Road trip – The Highlands, Malaysia style
The three hour drive to the Cameron Highlands was unbelievable, lush jungle comprising towering trees, huge ferns and palms, knitted together to create a seemingly impenetrable canopy coating the mountains as we rose on twisting roads higher and higher. I kept expecting to see the start of the tea plantations but the jungle continued until we were almost 5,000 feet above sea level and as we passed through clouds the landscape began to change. The untamed beauty giving way to cultivated hedges, thankfully not the straight lines I had been anticipating but wiggles and curves undulating across the mountain tops. Utterly magical, humbling and due to the altitude physically breathtaking, sweeping vistas surrounding us in every direction.
We stayed in a totally acceptable guesthouse in Brinchang, nothing wrong with it as a stopping point but would recommend staying in Tanah Rata which looked a lot more sociable.
When we arrived we made the winding and quite frankly terrifying drive up to the Boh Tea Plantation, a thirty minute drive past our guesthouse but felt the views on the way up were better than those at the top. The Cameron Valley roadside plantation, which we had passed on the way to Boh and stopped at on the way back, offered jaw dropping views over a mountain that looked like dragons were sleeping underneath rows of tea bushes. JHubz wandered down into their depths camera in hand, while I sat watching, tea in hand.
Great swaths of land have been given over to agriculture, poly tunnels and land cultivation and some areas felt quite industrial but you have soon driven through those and are back in the utterly enchanting world of tea. It is one of the most wonderful places I have ever had the honour of visiting.
When we were researching the Cameron Highlands we had noticed a lot of the hotel reviews complained of damp, yup, no shit sherlock, you’re basically so high you are in the clouds a good proportion of the day. And clouds? They’re made of water. So yes it was damp, we were, our clothes were, our money was. But you and your stuff dries out pretty quickly when you go back down to sea level.
So as well as damp, our second day in the Highlands began with us unexpectedly driving out of them. The road we should have taken would have brought us through them, but we blindly trusted the sat nav and so left the cultivated green behind and drove through mile upon mile of poly tunnel, the landscape alien and unwelcoming. Of course this food is needed, of course people need jobs, but the sheer scale of the deforestation was saddening, where are all the animals supposed to go? Thousands of palm plantations followed, adding to my sadness. Eventually, after more than 100km of farming, jungle edged the road once more. We had long passed the first signs for tapir and then elephant crossing, and although we didn’t see any elephants or tapir crossing, knowing that they might be out there was pretty cool, we did however stop to let a monkey troupe cross, which was rather lovely.
We stopped a few times along the six hour drive, once as we came across the edges of Tasik Kenyir, the largest man made lake in Asia. Stepping out of the car everything was initially silent, then the sounds of bugs and birds filled the air AND THEN GIBBONS!!! calling to each other!! I was so happy I almost cried, no but really, wild gibbons, living as they were born to, chatting with each other!!! JHubz has said a few times in the last few days that the hire car has been worth the cost just from the view he was presently witnessing and that moment for me, stood by the car, the gibbons calling was worth anything.