The high of getting high

It was cold, but I was sweating. Perhaps the amount of movement caused me to perspire. I took off my sweater. Then the cold wind blew and I shivered a little bit. In my heart I cussed, “fuck my life.”

My heart was racing. It was working hard to keep my brain and other organs oxygenated. I was over 2,000 m above sea level and the air was thin and the climb was steep to get to where the Edelweiss was.

I could hear my heartbeat jumps through the roof. I could feel myself panicking upon the thought that my heart could blow up from suddenly beating too fast and I could die. For a brief moment I made peace if this was when and where I go–at least I was on top of the world.

Then the thick woods started to disappear. Upon getting out of the woods, I saw a piercing blue sky. And the sun–brighter than usual. And then there was the field of Edelweiss.

After sunrise in Tegal Alun, Papandayan. Photo: Gabriela Davita Amelia / Retouch: Michelle Winowatan.

I took a minute to inhale all the air I could take. My heart beat started slowing down.

“I made it,” I said quietly.

After three-hour climb from the bottom to the camp site and two-hour steeper climb from the camp site, I finally arrived. Approximately, two thousand and five hundred meters above sea level.

The feeling was just incomparable. It was the best kind of triumph every person can get–the triumph over one’s self.

Not to mention the realization that I was literally so high. Made me feel like god could probably hear me better now.

My party went straight for their cameras and started snapping photos. I saw a patch of grass and sat on it for a while.

I was exhausted, but couldn’t be more ecstatic.

I really took the time to internalize everything–the beauty, the brightness, the serenity, the peacefulness, the satisfaction, the altitude, the universe–hoping to freeze the moment.

To tell you the truth, I had been feeling shitty lately. There was a day when I ran off to the bathroom to just break and melt. Many reasons were accounted for.

All of a sudden, in the high altitude, I found my remedy.

I learned that the journey to the top is not a race. We don’t have anybody else to beat except ourselves. How long we take to get there does not matter, as long as we get there. It’s perfectly fine to take our time. It’s even necessary to take a break.

Photo: Gabriela Davita Amelia / Retouch: Michelle Winowatan
On the way to camp site, Pondok Saladah. Photo: Gabriela Davita Amelia / Retouch: Michelle Winowatan.


I crossed path with so many people in my journey to the top. Although, we were heading to the same destination, but still, our journey was unique to ourselves. To compare ourselves with others was just unwise. Just like life.

I also figured that although myself is the sole determiner of how far I get, the people I meet along the way also make a contribution. Those who are far in front are my motivation. There are also those taking a break or almost giving up, whom I pass by. There are also people who pass me by, some even leave a little encouraging smile. And there are some who are just a natural cheerleader.

Photo & Retouch: Michelle Winowatan
On our way up. Photo & Retouch: Michelle Winowatan

But, there is one important thing that I will always remember. The painstaking journey makes the destination worthwhile.

At the top, I was bestowed with a newfound outlook. A figurative high in a literal high. And another item crossed off of my bucket list.

Photo: Melati Octavia / Retouch: Michelle Winowatan
At Hutan Mati, Papandayan. Photo: Melati Octavia / Retouch: Michelle Winowatan

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