There's much to see in this part of the Cameron Highlands. The summit of Gunung Brinchang is reached through a steep tanglewood of roots, vines and slippery mud. Ropes are strategically placed to help you with the clamber. Pray for a clear view on the summit and you may be rewarded with views over the picturesque green hills of the highlands. If however, the cloud is impenetrable, it will only make the mossy forest near the top more magical.
This 160 million-year-old cloud forest is home to hundreds of mossy trunks. Bent, twisted and deformed, they lean and stoop like haggard old men. In places the bark has fallen away from the trees, only to be suspended in midair on mossy tendrils. They hang there, swaying slowly in the wind that meanders gently through the ever-present cloak of mist.
Downhill, the immense tea plantations are a curious sight. The endless rows and rows of tea leaves follow the contours of the slopes. This makes it possible to walk amongst the tea, playing as one of the workers you will see with their iconic conical hats. They hack at the tea leaves with specialised shears equipped with a bucket-like bowl to catch the debris and toss the leaves into wicker sacks strapped to their bodies.
Unless you're up for buying a taxi or planning to walk down the main roads back to Tanah Rata/Brinchang, the best way to return is by hitching. Of course, you could retrace your steps down mount Brinchang, but the lure of the hitchhike is always too much for me. Will you be picked up by locals or another traveller? Ride shotgun in an air-conditioned SUV or bounce around on to the back of a pickup truck? Those truly adventurous moments are to be treasured. Strangers helping strangers is a beautiful thing.
Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@_scott_norris) // summer 2016
Buses run to the Cameron Highlands from most major cities. Chartered minibuses also run from the popular tourist spots (but be prepared to tell drivers with a death wish to slow down!).
Head NE on Brinchang's main road. Pass the police station (labelled 'Tegas. Adil Dan Berternan'). After the cluster of markets on your left take the first left. It is signposted, but badly.
At the fork take a right. Look out for a yellow sign as the road splits again. Take the left fork onto a dirt track.
Follow the well worn trail to the summit.
At the summit head down the road. There are steps ascending to a viewpoint on the right.
At the car park take a left onto the walkway through the mossy forest. Turn back when you've explored the mossy forest. After the walkway ends, the forest continues for a small while before turning jungly. This path leads towards the summit of Gunung Yong Belar (5+ hours and you need a guide). So be sure to turn back.
Once back at the mossy forest car park you have a choice: retrace your steps down to Brinchang or take a left and follow the 8km road past the tea fields (you might find a friendly local to help you down the road if you want to visit the tea fields)
If you choose to walk down the road turn right and hitchike back to Brinchang. Hitching is very easy along this busy road - go for it!