Wednesday, 9 April 2008

A Breath of Cool, Hill Air

AHS and I made a trip to Fraser's Hill 25th March. (How time flies. I only manage to write in my blog today!) We had always meant to go, but somehow the plan managed to get shelved, somehow. So, when I was asked to go for work, we went a day ahead. We exited Gombak, past Batu Caves and Empangan Batu. The road signs are quite good. The dam itself is huge, tranquil and scenic. We passed it at before 10a.m. and there wasn't anyone in sight. Then it was trees on both sides of the road; peaceful. There are many campsites, some private owned, I guess. There were also people who stopped by the roadside, collecting 'mineral' water from the sides of the hills, where pipes jut out.

We reached a T junction, took left, as the sign directed us and approached a small township, Hulu Yam Bharu. The shops are still made of wood, something I'm very familiar with and just so happy they exist and in full use. After the Balai Polis, the stretch of road was tree-lined, obviously the Malay area of the town; it then suddenly opened to a modern township: Batang Kali. We refilled at the Shell station, and dropped by my brother's house, a stone's throw away. After tea and roti jala, we headed to Kuala Kubu Bharu. The weather was still fine, and we wanted to reach Fraser's before it rained (I checked with the hotel people and they said it rained everyday). We bypassed the K.K.B. town and headed up to Fraser's, the road already starting to wind around the incline.

We slowed down a little as we passed the controversial dam. It was a beautiful sight, but I couldn't help thinking about the Orang Asli whose livelihood has been affected by the construction of the dam. Still, Selangor does not have enough water. And if water is made a free commodity, I can bet there will be people who have no civic consciousness and leave taps to run. And the dam in Lakum, Pahang, that is supposed to supply water to Selangor will not be of much help, I would imagine.

When we were in Fraser's, we met a guy who was happy to talk to AHS while I was working away, telling us how the dam had caused more landslides to happen. In fact, on our way up, we faced a number -- minor ones and ones that had just been cleared up. Even the new road has been closed since November. That dashed our plan to return via Raub. So we still had to take the old and (nauseatingly) winding road at the Gap. I secretly loved it: the turn taking of going up and down.

We climbed up the road at 1pm. When we reached Fraser's, it was all very quiet. The buildings at the entrance were still there; I approved silently. But Puncak Inn was a deserted, sad looking place. It used to be more alive. We took 9 o'clock at the clock tower roundabout, went past the mosque, looking forward to the park. It was deserted -- it was a week day after all. We took right and wound our way down to the Smokehouse. I was glad to be there, almost a familiar place. The friendly manager greeted us. At first I thought he was Middle Eastern, but by and by his 'Malaysianness' emerged. We ordered lunch and I took the liberty of the friendly waiter to take me all over the grounds -- it is not a big place. When we went out to the terrace outside the bar, all I wanted to do was to be there, stay there. When I declared this to AHS, he said that I should work harder to achieve that!

I simply love the fresh air. The birds were friendly, flitting away from branch to branch not that far away. No wonder the Fraser's Hill Bird Race is popular (I don't know whether they still have it). My sinuses seemed to clear, I wasn't feeling the least sniffly; what a feeling. We made a point next time we were in Fraser's, we would stay at the Smokehouse. But now, we headed to Shahzan Inn, since everybody else would be there. The room wasn't terrible, but as soon as we settled in, it poured. Hard, cold, lovely rain. So we read our books. I was into O. Henry's Short Stories Prize Winners.

Breakfast was an understatement, really. It was compensated by the birds that came by to feed at the 3 birdhouses outside te dining area. I could sit there and watch the different types of birds pick at the papaya cuts, brought out by the hotel staff. A most novel idea. There were those bold ones that came swooping down, grabbed a beakful, and pecked away; there were the cautious ones that would approach the birdhouse by way of the conifers' branches, hopping slowly in the direction of the birdhouse. Once they reach there, they'd quickly grab a piece of the fruit and off they go to peck at it on the branches nearby. But all of them were alert. Not a peaceful kind of feasting: peck, look up, turn furtively right, left, peck some more and so on. Always on te lookout.

Gone are the days when I used to try birdwatching. It wasn't easy. I was armed with a birdbook but in the end always getting confused about the type of bird I was observing and the one described in the book.

The trip did me good. For one, I now know it isn't me-- it is the air in the Klang Valley that makes me sneeze and water my eyes. I am perfectly okay, reacting as I should to rid myself of the bug trying to invade my lungs.


D said...

Cameron Highlands!! WoW... I've only been there once - during a school trip in primary school. InsyaAllah, if bestowed the rezk, I shall make my way up there one day with my Fantastic Four!

jooli said...

Fraser's la D. Bila balik?

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