The journey across Malaysia via Cameron Highlands, Gua Musang and Lake Kenyir continues in this instalment.
The goal is to set out for the Cameron Highlands via the old Tapah road (Route 59).
First stop is a quick look around the Kuala Woh Recreational Forest, tucked away in a hidden valley at the foot of the Titiwangsa Mountain range.
The early morning air is refreshingly cool but the camping, chalet and toilet facilities look rather run down and there are too many mosquitos around.
The river looks clean enough and the whole place smells of tasty durians since August is the peak season for this pungent fruit.
Next stop is Lata Iskandar, one of Malaysia’s most accessible waterfalls located right next to the busy road.
This place can get busy at weekends and holidays. It is spotlessly clean here with no litter in sight.
From here up until the Cameron Highlands there are numerous roadside stalls selling handicraft items, fresh fruit and vegetables. Most of the vendors appeared to be from the Orang Asli community.
Where Perak borders Pahang, the Cameron Highlands begins with the town of Ringlet, probably the least developed of the three Cameron Highlands settlements (Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang) at an altitude of around 1,100 metres above sea level.
It’s 20°C here, which is about the average daytime temperature for this high altitude district, cooling to a chilly 14°C at night.
The towns themselves have not changed much. For some years they have been rather ugly, sprawling places with too much traffic.
Anyone expecting a quaint colonial hill station would be disappointed although there are still some nice parts such as The Lakehouse Hotel and the manicured tea estates.
What has changed in recent years however is the explosion of land clearance for agricultural purposes, some of it illegal, which has resulted in vast swathes of the Highlands being covered in polytunnels.
The Cameron Highlands are covered with plastic greenhouses and shade netting to protect fruits and vegetables from the elements and insects.
While it is generally a good thing that Malaysia should grow more of its own flowers, vegetables and fruit, the forest clearing and hillside levelling has been done in an uncontrolled manner resulting in serious flooding and landslides in recent years.
When in Brinchang visit the Time Tunnel, an interesting museum crammed with photographs, memorabilia collections and artefacts from days gone by.
At Blue Valley, turned onto the Gua Musang road (185) into Kelantan state. “Polytunnel-land” continues for several more kilometres before finally turning into a more natural landscape as the road began its slow descent from the uplands.
It is a good road, partly dual carriageway and elsewhere with frequent overtaking lanes, not that they were needed as there was hardly any traffic.
The town of Gua Musang is the administrative hub for the district of the same name which covers a large chunk of southern Kelantan. Until the Central Spine Road (Federal Route 8) was built, Gua Musang was a very isolated place and could only be reached via the Jungle Railway.
During the Emergency, its isolation made it a target for Communist bandits who attacked the township with a 300-strong force and seized control on July 17, 1948, killing one policeman and capturing another 15.
Their aim was to establish a liberated zone from which to extend their grip on the country. A relief force of army and police, supported by the RAF, successfully recaptured the town five days later.
Gua Musang means Cave of the Civet Cats (or foxes). The limestone hills here are honeycombed with holes and the main cave behind the old railway station is believed to be home to a pack of mysterious civet cats, spawning various ghostly legends such as that portrayed in the 1960s comedy thriller film “Pontianak Gua Musang”.
This article first appeared on thriftytraveller.wordpress.com