My first impression of the Malaysian town of Tanah Rata was one of confusion. Were we in Austria, Switzerland or the jungle? The European architecture and tropical backdrop made for a bizarre atmosphere on the walk. Entering the trail, there is no middle ground between civilisation and the wild; step from concrete and you're plunged instantly into the rainforest. Big-leafed palms poke through the dense, interweaving foliage. Ferns are like a carpet up Gunung Berembun. Vines hang everywhere. Giant, funky coloured woodlouse, hundreds of butterflies and a troupe of tree-swinging monkeys were just a snapshot of the inhabiting wildlife. Bird call and bug noise punctuated the air. It was often hard to tell which were which. There were bugs that whirred like the blades of a helicopter warming up, bugs that screeched like buzz saws and bugs that wailed like banshees. The rainforest was singing.
We stopped for a break at a rain shelter. Even in the early morning, the heat and humidity sapped our strength. One step felt like three. We found a spot where the sun was piercing through the rainforest's canopy. Shadows from vines and twisting branches accentuated the patches of lit haze so that rays splayed out in every direction.
At Gunung Berembun's summit, there is a small viewpoint looking out on staggered, jungly hills. Onwards, a series of steep ups and downs lead to Sam Poh Temple, which looks down on the multicoloured town of Brinchang. The temple itself has dragons nesting on its roof and immense golden statues for innards. Outside, Hollie was chased aggresively by a hornet the size of a child's fist whilst strawberry picking. Then, at Parit Waterfall, we sheltered from the ritual afternoon thunderstorm and watched a spider the size of an adult's fist spinning a web along the wooden ceiling.
Parit Waterfall. It was now exploding with water and had quadrupled in size. Unfortunately, the river seemed to carry more rubbish than fish downstream. It's banks carried us too, back to the perplexingly British handrails and German clock tower of Tanah Rata. A world away from the rainforests of Gunung Berembun.
Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@_scott_norris) // summer 2016
Buses run to the Cameron Highlands (Tanah Rata or Brinchang) from most major cities. Chartered minibuses also run from the popular tourist spots (but be prepared to tell the driver to slow down!).
Head east from the bus stop on the main road of Tanah Rata. Turn right at the road after the bus terminal and multi story car park on your right.
Follow the river. Take the third bridge.
Follow the road around to the right past a school. Pass through the gap in the fence at the back of the small car park and follow the road around to the left.
At the triple fork take the middle path (signposted for route 5/7). Take the next left.
Locate the trailhead for route 5 to the left of the hostel and ascend the steps.
Follow the dirt track (keep to the main tack) until you reach the rain shelter.
Locate the trailhead for route 3 (heading to the right of the shelter as you enter) and follow it to the summit of Gunung Beremben.
Retrace your steps to the rain shelter and continue along path 3 (marked by trailhead).
Take a left at the next signpost towards Padong Golf. At the next set of signposts take a right onto route 2. Follow the route over steep climbs/declines to Sam Poh Temple.
Explore the temple/continue into town, passing a burned house on your right and crossing a river.
Keep straight and follow the path around to the main road (there are strawberry picking greenhouses on the left).
Take a left down the main road and follow signs for Tanah Rata (left at junction). Cross straight over the roundabout. Follow the road right, over a bridge into the town. Take the first left through no entry signs.
At the T junction turn right. At the crossroads turn right. Take a left at the road signposted Parit waterfall. Continue down until the car park and picnic area.
Head towards the suspension bridge on your left, but do not cross it, take the path to the left of the bridge.
Follow the short walk to the waterfall. Cross back and find the path at the opposite side of the picnic area. Follow it back to Tanah Rata.
Cross the road and head through the park. You will see the bus terminal on your right. Turn right to find the main road and follow it to where you began.