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Published: April 15th 2015
Coming from a country that drinks copious amounts of tea, the Cameron Highlands was a place we had to visit. Known for its beautiful mountain scenery and the many tea and strawberry plantations, we knew it was going to be a little heaven for us.
Getting there from Penang was straightforward as we opted for the tourist minibus taking 6 hours(43 ringgit each). The closer we got to the Cameroon Highlands the more we had mixed feelings on the scenery. Don't get us wrong there were many moments where we were wowed. We were simply blown away by the lush greenery covering the mountains with many towering peaks all sat together in a rugged manner. However, another thing that also caught our attention was sadly the amount of mining and the consequence of deforestation that was taking place. You would see beautiful peaks appearing completely untouched until the bus rounded the corner and you had a view of the other side of the mountain that was shaved completely flat through mining, leaving a white/orange surface of rock that stood in contrast to the dense green forest and rugged mountains around. We would like to say this was happening on
a small scale, but this is clearly big business here.
The Cameron highlands were what Chris expected but nothing like what P expected. This small town was built up with many multi story buildings to serve both foreign and local tourists alike.
Looking for tours to visit the forest, tea and strawberry plantations was easy as there were plenty around. For us however, they sounded underwhelming as rather than explore on foot most agencies offered a pick up truck taking you to each place for your ease. Minimal effort was required and a deep pocket was necessary as many stops had shops to try it all. Something screamed tourist trap.
Instead we opted for our own DIY tour and tried to find others who had done this but were unsuccessful. Instead we did a bit of online research and settled on trail 1 through the Mossy forest to the viewtower. From here we decided that we would follow a winding paved road down the mountain passing the many tea and strawberry plantations on the way down to the main road where we would make our way back to Tanah Rata (the town where we
were staying). A few things did however put us off as everyone we spoke with decided to go with the hostels tour (coming well recommended by LP) and the hostel also warned us that there had been dangerous attacks on tourists (mainly on women) on 2 of the trails (trail 8 and 9). Not hearing or reading nothing particularly bad about the trail we settled on apart from that it was v. steep and strenuous (what can I say we like a challenge) we decided to give it a go the following morning.
We said to ourselves that the trail was nothing we could not manage as we've trekked across the mountains in Burma and been quite active throughout our trip so far. The trail through the forest was far steeper than we expected though and required both of us to stretch our legs to their maximum capacity to make each step. This upward climb continued for 2 hours and involved heavy panting and the use of both our lower and upper body strength to pull ourselves up at points. No telling we could barely move or walk the following day. But our surrounds were beautiful, we were
real deep in the Mossy forest with nothing around except for the dense trees/vegetation and the enormous roots that helped us climb the trail. Described with a liking to the forest in Lord of the Rings, we felt completely emerged in another world.
Tired and sweaty we arrived at the view point and enjoyed the panoramic views over the sweeping mountains all to ourselves. It was certainly worth it. Once the tour groups started arriving however we decided to start the second part of our trek down the mountain.
This was a paved road, but had minimal traffic as the only traffic using it was tourist trucks making their way to the view point. We felt smug walking down as we had made it to the top ourselves unlike the hoards of tourists in buses that passed us by.
1 hour into that walk we came across a strawberry plantation in which a worker shouted us over. He wanted to know a little about us and offered us lots of strawberries, for free. He even took some quirky pictures involving him holding some (real) strawberries in front of the camera whilst we posed as
if we held giant strawberries. Worked really well.
Happy with our pictures, our juicy strawberries and some home made strawberry ice pops that we purchased, we continued down the road for another hour or so before we were greeted by the the beautifully lined tea plantations located across many slopes in front of us, all a very vibrant green. After taking some postcard perfect pictures and admiring the view we set along this steep windy path again.
Not long after, we once again stopped abruptly on our path, not because of the beautiful scenery but because of what stood in front of us. A monkey the size of P. We stood there shocked, it looked at us as we gawped at it and then just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. This has got to be the biggest monkey we had ever seen in the wild and we were amazed by the experience.
We had the option to visit a tea factory on the way down but after walking for 5 hours with the first half very strenuous, we were now dragging our legs so decided to give it a miss.
Once we arrived at the main road, we had 2 options; either hitchhike it back to town or to try and pull over a cab if we saw one. After half an hour of walking down the main road song a traffic jam and slight lack of determination to hitchhike we spotted a cab and happily paid the 15 ringgit for the journey back to our hostel.
Overall we walked about 5.5 hours and completely enjoyed the experiences we had that day and would recommend it fully to those with a good level of fitness to try it too.
The rest of our time in the Cameroon highlands was spent eating amazing curries. One tip though when you ask for a spicy curry in an indian eatery here, you get another level of spice to what you would expect back home, that curry was extremely hot!!!
Next stop; beach time, the Perhentian islands!!
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