The Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia’s most extensive hill stations. The Cameron Highlands were named after William Cameron, a British explorer and geologist who mapped the area in 1885.
In 1925 a Survey Department report confirmed that tea could be grown in the area. This provided the impetus to build a road from Tapah to the highlands.
With the road came further development and the highlands became a favourite retreat for the colonial British because of its cooler climate.
The Cameron Highlands is located on the Titiwangsa Range, a chain of mountains which form the spine of Peninsular Malaysia.
I have ridden to Brinchang, which is the highest point accessible by road in the Cameron Highlands, from Tapah to the south and from Simpang Pulai to the west.
I will take you up the road from Tapah first. The Lata Iskandar waterfall, about 22 km / 13.6 mi from Tapah.
The road is shrouded in jungle as it winds its way around the contours of the mountain.
This section is dotted with roadside stalls run by orang asli, the indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia. Most were selling jungle produce like petai or stink bean, wild honey and fresh bamboo shoot. A few stalls had other things as well, like angklung, a musical instrument made from bamboo, and bird’s nests.
The nests were made by the male Baya Weaver. After weaving a nest the male bird dances and sings to invite a female to inspect it. If she approves of it she will mate with him. If she does not like it she will unravel the nest and the male has to build a new one for her. The Baya Weaver makes many such nests in a tree, and likewise, he also has many mates too.
Ringlet (I wish I knew the etymology of the name) is just over the border between Perak and Pahang. It is the first town along the road from Tapah to the Cameron Highlands. The highlands are the only place in Malaysia where strawberries are cultivated on a commercial scale. Hence this welcome at the start of the 1 km descent into Ringlet.
The next town was Tanah Rata. A further 12 km / 7.5 mi up the road. The Cameron Highlands is the largest tea growing area in Malaysia. Boh, founded in 1929, is the largest plantation owner. The other major tea producer is Bharat, which started operations in 1933. Bharat sells under the Cameron Valley brand.
The valleys around Tanah Rata and Brinchang are carpeted with bright green tea bushes and dotted with buildings for tea processing.
The road from Tapah to Brinchang is very busy on weekends.
People come for the butterflies.
They come for the fresh vegetables from the market gardens visible here under protective roofs and plastic sheets that extend in terraces up from the valleys.
They come to stay in the colonial-era bungalows and the newer and less attractive apartments like the ones to the left in the photograph above.
I’ve lost a few golf balls on this 18-hole course carved out of the highlands. The 15th hole features a 100 metre / 328 feet drop from tee to green.