Friday, June 27, 2008

Cameron Highlands

From Melaka my plan was to head back north going to the Cameron Highlands and stay in the town of Tanah Rata. I ask at the place I was staying about bus schedules to Tanah Rata and they did not seem to know but just said to go to the bus station and there should be a bus ever couple of hours. I also asked about catching the bus back to the station and they told me just catch it at the same place I got off. The bus stop where I got off was on a one way street so I could not just catch the bus going in the opposite direction on the other side of the steet. When I was paying for the ticket the guy on the bus said it was going to be a 45 minute trip to the station and it had only been 10 minutes when I had arrived. I did get to see parts of the town that I had not visited with the bus going making a big circle around the town before going to the station. The bus ended up passing really close to where I had stayed and only 10 minutes before getting to the station. I think I got some bad advice at the hotel but made it to the station with just a bit of tour of the city.

On arriving at the bus station I went to the information desk and asked about getting to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands they said I would need to go to Tapah and change busses and then a guy took me over to the window that had Tapah written on it. I asked for a ticket to Tapah and he said tomorrow. Just then I hear a guy saying Kuala Lumpur and it is on the way to where I wanted to go so I did not wait till the next day and was on a bus headed north to Kuala Lumpur in about 5 minutes. On arriving at the bus station in Kuala Lumpur I was guided to the window for a bus to Tanah Rata and had about 30 minutes to get something to eat and use the facilities before it departed. For a day that started out like nothing was going to work it worked out really well.

Cameron Highlands is higher so a little bit cooler but I guess that is obvious from the name. I spent my time there walking for the most part. The hotel that I stayed in had a jungle walk every day by a guy that was living there and just ask for a donation with a suggesting of 20 Malay Ringgit or about 4 Euros, $6 USD. I decided I would give this a try and it worked out really well for me. I ended up being the only one walking with him the day that I went and with the slow way that I walk what he said would be about a 3 hour walk turned into around a 5 and 1/2 hour walk. I really enjoyed the information that he told me about the country and the jungle on the way and he did not seem to be the least bit worried about me taking so much time. The walk was a bit harder than I would have taken on my own with crossing a stream back and forth a number of times and even though the start and end of the walk where on trails most of the time was spent walking through the thicker part of the jungle. I only ended up slipping and falling a couple of times and neither of these happened when crossing the stream. I figured when he told me this is the last time we have to cross the stream on rocks I would fall in for sure but made it over without a problem. The guide was Chinese and had been living in Kuala Lumpur and had decided he wanted a simpler life so had moved to the Cameron Highlands and spent his days walking in the jungle. He spoke 5 languages but English was the only one that is considered a foreign language in Malaysia. We talked about the jungle but also we talked about the normal salary in Malaysia the differences in culture of the people that make up Malaysia and also he had traveled some in Southeast Asia so talked about that. He was telling me about a scam in Kuala Lumpur where people approach tourist and say I have a family member going to your country and then end up trying to get them in a fixed gambling game. He found it really funny when I told him I had been approached 3 or 4 times in Kuala Lumpur by people that had sisters or cousins that where going to be nurses in America and wanted to talk to me about the country but luckily enough I turned them down. It was a really great walk but I was really happy to hit the shower at the hotel at the end of the walk.

I decided to take a walk on my own the following day and did the trail know as 9A which goes by Robinson Falls and then sort of follows the edge of a hill down the stream another 2 and 1/2 kilometers. The falls where pretty but the water is so pollulated that it stinks and takes some of the pleasure of seeing it away.

I really enjoyed this walk and my guidebook had recommended it as one of the simpler trails but if it was one of the simpler I would hate to take one of the harder trails. I don’t think it was as hard as the walk I had done the day before but it was still a good work out for me and I only seemed to walk a little bit faster than 1kilometer an hour. One of the things I really enjoyed about the walk was since it shirted the side of a hill the view into the trees was much better and I got to see a lot of birds on the walk. Nearer to the end of the trail it looked out over a number of farm fields and even though I am not sure what was being grown I thought it made for a good picture with the fields in front of the jungle.

The area is too high and cool for rice but they grow a lot of vegetable, tea, herbs and flowers in the area. The guide before told me his idea that they grow so much cabbage is because it weighs so much more than herbs so you make much more money that way. He also told me the biggest non-tea farm in the area is for tomatoes which are sold to Pizza Hut.

After the trail it was a 9K walk uphill back to the town along the road. The view from the road was really nice looking out over the jungle in some places and out over tea fields in others. This is a view of one of the tea fields.

I only walked a little over half way to the town when someone stop and gave me a much welcome ride the last 4K up to town. I still find it funny that it took me around 2 hours to walk down the 3K trail and just over an hour to walk the 5K up on the road.

I ended the day talking to a Dutch couple and getting some ideas of things to see in the Borneo part of Malaysia if I make it there at some point. This would have been a strange conversation for most people to listen to since I am not really good at speaking Dutch and the lady was not really comfortable speaking English but we could both understand the other speaking their native language.

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