Cameron Highlands: "Always time to stop by an' 'av a good cuppa tea luv!"
Cameron Highlands Travel Blog› entry 106 of 268 › view all entries
A tiny slither of a silver crescent moon sits above the pre-dawn neon lights of Tanah Rata, one of four or five small(ish) towns strung along the spine of the Cameron Highlands. All else is still blackness embroidered by stars. It’s pre-dawn. The town still sleeps. Well, not quite the whole town. I’m not entirely alone here, sat in the chill. Myself and - I assume - a couple of early doors local workers, sit in the darkened cocoon of the first public bus of the daily service. We hug ourselves to be a little warmer. My intention is to take this bus to the Sungai Palas or ‘Boh’ tea plantation estate to see it as the sun rouses its colours from between the early morning cotton-white sheets of highland mists.
The bus eventually, sputteringly, stallingly lunges onto the road at close to 7.00, half an hour later that the scheduled departure, but no probs, I was going to be getting to my intended destination stupid-early anyways. And here I am now, a 2km stroll along a winding road that forms the point of approach to the largest and most famous of the several tea estates that nestle high up here in these cooler Malaysian climes. The ember-red glow of a sun about to be reborn, hovers just beneath the horizon line as I reach the first accessible, hilly sweeps of the plantation grounds.
I am entirely alone here. This intensely private dawn moment is absolutely one of the most captivating of my journey to date. I stand at the shoreline of a rolling endless sea of the freshest, greenest colours and shades to greet my tired eyes for many a month.
I halt in my progress through the dewy maze and turn to place my gaze over the entire visible stretch of the Sungai Palas plantation, as it flows towards the rising sun. Milky mists still sit, wrapped around the base and flanks of the plantation hills, but the sun begins to burn them slowly away. The delicate mists start to soften as light and warmth intrudes upon the scene.
I clamber further up the little gaps and runnels that create the lush green labyrinth of the plantation. I’m not sure if you’re allowed to do this, but I don’t care. I’m dizzy with the novelty, the beauty of these surroundings and the urge to dive in, and to swim through these emerald green waves. The act of swimming apt enough as within minutes my clothes have now become completely sodden with the dew upon the bushes. I bump into Lal Kumar, a Nepalese migrant worker who’s been tea picking here for 4 years but plans to return to his family in Kathmandu in 2 months time.
Cresting the verge with him the early morning plantation activity now springs into view. Slowly bobbing about amidst the brain-like crenulations of the tea slopes a few men, wicker baskets upon their backs ‘clack-clack-clack’ away with some form of tea-tip plucking devices.
Leaving the workers behind I stroll the further 2 kilometres to the Boh Tea Centre. A pleasant walk flanked on all sides by the rolling tides of green tea slopes. This Tea Centre comprises a tea and cake shop, some information presentations about the history of the Boh tea company and the Sungai Palas estate and also a brief free guided tour of the on site tea factory where the picked tips are chopped and ground down, graded and dried whilst fresh.
Life cycle of a tea bush (Camellia Sinensis) : cuttings are cultivated in shaded nurseries until 1 year old. The young plants are then transplanted to fields and after 2 years the bushes are ready for plucking.
Leaving the Tea Centre I walk back through the estate and outwards into the hills. I begin to stroll up the 7km path to the summit of Gunung Brinchang, the highest peak in the highlands but turn back after a third of the way. I’m pretty tired and the near perpetual cloud shroud that sits around its peak shows no signs that it will lift today, making the journey a tad pointless. On the way back down I spot what I believe to be my first ever Hummingbird flitting about some of the delicate white flowers by the roadside and this just about makes me smile a summers horizon line wide with happiness.
Back on the main road I start the 4km walk to the town of Brinchang.
Along the ways to Brinchang (a deeply tourist-hotel geared, uninspiring town) there are a whole parade of the other types of activities that the Highlands are renowned for; strawberry farms, rose farms, further tea estates, fruit markets, flower markets and suchlike. I get a bus back to Tanah Rata and pretty much while away the rest of the day relaxing, reading and writin’ stuff. It’s been a glorious day, and I’m pretty exhausted so I shelve plans for a sunset trek into the hills. I’ve been lucky too.