Cameron Highlands is the luscious, green, natural heart of Peninsular Malaysia no matter what Kuala Lumpur wants you to think. For me, after a very busy time on the road from South Africa through to South East Asia, Cameron Highlands was a nice break from the manic bustling cities and tourist spots of Southeast Asia.
Cameron Highlands consists of a couple of townships that sit amongst the flowing greenery of jungle and forests that act as the dress wear for the rolling mountains and well, er…the highlands. I stayed in Tanah Rata which is a one road town and a perfect starting point for many of the varied hikes that have been plotted and mapped. Father’s Guest House was where I laid my backpack and head for the 5 days and it was a cosy and quaint hostel with a homely vibe. It also had a ton of information on the various hikes, treks and eats that can be had around Cameron Highlands.
The Equipment needed for Trekking in the Cameron Highlands:
The beauty of hiking is that apart from sturdy comfortable footwear, some snacks and plenty of water, all you need is some willpower and a map (or photograph of the map and trail route on your smartphone). Hey, Ho, Let’s GO!
Cameron Highland Trails
Trail 4 was my first foray into the natural persona of Cameron Highlands. It’s a short hike through the jungle between Tanah Rata and the next township of Brinchang. The route is easy and the jungle is always worth looking at but the highlight of Trail 4 was a visit to a Strawberry Farm (which Cameron Highlands is renowned for as great cultivators of strawberries and by association, scones and jam!) The humidity had me sweaty and in need of refreshment and so I found solace in the freshest strawberry milkshake I’ve ever tasted.
The rocky and winding coach trip from KL is worth it just for one of these strawberry milkshakes. After controlling myself from buying shares in the strawberry farm, I made my way past the golf course and many colonial style British houses and cottages to Brinchang. Cameron Highlands is definitely a place one could retire and sit atop a strawberry throne. As with travelling, the journey is what affords one the life-changing moments, growth and insight, not the destination.
After a day of playing scrabble and eating beans and toast, Trail 10 was next on the agenda. It leads to one of the best views one can see from all around the highlands. Many of the trails intersect so in traipsing 10, you actually cross 11 and 12. Trail 10 takes you to Mount Jasar which is a tougher climb often with some scrambling needed to climb the steep stairways supplied by hospitable tree roots.
A strange quirk of nature perhaps but I like to believe I’d stumbled into Fangorn Forest like Merry and Pippin (FOOL OF A TOOK! – sorry I can’t help myself) and help was being supplied by friendly Ents. Instead of Ents however, I did meet a friendly and kind man who had grown up in Cameron Highlands and now lived in Kuala Lumpur. In his late fifties, he still couldn’t resist coming home whenever able to take in nature as opposed to the bustling cosmopolitan metropolis of Kuala Lumpur.
I was heartened by his vigor, his lust for travel, discovery and his anecdotal accounts of growing up with the jungles and forests as his playground. My girlfriend and I continued the rest of the walk with our new friend Kumar and it was all the better for it as he acted as guide second to newfound friend. After navigating the upward climbs for around 2 hours, we arrived atop Mount Jasar and were treated with an expansive 360 degree view of the rolling hills of every shade of green imaginable. The mountains were still dwarfed by the perpetual blue sky and gargantuan mass of clouds that seemed to fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. The three of us took a minute or 30 to sit above the hills and take in the majesty that is nature.
The Hike to Mount Berembun
The last hike at Cameron Highlands was the most difficult – scaling Mount Berembun. It melds together many different trails which include 2,3,7 and 8. There is a way to start from Trail 9 which goes through Robinson Fall’s but the staff at Father’s Guest House warned us off as there is a lunatic(s) robbing hikers at knifepoint and there have even been some reports of sexual assault. So it’s really best to steer clear just in case this degenerate of a human being tries anything. I was really tempted to use my Kung-Fu skills and vast knowledge of the Predator movies to track this person down but I decided against it for fear of Malaysian jails and my girlfriend’s wrath.
The collective paths leading to the peak for Mount Berembun is a trial in itself though with sheer climbs using vines and more helpful roots to scale its gradient. The jungle is dense here as it seems one of the lesser travelled trails. You should allow yourself a full day to explore the intricacies of Berembun as it can be a slog shifting through its dense forest. I picked up a sturdy stick at one point to help clear a path as I was afraid a man-eating plant would snatch my torso away from my legs. The view at the top isn’t as expansive as Jasar due to it still being relatively thick with trees and not as clear. Still an achievement however and the way down is even more fun than the way up but can take its toll on knobbly knees (like mine). Be careful with steep steps and moss-covered stones near the bottom which had me on my arse. Berembun, despite the lack of an extraordinary view at the top is the toughest but most rewarding climb and is a must on any visitors list who wants a real adventure as you swathe through diverse flora that could be some jungle-planet from the expanded Star Wars Universe.
For anyone travelling South East Asia or Malaysia, it would be criminal to denounce Cameron Highlands for a few extra days on the beaches of Langkawi or to more time in the cultural hub of Georgetown, Penang. Whilst both gorgeous places, Cameron Highlands sums up the wholesome, friendly soul that runs through Malaysia whilst offering up spectacular views, immense flora and fauna from fantasy worlds and a slower pace to relax and put your feet up after a hard day’s hike. Avoid the many advertised guided tours and make your own way through trails whilst discovering your own serendipitous moments making friends with ents and men alike.