Sunday, 6 October 2013

Cameron Highlands days 2 & 3

We’re just coming to the end of our third day here, with one day to go and, to be honest, I’m a little disappointed. The weather has been less than perfect and it’s been pretty cool, in fact very much like being in the UK in spring/autumn time. Temperature today was 19⁰C and, in the evening it gets pretty cool, cold even, so we’re wrapping up in trousers, and jumpers, even wearing socks and shoes! And we’ve had plenty of rain, every day, yesterday from before dawn through to lunchtime, then again in the evening, today lighter rain for about an hour while we were out in the mountains. The first day was OK, with plenty of sunshine and it was quite warm, but overall it’s very British weather. People who were intending to come here have cancelled and people here have cut short their stay, so it’s obviously not always like this.

Waterfall walk and the bridge that has seen better days
Yesterday, because of the rain in the morning we stayed in the house here, reading, venturing out in the afternoon for a shortish walk to a waterfall, along a pretty muddy track. We ended back in our village, Tanah Rata, in time to see guests at a wedding bustling about and plenty of music, but the bride and groom were nowhere in sight. Round the corner to a strawberry farm (the strawberry plants arranged in three layers each side of frameworks positioned under cover. It makes picking them so much easier than having to stoop down to ground level as they do in the UK) and a little café selling everything strawberry. Home-made strawberry ice cream, strawberry jam, strawberry kebabs to dip in chocolate, an assortment of strawberry soft goods such as cushions, even strawberry scones. We, of course had to try the strawberry ice-cream, delicious, but when I asked for a strawberry scone they didn’t have any, sold out!

The sign in the woods. The note at the bottom left reads: 'Watch tower? No more, it has fallen down'

The campsite in the forest. Apparently it is a group of retired people according to one guy we spoke to
And there they are under cover having an audio visual presentation

This guy very sensibly pitched his tent under cover!
What a great way to grow strawberries

Home made strawberry ice cream, but no strawberry scones!
Native on guard in the dorrway of the house

No idea what the butterfly is, but it made a good picture
Today we’ve been on a mountain walk as the weather didn’t look too bad (we could even see a tiny bit of blue sky!). Guning Beremban at 6041ft (1840m) was our target, about 1000ft higher than where we are and about 4km away, so not too long a day, but the track was pretty muddy, very steep and through jungle. We went via ‘track 8’, which we were told is very pretty. The steep bits were negotiated by stepping onto tree roots criss-crossing the thin track, and we hoped we wouldn’t slip on the mud or slippy tree root, but we got pretty wet as the foliage hanging over the track readily deposited its water onto us.

As we got higher mist rolled in, it got pretty dark and the wind picked up. Is that rain or water droplets being blown off the trees? After a while we determined it was both, but no raincoats were donned as it was warm work and the coats would have been clammy, so we pressed on getting wet! I kept ahead as I wanted to reach the summit and I knew if I looked at Jackie she would be wanting to go down, so with heads down, on we went! We were at the summit 1.25hours after leaving the lower track, a lot less than the 3 hours recommended, so she couldn’t complain too much. Unfortunately, not much of a summit, the noticeboard was very battered the summit marker was leaning at an acute angle and trees were obscuring most of the view. When I say view, I mean opening through the trees, through which we could see white cloud and mist. It was very much like many of those photos we have on top of Scottish munros (a mountain over 3000ft high), a summit cairn and white all around, no view at all!

On the summit. Doesn't she look a 'happy bunny'
Jackie, of course, was looking thrilled at the whole thing and when I asked her whether she wanted to go straight down or wait a bit longer in the rain to take in those expansive views, she surprisingly walked off in the down direction! We went a different way, via ‘track 7’, just to vary it a bit, but that was slightly shorter than ‘track 8’, which made the descent even steeper. The rain was still coming down, so the raincoats were deployed and we carefully negotiated the tree roots and slippy mud, with absolutely no idea where we were. Eventually the rain stopped, the raincoats came off, but the foliage was still readily emptying its contents of water over us, particularly on the bits where the track was overgrown to the point that it was difficult to see. Surprisingly, neither of us slipped over so, although we were pretty wet, clothes were not too muddy so, on getting back to the village we called in at our usual restaurant, for lunch and iced caramel late with ice cream on top (at the time we were warm and the weather reasonable).

And look at that view!
Looking back towards the summit in mist

The odd ribbon sign tied to a tree always helps
Tomorrow Krish, the part owner of the De Native guesthouse, has offered to take us out to the ‘Native Village’ nearby. He took 5 out on it on our first day, but we’d already booked a trip, so we couldn’t go. Tomorrow it may be just him and us as there is only us, a Chinese couple who’ve hired a motorbike and a marathon runner who lives in KL, but has come up here in the cool to practise his running.

Our bamboo room with mossie net open
And here it is with mossie net down
Which brings me onto the De Native guesthouse, what can I say? Krish is a really nice guy and he tries very hard, but he’s a retired bank manager and has never run a guesthouse before. The old house is grand, but very tired and, in the front garden he’s built these bamboo chalets, we think without planning permission and clearly not adhering to any ‘building regulations’ (if they have them here). They look really nice, with the rush roofs, but they are small and the attached bathroom is nothing more than a shed with a toilet, washbasin (that leaks) and a bucket with hot water tap for a ‘shower’. The construction is very basic, lying in bed we can see light through the matting ceiling, where the rush roof doesn’t quite cover, leaving only a sheet of polythene to protect from the regular rain. The ceiling in the bathroom is just polythene. At night mice/rats/squirrels (we’re not sure what) run up and down either the polythene or the matting forming the ceiling. We’ve never seen anything, but we could see the matting move above or heads as they ran. The idea behind them was good, but he hasn’t had good builders, or maybe he just cut too many costs. We wonder what they’ll be like in 2 or 3 years and whether they will even be still standing! They have only been up 7 months so far!

Our 'new' room, taken from our balcony
Two American girls, who left yesterday morning, vacated a room in the house, so Jackie asked if we could move in there. It’s a room with two double beds and a single, but Krish was quite happy and didn’t charge us any more (probably because there’s so few people here). It’s a big room with a big balcony, but it’s allowed us to inspect the inside and realise how tired the whole house is. The room has a washbasin in it and the attached bathroom has a toilet and a bucket and hot water tap for ‘shower’, but there is a shared bathroom that has a shower. However, it’s all so terribly old, there are two hot water cylinders, only one of which works, the other has wires hanging out, the electric shower seems no longer to heat water and allows only a dribble out. It also became apparent, after tracing the pipework, that the broken cylinder was the one that feeds ‘hot’ water into this bathroom, so no hot water and only a cold shower, which I had as I was already in there ready! Jackie used the hot water in our bathroom, fed from the ‘working’ hot water cylinder and had a slightly better shower.

The bamboo huts from our balcony
It’s a real pity as the whole place could be fantastic, but although Krish has some great ideas, he seems to lack the skills (and maybe the money) to carry them through. If it were me I’d rip out all the plumbing in the main house and start again, plumbing in two new bathrooms and a new kitchen downstairs (which at the moment is lamentable). The bamboo chalets he’s built needed to be bigger and more substantial, so I think I’d probably knock two into one, strengthen the walls and roof and put in proper bathrooms. It’s a great location and a great old house, it could be so much better – it’s frustrating. We really want him to do well and he obviously craves for it, but will he?... we’re not sure.

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