My return speed boat from the Perhentian Islands to the mainland was included in my 170 MYR ticket out there, so I only had to pay 60 MYR (£12) for my 5 hour bus to the Cameron a Highlands. Whilst waiting for my bus I booked 2 nights at De’Native Guesthouse; more pricey than some other options at 40 MYR per night (£8) for an 8-bed dorm, but it is slightly out of the centre and had great reviews about the social side; after a few days of enjoying solitude, I thought maybe it was time to talk to other people again. Maybe.
The bus left the mainland at 10am and arrived at a lunch spot at around 1:30pm before we changed into minivans for the remainder of the journey into CH; despite the air con being pants and our driver being miserable, the ride into the Cameron Highlands, weaving around the mountains with mist rising above them, was really cool. We arrived at Tanah Rata at around 4:30pm with most people getting dropped off at their hostel, but as De’Native is up some dirt tracks towards the mountains I had to take a taxi for 8 RM (£1.60). It is only about 15 minutes to walk it, but as the second half is uphill I wouldn’t recommend it with your bags. De’Native is a cute, wooden set-up on the edge of a mountain, offering beautiful scenery and a rural feel to the place.
After dumping my stuff and chatting to the girls in my dorm (Mara and Ellie) I set off back down the hill to explore the town centre – which is surrounded by mountains – and grab some dinner; a slightly bland beef soup. I picked up some weird lychee-flavoured alcohol (literally, the ingredients were Lychee Flavour, Sugar, Alcohol; information overload) from the convenience store and went back up the hill to sit round the bonfire and drink with the volunteers and guests at my hostel; a set-up they offer every evening and a great way to meet like-minded people and pick their brains about the treks in CH.
The next morning, following the advice from others, I set off down the hill at 10am and stopped at the main road to try to hitchhike to the starting point of Jungle Walk 1 (apparently the most popular) in Brinchang. To hitchhike you don’t stick your thumb up as apparently the locals will assume you are just being friendly and just wave at you as they drive past; instead you stick out your arm with your palm face-down and bring your fingers into your palm repeatedly in a flapping motion. I did this for about 5 minutes before a car with 3 Malaysians in pulled over; on their way to KL they were more than happy to drop me, although they didn’t know the area that well so it was up to me to try to figure out where to get off. As with most locals, they were so lovely and interested to hear about where I am from and the plans for my travels, although because we were chatting we went past the starting point and had to go back on ourselves.
At around 10:15am I began the trek on the path just off the main road, and then about 10 minutes in there was a sign leading you off the beaten track and into the jungle. After passing a fenced area and crossing a stream I then began the uphill ascent through the jungle, being completely enclosed by the trees above you and literally climbing up them using your hands and feet, plus the occasional strategically-placed rope to help pull you up. It was exhausting but pretty exhilarating, rolling over fallen trees and feeling like Indiana Jones on more than one occasion. It was ridiculously muddy already but then, about 2/3 of the way up, it began to rain – and I mean really rain. Even the trees couldn’t protect me. I reached one section that opened up to the side to offer a view of below but all I could see was thick, white mist.
I arrived at the top at 11:45, absolutely drenched and covered in mud. The security guy at the top was really kind but broke my heart when he said I wouldn’t be able to see the view from the top because of how misty it was (you honestly couldn’t see anything at all). After resting for about 15 minutes, three girls from my hostel arrived and asked if I wanted to join them for the rest of the hike, so just after midday we headed down the other side – which is a proper road through the jungly mountain – and walked in the rain (refreshing but I didn’t pack layers, so I spent a lot of the time covered in goose bumps) until we reached the entrance to Mossy Forest. Here, at 2,000 metres above sea level, we finally got our view.
We then continued our walk until we reached a Strawberry Farm just after 1. There are loads of these in CH due to the much cooler climate – they are mad about strawberries and I even had a Strawberry Ice Blended Coffee the day before. Here we picked our own strawberries (4 RM for 100g) and drank fresh strawberry juice (6.50 RM) before being shown around the other parts of the farm.
We got to hold a one-week-old baby goat (so cute and soft) sample their home-grown carrots, cherry tomatoes and mango apple (all of which were so fresh and tasty) and have hilariously bizarre and totally cringe (but also fun) photos taken of us posing with the strawberries.
We left at around 2pm and then walked about 40 minutes around the tea plantations to get to Sungei Palas Tea Estate (a Tea factory and cafe). The cafe is just over the edge of the mountain with really good views of the plantations, but the tea I had (Cameronian Gold Blend) was pretty weak and the food and drink overpriced, so I’m not sure any of us found this detour particularly worth it.
We then continued on our walk through the mountains for about 40 minutes until we hit the main road and reached the end of the trek. Needing to hitchhike back to Tanah Rata we started walking in the right direction whilst signalling as we had done earlier. After a few minutes a pick-up truck heading to Brinchang pulled over and let us hop on the back on top of sand bags filled with something really soft and comfortable for us to lay on, all of us sprawling across the back as the pick-up weaved through the winding roads.
Dropped off at Bringchang we then had to try to hitchhike again to get to Tanah Rata and after about a minute another pick-up truck pulled over, this one with nothing in the back. We therefore stood up directly behind the driver and passenger seats, holding on to the rail as we zoomed around corners at full speed and bounced over bumps in the road – wind in our hair and huge smiles on our faces, this was definitely a highlight of the day (along with the jungle climb). I wish I could hitchhike my way through life.
That evening, after one if the most necessary and rewarding showers of my travels, I went into town for a bite to eat at Restoran Kumar where I tried Mee Goreng (a spaghetti dish mixed with a spicy tomato paste and served with fish and meat) and was joined by a guy from Iran whom was sat at the table next to me. Having started his travels with his now ex-girlfriend and being a relatively new solo traveller, we chatted about relationships and travelling and meeting new people, being quite honest about our situations and what we needed out of life despite having just met. That’s one of my favourite things about travelling and something I definitely experience more of as a solo traveller.
After dinner I picked up a bottle of red wine and made my way back to the hostel, joining those whom were already sat around the bonfire. With quite a big group of us there, by midnight the karaoke was on (as someone who hates karaoke I have done a rather unconvincing job of it this past week) and we were belting our group renditions of My Heart Will Go On, Hey Jude, Stand By Me and Killing Me Softly. Having necked my wine and moved on to beer, I threw myself into both the singing (unfortunately) and dancing, throwing my arms around people I had known for a total of 24 hours, before heading to bed at 2am.
Feeling slightly ropey, I walked into town the next morning to catch my 11am bus to KL.