|View from the top of the farm|
Fortunately, we would be in a much more secluded and peaceful part of the highlands - specifically the Sigar Highlands' Moon River Lodge. Beside the lodge is the farm, which provides all the vegetables used in the meals provided in the lodge, using sustainable farming methods. It was indeed an opportunity to spend some time out of busy Singapore, to breathe the cool fresh air and look out to the magnificent scenery, where the clouds roll down the mountainsides even as the sun still shines on the distant hills. At night, the stars looked down on us and the sound of water flowing just beyond my room lulled me to sleep.
We woke bright and early the next morning, to go for mass at the Chapel of Our Lady of Mt Carmel in the little town of Tanah Rata. It's only an hour's drive away from the lodge!
It is a pleasant little church, bright and cheery (it has been newly rebuilt). I was amazed when the mass was celebrated by Fr Philip Heng, a Camerons native who of course is now the Rector of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Singapore! Just goes to show how many and how close the ties are between Malaysia and Singapore. ubsequently tried to drive around the area a little more but unfortunately the traffic was starting to build up and we ended up just going for a steamboat lunch with lots of fresh vegetables, fish and meat.
Some say that this is supposed to be a smelly flower - but I didn't really think so. Yes, there was a smell but I had to go quite close up to detect it. I did see a few insects trapped in the liquid which had collected within the flower though - this reminded me that the Rafflesia is a carnivorous plant, relying on the foul stench to attract insects to it.
|Rafflesia and bud (left, beneath some leaves)|
I was glad to see a few more buds of various sizes near the flower, so presumably the flower will continue blooming away in this area. The flower blooms for about a week, and ours was apparently about 3-4 days old, so it was probably starting to wilt. Subsequently, we also spotted a wilting Rafflesia.
Of course, the trek was not over. 1+ hours in, and 1+ hours out! As is often the case, the way back seems faster than the way in, as we spotted landmarks and other familiar spots along the way.
The sad thing is that there is much development going on in the Highlands. Farms are expanding, many growing flowers and fruit for export. I hope that there will still be sufficient forest to sustain this majestic flower for many more years to come.
After the trek (and after showering off all our mud) we drove off to Ipoh, where we would be spending our last night in Malaysia before going back to Singapore. But it was indeed a happy and memorable interlude out of our busy lives. Good friends, good food, happy memories. What could be better.
All photos of the trip here.