Pioneering for ...
... their future
Sometimes when our high-flying enthusiasm hits the ground we need a little refresh from friends or likeminded people. So I took the chance, when I was in Kuala Lumpur for a Visa Run, to visit my Perma-Buddies Billie and Peng Keat from Melbourne at their project site Moon River Lodge in the Sigar Highlands. I boarded the new ETS which took me in a little more than 2 hours from KL Sentral to Ipoh, a city which emerged out of the tin boom of the 1880's. Billie with a car full of kids picked me up at the station and we headed strait towards Moon River Lodge which is located near the Cameron Highlands. On the winding road we passed many commercial plastic tent farms who export their fresh produce like vegetables, strawberries and flowers to Singapore. Good short term profits but not sustainable as they depend on cheap oil for earth moving equipment, carry in fertilizers, run the pumps for the irrigation systems and carry out the produce to the markets. They just use the cooler climate and don't care about the soil. With Moon River Lodge and Sigar Highlands as projects based on permaculture ethics and design principles Billie and Peng Keat are the pioneers in the region.
Commercial Farms in the Cameron Highlands
Many family members, friends and volunteers are involved in the project and I meet some of them. Peng Keat's mother Nancy supervises the earth works for the access road into the jungle and organises the kitchen crew. Peng Keat's father and Mr. Loo share their knowledge about seeds and growing veggies with me. From Tom, who is visiting with his girlfriend Julie for the weekend, I learn about his turtle protecting project on Tioman Island. It is a vibrant and inspiring atmosphere amongst all these people and I feel welcome and accepted like in a big family.
Billie takes the visitors on a tour around the lodge. Food and flowers are growing everywhere. The passionfruits are abundant and taste like heaven. Lots of leafy green delicacies to pick just outside the open kitchen. A herb spiral, covered nursery and tomato beds, chicken shed, rabbit hutch, worm farm, composting area and tool shed complete zone 1. A little further away is the area for the children's garden, easy to oversee. Some of the mandala- and keyhole-beds are already laid out. Lots of cuttings covered in compost are waiting to be planted by the volunteers who will arrive the following Monday. Later we follow one of the workers on a treck along the little river into the bamboo jungle to a water fall. After one day city jungle in Kuala Lumpur it is a blessing to be here. In the fresh mountain air and with nature's night tune I sleep like a baby.
Sunday is family day. Kid's playing, sharing delicious food and interesting stories, going again through the garden, observing, taking my time and some pictures. Then the family leaves and stillness spreads over the place. The Weekend is over.
Monday is snake day. The workers catch an impressing python which is injured at the back. After breakfast I hike the 9km long trail around the valley of the Moon River Lodge. I collect some nuts and seeds I have never seen before. The trail is quite challenging, lots of ups and downs, but also rewarding with its many view points. After 3 hours already tired and a little worried whether still on the right trail I stop and look around. The sun is already shining hot and nothing is moving. I lift my foot, look down and freeze. Just in front of me lies a 1.5m snake across the trail taking a sun bath. It is definitely not a python, but what then? Better stepping back first and then guessing. I take a picture and then I throw a piece of wood to give her a chance to escape. She takes the offer and slowly winds into the bushes.
In the afternoon Peng Keat brings two volunteers from Holland, Sofie and Stefanie. Together we start sheet mulching the mandala beds and planting the cuttings. The day and my stay ends with a tasty dinner at an Indian Restaurant in Blue Valley. It is Tim's birthday. Delicious roti and roti tisu and many colourful little bowls of yummy-yummies.
Just outside the kitchen: Zone 1 facilities
Trail into the Bamboo Jungle
Wild Vanilla climbing up a tall tree
Seeds and nuts collected on the trail