Cameron Highlands, Penisular Malaysia
16.02.2013 - 19.02.2013
Having enjoyed our time in KL we decided we would head north and visit the Cameron Highlands to take in the cooler climate and also get some trekking in to get ready for Mount Kinabalu. We had read that the Cameron Highlands was a popular destination for not only foreign tourists but locals as well as it offered a relief from the humid temperatures of the lowlands. What we didn't know at the time was that due to Chinese New Year being so recent a horde of locals were making the same trip in their cars as they all had an extra days holiday.
Before finding this out we had to contend with getting from KL to our destination, and fortunately it was easy enough to book a bus online and find out we needed to go from Puduraya bus station in order to catch the early morning bus. We arranged a taxi to the bus station and when we got there we had a slight problem. For some bizarre reason the set up for the bus station was completely un-user friendly and for the unknowing tourist was a bit confusing. When you walk in to the building there are sort of terminals that are marked and these are stairs that lead underground to the buses. However the ticket booths are situated on another level through a car park which Sarah found out, much to her bewilderment and was glad that we had pre-booked because all she had to do was find the bus company amongst the 5 or 6 who all so the same route and pick up our tickets.
Despite a bit of a wait we got onboard and were pleased to find that the Malaysian buses are far more luxurious than the ones we had experienced in Laos and Cambodia, with foot space and air con. Although the decor was a bit too cosmic and probably contributes to travel sickness!!
The roads from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands are pretty direct as there is a large highway that runs from North to South that connects most of the eastern side of the Penisular. We did have to turn off from the highway in order to make our way into the Highlands and there were some winding roads to contend with but all and all it was certainly easier to grab some rest.
When we reached the main hub of Tanah Rata we were pleasantly surprised by how the surroundings resembled a sort of ski resort in the summer months. The cooler humidity was instantly obvious as we grabbed our bags and went to look for our guesthouse. It took a while to find it as it was a little confusing what road the Fathers guesthouse was on. When we did find it we were pleased with our choice as the staff were friendly and helpful and gave us details on walks we could do and the actual guesthouse and room although basic was nice. And there was a free supply of one of Cameron Highlands main exports.....Tea!!!
After the advice we received we decided that an easy walk for the first day would set us up nicely for the longer more difficult challenge of taking the trail up to hill station on top of Gunung Brinchang the next day. We found out the route and also read in our guide book about the Olde Smokehouse which resembled an English countryside cottage and boasted some familiar sights from home so we had to check it out, especially when there was a promise of tea and scones!!!
Before finding our way to the Smokehouse we had to find the trail which was pretty easy and the path itself was well laid out so that we didn't need to think about where to go that much. On the way we passed a couple of centipedes who seem to be working together to get across the path.
The path some times had some off piste parts.
And once we came out of the forest part we passed a strawberry farm, which was another one of Cameron Highlands exports. Sarah was none too pleased and displayed her disgust towards the large novelty strawberry that was situated at the entrance to the farm area.
I was pleased because where there is strawberries, there is .....JAM!!!!!
When we found the Olde Smokehouse we were lucky because it had just started to chuck it down with rain that the opportunity to have nice cup of tea, scones and jam was an easy decision to make. The Smokehouse was very nice, odd but also quite nostalgic to see the Englishness that had been built here especially when we had previouly been missing home.
The tea was good!, the scones and biscuits were better and the Jam.....oh the jam!!! . Needless to say we were pleased with our surroundings.
When the weather cleared up we continued back to Tanah Rata via the main road not before taking some photos.
This was a bit weird to see ...
...And I didn't do anything honestly !!!!
The garden reminded we of many homes I had worked on when I was a landscape gardener.
The walk back was easy enough although a bit overcast and before we headed back to the guesthouse we stopped off at a small park.
My inner boy led me to try the monkey bars.
Sarah's inner girl led here to get a angelic picture
And we both gravited to the large over sized novelty vegetables !! ....ah to be a kid again (think one of the vegetables may have landed on the wicked witch!)
We decided to have dinner at a restaurant which was randomly decorated in the colours of Holland but owned and run by a Chinese family and unfortunately had the worst service ever as they gave our order to someone else and offered not even a proper apology despite us waiting over an hour. It was a crap way to the end a very pleasant day.
The early start was important if we wanted to hit our target of the hill station on top of Brinchang which we would reach via a trail that went through the jungle. At one point we weren't sure whether we would be able to do the walk as the heavens had opened over the night and the possibility of a waterlogged trek would not allow us, however the advice from the guesthouse was that it would be fine to walk. For breakfast we had visited the local Indian restaurant to have a delicious dish called Roti which is essentially a pancake with a choice of curry sauces. It was good because we missed pancake day back home.
We had also picked up some local food at the market for our lunch and I had decided on the Nasi Lemak which is coconut rice with nuts an egg and anchovies, and Sarah went for the noodle dish.
The first part of the walk was a revisit to the trail we did the day before and we took a slightly different course which sweeped round the golf course before heading towards the town of Brinchang. There was not much to see on route but the first image of our target came upon us as we headed up the hill. It looked pretty far and high covered in cloud!
The trail started up a stoney road passing some farms were locals lived before veering off to literally a small opening in the jungle that had been marked with a fence line.
It was good to know that the whole trail would be officially marked along the way otherwise this type of trek we would not undertake unless we had a guide. I've seen those programmes on Discovery channel were a tourist gets themselves lost in the jungle and lives off stank water and creepy crawly's and would not want to be in that situation. This trail was far from that but it was still a little unnerving/exciting going into the wilderness unguided and we kept an eye out for the red markers to make sure we were on the right track.
A test of our climbing abilities was what we came here for and a test is what we got. Almost immediately we were negiotating big steps over trees, pools of sticky mud and steep inclines that meant you had to climb up using all fours. It was a good test for Sarah as she needed to make sure her hip was strong enough to cope with the steps at Kinabalu.
We must of walked for about 3 hours to get to the top and the views were well worth it on the trail that we had taken.
As we approached the end of the trail we reached the hill station which made me think of the TV series Lost.
You can walk up to a viewing platform at the hill station but it wasn't as good we thought. Alot of tourist choose to get a car ride to the top so we felt pleased with ourselves that we had down it the hard way and picked up a bit of mud on the way.
After tucking into lunch we needed to make a move so we could make it back before dark. We decided there was no way we could go back the way we came and so we started back down the road to make our way back.
It ended up being a long walk back which we found tough on the legs however we got to see some more sights on the way. The first was the mossy forest which you can walk through via a purpose built walkway. It was quite eerie as the clouds that formed around the forest meant that you couldn't see out across the landscape. It was prime conditions for flora to grow and Sarah was able to get a picture of the famous pitcher plant which actually eats bugs!.
The second was tea plantations, lots of them. In fact most of the landscape was made up of them.
At one point the field of tea plants looked like a fairway to a golf course.
The goats in the this area knew the best spots to hang.
We didn't stray off the path after seeing this.
As we passed the strawberry farms and markets we saw how the Malaysian all like to get in ther cars and head to this part of the country as the roads were busy and cars were parked up back to back along the sidewalks.
After 6 hours trekking and walking we made it back to Brinchang and we celebrated because we knew we could get a taxi back to Tanah Rata to our guesthouse. We even managed to raise a smile for the local kids who enjoyed shouting hello!!
It was long day but a really fun to get out on our own and take it on. Bring on Mount Kinabalu!!
The last day in the Cameron Highlands was a chill out and organise day, which we didn't do much and we content with it because we knew we had a tough challenge ahead of us.
Stay tuned for more tales.