This is typed outside a tour booking office where I have been awaiting a bus for 30 minutes.
I arrived ten minutes early and Raaju, the man behind the counter asked me to wait. No problem.
At 8.30am, he started making calls. At 8.40am a minibus pulled up but apparently this wasn’t my tour.
Five minutes ago, Raaju came out from behind the counter, jumped in a truck and drove off, waving for me to wait here.
To suggest I might find this a little odd would be an understatement.
Ten minutes later, Raaju came back, driving a rather battered minibus.
He didn’t explain what had happened but apparently had stepped into the breach, taking the role of tour guide.
I wondered who was running the office back at Tanah Rata.
We pulled into a garage at Brinchang, filled up with fuel and Raaju bought a bottle of oil. This was a very battered van. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had to stop to top the oil up a few miles down the road.
Off we went.
So, Raaju was taking me on the tour. Once again, I was solo though hadn’t paid a one person penalty for it
First stop, the Boh Tea Factory… tea…
The guided tour lasted all of five minutes – a brief summary of how tea is made, a walk around the factory, no photographs which allowed plenty of time to queue for a cup of coffee.
A large mug of tea drank while looking at the view.
The Boh Tea Plantation is one of the largest in Malaysia and the mountainside tiers were stunning in the morning cloud.
Workers were out tending the crops – probably not in the same numbers that would have toiled here one hundred years ago.
Boh is also one of the oldest – Raaju told me that tea had been grown here for around 130 years.
I may have developed a taste for Vietnamese and Malaysian coffee but I think I found another spiritual home up in the tea plantation.
We continued up the rutted and twisting road that winds up the side of Brinchang Mountain.
Most of the few vehicles we saw were 4WD. I was impressed that Chugaboom the minibus could make it.
Our next stop was the Mossy Forest an ancient rainforest, millions of years old.
Raaju said I was lucky they it was so misty – it would give me a real taste of what it is like being in the jungle.
He also pointed out that the Perak and Pahang border runs through the forest but he added that “this isn’t one of those border where you could get shot.”
Reassuring to know.
As in many parts of New Zealand, the walk is boarded in order to protect the moss that gives the forest its name.
Even though three trucks full of people pulled up shortly after we arrived, the jungle was peaceful. Nobody, apparently, followed me in.
I do find myself wondering if people arrive at these spots simply to take photograph of themselves next to the sign.
On the way down the mountain, we stopped at a viewpoint where I could get some shots of the tea plantation.
More importantly, this was also a regular calling point for Raaju to visit five puppies. Four came dashing out of their den in the tea at the sound of Raju’s voice.
The fifth was reluctant to move and, concerned, Raaju went in to pick him up. He still didn’t eat when placed in front of the food and it was clear his leg was injured.
“I’ll come back later and take him to the vet,” said Raaju.
The pups’ parents soon appeared when Raaju opened a couple of cans of dog food for them. He visits this little family every time he’s up here – several times a week.
The Cameron Highlands are busiest at weekends and the road, as we continued our way back down the mountain, was rammed with traffic. It is too narrow in parts for two lanes of vehicles to move – it’s not the distance between places that makes journey times long.
I found myself wondering again if all of the residential construction was a good idea in a place where the roads are struggling with the existing traffic.
Our next stop, once through the traffic was the Taman Rama-Rama Butterfly Farm. And for only 10MYR to enter, it was much better value than the Park in Kuala Lumpur.
I lost count of how many I saw and one landed on my hand.
The Farm also has other sections – reptiles, lizards, furry and more insects, otherwise known as the ‘did I really need to know they get that big?’ section.
There was also a cat… in a cage next to the pigeon cage. I had wondered why he was howling. No wonder.
We headed off to the strawberry farm.
The purpose of this was to pick strawberries… I decided that I’d cut out the middle woman and go straight to sampling the produce.
Plus, I’ve already got a punnet of strawberries in the hostel’s fridge – bought for a more reasonable price than I would be charged to pick them here.
This was, I thought, the last stop of the day but we stopped again for 30 minutes at a huge street market on the outskirts of Tringkap.
The road was lined with stalls selling, strawberries of course, but fruit,vegetables and tea all grown on the hills around. Talk about being able to shop local.
Raaju had told me this tour was all about the best parts of the Cameron Highlands and I think that was a fair description, especially at only 45MYR for the experience.
The kiosk on the main road is called Golden Highlands Cameron Adventure Holidays and they offer a range of excursions. A word to the wise – go for early morning… the traffic by early afternoon is heavy to say the least.