Apologies in advance for the photo quality. I relied on my iPhone (and my GoPro!) for these few days because my SLR was too heavy to cart around when hiking.
I am very much in love with Cameron Highlands. After the hustle, bustle, heat, and humidity of Singapore and KL and a few sightseeing-heavy days in Melaka, I was ready for a more chill environment (literally and figuratively). CH was the perfect next stop.
Cameron Highlands is a hill station in the north-central area of peninsular Malaysia known for its tea plantations. It’s actually a series of small towns found one after the other as you drive up the mountain, and there’s not much to see or do besides relax and be one with nature. There’s no pressure to visit temples and eat six meals a day and photograph every little detail of the place, which means I’ve spent my mornings trekking through the jungle and wandering street markets, my afternoons drinking tea and reading, and my evenings playing Scrabble and chatting with the other travelers who (wisely) added CH to their itineraries. And it’s cool enough for pants and a pullover in the evening, a huge departure from the sweat-soaked cities I’ve been to so far. In summary, it’s pure bliss.
Day #10: Trek Four and Kea Farms
My guesthouse is in Tanah Rata, one of the lowest towns, and much of the life in the area is further up the mountain. I started my time here with a short walk along a mostly paved wooded path up to Brinchang, the next town, where I continued on along the “main” road to a series of fruit and vegetable markets and plant greenhouses.
Cacti are a big thing in the area, and there are cactus stands and farms on the side of the road. Did you know that there are lots of different colorful cacti? I sure didn’t.
I firmly believe that markets are the very best way to experience a place, and though there were a lot of (non-Western) tourists in the area, I did get to sample the incredible produce grown in the fields I hiked around.
Corn, roasted whole on the cob or boiled as kernels with butter and salt; strawberries, served fresh, as juice, as topping for ice cream, or any other way you might want them; and boiled sweet potatoes were the highlights. Obviously I tried them all.
I stopped at a tiny roadside stand for what I think is sea coconut? I think you can drink the juice from inside, but by boiling the skin and then cooling the result you get an iced drink called toddy palm. Sweet and delicious! This group of kids there was really excited about taking pictures.
So like I said, it rains a lot, and the clouds that roll in over the mountains add an element of mystery. Gorgeous.
Day #11: Trek One, Mud, and Boh Tea
Day two in CH was my hardest day. Trail #1 takes you up to the summit of the highest point in peninsular Malaysia (the highest point in SE Asia is in Malaysian Borneo, located off the coast near Indonesia), and it’s basically a mudslide from top to bottom. What the trail map doesn’t tell you is that it’s only a few kilometers to the top, but it’s basically straight up. Like mudbogging and climbing trees and roots and trying not to fall or sink. Hard but fun!
It was mossy and foggy, and I felt like I was living in a scene from Lord of the Rings. The pictures don’t do justice at all to how steep it was.
When I got to the top, where I thought I would find a panoramic view of the Highlands, I was greeted with fog. It was so anticlimactic.
What I didn’t realize is that there was an observation tower. All that work and no reward. I am a complete failure. But on the other side there is a steep road going down to one part of the Boh tea plantation, so I made myself feel better with gorgeous views and a teh tarik at the plantation cafe.
It really is that green because it rains (monsoons?) every. single. day.
I couldn’t face the idea of walking another 7 km (in the rain, no less) down to Brinchang, so I hopped in a passing cab to one of the many strawberry farms. I didn’t do a pick-your-own basket, but I did enjoy a smoothie made with berries collected from vines growing just a few feet away.
Day #12: Trek 10&11 and Getting Lost in the Jungle
My last day and last trek in CH was to another summit, and this one I didn’t have to do alone thanks to Switzerland’s willingness to come along. This is obviously not his actual name, but it seems to be a thing to refer to people by their country because it’s easy to remember — thus, I was known around my guesthouse in Melaka as Miss America or, alternatively, Georgia. Anyway, I was incredibly grateful for his company, as we got pretty turned around and spent a good portion of the hike backtracking and trying to find trails that were neither marked nor blazed. It looked like no one had walked them in months. Whereas Trek #1 felt like LOTR, Trek #10/11 was like a scene right out of Lost. This was actually the jungle, y’all.
The thing about being on the verge of lost in the woods is that you start to second-guess everything. What you think is the trail might not be, and markers you were sure you’d remember look unfamiliar. So I was pretty glad to get back to the bottom. I will say, though, that the view from summit was worth it.
I filmed the way up with my GoPro — and the video is AWESOME — but I have to figure out how to edit and compress it before I can post it. Now that I know how great that thing is, I’ll be doing a lot more with it!
In summary, CH was a great stop. The other travelers I met here — some of whom I’d crossed paths with in past stops and expect to see again in the future — were so fun, and I feel recharged and ready to do another round of sightseeing. Off to Penang in the morning, followed perhaps by a few days on the beach in Langkawi?