don’t go trekking in flip-flops

on the recommendation of a few people, sarah being the strongest contributor, i’m now in the cameron highlands of malaysia. this has to be one of the most beautiful and interesting bits of countryside i’ve seen yet; between the cameron highlands and an area called tama negara, the rain forests are the oldest on the planet, some 144 million years old.

the journey here wasn’t so great, i left bangkok on a 22 hour train ride across the thai-malay border to butterworth (possibly the ugliest and most uninteresting place i’ve ever been) and to the island of pengang. i didn’t spend enough time here to get a great feel for the place, it seemed cool enough and i was told that there are some nice beaches on the far side of the island but with the time i had left and the things i wanted to see, beaches didn’t factor too highly on the agenda.

from penang the bus journey was an easy one; some 5 hours up into the mountains and into increasingly more beautiful scenery. another of sarah’s spot-on recommendations was father’s guesthouse, the place i’ve been staying for the past few days and the place i’m going to be very reluctant to leave. if only every guesthouse was this perfect! for starters i’m sleeping in a second world war nissen hut in the perfectly landscaped gardens of the main house, perched up on it’s own private hill overlooking the town. the staff are fantastic, very helpful and always to remember your name and the common room facilities make for a wonderful ‘home-from-home’ atmosphere and everyone staying here seems to hang about in the evening reading, watching tv and chatting. a very cool crowd here.

so the first day i was here i decided to go on the full day jungle and mountain trek. after asking the staff what is involved and getting excited about the prospect of seeing some proper wildlife they added that parts of the trek are a little challenging and that i would need proper walking footware…no proplem, i have a great pair of shoes that i havn’t worn nearly enough on this trip…or at least i would have a great pair of shoes if i hadn’t have been chatting too much when i got off the bus from penang and left tham and my dry bag in the overhead storage on said bus! sh*t! (don’t worry mum, keep reading and there is a happy ending to this part). so i did the trek in the only remaining footware i had…my trusty vans flip-flops 🙂

honestly the trek wasn’t that difficult, i managed to stay cleaner than some of the others on the trip mainly by being really careful about where i trod. the first stop was the first of two viewpoints overlooking, in this case, the BOH tea plantations. the view was incredible, the parallel lines of the tea bushes like contours layed out about as far as we could see. our guide could not have been better; he has studied the ecology of the area for 15 years and had a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the plant and animal life (even reeling off the latin names for everything we saw). here he explained the history of the plantation, the growing and picking tasks and the process of getting the tea into the cup (later we were to go to the factory and sample the brew for ourselves).

the second stop was at the highest point in the highlands, 6666 feet above see level (and then another 50 feet up an observation tower) to get a spectacular view across the jungle as you’ll be able to see from the photos when i get them uploaded very soon.

from here we started off into the jungle. we walked through two sites at two different altitudes to get an idea of how the vegetation and animal life changes as the temperature and moisture does. the moss on the trees creates a natural air conditioning system; as soon as you walk into the undergrowth the air suddenly drops by about 10 degrees and becomes really quite chilly. you get a sense all the time that something is watching you, the area teeming with wildlife and the noise is at time deafening. i’d love to tell you the names of all the things we saw…but we were only told them in latin and it was lost on me i’m afraid. have a look at the photos and you get an idea.

next on the agenda was the BOH tea factory. the process is rather quite simple; the leaves are rolled, dried, sorted and graded and then stored in airtight bags for about 6 months then brewed up (for only 3 minutes for the perfect cup) easy! i like to think the cuppa i had in the cafe was the best i’ve ever had…i could possibly be converted from coffee (fat chance) i’ll have too see if i can brew as good a cup when i get home!

after a little lunch we picked up a few more people from the guesthouse for the afternoon trek. this one was much shorter, only 10 mins or so into the forest to a waterfall. this time though we were joined by a malay native from the orang asli tribe (orang, as in orangutan, means people. alsi means original and utan means forest). he taught us how to shoot with a blowpipe, something they still do to catch food and had us shoot at a polystyrene target. we got to try fish caught by the villagers that day and had a go at carving and decorating bamboo as they’ve done for thousands of years.

i’m going to stay in the highlands until tomorrow and in the meantime do a few of the local walks for myself. the air is great, the scenery is beautiful and i really don’t want to have to leave. but i have to, only 4 days of the trip remain so from here i’m going to singapore for the best part of two days before flying home. again i have some recommendations about where to stay and what to do while i’m there. the next post may be the last for this trip *sniff*.

almost forgot to mention the happy ending to the shoe story…so to recap, i left my dry bag on the bus, in it were my shoes, every pair of socks i own, my mask and snorkel from koh tao, a book and the lights for jen’s room. basically stuff that i was more than a little p*ssed off to have misplaced. in a very hopeful bid i walked to the other side of tanah rata to the bus station that evening to find that the bus i was on had arrived from penang only 10 minutes before i arrived and my bag was exactly where i had left it in the overhead rack! all the stuff was there! would that have happened anywhere else? not sure…but it happened here!

    • Randy Mudflap III (retd)
    • April 24th, 2007

    Excellent advice if ever it was given. Also, dont go windsurfing in a tuxedo or ice climbing wearing only yoghurt. I hope everyone’s taking notes.

    As I’m still unable to see any of the photo’s you’ve taken so far, I’m very much looking forward to a show (on my new projector perhaps?) when you get back, but until then, i can use my imagination. It sounds pretty good mate.

    I’m glad you got your shoes back, I dont believe that would have happened anywhere else either, well maybe Japan, but that’s it. Or at a push, Singapore. Not Peckham though. No siree.

    We’ll have a nice little crowd for Saturday, with a few notables exceptions (Sir Aussie Dave and Lisa are at a wedding and Andy is being non-commital) but the important thing is that Kerry, Jenni and Strawberry Beer will be joining us.

    Well, this could be the last little leg of your epic adventure and I have very much enjoyed taking the mick and encouraging in equal measure wherever is has been possible to do so. ‘Go for it you bald git’ would be an example. 3 days to home time mate; Let me know if there’s anything I can sort out for you.

    Well, with a tear in my eye and old chewing gum stuck to the back of my pants, I will sign off. I shall read your final post when its up but I may be too emotional (and possibly drunk) to reply.

    From Canary Wharf to Singapore,
    You leave the public demanding more,
    You’ve been away for many weeks,
    Your feet, for sure, must truly reek,
    You’ve seen and done so very much,
    You miss your mum, I bet as much,
    Hurry home now and pleasde dont delay,
    Full of joy and perhaps a little gay,
    Ready for your own bed and pillow?
    Lazy afternoons lying under a willow,
    So get in and find your best cloth,
    We’ll all meet you in the Gipsy Moth.

    Later loser.

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