|Arrived in Tanah Rata yesterday late afternoon. We checked into the Cameronian (Holiday) Inn and after reports that lots of the hostels here were full of bed bugs we were pleased to find a clean and tidy room with friendly staff (when you can find them) and no evidence of any bed bugs!
The Cameron Highlands is a hill station and reknowned for the trekking available, the local tea plantations and strawberry fields. We got up early to take a guided trek through the jungle to the highest peak (2031m) with the guy from the Inn who works only for donations. Seemed like a good deal to us. Unfortunately we waited at the desiginated RV and he just strolled past us into town. The hotel owner then pointed out that this was the guide and we should follow him. However, he had vanished so it was back to the hostel to get a map for a DIY trek. We decided to follow the same route but first we needed to get to Brinchang (the next town along) in order to pick up the trail. An easy bus ride away. We arrived at the bus station in time for the 9:30 bus only to find that it had been cancelled due to diesel shortages! Oh well, we'll book our bus tickets to Kuala Lumpur whilst we are there. We wanted to leave on the 1st to give ourselves enough time to get to Singapore for our flight on the 5th. They only had one seat available!! So now we can't leave until Monday. It started out a well-planned day but soon turned to rat shit!
In the end we got a taxi to Brinchang and the taxi driver took us right to the bottom of the trail. We were told that to find the trail we needed to turn left at the Army barracks but the army barracks were not visible from the main road. So if the taxi driver had not taken us we would have got lost before we even got into the jungle!!
The trail started easily enough with a fairly wide track but soon turned to fairly dense jungle and forest. There were lots of fallen trees blocking the path and in some places lots of climbing was required. The going was fairly steep and it was really humid. Soon Steve was sweating buckets and Carla was "glowing". As we got further up the hill, the ground became more and more boggy! Steve fell on his bum and slid down into a bog leaving him with a nice big muddy wet bum. The last 500m was exceptionally tough as it was extremely steep and the only real way of climbing was to haul yourself up using the tree roots and branches.
When we got to the top, with some relief, it was to find hoardes of Malayans trying to catch butterflies with huge nets. We didn't find it hard as they just came and sat on us. We were reliably informed that the butterflies were attracted to the salt from our sweat - we felt great. Thanks for that.
Another English couple, Andy & Libby, came up the trail just behind us and we were all soon gossiping as we walked to the Boh tea plantation, another 7km away by road. We had tea and scones in the factory tea shop before we went on a self-guided tour of the tea factory. Obviously health and safety not a major concern in the tourism industry here. Whilst in there we learned the major processes but this didn't take very long.
It was then back to Brinchang by taxi or at least this was the plan. We tabbed 4km to the main road where we found, fruit and veg stalls where we bought some lovely juicy oranges and a Cameronain Highland Apple - looked more like a large pale green tomato and tasted like a runner bean. We also went into the Honey Bee Farm which unlike Mr Kiplings was not exceedingly good. Still no taxis to be found so on we went along the main road towards Brinchang when we came across a strawberry farm. The strawberrys were apparently having a rest in the afternoon so we were not allowed to pick any!! Instead we settled for iced strawberry juice - delicious.
Still no taxi so more tabbing. After about another 4-5km we finally got a taxi to stop for us only to round the corner and find ourselves in Brinchang. We nearly made it but the taxi took us right back to Tanah Rata whilst we rested our weary and very muddy legs.
After our hot showers, we went out to meet Andy and Libby at their hotel for a couple of well deserved beers! We swapped some books along with more travelling tales and soon we were off to dinner. We tried the traditional steam boat which is a heated pot with two compartments each containing a different soup. The idea is to chuck in your noodles, meat and veg, cook it and eat it. It was surprisingly nice - much nicer than the Mongolian hotpot that we had in China which was similar but bland in flavour.
After dinner we went to a bistro for beers and a few games of pool. Our pool playing was decidedly below par but perhaps this had something to do with the amount of beer that we consumed! We were definitely led astray by them amd before we knew it, it was 1am. We're glad we didn't have to get up for a bus to KL at 8am tomorrow morning as originally planned (although Andy & Libby had to). Hee hee.