Rafflesia Trek at Cameron Highlands

It was supposed to be a four hour trek to see the exquisite Rafflesia blooms. Thankfully, it took six leisurely hours due to two three-year-old children who kept whining and begging their parents to carry them. It seemed like divine intervention; the elderly me could trudge at a slower, more comfortable pace without even asking for it.

Bamboo flowers are like weeds sitting on smooth hollow trunks. 

Due to rapid development in the highlands, acres of greenery are cleared. Bamboo, being a rapid growing species, shoot up the fastest. It is like an alien landscape, with tender bamboo spears among chopped up emerald.  

Walking along the dense undergrowth requires trekkers to contort themselves into awkward positions.

At certain points, we had to cross muddy streams. Two people attracted blood-sucking leeches which pierced holes in calves and drank to their slimy hearts' content.

Some roots diverge at regular intervals, forming natural stairways. How considerate.

Here's a bunch of wild bananas. According to the local guide, these aren't edible.

Here, the guide's dog mocked human beings who were splashing awkwardly across the river flow.

After three hours, we finally reached the Rafflesia. This brown knob isn't a coconut. It is a Rafflesia bud, biding its time before it bursts into a three-day bloom that will quickly decay into rheum.

A dense springy crop of moss grows on the lianas. Being an ignoramus, I didn't know that Rafflesia is parasitic. It will suck nutrients from lianas for its own growth.

Here, the Rafflesia bloom is decaying.

According to local lore, the withered petals can be stewed into medicine which would prevent miscarriages. Of course, this isn't practised anymore, given that these flowers are protected under national laws and no one can collect them for personal uses. 

The white polka dots on red seem like a fashion statement.

Is it possible to survive in these jungles by oneself, like a modern day Tarzan? And at what costs?

Either way, it has been a thoroughly exhausting but rejuvenating trek. The songs by cicadas and birds that will never have their names, the afterglow of rain-soaked trees, the crystalline air. It had been fulfilling.