed with excitement; by the third kilometer, the KK-12 were so tiered that even a field of pitcher plants was not enough to veer anyone off track.

Towards the end of the first leg, the youngest male members of the team, Billy Goat and Rambo followed closely by Kermi disappeared from vision; the rest, full of envy trailed behind hoping to reach base camp before sunset.

Pine Lodge Resort – 1st Stop in Kota

07-June-07:

Team KK-12 took up residence in groups of two; Mounier & Mahmoud, Dany & Rana, Nick & Souheil, Ali & Hussein, Jackie & Nirmala, Rama & Iva.

The team proceeded to the dining hall for an awesome feast; deep down, even Rana wished for a McDonald’s happy meal to replace the half cooked, tasteless, unidentifiable meat that was being served, oh so graciously. by not so happy Malay women. Our hosts rapidly swapped the main entry with the desert plates, provided some yellowish liquid they tried to pass for tea and ushered us out of the “Dinning Hall”.

Looking lost and fearing separation, the team bonded together and found themselves at the doors of a Karaoke bar. Since the team KK-12 had been in search for a theme song for a month and failed to find a single tune because all members are musically challenged!, the Karaoke bar was the last chance of having something to hum for added embarrassment as the KK-12 climbed the mountain.

The pictures on the walls were concerning, photos of James Dean, alongside brain teaser optical illusion images of old men and naked young women. To put it mildly, the art was as insane as the karaoke video content! Both suited for a psycho middle aged gender confused person. PERFECT!

With the equivalent of a bear keg set up for the “Sports” team consumed in half an hour, the KK-12 shuffled through an array of 60’s, 70’s and 80’s music in search of a theme song, or just anything their weak musical sense could recognize!

Assisted by another jolt of Shevaz and Smirnoff, the team practiced singing for the first time since kindergarten to the tunes of the B-Gees, The Village Boys and Cool and the Gang. The most nominated song was “Who the #$^ is Alice”, but that was only because Royal Marines turned Slave Driver Sputnick was the loudest member of the group and what he said, went!

While the European couple that occupied the Karaoke bar when the team arrived seemed delighted to see a lively team of seemingly young talent, they politely took their leave after the first song. And the night went on until the last song was song.. and everyone silently hoped their teammates’ climbing performance exceeded their singing talent!

Excitement in the Shower – Early next morning, as Ticker prepared to shower, she was greeted by a fist size tarantula. Now having been phobic since childhood of being attacked by a fist sized anything, in the shower, she wanted to scream! However, she knew well that the band of 11 sarcastic KK’ers would remind her of it up and down the mountain. So she opted for a graceful exit after trying to wash the tarantula down the needle pin sized drain with hot water! She asked Diva to photograph the critter for show and tell!

After a delightful breakfast of food that smelled far stronger than it tasted! The team proceeded to perform a final check on the back-packs, lead by the slave-driver Sputnick. Oblivious to the challenge that lied ahead, the team packed, and packed, and packed some more into their bursting backpacks.

The KK-12 posed for an award winning photo wearing their solar power generation-black Reaching-U shirts.

Bus Ride


Reunited, the team hopped on the bus and drove in the night to the Pine Lodge Resort. Along the way, Jackie began showing signs of bladder control problems; the bus had to make an emergency stop to prevent an embarrassing situation for the GSSS.

As Souheil practiced shooting his camera with 1 ton of accessories around his neck, Nick took the opportunity to practice posing for the camera; posing became Nick’s trademark for the duration of the trip.

Rambo practiced some Thai boxing to use against any headhunters that might pop out of the bushes. Mahmoud was making muffled noises, yet no one could understand what he was saying because his face was behind the video camera he acquired for the trip.

While Iva and Rana reapplied their makeup, Nirmala and Rama bonded over as they admired some miniature bananas hanging from a street side vendor’s hut. Ali and Hussein were beginning to think of escape plans as they realized they were indeed the only sane members of the team.

Welcome to Kota Kinabalu – Sabah Airport

(Jackie, Mounier, Nirmala, Rama) – First group to arrive in Sabah were given a warm welcome by two sweet middle aged women in national costume and ushered into a “VIP” lounge. The welcoming committee consisted of 10 men in red speedos, pheasant feather caps, frightening tribal tattoos and drums. The lounge was last designed in 1980 with toilets equipped with buckets as a flushing apparatus; however given the state of the welcoming committee, the KK-12 team opted to praise the conditions of the lounge.

(Mahmoud, Iva, Nick) At the sound of the drums, the second KK-12 team arrived with a great degree of enthusiasm to explore the town. The KK-12, minus Jackie who was charmed by the 1980’s sofa, hopped on the tour bus and explored Sabah.

Four hours later, the last of the KK-12 team arrived. Lead by Rana, who had traded in her lipstick for an RK-47 she used to threaten the KL ground crew, to go “Lebanese” on them if they didn’t put her and the team on the next flight to Sabah.

Kuala Lumpur Airport

By the time the flight reached KL airport, the ground crew had been alerted to the arrival of the KK-12. To ensure the safety and comfort of other passengers, the group would be separated for the connecting flight to Sabah.

The KK-12 was split to three groups, by order of national origin, sex and degree of sarcasm and sent off to Sabah in sequence. The ground crew made sure the KK-12 team members were conveniently scattered on middle-seats throughout the airplane.

Prior to boarding, Iva took off with an excuse to find the “washroom”, it was later found out that she cleaned out the vodka supply of KL airport. Nirmala went to the “washroom”, and ended up spending what seemed to be an hour, having prologued conversation with her hubby who was back in Dubai babysitting. When she finally appeared, the group cheered and clapped for her safe exit from the washroom.

KK-Flight to Malaysia

Getting comfortable was beginning to prove difficult. Seats on Malaysia airlines were designed for under 10 age group. That was further confirmed with the circus like apparel of the cabin crew team.

While the KK-12 bonded over a personality survey that unveiled too many “Directors”, few “Negotiators” and all members to be “Adventurers”, surprise surprise! Souheil slept; the insomniac Mounier took that act personally, and proceeded to entertain the group with sarcasm targeting the sleeping KK-12 members. The flight debuted Mounier theatrical talent..he used visual and sound effects and carried out comedy in multiple languages and dialects.. Indian, Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, Kazakh, French were but a few of his tongues. Later on, the group would discover his mime and body language humor.

Iva and Rana were busy reapplying their makeup. Nirmala played with her newly purchased roaming phone and pumped Indian tunes through her mp3. Jackie was being a (GSSS) Grumpy Sickly Sarcastic Scot. Nick and Mahmoud competed for airtime until Rama broke their verbal duel and put Mahmoud to work on a never ending business plan. She slept!

Dany humored Mounier in French and occasionally pretended to sleep; he in fact was planning his “Ramboic” missions to part from the group. Ali was plotting to drop Hussein in Pakistan.

Dubai Airport

We, the KK-12 were an instant hit! First with duty free, where Rana & Iva cleaned out the alcohol racks, me & Mahmoud the electronics, Nick pretended to buy books but in fact attacked the silly toys section and Dany, Souheil, Mounier and Nirmala wiped the food racks.

Next came the afro wigs for the boys, drag-queen glasses & tiaras for the girls. As we walked to the gate, everyone looked on with wonder at how this group of 12 obviously insane individuals escaped the mental ward and averted airport security.

As we boarded the plane, passengers looked on with amazement, wondering if a traveling circus had joined their flight; the crew treated us with particular care, and gave us looks similar to those given to children with special needs.