This can’t be right. The bus driver has his foot down on the accelerator, is wiping the sweat away from his forehead, yet traffic is passing us with ease. We appear to be almost going backwards! Wasn’t this supposed to be the luxury express bus from Kuala Lumpur to The Cameron Highlands? My wife looks across at me with a face of deep suspicion and the feeling grows that we have made one of those all too easily made travelling mishaps.
Sure the bus was a little ramshackle and rough around the edges but then again we had grown accustomed to transport like this during many summers of travel in Asia. Then there was also the lack of tourists onboard, just one sunburnt couple at the back, who were also bearing similar expressions of confusion mixed with a healthy dose of dread. The other passengers appeared to be almost all Malaysian workers, contentedly fast asleep in the faded pale green, slightly decaying ‘luxury’ seats.
A huge motorway sign saying ‘North’ confirms to us that at least we are going in the right direction. Clearly there is little we can do apart from sit back and enjoy the view as a continual procession of banana plantations slowly passes us by outside the coaches murky windows.
Suddenly though, my wife leaps back in her seat.
“I saw something move!” She gasps.
I can’t see anything but she is scared stiff.
“There it goes again!”
I still can’t see anything. Then, I get a glimpse of a black blur racing across the top of one of the workmen’s identical dark grey hold-alls. I try to reassure her but to no avail.
As I turn my gaze back towards the window I notice 2 black eyes and a set of twirling antenna staring at me in the face. A big, rather curious looking cockroach is looking down at me from on top of the seat in front. We watch in distress as the bug races across the seat in front of us we ponder our limited options. The coach is full so we can’t move to another seat. Killing it would not be easy without inflicting damage on a fellow passenger. If we brush it away it would land on another passenger!
Luckily a sleeping Malaysian is woken by our alarm and, in order to be able to continue his snooze, calmly gets up, grabs a kleenex and squashes the offending insect in one swipe. Without so much as a satisfied grin he slumps back to sleep in his chair.
Our relief is short lived however as from under my chair emerge two more of the brutes. This time my wife digs into her bag for a last resort remedy. The expensive and deadly insect spray “Bloom” bought from our local supermarket.
“This will show them!” She exclaims as she sprays them both full blast with a potent hiss of spray.
Much to our despair though, this merely encourages them. Now we have a whole cockroach family gathered beneath us scurrying around with joy. 6 hours to our destination and we just have to hold on and hope for the best.
Hours of continual bug vigilance later, we finally begin to climb the hills and begin our ascent to the Highlands. Darkness begins to surround the coach, more passengers board and we begin to rock dangerously around the steep precipices of mountainous central Malaysia. Having not seen a roach for some while we trust that they have become bored and decided to sneak back into the chassis of the coach. It gets darker and to our further astonishment we realise that there are no functioning lights inside the coach. All is pitch black, the only glimmer is that provided by passing cars.
Then, silhouetted against the windscreen, I see the now familiar form of a big bug stealthily making its way up the window towards the ragged curtains hitched up next to the seat in front. I clutch my wife closer and try to make out the time on my watch. Surely we have to arrive soon.
Having climbed for some time we gradually begin our descent through the isolated settlements close to Tana Rata, our final destination. The bus slows, the doors open and we scramble for the exits.
Hmmm, there must be another way to get to the Cameron Highlands!