Mountain Air

More than a month spent in the sticky, nauseating, piercing heat of the tropics. Even after a week or so of having my hair caressed by the cool breeze of the Indian Ocean, I was in desperate need of fresh air and high altitudes. First though, another quick sampling of the intense flavors and striking hues of eastern Malaysia.

This pit-stop, the city of Ipoh, revealed itself to be a perfect respite for wary travelers. An exquisitely mundane source of serenity. Not that much to see or do. A fantastic bowl of noodles here and there. A park. Some street-art to admire from the shade of a tree. One of the most intense cemeteries I’ve seen since Yekaterinburg. And an interesting cave leading to a hilltop garden where one can enjoy a picnic of local legumes and juices in good company.

Nothing moves quickly, except for fast-striking alley hounds. The heart and mind tune-down a few beats in preparation for what’s ahead. The tea-plantations and lush jungles of the Cameron Highlands.

For the first time in weeks and weeks the thought of putting on a hoodie crossed my mind. This might not seem like a detail worth mentioning, but quite honestly, the feeling of long sleeves against my skin felt positively bizarre. The crisp and chlorophyll-filtered air up on the mountains of Malaysia is bliss incarnate. An enjoyably cooling 19 °C at night, rising five-or-so degrees to the mid 20’s during the day. For the first time in months, I did not perspire for a full 48 hours.

Both the natural and unnatural scenery out here is some of the most vividly alive I’ve ever seen. Jungles so high that, what I’d though to be the a path on the ground, was in fact moss collected on the branches of ancient trees. Treetops lazily weave several meters below my feet. The sudden bouts of vertigo keep one on a constant heightened state of awareness. And what on earth is that ancient insect clambering over me on a vine? The colors of flesh-devouring flowers and dense thickets of trees of hundreds of species become heightened by the adrenaline. Fog rolls in over the mountains. My feet uncover the musk of tens of millennia from freshly revealed mud.  Non-chemical psychedelia at its finest.

However, at the same time, seeing never-ending rolling hills of green jungle as far as the eye can see does tingle a sense of longing. The sight and smell of the sea. I miss it so soon. Time to head back down the mountain roads and towards the sight of a rising sun on yet another island paradise.

-Markus

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