Cameron Highlands- Malayasia Miles Traveled 120
Viewing site of the world’s largest flower.
We had our second bus breakdown of our trip. About an hour outside of Kl the bus threw its fan belt. This is not good for a bus going up into the mountains, and so we had to wait for two hours for the mechanic to arrive to replace the belt. The final 3 ½ hours of the trip passed without incident other than the bus driver successfully completing 75 hairpin turns on the final climb into Tana Rata.
A nice local man helped us find our hostel. The air was cool and misty, hiding the stars from view. We longed for the promised bonfire of the Twin Pines, but it never materialized. Sara signed us up for the full day “jungle adventure” which would begin the next day at 8:30am. We snuggled under the blankets using body heat for warmth as the temperature dropped through the night.
We rose and had a simple and enjoyable breakfast at Mini’s café before heading out on the tour with our guide Rojan.
We visited a massive flower and vegetable greenhouse next. Much of the agriculture of the highlands occurs in lit roofed greenhouses in raised drip irrigated growth systems. Massive tracts of rain forest are disappearing in this land intensive effort. It is the second wave of destruction; the first was timber pirates who logged the old growth rain forest over the previous hundred years. We took photos of the myriad of flowers and sampled the local fresh strawberry with ice-cream--- DEE LISH!
After this we, headed out for the jungle. Our guide warning us early and often of the possibility of sudden rain and the need for food, water, and rain protection. We stopped to lay in additional supplies and purchase rain slickers. Finally, we stood at the verge of the rain forest with a layer of questionable clouds hovering just overhead. Our guide whipped out boots for Sara and Jim, but none of them were big enough for me. I was to go with my poor sneakers which had survived all the way from Panama. We began our hike following an old logging road which was now used by “soil pirates.” They took massive trucks into the forest to steal the soil for their use in the new artificial fields. It was nice to have a road, but the road was not nice. In most areas the mud was over three inches deep. The bad areas could be near 8 inches deep with two inches of standing water. We leapt over rain washed out gullies stepping precariously on rocks and made progress as best we could following Rojan.
In many spots bamboo and grass provided the only chance to make it over the soggy mud. Finally, the logging road ended and we crossed a hand-made bamboo bridge and continued on a foot track. I had already filled my hat completely with sweat and my shirt was 80% filled with sweat. I wondered how the trek could all be uphill. Jim was struggling too, but Sara forged onward right behind Rojan. She was soon dubbed “the little engine that could.”
The final hour of the trek was made clinging to trees on steep muddy hillsides and fording jungle creeks on massive logs notched to provide a small amount of traction. Finally, deep within the jungle we neared a massive red object shaded by the jungle canopy. As we approached it, we saw purplish cabbage looking vegetables nearly a foot and a half across. Rojan pointed and told us that these were “buds” of the mighty flower. Finally, we saw it….INCREDIBLE! More than a meter across, it resembled a cross between a beach ball, a pumpkin, and a tulip. We relaxed there enjoying its smell which is like that of decaying flesh. It is pollinated by the carrion fly which is attracted when it blooms for the first time in the night.
All of us were exhausted. On the hour and a half all downhill return trip we slid and wobbled as best we could to make it back to the van. My ankle was very sore by this point. I tried to move quickly because it seemed easier to keep my balance. Sara warned me repeatedly, “Slow down, or you’ll fall.” Knowing the wisdom of my wife I slowed down. The rain had managed to hold off and the mud was a bit drier, but often even more slippery. At one point at the crown of the path, I did the semi-splits one foot moving in each direction down the hill before stopping my feet from sliding apart.
Mere moments later, while standing at a dead stop trying to decide which way to head through the mud I sensed my feet begin to slip. I tried to adjust, but it was too late. My feet picked up speed before going skyward and my whole body plunged into the mud. Now, with nothing to lose, I continued making my muddy way down the mountain.
Finally, dead tired and completely drenched with sweat Rojan drove us the 40km back to Tana Rata. After showering and resting up we joined Jim for a “STEAMBOAT.” A fantastic Cameron tradition where you make your own soup with about a dozen ingredients with a gas fired grill at your table. We stuffed ourselves and then decided we needed massages!!
It was about 11PM when we began our massages and they were greatly needed. All the tension and stress floated out of our bodies and we slept the sleep of the dead!