14,595 km so far.
We had hoped to spend at least part of today trekking through the mountains we had pushed ourselves to climb yesterday. This is the Cameron Highlands after all, and we didn’t ride our bikes up a mountain to Tanah Rata because we’d heard the town was beautiful. (Spoiler alert: it’s not.)
However, when we tried to book a trek up to the Mossy Forest for the afternoon, which is something all the tour organisers advertise, we were told at the first 3 places we tried that they didn’t run the tour in the afternoon because it usually rains, and the morning treks had already departed.
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg
At the third place I had finally had enough of hearing ‘no’. After all, most of the tours say they will go with a minimum of 2 people. So I whined.
Please? We don’t care of it rains. We want to see the Mossy Forest!
Lo and behold, it worked. The staff had a brief conversation, then told us they would take us. Fantastic. We had just enough time to go for what turned out to be a terrible coffee (at My Cake Home – go if you want bad coffee), then grab lunch, and relax a little, before it was time to go.
It turns out we weren’t the only ones up for the trip. Five of us ended up going out to the forest. You’re welcome, tour guide, who otherwise would have made no money this afternoon.
Mossy By Nature
The Mossy Forest lived up to the hype. It was definitely mossy. And foresty.
The rain was closing in as we climbed up past 2,000 m (in the ease and comfort of a van). Misty clouds were weaving their way through the vines, dangling roots, hanging moss, and branches of the forest.
It was the perfect atmosphere for exploring this other-worldly mountain top.
We had a friendly, talkative tour guide who, in a thick accent that most of our group had trouble understanding, explained some of the features of the forest to us as we carefully stepped over slippery tree roots, tried not to sink into any muddy holes, and hoped the endless wisps of spider silk didn’t awaken any large, jungley spiders.
Intermingled with the incredibly mossy trees were pitcher plants (which are large goblet-shaped plants that eat insects they trap in their gullets)…
…orchids (not in flowering season right now), plus numerous flowers I can’t name.
The colours of their petals made a stunning contrast to the dark greens and browns of the trees and moss.
The ground was slippery and soft, like a peat bog in the early stages of development. We had to be cautious as there was a magnificent descent off the edge of the forest, down to the jungle floor many hundreds of feet below.
Our guide was good at making sure we stayed safe, even while he showed us how soft the ground was by jumping up and down on it repeatedly, as it bounced like a weakly sprung trampoline.
We were all a bit nervous that the next bounce would see him drop through the forest floor, all the way down. Then who would drive us home?
There are two tea companies growing tea in the mountains, with plantations covering hundreds of hectares.
We visited the BOH plantation after we left the forest.
BOH was started by a British expat in the early 20th century, and the company became one of the most famous brands in Malaysia, even though none of our group had ever heard of it.
We got to wander through the sorting and drying rooms, which were amazingly simple, using technology that seemed to have changed little in the past half-century.
We saw people picking the tea leaves, and we stopped amongst the hedgerows for photos.
There our guide explained that the tea is no longer picked by hand. Instead they use shears to cut the new growth, making the working much faster, and employing fewer people. We also thought this would make tea of a lower quality, but maybe Malaysians don’t mind.
He also told us that King Cobras like to sleep in the tea plants, so the workers have to wrap heavy plastic around their legs as they harvest the tea to avoid being bitten.
The workers are all foreigners, mostly illegal migrant workers, from Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, and Burma. He told us Malaysians find the work too difficult and it doesn’t pay enough, so they work in the tea plantation gift shop, and run the restaurants and hotels, while immigrants do the hard labour in the fields.
Sounds just like home.
One big difference here seems to be the housing. There are houses on the plantation property for the workers to live in. Though the houses are crowded, the living arrangements seemed much better, newer, cleaner, and more comfortable, than the way migrant farmers in America live.
Then again, in America farmers probably won’t get bitten by a King Cobra as they work, so there is something to be said for each side. ♥