Boots on the Loose

Hiking in the Cameron Highlands

We were recently doing some hiking in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. The following is a guest post from Boots’ First Lady!

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On our way up the Malaysian peninsula, we decided to stop in the Cameron Highlands for some cooler weather, some hiking, and to see the tea plantations up close. We got all three on the 1st day by doing a hike up to the Boh Tea Plantation, but it took some time to figure out the best route.

Even for someone like me who loves her research, it was difficult getting reliable information on the area’s trails, like where they start and end, how to get to and from them, what you’ll see along the way, and the trail conditions. I wanted a fairly challenging trail, with good scenery, and after spending some time on the google, reading the guidebook and our hotel trail maps, and getting advice from our hotel owner’s son, we decided to do trail number 9, and 9A leaving from Tanah Rata.

We weren’t sure how long the trail would take (possibly up to 3 hours was estimated), or how easy it would be to get to the tea plantation once we reached the main road. In situations like this, I like to make sure I’ve got everything I could possibly need for the next few hours, which usually means snacks, extra layers, maybe a poncho, maybe a guidebook, but in this case I really didn’t feel like bringing a bag, so packed my pockets with the bare essentials for both of us. In this case, that meant a half pack of mentos, a few werthers candies, a handful of peanuts, some gum, some money and a small bottle of water. After years of travelling with Gary, he’s finally convincing me I can survive on less. But I’m not quite there yet.

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Supplies for the day

The trail started after a 10 minute walk through town, heading to Mardi (looked like an agricultural learning centre), and then we followed a sign on the right, to Robinson Falls. The start of the trail (just after a small house advertising blackberry jam for sale) was paved with red and black paving stones, and was quite slippery.

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Start of the trail

It followed a river (unfortunately filled with clumps of garbage) that led to a smallish waterfall. After about 30 minutes, it turned into a dirt path, the start of trail 9A (marked with faded flagging tape hanging from a branch). We had a photocopy of the trail map, but thankfully noticed signs and flagging tape along the way to reassure us we were heading in the right direction. We didn’t see a single person on the trail, so it always makes you wonder if you’re going the right way, or should even be doing it because maybe they know something you don’t know.

Shortly after we got onto 9A, Gary said “hey, don’t forget to watch out for snakes!”, to which I said “Aghh, what if they’re up in the trees???”. It’s really jungly in there, and there were lots of vines hanging from the trees, and from then on I had visions of sneaky snakes picking their moment to drop out of the trees onto us. That’s probably not at all a possibility, but it was hard to get the snake from the jungle book out of my head.

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Vines

The trail was slippery, a bit mucky, there were lots of fallen trees to negotiate, and other than a bit of an opening near the waterfall at the beginning, it was pretty closed in.

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Over, not under

After about 1.5 hours from the start of the trail, we came to a sign that pointed the way to a detour through the vegetable farm (also noted on our trail map) because the regular trail is too sketchy. It was starting to get borderline impassable towards the end, so I’m glad we took it. The trail actually led through the vegetable farm, and onto a farm road, which we followed out to the main road leading up to the Boh Tea Plantation, our ultimate destination.

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Vegetable farm trail marker

From the vegetable farm, it’s about 7 km up a windy road. We were recommended to hitchhike, but at first there wasn’t much traffic, so we started walking, figuring it was good for us, and eventually we’d probably get a lift. After about 1 km, the perfect ride came along, a farm truck with kids riding on the roof top, and an old guy in the back. So we hopped in, happy not to have to walk all the way, and happy for the novelty of riding in the back of a pickup, something that only happens now when travelling. The views from the road were spectacular. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as green as the hillsides covered in tea plants and trees, corner after corner.

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The Noble Anarchist hitching a lift!

We were dropped off at the plantation, had a quick pot of tea and some scones (both very good and welcome after a breakfast of toast hours before), and joined the free tour through the factory. The tour was short and sweet, and told us just enough about the tea making process in less than a half hour. The smell of tea being processed was pretty awesome: a combination of fresh cut grass and a nice cup of tea.

And then the clouds rolled in and it started to rain, so we decided to have one more pot of tea before heading back down. Same as on the way up, we started walking, hoping to hitch a ride part way down. Luckily, we didn’t get a ride (again in the back of a truck) until we were almost at the bottom because it was an easy walk, and gave us time to appreciate the scenery. We couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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Boh Tea Plantation

We were dropped off at the main road between Ringlet and Tanah Rata, and waited at a bus stop for a bus that never came. Instead, a car full of local guys offered us a ride (for 10 ringgit) into Tanah Rata. They claimed there were no more buses coming at that time of day, and since we had no idea if this was true and the price seemed reasonable, we went for it and squeezed into the back. You never really know how these things will turn out, but as usual (we’ve been very lucky in all our travels), it worked out perfectly and we were let out a 5 minute walk from our hotel.

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Boh Tea Plantation

We weren’t very prepared for the hike, or what would come after, and trusted that everything would work out OK, or that at the very least, we could turn around and come back the way we came. Kind of like our philosophy in life: nothing is irreversible.

As it turned out, the hike and the entire day were the highlight of our trip to the Cameron Highlands, and so far the highlight of our trip through Malaysia!

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