Hunting Rafflesia In The Malaysian Highlands

I got up and put on my skins ready for the big trek. After a fruit and corn flakes breakfast, I piled into the van with the others and we drove for an hour until we reached a village on the side of the road. We pulled over and got out and started to climb up the very muddy road to the waterfall and the rafflesia flowers. The morning sun was hot, the trek was slippery and the hill was steep which made for some arduous work. After much giggling about sliding all over the place and pretending to be chief with a fern hat on my head, we eventually got to the waterfall where we all raced down. Everyone stripped off into their jocks and Anna got changed into her bathers. I decided I couldn’t be bothered taking off my skins so I swam in those and my crop top. The water was freezing but at the same time really refreshing.

Drinking fresh water from a bamboo shoot

After the swim, we continued up the hill further for another half an hour in a more bush like track until we saw these massive flowers. They are the rafflesia. The one that was flowering was about  80cm in diameter and a deep red in colour. On the inside there was a pad with the stamen and heaps of flies extracting the pollen out all over the flower. The inside also was lined with white spots and it is these spots that they use to determine the species of the flower.

Up close and personal… inside the Rafflesia flower

The flowers are parasitic and they grow on other plants. They start out growing like cabbage plants and spend most of the year this way. When in season, they only flower for ten days. By day  seven they are losing their colours and by day ten they look like a pool of tar from the side of the road. They really are quite fascinating plants. They also are used apparently for medicinal purposes. They give them to fat ladies to help them lose weight by improving their circulation.

Me and the Rafflesia… almost as big as me!

From here we walked back to the starting point.  Once we were back, we were walked through the village, shown to the shop to buy some refreshments and seated for the blowpipe exhibition. After getting shown how to load and use the blowpipes and what each size is for, we got to have a turn. It is a damn shame that nobody taught us how to aim the damn things. My shot was in line with the target vertically, but way too high horizontally on the board. We had a mini Olympics with each country representing and lets just say that Australia came last. If I got caught out in the bush I would probably starve to death.

Bamboo shooting at targets… terribly…

From here we got back into the van and drove to the Boh tea plantation. The tea plants lined the mountainous hills the whole way around the winding  roads and I must admit they were not at all what I expected. The bushes were short, somewhat like a bonsai, and had to be trimmed every 3 weeks to keep them from growing into massive trees. We had a tour through the processing factory  where they explained to us that the leaves are soaked and then they are dried, allowed to oxidise which gives it the flavour and then they are sorted through the machine, dried out and sifted.

After the tea appreciation show, we went and had some tea to drink, mine being peppermint due to the upset stomach and some really bad cake. Anna sampled everyone’s cake and said that they were all crap. We left the hanging restaurant and went for a bit of a wander and a shop before heading to the butterfly farm.

Butterfly farm beauties

I must admit that it was not what I expected. A whole lot of insects and not many butterflies. Not many impressive ones anyhow. Before the not so impressive butterfly enclosure, we got to play with some insects. First was the rhino beetle. I was first up for a hold, but I couldn’t get him to let go of the stick. Following the rhino was a gecko, a massive grasshopper which migrated its’ way from my hand to my head, some more beetles and then the finale, two scorpions that were about three inches long. Carsten and I were dubbed equally brave/stupid as we were the only ones that would touch them. They wouldn’t let us play with the spiders.

Just chilling with a camouflaged bug on my head

The last stop for the day was the strawberry farm. We all ordered strawberry shakes and looked around at the hydraponic plants within the greenhouses. Carsten found a machine where you try and pick up the toys out of the machine with the grab arm. He managed to get two prizes out in two goes and then stuck them on the windshield as a tip to the driver.

Holding large scorpions…. not going to eat one like the guy behind me! That is too much!

By the end of the trip I was totally exhausted so I went back to the hotel for a nap. When I woke up I noticed that I have this weird rash on my boobs that is not normal. I took one of Dave’s antihistamines and then went out for Indian for dinner. It was an interesting looking place and trying to get our food was a challenge because they didn’t understand English well and kept forgetting what we ordered. When the meal was eventually served though, everyone agreed that it was awesome food. We scoffed it down quickly and then headed back to the hotel where the others played more king kong, and I passed out from exhaustion into a restless sleep.

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