March 6th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0
Village in the Highlands

By the time we’d arisen, lazed over breakfast, + passed the time of day with Tom, the morning was already almost gone.  And by the time we had walked to town (the nearer town of Tanah Rata this time) + dealt with necessary business at the PO + the bank – the latter, particularly, taking an age – it was about 12.30.  We had come up into the hills here to enjoy the walking in the cooler weather, + we just weren’t doing any.  So we set off immediately, heading down out of town a few hundred yards to where the trail branched off.  I enjoyed it immensely, even when the gentle uphill came to an end + became a steep uphill climb.  For the first time in a long time, I had plenty of beans, even striding out ahead of Val, something I haven’t felt capable of for ages.  I had to pause for breath occasionally, but my legs weren’t behaving like the lumps of sugar donut that they’ve imitated recently.

Disappointing at the top of the mountain, first because heavy cloud had closed in + shut out the view, plus the summit was under occupation by half a dozen Japanese butterfly collectors.  I’ve felt nervous about butterfly collectors ever since I read John Fowles’ novel, + I’ve been nervous about the Japanese for almost as long as I can remember.  So we had to go  a little further before we could sit down + share an orange.

We soon pushed on, heading for the peak of another mountain in the area, but somehow we missed the path – they’re all appallingly marked – + found ourselves coming down the hill towards a native village.  According to our map there was no trail across to it from where we had come from, but we still managed it.  The village was picturesque, nestling on the side of a hill, + relatively clean + tidy.  It was not at all primitive, with tin roofs, some concrete walls, + a few TV aerials.  We saw very few of the people, or orang asli, however, just a few small children + old men.  I imagine that nowadays they, like everyone else, go off to school + work. 

We walked back out to the main road, + I suggested we head off for another walk on the other side.  This was a revelation – usually I was ready to creep home after the minimum effort, but here I was pushing us to do more.  Just an indication of my new-found energy.  Odd, because I’d spent most of the night alternating between the bedroom + the toilet.  The other trail was different, more jungly, sp provided an interesting contrast.  It wasn’t at all demanding, but we were nonetheless amazed, on arriving back at Tanah Rata, that it was 3.45 – a lightning hike indeed.

We contemplated strawberries + cream, but decided they were too expensive + settled for lemon juice – it was delicious.  Back at Bale’s, we sat + chatted with Tom + his travelling companion Kathy – I believe there is no more to their relationship than that, a marriage of convenience.  Kathy’s sister + her boyfriend had just arrived, + it was good to be part of a group talking + laughing, + cracking jokes.  There was also a Scottish guy there who was determined to subvert the conversation into a “cheapest hotel in Singapore” one, but we all managed to carry on regardless.  While this was going on, I managed to eat a fine tea – a bacon sandwich, followed by yogurt, plus a big pot of tea – wonderful.  And then, with the party breaking up, I tackled our washing.  There was quite a lot of it, if there can be quite a lot with the limited wardrobe we possess, but it made a very pleasant change to be able to do it in hot water.

Val had elected to try the place’s set dinner, a sort of curry.  Afterwards, it was her turn to sit + chat with Tom – she’s been sitting next to him during the meal – + I’ll confess I was rather jealous.  It’s a generalisation, but true enough, that most people we have met have preferred Val to me – sorry if that sounds childish.  And I can’t complain, since mostly she has deserved their approbation.  But I can’t admit I like it, + I do like to hang on to the people who like me.  Not that I’m out to turn it into a competition.  In any case, later on in the evening, we 3 were the last ones left + were able to chat together.  “Yes Minister” came on telly, + I was delighted that Tom both enjoyed the programme + was impressed by its quality.  I’m a little amazed myself that Malaysian TV have chosen to screen it, since it is both wordy + requires knowledge of the British parliamentary system in general, + certain events + individuals in particular.  But then, RTM do show some amazing things.

Good to report some renewed energy, instead of constant complaints about my stomach, and, it seems, a most enjoyable and invigorating walk. And then good company. When one meets people one likes, it is one of the major benefits of travelling; when one is stuck with people you don’t, it is one of the worse.

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