Ankle deep in mud, covered in sweat, clinging to tree branches on the side of the mountain and not really sure if we were going the right way.
This is how I decided to spend one of my days off last week.
We were in the Cameron Highlands, a place where Malaysians go to relax. With its lush emerald green tea plantations, overgrown jungle hills, abundant strawberry farms and winding roads it’s easy to see why this is the place where the locals come to on the weekends.
As a Canadian, I never thought that a major selling point for a destination would be how cool it was. Where I come from, you always try to head somewhere warmer for your holidays. However, after the humid heat of Penang and Kuala Lumpur it was incredibly refreshing to feel the chilly mountain air on my skin.
In the other locations we have been so far in Southeast Asia we wouldn’t have dreamed of going on a four hour hike in the middle of the afternoon, as we probably would have passed out from heat exhaustion. The cool high altitude micro-climate of the Cameron Highlands gave us a perfect opportunity to go exploring in the jungle.
We had read about Gunung Brinchang Jungle Trail online and the WikiTravel page had described it as an easy hike which you could access from the village of Brinchang. We found it simple enough to access (just walk north and turn left after the police station), but the contributor on that WikiTravel page must have a different idea of what “easy” means than we do.
The first half hour of the hike was quite steep and muddy but we were not deterred. This was because we didn’t realize that it was only going to get steeper and muddier. Even though the air was cool, our shirts were soaked in sweat. Every time we saw light coming through the trees and we thought we were at the top, we would pull ourselves up a steep edge and see how much further the path stretched in the distance. An “easy” hike it was not.
If you think that I’m complaining, I’m not. It was fantastic to be able to exercise because I spend my entire workday sitting in front of the laptop. I love being outside in the fresh air and pushing my body.
The only worry in my mind was that we would get stuck halfway up and it would start to rain. You got the feeling that, with how hard and fast the rains come in Malaysia, if they had started while we were on the mountain we would have slid down the entire way like a tree-lined mud-slide.
By the time we triumphantly reached the top we were wet through with sweat with our hair clinging to our foreheads, our legs smeared with dirt and our shoes heavy with thick gucky mud. As we stumbled over to the lookout, a guided tour jeep came up the road. The door opened and an incredibly good looking Danish couple jumped out. With not one hair out of place and not a drop of sweat on them, they looked like they had stepped out of the pages of a catalog.
They looked at us a bit strangely and I was quick to explain that we had spent the last 3 hours crawling up the mountainside which is why we were in such a state. We did the customary couples travel routine of taking photos of them with their camera so that they could take photos of us with ours. I can only say that they looked a lot more put-together in their photo than we did. Their photo will likely hang proudly on their wall someday whereas I hesitate to even share this sweaty and muddy mess here on the blog.
We opted to walk down the road path than risk slipping on the muddy descent. This turned out to be a very good idea, because when we were halfway back the heavens opened. As we walked back into the village and returned to our hotel, followed by a stray dog, dripping wet and muddy, the lady at reception who has seen us setting off enthusiastically several hours before could not contain herself and burst into laughter at the very sight of us.