16th - 20th January 2015We left Ipoh for the Cameron Highlands in convoy with a fellow countryman Oliver Hamler who had been couchsurfing with us at Bella's place. The three hour bus journey along the winding mountain highways was a smooth one until we reached a police checkpoint. The officers boarded the bus armed with guns and in an intimidating tone ordered us to "show our passports". Naturally we quickly responded to this request and waited for the officer to reach us. Unusually he had no interest in the passports of any "Westerners" and a little interrogating he ordered almost half the bus to head outside to the checkpoint desk at which point the bus continued on its way. We later found out that the region has been hit hard by illegal deforestation and agriculture from mostly Bangladeshi and Burmese immigrants looking to take advantage of increased salaries. As a result the Malay government has clamped down on any individuals looking for work without the proper documentation.
|Who said we've passed our peak|
|Malaysian Pitcher Plant waiting to catch some insects|
Despite the eventful journey we made it to Tanah Rata in one piece. Tanah Rata is the main town in the Cameron Highlands and is therefore the main commercial hub for the area with plenty of hotels, hostels, restaurants and stores. We booked four nights at Fathers Guesthouse, one of the highest rated hostels in town due to the friendly atmosphere and the great treks they offer.
|Our band of backpackers|
Its all about the trekking and the tea in the Cameron's and on our first full day we arranged to join a 4 hour guided hike up one of the nearer peaks. Our guide Jason was a wealth of knowledge regarding the local flora and fauna, particularly when it came to the wild orchids. Unlike our other short hikes this was real jungle and its easy to see how people can become disorientated moving through the slightly claustrophobic web of roots and branches. The sightings of animals was limited to a few birds and one non toxic viper but that didn't really matter to us because for once we were able to feel like proper explorers of old.
|Indiana Bones is back|
|this is more like it. where's that machete|
The jungles of the Cameron's are known as the "mossy forests" due to the abundance of tree hugging mosses. These sponge like plants are critical to much of the life that's evolved and many species are only found in this part of the world. From the peak of the mountain we had a great view of the valley below and a lunch break of much needed nutella sandwiches before heading toward the plantation. If I had known about the nutella and tea I would have tried this trekking lark a long time ago.
As we approached the tea plantation we saw first hand the stark contrast from the thick mossy forest and the scorched earth from land clearance. However we were now left in awe of one of the most beautiful man-made landscapes around. The sweeping carpet of green leaved terraces stretched out as far as the eye could see and it was spectacular. The plantation shop signaled our finish line and being English we took great delight in celebrating with a finest and freshest cup of tea you can find with a view over the valley.
|conditions change quickly here|
|thanks for the free parking|
|A stunning walk down to town through the plantations|
|look out KL were coming for you next|
Once again government corruption does little to help the situation with many officials to focused on short term monetary gains to care about the consequences for future generations. So for us it was a real privilege to explore a beautiful environment that is likely to die out in the next fifty to one hundred years and become just another notch on the long list of victims of mankind.
Right serious article over and I promise the next post will be of a lighter nature and contain a picture of a cat or something.
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