To the hills....
Trip Start May 03, 2006
48Trip End Ongoing
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(Diary) '...Last day of being a certain age today - anyways caught the mini-van in the morning, to my dismay it took us back to the port which I left yesterday to pick up folk off the boat coming from the islands I'd just been on. Anyways the van got filled up, I was cramped, everyone was cramped - but heh no problems, only 6hrs to go! God I hate mini-vans! Found myself squashed next to an english girl who was chatty enough to waste an hour or two before we stopped for our enforced lunch. All the vans transporting all the tourists within this part of Malaysia stopped at some out-of-town restaurant, inflated prices of-course. Of course we didn't really have to eat anything - but I like the rest of the suckers all sitting round large round tables was starving and needed some lunch. Afterwards all those going to the Highlands were transported to other vans - and off we went. Interesting enough journey, winding our way up into the hills for what seemed like a rather long time
The scenery changed as we gained altitude, giant ferns and bamboo emerged along the road from the thick jungle that started to cover the hills, it was nice to look out and not see endless palm trees. Tanah Rata (my intended destination) itself around 5,000ft - a retreat for sure from the lowland heat/humidity. Before we arrived we entered farming country, or more like crop garden land, vast areas of jungle had been cleared to grow vegetables and flowers, much of the produce was destined for Kuala Lumpur. Plastic greenhouses and sheet covering was the order of the day, maybe not pleasing to the eye - but incredibly efficient for rapid growth. Lights were used in some cases all night and at certain times in the day (if required) to enable certain flowers to grow straight up.
This area is also famous for its tea plantations - and sure enough we drove past a couple, slopes covered in the plant. Finally we reached Tanah Rata, very Indian from first impressions! We were taken to a guesthouse were we invited to look around - no obligation to stay, it was friendly enough but the dorms looked cramped. Apart from the main reception and 'posher' rooms - most of the accom came in the form of military, corrugated shelters that looked quite basic from the outside but with a comfortable, well-fitted out interior
It was nice to be cool with the daytime temperature around 18 - 22c - but everything seemed damp. Wrapped up for the first time since Shimla, India - I went for something to eat in town with my room-mate. The guesthouse was situated on a hill just above Tanah Rata and it was a pleasant ten minute stroll down through pine trees to the main street. As mentioned it was all rather Indian and so it was back to a familiar menu at one of the restaurants. Sophie was interesting enough - a veterinary science student though - don't know why but I always find folk who want to fondle animals as a living, rather odd. Back to the guesthouse and I managed to find a bit of time for myself to drink a beer and reflect on the last year - I also decided to celebrate my birthday by climbing a nearby hill.'
Monday 11th Sept '06
(Diary) '...A year older today - oh well! Woke up as fesh as summer meadow - slept well in the cooler temperature
After a Masala Dosa for breakfast in town, I bought some water and then followed the directions for the start of the trail. For the next hour I grew increasingly frustrated at the stoopid map - initially I walked a mile in the wrong direction, then after back-tracking I followed another path only to to find myself stranded in a potato field. Cursing I re-traced my steps again and finally, finally found the path. My sense of direction is well known to be spot-on - there was no error on my behalf - the map was wrong and the folk giving advice were all wrong!
The path was little more than a snake trail zig-zagging up a steep hillside - no wonder no-one knew where it began. I soon started sweating - even though it was overcast and quite cool. The zig-zagging was the easy part as soon as I entered the forest or I guess in these parts - the jungle, the path straightened and went directly up. The next few hours was just good fun, soaked with perspiration I puffed my way up through the trees, slipping in the mud and on exposed roots. It was all very quiet, an occasional bird noise and the odd rustle - but nothing really to get spooked about being on my own. Stopped a few times for a breather, a sip of water and a Werthers Original for fortification. Climbed up into the cloud - all quite eerie with the mist drifting through the trees, finally hit a level ridge and a few minutes later reached the top.
The summit was a small clearing with some sort of sign, shame about the cloud level as i couldn't see a thing
OK - the trail back was a fair old way - but after the steep descent became fairly good-going and I was soon hossing it along at a fair old pace, my knee felt strong and I felt good being in the zone. It was raining - but it added to the sense of adventure and the trees provided some kind of protection. Emerged from the jungle back near the start and plodded back home - starting to feel tired. Back to the guesthouse for a well earned beer and a clean-up, checked my e-mail and appreciated my birthday greetings before a solitary birthday meal down town, nice food at some other Indian restaurant.
Back at the guesthouse I played a game a scrabble with a hyper-active english bloke, a frenchman and a canadian girl. I had the worst luck ever at one point holding four o's with the rest e's, the candian girl who could only be described as obnoxious refused to let me throw my hand in even through I'd forfeit a go. I silently fumed as I slipped from from first to last place and legged it off into the darkness after the game finished, humiliated with the fact that a frenchman scored more points than me. What a rotten evening it was turning out to be - not to be defeated I found a pool table and ended the night and my birthday on a winning note!..'
After the Highlands I hadn't quite decided what to do when I received an email from Sarah - my travelling companion for a while in India. We had agreed to meet up in Thailand if possible but kept missing each other - sometimes by a day here and there. Anyways she was heading to the south west coast and islands and wondered if I wanted to see the area as well. When I left Thailand I felt like I had missed out visiting the west coast and so it seemed like a good plan. I bought a bus ticket for Penang for the 12th Sept and would continue up to Krabi in Thailand on the 13th by mini-van to meet up.