Monday, 3 June 2013

Impressed = Tortoise

After a terrifying trip up through the mountains in a minibus with no suspension whatsoever and a driver who was racing his friend to Tanah Rata despite the hairpin bends next to 500m drops, stepping out of the bus in the Cameron Highlands in 20 degrees was pure, unadulterated heaven. We nearly cried with happiness when we had to go put on more clothes. 

As everything is really spread out and there were no buses as it was a public holiday (this also meant we spent most of the time sitting in traffic jams, albeit with very pretty views to entertain us) we signed up for a tour. This included a trip to the highest peak in the highlands, a tour of a tea plantation, a jungle walk in the mossy forest and a trip to a butterfly and insect farm. We met several other adventurers, including an awesome young couple from Sweden who are both going to train to be policers (better collective noun for a mixed gender group of police people, anyone?), an old lady from Stratford and a grumpy French couple (who seemed much less impressed than the tortoises). 

We all piled into the van early in the morning, on the way to the highest peak in the Cameron Highlands. At about 2,100m or so above sea level we were expecting some awesome views from the top, but half way up the mountain the clouds decided they weren't going to play nice and engulfed the summit in a thick fog. It's hard to believe that three feet away from where you're standing is a several thousand foot drop onto thick forest when you can hardly see your tour guide through the cloud, but every now and again the wind blew a gap for us to peek through and we did manage to see enough to keep us happy.  (Note - the grumpy french couple didn't enjoy this part and went back to the van early as they were scared of heights).

We stopped at a tea plantation half way down the mountain for some amazing photos, and our guide explained how they select which leaves to pick, how often you can pick them, and how these leaves are turned into drinkable tea. We decided we'd have to try some of the tea from the plantation we'd walked through, and laughed along with the Swedish couple while they teased us (tea-sed, get it?) about how it was extremely British that we'd already carried two kinds of tea with us most of the way across the globe. (Note - the grumpy french couple didn't enjoy this much as they didn't drink tea).

We then went for a trek through the "Mossy Forest", following our guide (who despite being in his sixties managed to make obstacles like four foot high logs, two meter long mud slopes and huge swamps look like a walk in the park). We all tried our best to keep up as he explained every important plant we walked past, and managed to get to the end of the walk without falling too far behind - although we did sacrifice the colour of Kat's baby pink converses. (Note - the french couple sat this part out in the van as they'd turned up to go "jungle trekking" in flip flops).

We then headed off to the butterfly and insect farm for the last stop of our tour, where we walked through a maze of plants and cages containing everything from butterflies and chickens to poisonous snakes, giant rhino beetles and scorpions. We weren't particularly excited about this part of our itinerary, but it turned out to be miles better than we'd expected and we got some really nice photos. (Note - the french couple sat this one out in the van as they didn't like bugs). 

We asked to be dropped off at the end of a designated hiking path in order to make our own way back to the town, and after some brief directions waved goodbye to our guide and headed off into the forest. We thought the tour was perfect as it meant we could see everything we wanted in our one day in the highlands. We're still trying to work out what the French couple were expecting, and where in the world you can go jungle trekking in flip flops...

^ the brilliant view from the top of the highest peak in the Highlands

^ a scary gold statue at a temple dedicated to a eunuch and naval officer, 
wondering why was much more interesting than the actual temple

^ we went jungle-ing!

^ giant pitcher plant which eats frogs

^ Ryan in a cloud!

^ spot the stick insect

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