Monday, 21 November 2011

Cameron Highlands

Alec, Andy, Kirstie and myself said our farewells at the Red Inn, staff and backpackers alike and tentatively stepped onto the mini bus to head for the Cameron highlands. All four of us hung over from the antics of the previous night. With not feeling 100%, I slept for the first part of the journey, or tried to anyway. I awoke, not to the sight of high rise buildings or a rushing city, but to miles of mountainous landscape. Tall trees and tea plantations filled the bus window. The views were stunning. For the remainder of the journey I regularly alternated between sleep, iPod and writing blog and diary. As we entered the highlands we continuously climbed with the roads turning every 50m or so. It was then it became Impossible to sleep as head and body were rolling around the bus and on the unfortunate occasion head hitting the window. The views however just got better and better. There were few small towns and villages up in the highlands but markets were in full flow. We arrived in a Tanah Rata, the town that we were staying at and politely asked the driver to take us to 'Fathers Guesthouse'. Again with exceptional views from the hostel, we were greeted by the owner who was very eccentric. He showed us round the guesthouse and to the largest dorm we had all stayed in. There were over 20 beds and the owner never hesitated to put more mattresses on the floor if need be. It reminded me of being on a school trip or having a big sleep over. It was brilliant!! We dropped our bags and headed for a walk into the town. Me and Andy bought some trainers to do some trekking whilst we were here, as we had previously decided that flip flops were not necessarily suitable.
We quickly realised that up in the highlands the temperature drops considerably and it rains at least once or twice a day. I wasn't prepared, having left my hoodie in Koh Sammui and owning just shorts and my hemp style pyjama trousers, I was going to be cold, it was to be a case of 'Manning up'.
The following day, we all went for a trek. 3 Bsc geographers who did modules in map reading, naturally got lost before we even hit a trail. It was myself, who, out of the corner of my eye,  glimpsed a small bridge with people walking. We followed and lead on to trail 9! What a crap trail!  Alec therefore, took it upon himself to head the group and lead us onto trail 8. It only took a few steps and we all realised that this was going to be a brutal walk. After 2 hours of climbing and rambling in the forest, we reached the summit at about 1800m. We caught our breath and followed another trail for an hour then the descent down trail 5. Alec again taking the lead and Kirstie coming up the rear, Ran down the side of the hill, with the group following. The hill running took half an hour and we were at the bottom. We then headed back in town for lunch. So the hunt continued for a a good Indian, and I think we found one. Peshwari naan with curry sauce and a huge piece of tandori chicken!
Back at the hostel we realised that the Cameron Highlands were great for walking and viewing tea plantations, but not much else. There is no night life, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but we did struggle come mid afternoon and evening time. It was very often that we would either have an afternoon nap, play some cards or watch a film put on by the hostel.
Alec and Andy wanted to a monster walk the next day, so me and Kirstie booked a half day tour for the morning. After getting into the 4x4, I immediately got talking to Miranda who as it turns out was from Goole! Before we knew it we arrived at the tea plantations. This was very much like the plantations I saw in Mulanje, Malawi, however the views were exceptional. 600 acres of tea, and this was the smallest of 3 plantations in Malaysia. After walking around for a short time seeing the tea workers and watching Miranda fall on her arse every 2 seconds we eased back to the jeep.
The next stop was the 'Mossy Forest'. a short walk up to the entrance and inside all trees and plants covered in moss. The scenery was very much like the set for the film Avatar, just without the blue people. After being told we could
Taste the apparently amazing tea from the plantations, we drove to the factory, not really too bothered about how tea is made, me Kirstie and Miranda went straight for a brew. I'd say Yorkshire Tea is better, but nevertheless, it was enjoyed with a cake or two.
There was one last stop at the Butterfly Farm before going back to the hostel. Miranda was scared of butterflies but still paid the 5RM fee and we all pursued in. Some of the butterflies were huge with their wings spanning 20 to 25cm and their patterns were amazing. Outside of the butterfly building, the farm also held poisonous Vipers and other snakes, as well as huge beetles, scorpions and deadly centipedes. Our guide, not phased at all, decided to pick up one of the poisonous scorpions to show the eager crowd!
Back at the hostel, we all chilled out and Alec and Andy showed up soon after. Kirstie was leaving for Kuala Lumpur the next day so we decided to raise out glasses of vodka and whisky on her behalf. She wasn't too well. this was followed by bags of curry and naan bread in the early hours.
Me and Alec booked our tickets to Taman Negara and Andy was leaving us for KL.  We had an emotional last super and said our farewells in the morning.The Cameron highlands was a welcome change. Having been on the islands and in cities since I have been travelling, I spent 4 nights here and it was a place to do your own thing in a very relaxed atmosphere. I assume Taman Negara national park will be similar, but I am definitely Looking forward to KL as well!

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