Friday, 13 December 2013

Tues 26th Nov - The Greatest Sunset ever seen

Mount Kinabalu, half way up.

Sitting next to the window in the Laban Rata cafe at 2905m, the final few of our group of climbers had joined us for a well earned hot meal. Those of us who'd arrived earlier were playing cards at the table. It was close to dusk and we were slightly disappointed that the clouds had come in close and thick, enveloping the lodge, so no chance of catching a nice sunset, but we were hopeful of typically clear skies in the morning for our ascent to the summit. 
At about 5.45 I noticed what looked like a car headlight outside in the white fog, then I thought it may have been a reflection from one of the small interior fluorescent bulbs, I craned my neck forward and slowly realised it was actually the sun burning orange, magnified and distorted through the lens of thick mist and cloud, casting out horizontal rays. 

A slow ripple of recognition swept through the room as people caught on that the sun was going to make a special last minute appearance. Cameras were grabbed and plastic chairs tripped over as people rushed out barefoot onto the cold wet balcony.

As that happened the clouds were miraculously parting revealing the dark jungle floor some 2000 meters below.
Off in the far distance we could now see the coastline and beyond it the sea turning gold as the sun rapidly approached it.
Closer to us, a few hundred meters away, swathes of thin cloud were skirting the steep bank to our right, catching the light, individual trees silhouetted on the ridge against the ambers and purples beyond.

Back at the horizon to the left of the sun, flashes illuminated the inside of a cumulonimbus like an x-ray, occasional forks of lightning eluded the shutters of frustrated snappers. Moments later the grumble of distant thunder reached us.

On the balcony smaller pockets of drizzling mist drifted quickly by, blooming in the golden backlight. Clouds of every density glowed across the spectrum from mauve to yellow, and in brightness from burning white to sooty black. 

People were gasping and whooping, shooting fervently on SLRs, camera phones, whatever came to hand. Next to me a couple of girls were actually in tears. The scene evolved quickly, shifting like a Turner, transforming from one divine pronouncement, to the next apocalyptic day of judgment, played using all the space from where we stood to the furthest horizon.

If this had been the last sunset, the last one ever at the end of the world, I wouldn't have been that disappointed.

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