It’s not often that I would venture off the beaten track. My wife does it more often than I do. Between she and I, I think she’s more adventurous than I am.
But once in a while, I do get that itch to do just that – get off the beaten track and see what is there on offer.
As it happens, we were in this old gold mining town in Pahang called Raub.
The thing was that, we had to be in Alor Star (or Aloq Staq, in Kedah slang) by nightfall and the usual route would require us to get back to Kuala Lumpur and from there, get on the North South Expressway and make our way to Aloq Staq.
All in all an 8-9 hours journey. IF we are lucky.
Having discussed our options, we decided to take the route that we have heard of but never ever travelled on – from Raub to Kuala Lipis and onwards towards Cameron Highlands and joining the North South Expressway (NSE) at Tapah.
That would cut our travelling time by a good few hours or so.
At that time, I did not realise that the route that we were going to take essentially meant that we would be traversing the Titiwangsa Range, the range of highlands that formed the backbone of the Peninsular Malaysia, and nor did my wife deemed it necessary to tell me that.
As we drove past rustic laid back villages, we took it all in – the scenery, the greenery and the sights of houses dotting the road sides.
It was not long before the scenery changed from neat and orderly planted trees to what seemed totally haphazard, as we make our way up gradual inclines along those wide winding roads.
We saw the power grids that dotted the view and I wondered what feats of engineering and logistics it took to get those power grids up and running.
Seeing those power grids in the middle of the thick and dense jungle, in between highlands, and what other obstacles that I could not even imagine, it makes for an awesome sight.
It was not long before we saw civilization again. This time, the vegetable and flower farms of Bertam Valley (I think).
There was not one single slope that was free from this kind of farming. And to think, there was a muddy landslide a few months back which took the lives of several people there. I guess, the money they were making must be too good for them to give it up.
From the covered slopes of Bertam Valley to the small town of Ringlet next. This may be a small town by Malaysian standards but it was buzzing. We wanted to stop and have a coffee and a meal but as we had a schedule to keep, and so onwards it was.
The air had turned cold by this time which tells us we were way up in the highlands.
We saw villages of the local Orang Asli or the Indigenous people, and we stopped by one of them.
Why you might ask did we stopped here and not at Ringlet? It was the petai, I tell you. My wife saw the petai and she told me to stop.
And as I came to learn, petai sourced from the jungle is far better than the petai you source from the fringes of the jungle. And more difficult to come across.
And so we stopped, bought some petai and engaged in a little conversation with the local folks. The wealth of information these people have makes for an interesting conversation. Bidding adieu, we continued on and it was not long before we came across Lata Iskandar.
Lata Iskandar was a sight to behold. In the cool air of the highlands was this ‘waterfall’, the sight of water rushing down the slopes utterly mesmerizing and just simply puts you totally at ease.
Parking is a problem here though. If you wrongly park your car, you will be blocking traffic and from what we witnessed, it could get very embarrassing should your car be the cause of all that honking.
So far Lata Iskandar has not lost that charm of a small settlement nestled up in the cool air of the highlands yet.
Because, mind you, tourism does have its drawbacks eg cleanliness being compromised, traffic and sound pollution, carbon emissions etc etc. But so far, touch wood, commercialism has not caught on yet in this part of the woods.
With Lata Iskandar, it meant that we were near to the Tapah gate on the North South Expressway (NSE). And true enough, we joined the NSE soon enough and it was not long after that we arrived in Aloq Staq, a good few hours ahead of time had we gone with the traditional route.
To go off the beaten track and traverse the Titiwangsa Range, sight the vegetable and flower farms of the Bertam Valley, witness the hustle and bustle of that small town of Ringlet, enjoy the mesmerizing sight that is Lata Iskandar, all that made up for a very memorable drive off the beaten track. Makes me wonder though, when is the next one? As is, when is?
By the way, the petai WAS as good as they say it would be !!!!!
Date : 16 December 2016