Aussies in the mist - Cameron Highlands

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
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Trip End Nov 30, 2009


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Flag of Malaysia  , Pahang,
Saturday, October 1, 2005

Greetings all from one of the coolest stops so far this trip. Not cool as in groovy (although it is), but cool as in chilly, misty and raining - which I must admit is a nice change. I figure you won't want to hear solely about beaches, islands and tropical paradises every entry for the next few weeks, so I'd better throw some other landscapes in as well.

I've come to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands (about 250km north of KL) direct from the Perhentians, via an interesting northern route past the giant stone pinnacles of Gua Masang. This is densely wooded country, with seemingly impenetrable jungle on all sides as you make your way over the ranges to the western side of the peninsula. Where there is a will there is a way however, and unfortunately the two logging interests in Malaysia (one American, one Malay/Chinese) are making a real effort to penetrate this part of the country.

We passed scores of logging trucks during the trip, most carrying massive old-growth hardwood logs which were sometimes a couple of metres in diameter. Check out the one on the truck - it's huge! Kilometres of completely denuded land also passed by, evidence of a strip logging policy gone awry and of regeneration obligations completely ignored by the incumbent logging interests and government regulators. A sad way to enter a unique forest area such as the Cameron Highlands.

Limestone cliffs of Gua Musang Logging truck hauling huge logs Deforestation by the roadside

The highlands are roughly 2,000 metres above sea level, so whilst it's not my highest stop to date, the average annual rainfall of 3+ metres ensures it's probably the wettest. Cloud and mist often smothers the towns of Brinchang, Tanah Rata and Ringlet, and the mock Tudor architecture somehow both starkly contrasts and nicely compliments the surrounding lush green forest, creeping mist and swirling cloud banks.

Above the clouds on Mt Brinchang Mock tudor hotels in Tanah Rata Sun shining over a tea sewn valley

It's been three months since I've had a game of golf, so my first full day here was dedicated to 18 holes at the par 71 Cameron Highlands Golf Club. Nice course. A reasonably priced green fee and equipment package (about $AU40) got me started and I scored well considering the lack of practice, unfamiliar equipment and hitting off the long, difficult tees - so a very satisfying morning all round. I think I might make that a 'to do' in each of the rest of the Asian countries I travel to, if possible.

Ross at Cameron Highlands Golf Club Looking down the 18th as mist rolls up the valley

The following day saw me join a small tour for a trip to the surrounding countryside, and the 'Mossy forest' was a real highlight. We headed off the Mt Brinchang road a click below the summit and found ourselves in a Lord of the Rings style old growth forest environment with some really spectacular fauna to explore. It wasn't as easy a walk as expected and we were lucky not to be covered in mud from head to toe, but the myriad moss varieties, the pitcher plants and the eventual view from the promontory were well worth the effort. Thanks to Kumar the guide for an amazing amount of information and a good run-down on the logging situation within the region.

Lord of the Rings style mossy forest Large snail loafing about Pitcher plant waiting for a feed

Tea is a major industry in the area and makes for some very photogenic landscapes, so a tour of the factory and lunch overlooking the fields was enjoyed by our small group. The Boh tea plantation we visited was established by a Scot called Russell in the early 20th century and many of the trees are seventy to eighty years old making them some of the oldest in Asia.

Tea valley in the highlands Tea tasting centre overlooking the trees

Although not a huge producer on the world scale, the company has about 8,000 acres under leaf and export a substantial amount of commercial and second grade teas to the region. Naturally it's a major employer in the highlands and although the picking is generally backbreaking work on steep hillsides, pickers earn good money and can retire to a job in the factory when the burden (between 200 and 500 kilos a day!) gets too much.

Old Landy heading up a tea path Pile of tea in the factory Patterns in the fields

Our final stop for the day was the butterfly farm which had some really gnarly insects, reptiles and butterflies on display. The scorpions and rhinoceros beetles were a highlight, although everything insectoid they had was absolutely huge - including the stick insects, praying mantii, leaf insects and aptly named elephant beetles. And they say Australian bugs are scary!

Huge scorpions Rhinoceros beetle eating sugar cane

We then moved onto the butterfly enclosure. I have been on a mission with this as for months I've been tramping across the region and seeing some pretty spectacular butterflies flitting about, but have never been able to catch any on camera. I didn't hold high hopes but was pleasantly surprised by some of the varieties they had - definitely a number of the evasive little buggers I'd been looking for.

Butterflies hanging everywhere Blue butterfly as seen in Indonesia

One of the most striking is Malaysia's national butterfly, the majestic Raja Brooke Birdwing (pictured below) which was represented in force. These little guys have a wingspan of about 10cm and were hanging about everywhere.

Raja Brooke Birdwing

My favourite though was this guy, a black and white spotted behemoth (pun intended) with a 15cm wingspan that I'm sure I've seen (and chased to no avail) a number of times in Indonesia. He just hung about quietly letting me take his photo - until a busload of unescorted 10 year old schoolboys with cap guns were let loose in the farm. The butterflies went mental at the commotion and we after questioning management's sanity we beat a hasty retreat.

Huge black and white butterfly

Well, that's about it for Cameron Highlands except that it was a good place to meet fellow travellers and it was a pleasant stop all round. Oh yeah, if you're ever here make sure you try the local strawberries.

Next entry -> Colonial Penang

Great brands of the world

Sea Master

This little gem comes from Malaysia, and although the brand itself has a great ring to it, the real selling point is the nutritional information on the side.

Sea Master drinking water

Usually bottled still or mineral water prides itself on containing nothing but pure water, or the good minerals it contains - groovy stuff like calcium and potassium. With Sea Master the manufacturers are rightly proud that their product doesn't contain stuff like Lead, Chlorine, Oil and Grease or E.Coli, and they're happy to pitch it too. Maybe Evian could learn a thing or two from this

In the end I think they're trying to say that although it is tap water, all the usual crap has been removed.

SOS Chili Sauce

You will be calling for help too if you eat this stuff! "It burns! It burns!"

SOS chilli sauce

At least they're honest about it. You could have a field day with this brand.
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Comments

madpack
madpack on

SOS!
Actually, SOS isn't really the brand. Rather, Sos Chili means Chili Sauce. It's supposed to be pronounced as a word.- Madpack, Malaysia

technotrekker
technotrekker on

Re: SOS!
So it's not what you scream running around with flames coming out of your mouth... hmmm :)

cheers,
tt


yo on

pooopopop

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