Sunday, 22 September 2013

More mountains - The Hghlands

Thursday morning and as I open the door to let the sun shine in I find two bags of tea hanging on the handle (drinking tea from a bag is normal in Asia because you can buy it and hang it from the handlebars of a bike!). It is still warm and lovely and there is no note so it’s like the tea fairy has been. Later that day I find out it was a gift from one of the Singaporeans who had gone to town to get breakfast and thought it might be nice to bring us back tea…IFLM now as well. Today we are going to climb Gurung Brinchang. A nearby 6500ft mountain 10km away which we reach by bus. As we get off the bus at the start of trail to the mountain we are shocked to see a guy called Jamie who we had met 7 months ago in Laos when we stayed at the same guest house. Consequently we spent several hours slogging up the mountain and catching up. Today’s trail was interesting in that there was more scrambling than the previous trek as the route was more direct and sheer so there were few places where you could actually just walk. Mostly it was stepping up through vines, clambering up muddy inclines and pulling ourselves over fallen branches and tree trunks. At one point Rachel nearly lost her footwear after sinking ankle deep in cloying mud, at another point Jamie’s feeling of vertigo almost stopped him scaling up a vertical bank. But generally we spent the entire time marvelling at the jungle landscape of huge leafs, hanging vines, copious foliage and trees laden with thick green moss. It was a taxing trek but exhilarating. The weather was once again ideal and the views from the summit far reaching over the whole of the highlands. The only thing that spoiled our walk was the fact that there is a service road that leads to the telephone masts and this meant we lost that sense of reaching somewhere remote. The flip side is that the walk down was a pleasant although lengthy (11kms) stroll. Luckily shortened by a kind couple in a car who picked us up after we had covered about 5km.


At the bottom of the mountain we part ways with Jamie who we meet up with later for dinner and go to a nearby bee farm. The farm has about 50 hives set in gardens with some exquisite flowers – trumpet flowers, giant hibiscus, canna lilies and many others we cannot name. We finish off by buying and eating a lump of honey comb dripping with deliciously sweet honey.


Friday…. Apart from another beverage in a bag offering we have done little today apart from read, sunbathe and chat. Krish told us about the ten incarnations of Brahma and various other deities then ran us into town and treated us to lunch. Very nice! Tried to skype peeps but the connections are appallingly slow and patchy – very surprising for such a technologically up there country. Came back to guest house had a few rum and cokes and beers with Marco and Sonny (really nice, interesting men)and some other Malaysian lads who are staying and who partied all night so not a great night’s sleep.


Saturday. Tea but no Singaporeans. They have left already to go back and there last kind gesture was a final bag of tea. Pity would have liked to say goodbye. Climbed yet another mountain. This one only 5800ft above sea level. This was a lovely path. Minimal scrambling and with lots of walking along trails which were not too steep. We reached the summit and took in a fabulous 360 view with the sun beating down on us. Couldn’t initially find a through route into the jungle to go down the other side. We had been told this was the case but refused to believe it. Luckily, perseverance paid off because after following a few blind tracks and scrambling up a sand bank we found the route. Pretty much overgrown in places but really nice taking us past some great views and moss covered trees. As the path became more obscure we decided to eventually clamber down a long muddy slope holding onto vines to get to a discussed road we could see. The road, we found, was slipping into a deep sided valley here and there and being reclaimed by the fecund jungle consequently slabs of it were missing and vines and leaves were laying on the crumbling tarmac. Weird walking down a long traffic free and silent road that seemed  to be reverting to nature. Felt a little post-apocalyptic. Found a bright green snake and just before reaching the outskirts of the town, 5 hours after leaving, watched the progress of a huge civil engineering project, with tractors and rollers and diggers all beavering away from the precipice of the crumbling road. We get home just in time to catch 15 minutes rest before having to get ready for an Indian marriage meal we have been invited to by Krish who is the uncle of the bride.


The meal attended by about 300 to 400 people is in a large hotel out in the countryside. We arrive on our own and have to traverse a tunnel of welcoming relatives of the bride and groom all of whom have no idea who we are. It was really pretty strange and embarrassing and we must have shook hands with about 40 people before we spot Krish and his wife Jane and are then taken out of the introduction loop and handed over to a relative of his to be looked after. The meal is held in a large room with dozens of large round circular tables covered in plain white tablecloths and filled with the friends and family who have arrived. The women in brightly coloured saris’s. The men generally much more casual although some of these come is wild psychedelic colours too. The meal is a curry buffet affair and being the curiosity token whites we are encouraged to push into the endless queue. We eat and are entertained by wild drumming, Indian style singing, Bollywood acting and choreographed dancing by the family teenagers who are all excited and brimming with energy. We only stay a couple of hours but were thrilled to be invited. We hitch a lift home with a couple of departing guests. Back at our guest house the Malaysian boys are partying  and do so until 5am when they are eventually quietened by the owner and the noise is replaced by the towns Iman calling out from his minaret..Arrghhhh!


Sunday. Sleep til ten, get up, call the Malaysian group “Arseholes”, go for breakfast in town and return at 12 to find they have been kicked out and we are once again the only guests. Rachel has a bath and whilst looking up through the plastic sheeting that is beneath the reed roof sees a  2ft long snake slithering by. Today is scheduled to be a reading, sunbathing and do nothing much sort of day in preparation for 4 days in the Taman Negara rainforest national park. Its supposed to rain but once again is beautiful.



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