Monday, 23 April 2012
Day 30 - Batu Caves, Cameron Highlands and an Interesting night on a beach. (Malaysia)
With a compass now to assist with the map of South East Asia, we made it to the Batu Caves on Day 25. It’s quite a bizarre place with the amazing natural rock formations rising out of a suburb full of run-down multi-storey apartment blocks, crash repair shops and dingey Indian restaurants. Other than the caves which were very incredible, other sites nearby include Giant – a supermarket chain of British proportions, but full of Asian stuff. Brilliant.
From there we went onto the Cameron Highlands, which at over 2,000m high provided us with some much appreciated cooler temperatures in some incredible countryside. We spent a great couple of nights at a campsite in the temperate rainforest near the town of . Tunkles was pretty excited by the countryside and went a bit “bush” or “troppo”, fashioning a bow and arrow with his bare hands from materials he found naturally in the surrounding habitat. When his weaponry was tailored to perfection, he took off his socks and shoes, rolled up his trouser legs and waded upstream in search of fish. Although unsuccessful (we had chicken nuggets for dinner instead), his effort is to be noted.
We explored the area which is predominantly a tea and strawberry growing region, enjoying a cup of Cameron Highlands tea at a teahouse looking out over the valley, and visiting one of the many markets selling local produce. The highlight though was the challenging drive on a treacherous and windy single track road on our way to Mossy Forest.
Our next stop was Penang where we planned on doing some free camping in the National Park. Well the first hiccup was when we found out that the camping area is either a 90 minute hike through the jungle or a 15 minute boat ride – there is absolutely no car access. So we considered this, did some searching around for some other camping spots and decided we would park our car and catch the boat there with all our camping gear. By this time it was dusk so we were anxious to find a spot and set up camp. Then we find out that none of the boats are operating because the tide is low and they’re all stuck in the sand. However, with enough shall we call it guidance, we were able to convince someone to take us to the designated Monkey Beach.
It was a beautiful boat trip around the coast of the island, the sun setting just behind the jungle, but when we arrived things turned a little sour. This was supposedly the main camping beach, and apparently a paradise, but the only other people on the beach were two guys who apparently live there and were total scumbags. The site they showed us to camp on (it was dark at the time, we have then checked it out in the morning) was the worst spot on the whole beach, in long grass infected with bugs and mossies, next to the smelly toilet and constantly running tap. Then they wanted us to pay them for the campsite (free camping in the National Park) and buy stuff from them. We got ourselves really paranoid when they set off on their scooters, thinking we’d in fact been taken to the wrong beach and these guys were off to get their mates to come and take care of us or something. Coupled with the intense humidity inside our tent, this was enough to ensure that sleep evaded us all night.
We had planned on staying for a couple of nights, but convinced that we weren’t even at the right beach, we decided in the morning to take the jungle trek back to civilisation, thinking it wouldn’t be as far as quoted for Monkey Beach. Considering it took us just over the recommended walking time (we were carrying lots of camping gear and I’m a really slow walker at the best of times), and we could see various signage along the path, we realised in the light of day that it probably actually was Monkey Beach, a bit quieter and a lot dirtier and more rundown than expected, and they were just a couple of weird hippies trying to make a buck.