With promises of mountain vistas, cool air, and cheesecake for breakfast, we headed for the Cameron Highlands. Before we began the ascension up into the mountains, the bus driver pulled over and handed out vomit bags. “If you need more, you take more, they free,” he informed us. He then continued, “When bag is full you put outside. Not inside.” With the expectation that we were all about to lose our lunch multiple times, I began to wonder how we were supposed to get the bags outside. Are we supposed to throw them out the window? Or with vomit dribbling out of our mouths are we supposed to walk up to the driver and politely ask him to open the door while we daintily dispose of our regurgitated noodles? The questions were building and I had little to do but ponder them for the next two hours.
Luckily I never had to find out the answer to the great conundrum. I suppose not all of life’s questions are supposed to be answered. The road up was extremely windy and only one lane for a large proportion of the trip. Unfortunately, the traffic didn’t get the memo that there was only one lane, so we took most corners at a blistering speed whilst tooting furiously at oncoming/overtaking (sometimes both!) traffic. Despite the trip sounding terrifying, it was curiously comical that this primitive driving structure was so successful. Having determined that 100% of my trips up to Cameron Highlands did not result in a crash, I can conclude that the system (however ridiculous that system might seem) works.
Once in the Highlands, we had to get a taxi to our accommodations, the Country Lodge Hotel. It was a further 10 minutes down the road in a grand old building that sat on the hill against the mountains. The hotel was like something out of an old English colonial town that was positively haunted. We were one of the only guests to stay in the hotel and I kept expecting a wooden-legged butler to clomp around the corner, with a dead look in his eyes, who would stop to ask me if I was having a good stay only to mumble “because you’re never going to leave” under his breath with a crooked sneer and a deep cackle. We’ll call him Lester.
Whilst in the Cameron Highlands Ben’s illness ascended to the next level. It may have been the cooler climate, or a curse from Lester, but he was now confined to mostly bed rest. I completed many trips back and forth from town providing refreshments, snacks, and weird market food. Luckily for us, per the Lonely Planet, the only “must do activity” in the Cameron Highlands was to drink tea. This was something we could achieve.
One morning, after a solid sleep in, we took a taxi to the BOH tea plantation. The tea plantation was located up a windy road that was not big enough for two-way traffic. This lead to driving a few meters at a time before the taxi mounted a tree or drove uncomfortably close to a significant cliff. Often times we were stuck doing a little back-and-forth dance with another car to squeeze past. It was a surprisingly long drive for such a short distance. Eventually we arrived at the plantation and we ordered our breakfast. Due to the limited selection, for breakfast we had cheesecake, strawberry tart, and a flaming sausage, along with a pot of tea of course. Our little tea party was spectacular. I was transported back to a time when I played with Barbies and dolls; although the cheesecake was much better than the PlayDoh I used to use. Ben informs me it’s not the first time he’s had cheesecake for breakfast and I hope it’s not the last. I feel like there’s a message here about the secret to a happy marriage. It definitely has something to do with eating cheesecake for breakfast.
The tea plantations stretched across the rolling hills as far as the eye could see, all planted in orderly lines. For someone with mild OCD, it was very pleasing. I’m surprised I didn’t know more about the tea making process, considering how much tea I drink. Although, I do know a lot about the tea making process (add hot water and brew for 2 minutes), if you know what I mean. After a stroll around the grounds and breathing in the unusual aroma of the tea fields, we headed back to the lodge to see Lester.
We only stayed two nights in the Cameron Highlands before it was time to leave again (and thankfully Lester let us go). We wandered down to the taxi stand for a ride to the bus station. Unexpectedly, there were no cabs in sight. We finally saw one coming down the road and we flagged it down, but it already had someone in it. Surprisingly, the cab stopped and let us in anyway. Strangely, the taxi driver read our minds and took us to the bus station without more communication than a smile and nod. Neither the passenger nor driver minded that the taxi was to be shared. To them it made sense to pool resources as we were going to the same place. It was refreshing to see a community focused around sharing and we were happy to make it in time for our bus departure. The Cameron Highlands may not have been the most action-packed place, but it was a refreshing change of scenery and a breath of fresh air.
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