I arrived here by accident, which I must admit, is how many of best experiences happen. I hopped off the boat from the beautiful Perhentian Islands (which I will write about in another post as believe me paradise has its downfalls!), and decided I would get the next bus to Kuala Lumpur. It turned out that bus would not be departing for 6 hours, and in 34’c heat that was not an ideal situation for me. It was an overnight bus that would arrive in the capital at 5 in the morning which was also not-so-ideal!
Opting out of that, I asked where I could do within the next hour. There was a tour bus going to the Cameron Highlands at 2pm, so I decided that would be my next destination. What I didn’t know was that I would be the only passenger on the bus! Not that I cared, it meant I could tilt my seat back, stretch my legs and sleep for 6 hours. Pretty perfect really. Except for the crazy driver who decided to beat his personal record and to try to cover the 400+ Km distance over mountainous roads in 4 hours instead of 6. This made for QUITE the bumpy ride, which was not great for my already dodgy stomach.
Travelling Asia for a a few months or even a few weeks, you simply cannot escape getting “delhi belly”. This is even more so in Malaysia, which has a huge Indian population and an even bigger love for Indian Curries! In places like Penang it would be almost blasphemous to eat anything but local cuisine, and in places on the east coast like the perhentians you wouldn’t even have the choice.
The journey to the Cameron Highlands, apart from the bumpy roads, crazy driver and me almost going taking a pee in a prayer room instead of a bathroom, was pretty uneventful. The scenery was pretty amazing though, driving for hours through palm tree forrests, jungles and eventually up and down and over all the hundreds of acres of beautiful tea plantations.
On arrival I checked into Kangs Travellers Lodge, where I bagged a private room for just 7 Euro. Bargain! Today I went on their ‘Mossy Forrest walk’ which was way more interesting and entertaining than your average ‘Forrest walk’. Our guide was extremely knowledgable and seemed to know the name, the age and the healing properties on virtually every plant in the Forrest!
He showed us a tree that has leaves that are used to make citronella, which can protect you against mosquitos. However he pointed out that the one place it grows, is probably the one place you won’t ever find mosquitos! He casually picked a berry off another plant squished it between his fingers and showed us the purple colour that seeped out, a colour that turns black after oxidation and is then used to make mascara. Another plant smelled like spearmint or vicks, while another turned out to be wild ginger. We discovered some leaves, that take decades to grow, and looked like long hanging cups, and had this sort of sticky water in them that some how captured insects…it was like an insect eating leaf, very strange!
Our awesome guide also taught us about leeches and their healing properties to help thin the blood and clear blood clots, but also showed us leafs to help heal the wound after a leech had pierced you! He showed us which leaves/plants were poisonous and which weren’t and how we could test them (put a bit of the sap under you armpit and if it is itchy then the sap is poisonous, if not, then you’re good to go).
One of the most fascinating things I learned, however, was about the life of the Cicada bug. This guy, the male in particular, has such a sad life. He is one of the loudest and most annoying and creepy looking bugs I have ever come across with a buzzing song that could pierce your ears and give you a headache if you are too close, but after hearing his “life story” I can’t help but feel bad for the little critter. They live underground for 17 years (which in itself is pretty insane!!) then they come up above ground as a fully grown adult buzzing around the place looking for a female to mate with. They only have 2 weeks to do this before they will fall to the ground and die. And to make this task even more difficult…there are 100 males for every 1 female so competition is FIERCE!! In the world of the cicada there simply AREN’T enough fish in the sea!
Apart from our amazing nature lesson, we saw some spectacular views over the surounding highlands, tasting tea in a huge 600 acre tea plantation and even got to go to a strawberry farm to pick our own strawberries, which although very overprices were delicious none-the-less! Day one in the Cameron Highlands has barely finished and I’m loving the experience already!