Monday, July 7, 2008

Day 148. The Cameron Highlands

The plot thickens: An e-mail from my bank notified me that they have frozen my ATM account because of some suspect transaction, and would I please call them to clear the doubts. I suspect that somehow the computer recognized I was in Europe one day, and in Malaysia the next, and that was what triggered the freeze. Unfortunately I cannot call them, so my main lifeline to money has been cut out! Fortunately I still have a small wad of dollars with me, and with any luck they will last me until I reach Hawaii and can start paying for everything with my credit card. Anyway, I changed some dollars for Malaysian RM, filled the tank, and continued my way up the central mountains.

The mountains are as rugged as the Coast Ranges of California, but they are covered by either rain forest or extensive palm tree plantations (I still wonder why they want so many palm trees). From the little I could see from roadcuts, the foothills are formed by a low grade metamorphic belt intruded by plutons. Similar to the case of the Sierra Nevada, these rocks have been mineralized with gold, so Malaysia has had its very own gold rushes. In fact, they have a town, Kuala Lipis, that is the Asian twin of the town of Sonora, California. Weird to see how similar geologic conditions lead to evolution of similar towns.

Going even higher (I am not quite sure, but the highest peaks are something like 3,000 m high (9,000 ft high) the landscape is dominated by deeply dissected limestones. This area is generally known as the Cameron Highlands, after the name of a cluster of resorts that are trying to adopt a certain Swiss ambiance. There is no snow at anytime of the year, however, so the effect is not quite the same. The area is a bit cooler than the rest of the country, so for once I was not sweating like a pig when I went for a walk in the forest.

For some bizarre reason this reason is also used for greenhouse agriculture. What seems bizarre to me is that they have gone through a lot of trouble to build the greenhouses when it never freezes here. As far as I could see they have several types of plants under cultivation, but the area is known for its tea. But why here? If it is because tea likes cooler weather, then why put it in a greenhouse? If warmth and sun is what is needed, then why not cultivate it in the foothills, where there are lots of smaller hills and valleys?

Here is a photo of a rather colorful Hindu temple I saw along the way. And since this brought many happy memories of the trip to India I decided to celebrate with a veg dinner at an Indian restaurant, with garlic naan, marsala tea and all the usual trimmings. It was OK, but never as good as the one we had in our last night in Mumbay. Ah, memories.

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