Winter in summer-land

In my previous post the Nepali connection,  I mentioned that my hosts in Kuala Lumpur had invited me to join their trip to Cameron highlands and that I had agreed to join them. In this post I shall write about that and rest of my stay in Malaysia.

Views on Cameron highlands

Views on Cameron highlands

 

Cameron highlands

The gang that went to Cameron highlands included my host, co-host, their three friends  and two other couch surfers who were surfing with our hosts back at KL. So it was a small troop indeed. We had hired an apartment just outside the town of Tanah Rata.

View of tanah rata town from our apartment

View of tanah rata town from our apartment

Cameron highlands is an interesting place in that it’s perpetually cool, because it is at an altitude. Most of Malaysia is hot and humid due to its location on the equator. It is also a place where it can rain with least amount of warning. Cameron retains all these properties except the heat. This makes for an really interesting flora. There is rainforest here. But it is temperate! Of course, as you can imagine, Malaysians love the place – who wouldn’t love a place where you can cool down from equatorial heat?

The jungle walk in Tanah Rata

The jungle walk in Tanah Rata

The highlight of our stay was a hike through the jungle here in Tanah rata. When we set off, it was cool even though the sun was out (duh).

Random shot taken when there was a lull in the rain

Random shot taken when there was a lull in the rain

I took my jacket with me – it is an almost rain-proof jacket (the seams can leak a little bit of water under torrential rain) that is fleece lined inside (so it is warm as well). It also has a removable hood, which I had removed for a reason I cannot fathom right now. As we started going on this lovely trail with lots of obstacles that seemed like they hadn’t been cleared for a long while. Now and again we would come across a fallen, dead & decaying tree on our path. Constantly, there were puddles of water with foliage rotting in them. The dense jungle also made the views intensely claustrophobic and yet beautiful.

Steamboat meal that my friends had post the trek

Steamboat meal that my friends had post the trek

The downpour

Then all of a sudden there was a not-a-small drop of water on my head. This quickly turned to a torrential downpour. Should I remind you, dear reader, that this is a rain forest? Suddenly, I was scampering to make the jacket cover my head, which left large portions of  my back exposed to rain. And so we walked. The rain ebbed and flowed, never really stopping – enticing little lulls were always followed by more heavy rain.

View of Penang island atop Kek Lok Si Pagoda

View of Penang island atop Kek Lok Si Pagoda

At one point, we encountered a dead tree looming across our path. It was pretty big, imagine the kind of tree that grows unmolested in a rain forest with plenty of fertile soil, then multiply it by a factor of three. This tree loomed that massive in front of us. We couldn’t skirt it since there was sheer drop on one side and a sheer wall on the other. Only one of in our gang really had a full rain coat an looked like he was out on a proper hike.

Georgetown is a UNESCO heritage site & the capital of Penang

Georgetown is a UNESCO heritage site & the capital of Penang

This was the french member of our crew who was an experienced jungle hiker. He somehow scaled the slimy, slippery tree and got on to the other side. He then helped others along one by one, the lighter people – he outright lifted to the other side. In my hubris, I started to cross the tree by myself without really accounting for how slippery it was. I began my inevitable slide down to the 30 foot drop when the french held my arm and saved me from the fall.

Gaint buddha at Kek Lok Si pagoda in Penang

Gaint buddha at Kek Lok Si pagoda in Penang

And so we continued the walk, on and on. We eventually reached a fork in the road and took a while to decide which way we should go to head back into town. There was no cellphone reception, but mostly using intuition and a bit of help from my phone’s compass we decided on a path and started walking. This turned out to be the right track and we eventually made it back to civilization after a ~4kms walk through the jungle.

We then came out onto someone’s backyard. We stopped in a garage waiting for the rain to stop. Once it stopped, we immediately went into the town to eat as everyone was hungry. I ordered some dish in a hurry and then realized that everyone else had ordered a steamboat together.

Funnily named street in Penang

Funnily named street in Penang

Penang

The next destination I visited was Palau Pinang. This is supposed to be a foodie paradise, but I’m not one – I do enjoy good food, but I wouln’t live for it or, in this case, travel to a foreign country for it. Penang is an interesting place nonetheless, with interesting sights and different sounds.

The bridge that links Penang island with Butterworth in mainland

The bridge that links Penang island with Butterworth in mainland

One of the interesting persons I met here was “backpacker granny” Gerry. That’s one of the things about travel, one meets different people with unique perspectives that are hard to find in one’s day to day life. Backpacking, in my view, is the purview of the young. But as Geraldine demonstrates with her life, it’s just a state of mind. Anyway, she’s done a better job of describing what Penang is like than I could so I’ll just post you over to her blog.

In the next post, I’ll write about my experiences in the Bali island.

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