Legend has it that Mount Kinabalu on the Asian island of Borneo, a popular hiking destination for tourists, is also a sacred resting place for ancient spirits.
Among the travel tips listed on the site’s official web page is a warning: “Believe it or not, do not shout, scream or curse the mountain at any point of time.”
Officials in Malaysia have said some tourists stripping naked on the top of the mountain was so offensive that it caused an earthquake last week, killing at least 18 people.
They said several foreigners, including two from Saskatchewan, broke away from their guided group and took photos of themselves naked on the peak.
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan said the foreigners “showed disrespect to the sacred mountain” and a special ritual would have to be held later to “appease the mountain spirit.”
Lindsey Petersen and his sister Danielle Petersen have been barred from leaving Malaysia and local media are reporting they could face charges.
The siblings’ mother, in Wood Mountain, Sask., declined to comment Monday. Canada’s Foriegn Affairs Department said it was providing assistance.
Lindsey Petersen, a recent engineering graduate from the University of Regina, has detailed his travels throughout Asia over the last seven months on Facebook. When his sister joined him in Bali in April, he referred to them as the “dynamic duo.”
Two weeks ago, after surfing and scuba diving with manta rays and sharks in Indonesia, he wrote: “Not enough time to explore it all, but on to the next destination, Borneo.”
Towering at 4,095 metres, Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. It’s the biggest attraction in Kinabalu Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site established in 1964 to protect the mountain and its plant and animal life.
The park recommends that after a day of hiking, tourists take a break at a resthouse near the summit, then complete the climb with ropes early the next morning to watch sunrise while standing on granite slabs in the clouds.
“Mount Kinabalu. Time of my life,” Emil Kaminski of Hong Kong wrote on his Facebook page, along with a photo of several men standing in their underwear and women without tops.
Kaminski said he did not mean to insult the country by posing naked. He later posted a YouTube video ranting about “stupid” Malaysian politicians blaming him for the earthquake and said he had received hate mail and death threats.
He also sent a tweet to Masidi Manjun, the head of the tourism department for the state of Sabah: “You are an idiot, not a minister of tourism.”
Manjun replied on Twitter that “it takes a monkey to call another person a monkey.” He received several responses from people encouraging harsh penalties for the foreigners who had desecrated the sacred mountain, including those “sick Canadians.”
Manjun also posted a photo of a man he described as one of the alleged nudists, a European tourist, being detained at the airport for “causing a public disturbance.”
On a government website, Manjun said that Monday would be a day of remembrance for the families and friends of those who died in the quake and, as rescue operations were continuing, all tourist activities on the mountain were to be suspended for at least three weeks.
Chris Purdy, The Canadian Press