KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Our second day in the Highlands saw us setting out to walk the five kilometers to check out the golf course and the modern Chinese town of Brinchang. We took the Trail 4 to the Parit Falls once again, but continued along the trail past the falls along the brick-covered trail. We were really impressed that the municipality had taken the trouble to lay all the brick on the trails because with the almost daily rainfall, the trails could become pretty muddy otherwise. Along the way we came upon an elderly Chinese gentleman working to clear the vegetation along the edge of the path. He was very well dressed, not at all a paid worker. We stopped to praise the effort he was making and he was so delighted we appreciated his volunteer effort. He told us that the British had laid the path before Independence, over fifty years ago. That made sense to me; the ladies could go for a stroll along the path to the falls while the men played a round of golf. The gentleman also encouraged us to take the stairs leading up to the Watch Tower where we would get a great view of the surrounding area. We knew it was too much for us that day as the clouds were threatening and we still had a long way to go.
We continued walking and finally came to the well-tended greens of the golf course. We were not allowed to cut across the fairways, even though we could not see anyone playing, so we walked along the road at the back of the course until it met with the main road and then we walked along the edge of the highway into the town of Brinchang. We were a little bit puzzled as to why we had not seen the Clubhouse or the nearby Smokehouse Hotel. We had left the Lonely Planet behind to lighten our load, and now we were regretting not having it along for it provides great maps. We just arrived at the center of town when the skies opened up and there was a huge downpour.
We stepped into a small café to get out of the rain and took advantage of the storm to have a light lunch. Anil order Carrot and Ginger Soup and I succumbed to the temptations of the mouth-watering cheesecakes in the display window. I have been avoiding desserts ever since feasting on Ras Malai in Sikkim, but after walking 5 km I felt it was something I could indulge in. I order a cappuccino cheesecake and a pot of English Breakfast tea. The cake was one of the best I have ever had but the greatest surprise was the tea. They took the phrase "hot cup of tea" literally and served me a pot of tea, hot milk and a very hot cup to pour it in! I must say, when you are served beer in an iced mug and tea is a heated cup, life doesn't get better than this. Who would ever want to leave the Cameron Highlands?
As we finished eating, I looked across the road and the river of water flowing downhill and was shocked to see that one side of the road was inundated with rust-coloured water. The muddy water was sweeping down onto the road from a construction site just up the hill. I looked and observed a large scar on the mountain and the foundations of a huge building rising up. This was the source of the soil that was washing out onto the highway. I had read that until recently the Cameron Highlands was quite undeveloped but recent uncontrolled, often illegal development is damaging the environment, and landslides and flooding are not uncommon. We can see the results of the runaway construction of new hotels and apartment buildings that have changed the old-fashioned English atmosphere that once prevailed here. Many of the newer buildings have copied the vaguely Tudor style of the British-era buildings but others have chosen to building hulking buildings with little or no character at all.
Once the rain slowed, we set out with our umbrellas and headed back towards Tanah Rata hoping to find the clubhouse along the way. We were surprised to find that there was a newly laid brick sidewalk along the highway for most of the five kilometers back to town. Before we had gone too far, the clubhouse came into view. We couldn't believe we had missed it earlier. The trees along the fairways are so thick that they had completely hidden the buildings from the backside of the course. We were delighted to learn that the golf course is not privately held so anyone can play and the green fees are very reasonable. We are told this is the most affordable course in all of Malaysia. Apparently, Japanese tourists come here twice a year - when it's either too hot or too cold in Japan, and many of them spend every day on the golf course because it's such a bargain compared to home. To make things even better, the course offers huge discounts to "Silver-Haired" players, those 56 and older.
Guess what, as they say in India, I'm 56 completed, 57 running, so even I qualify for the discount. Anil has been having back spasms ever since we bought a MacBook laptop computer and spent some time in a Starbucks in Kuala Lumpur on their free Wi-Fi. I think it was the way he was sitting, with the computer on a coffee table. He is so disgusted with his back; it's keeping him from playing golf every day while we are here. Luckily, we can stay here as long as we like, no reason to move on for some time. We are planning on playing a round in the next day or two, depending on his back. For sure, I'm no golfer, but I'm happy to give it a try to keep him company. Stay tuned for news of our scores.
On the way back to Tanah Rata, we left the sidewalk along the highway when we came to the turn-off to the falls. As we descended towards the creek, we were surprised to hear a loud roar coming from what had been a gurgling creek earlier in the afternoon. The falls were now a churning mass of brown water and the creek was surging between the banks washing large pieces of debris downstream. The transformation was incredible. We had watched the downpour for most of an hour but didn't think about the effect this would have on the creeks and streams in the area. The hills are pretty heavily forested and act as a sponge to soak up a lot of the rainfall, but today's cloudburst was even more than they could absorb.
Before long, the sun came out once again and it was easy to forget that it had rained at all. The sun began to evaporate some of the puddles and the process of building up to the next storm started all over again. The climate here is such a nice break from the lowland heat and humidity that the rain doesn't dampen the spirits at all. Everything is damp but as the temperatures never fall below 15 C, it's never really cold and a light sweater or jacket is all that is needed in the evenings. We sleep like logs with the windows open wide and awake to a chorus of birds chirping in the trees surrounding our hotel. Heaven.