(Written by Dave)
As you may have guessed from the title we made it to Tanah Rata and the Cameron Highlands. It was a very hard climb. Of the 60k we rode, we had 2k of downhill, 4k of flat and the rest was going up. Of the up parts, about half the time we were in granny gears – meaning other bits were a little easier.
We were up early as we knew it would be a long day. We actually left the hotel at 7:10, which is pretty amazing considering we ate and there was no lift at the hotel (I ran up and down the stairs with the bags, while Nancy guarded and packed the bikes on the street). The hotel was quiet except for the Chinese grandma from the hotel. The only word she knew was “key”. Both Nancy and I greeted her with “good mornings” to which she barked “KEY!”. Believe me, it was not a hotel from which we were contemplating taking souvenirs. Once we finished with the room, we presented the key without discussion, quite funny actually.
Traffic in town and for the first 2-3k was pretty heavy but soon after we took the turn off on highway 59 and traffic reduced considerably. The first 20k, we climbed in middle ring at pretty good pace. At 22k we stopped at the Lata Iskandar waterfall for snacks and to refill our water bottles. From here it was into granny gears and slower speeds all the way to Ringlet at 46k. Into Ringlet we had our 2k of down hill, followed by a k or two of flat before the hardest climb of the day, the last 9k up to Tanah Rata. Overall traffic was light but steady. There were many trucks going up and down but we felt pretty safe as we could hear them coming and get out of the way. Only once did we have two pass simultaneous but it was a safe place.
Early on we had great mountain morning air, full of mist and grey. Eventually the sun worked its way over the hills and grey gave way to green. The only things not green today were the asphalt road and any place that there had been a land slide – there were a few. Everything was very lush and you got the feeling that a few weeks of no mowing and the road would be overgrown.
We saw lots of locals (aboriginals we think) harvesting durian from the wild forest. It looked like a very hard day’s work, with entire families, including the kids, taking part. We guess that the harvest is seasonal and now is the time to hit the forest. We passed several small villages and noticed a big change in the houses from the ones we saw down in the lowland area. Many had thatch roofs and woven bamboo walls. Most of them were raised off the ground on stilts and some right on the edge of the mountain. On the climb to Ringlet, every 50 metres there was a cobbled together fruit/juice stand. Most often four posts, with a raised platform and a grass or tarpaulin roof. Some members of the family would be sitting hoping for customers to stop. It was hard to see why there would be so many of these stands and even harder to think how seldom any one of them would get a customer – we didn’t stop as we had what we needed. Pretty hard life I imagine – scratching out an existence on the side of a mountain.
The last part of the climb was through tea plantations – this was a nice change, providing a distraction from the climb. Only problem was I wanted to take lots of photos. Nancy did great climbing but at this point she just wanted to get to Tanah Rata. We’ll be heading back down there in the coming days.
We switched hotels when we arrived in town. Nancy negotiated a special rate and Planters is a nice hotel for a change. No ants, but an all in one bathroom still – it’s a nice bath all the same. We cleaned up and hit an Indian restaurant for the tandoori chicken special, before heading to Starbucks for a proper espresso – yes, that’s right there is a Starbucks here!
We are certainly enjoying the change in temperature and humidity. As we ate lunch and walked along the main street we both commented that is was nice to be doing that without sweating! We are booked in here for 4 nights so are looking forward to relaxing a bit and exploring the area.