Upon catching the bus to the highlands two incredible things occurred. Firstly the bus driver apologised for turning up 20 minutes late (unheard of!) and then we had the bus to ourselves (even more unheard of!) We arrived in Tamah Rata, our small town in the Cameron Highlands. It was raining and much cooler due to the altitude. This was very strange considering we started the day in 34 degrees heat. Once again the choice of cuisine was Indian food so we indulged in some delicious curries.
We joined a tour to do some hiking to find the famous Rafflesia flower. This huge flower when in bloom only lasts for 5 days, the result of up to 5 years in the making however the flowers can bloom year round and with 60 sites in the forest there is usually evidence of one in germination. We took the bus an hour out of town to slightly lower ground (900 metres.) We hiked though the forest for about 2 hours spotting on the way wild bananas and ginger and the wild hibiscus flower. At one point our guide handed us a dandelion looking flower to place on our tongue. After a few seconds the numbing set in and he told us about its anesthetic effects used by the aboriginal tribes.
A few uphill scrambles and a river crossing later and we arrived at the site. The flower, actually named Lena but more commonly known as Raffelesia, was quite amazing and all around was evidence of other flowers in germination and nearing ready to bloom. Further down was a flower which had rotted away, about 15 days since it’s first germination and it looked like it had been burnt. On the descent we saw huge spiders and colourful caterpillars.
After returning from our climb our guide told us about the aboriginal people of Malaysia, the Orang Asli. He showed us the blowpipes they traditionally used for hunting and we had a go at firing a dart through it. Although I wasn’t very good, the dart flew lightening fast and was quite accurate (for most people) in its flight.
For much of the afternoon the humid walk had taken it out of us and when we emerged to get dinner in the town an electrical storm was happening overhead. The sky was being completely lit up every 3-5 seconds with huge forks of lightening, ones I had only believed happened in films. The storm was behind the mountains making the effect very dramatic and as there was no thunder or rain it was the most incredible natural phenomenon. Dinner was once again Indian food and as my stomach was protesting I just ordered hard boiled eggs and toast. This clearly did not cross the cultural barrier as they bought me half boiled eggs cracked into a cup. Confused, I declined!
We had a good lie in and breakfast before attempting another day of walking. We started in the next town Brinchang for a 2km climb up the highest peak of the highlands, Gunar Brinchang. Although not a long walk it was a hot and continuous climb but with rewarding views. We climbed from 1100metres to 2030 metres and had a great view over jungle and rolling hills. The climb down was just as demanding and we stopped to peruse the market stalls at the bottom picking up some locally grown strawberries.
The next mission was to find a cream tea, a token of British presence in Malaysia. The Highlands is home to lots of tea plantations and strawberry farms making a lot of the produce locally sourced. At a strawberry farm we found what we were looking for and it lived up to expectations. Refreshed we tacked the beautiful 5km riverside path back to Tamah Rata in the cooler evening sun.
Next up Kuala Lumpur!