I am not a fan of change. I am a willing buyer of comfort and convenience. If it feels safe, it stays safe. But sometimes, even the devout fall for temptations. Such was the fight in my mind at my temporary apartment in Kuala Lumpur. The alluring landscapes of Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands were calling but my heart stayed connected to Kuala Lumpur. The battle had to be won because ultimately the war is to get me more acquainted with a world I don’t think I am getting out of anytime soon. Hence the whole backpacking idea.
I hailed a friendly Indian Grab driver, who turned out to be quite the storyteller. We delved into conversations about cars running on cooking oil and the charm of Cameron Highlands on weekdays. He doesn’t want me to stay at Cameron Highlands over the weekend. “It is overflooded on weekends”, he says. Everybody is running away from the humidity to the only place that’s cool. For a guy with a fire playlist, he wasn’t a crowd-pleaser it seems.
TBS bus station is where the magic happened; literally. I am sitting, (stuck in awe of how countries and people could be so different with this bus station that has better amenities than lots of JKIA terminals) when my sanity is tested.
“Hello boy, you from Kenya”, This strange Asian lady with witch-like white hair asks. She is been staring at me for like 10 minutes, and that didn’t bother me at first because I am a cute boy. Immediately I look at my arms and of course, I don’t have the famous Kenyan bracelet. So how did she know? There was nothing about me that shouted “Kenya”.
But wait, it gets even stranger! She claimed to have “read” me and accurately guessed my age. And she’s like, ” I am religious. You know Jesus of where you come from…I am like Jesus here” Cue the creepy music! Even for a self-proclaimed gangster like me, this “Jesus woman of Kuala Lumpur” had me shaking in my boots. I am not the one to get bothered with underworld affairs but when my mysterious life becomes common sense to someone, my balls absolutely grow smaller. Thankfully, her journey led her to a different bus, and I silently thanked the heavens.
The bus ride towards Cameron Highlands mirrored the winding roads of Kabarnet-Iten road and Nandi hills, weaving memories of past adventures. As the bus climbed towards the ethereal highlands, the air seemed to whisper secrets of nature’s majesty awaiting me.
Arriving at the Traveller Bunker Hostel, I was welcomed with open arms by its eclectic inhabitants. The Chinese lady working at this place exuded warmth and kindness, making it feel like a home away from home. Her soft-spoken nature had a calming effect, and I couldn’t resist jesting that I might consider marriage if only there hadn’t been that infamous apple incident at the Garden of Eden. The hostel owner, though stand-offish, a wordsmith with a mastery of English akin to a Harvard graduate added a touch of charm to the experience. It was a delightful hub of wanderers and dreamers from all walks of life.
There was Ben, the enigmatic German adventurer who seemed to perpetually carry a cloud of smoke with him with his endless cigarettes. His aura of mystery sparked my curiosity, leaving me intrigued by the tales he might have to share. Sayid, the intern from Morocco, brought the essence of his homeland, adding a dash of cultural diversity to our melting pot of wanderers. And the enthusiastic Young Asian boy’s genuine excitement upon encountering a handsome black man, the first in his life, was both heartwarming and amusing – a reminder of the beauty of cultural exchanges.
The next day, I embarked on the legendary trail through the Cameron Highlands tea plantations. Nature’s symphony enveloped me as if the universe itself serenaded my soul. Despite the barks of neighborhood dogs, my determination to explore remained unwavering, pushing me to embrace the wonders of the tea gardens.
It was here, amidst the lush foliage, that destiny led me to cross paths with Taylor, an American-Italian maverick with a zest for life and a fire within her soul. Our conversation quickly delved into deep topics, bonding us over our shared disdain for capitalism, materialism, and alcohol. Her passion for farming and nature resonated with the wanderer in me, and it was as though fate had orchestrated our meeting.
Taylor’s adventurous spirit inspired us to embark on a daring escapade. United, She and I hatched a plan to hop on a tourist bus using fake wrist tags –quite the adrenaline rush! Now, let me tell you, with my tall frame and unique hairstyle, blending in wasn’t easy in a land where black faces were as rare as a man who is loved unconditionally. But Taylor, ever the optimist, reminded me that black is too beautiful to be hidden. A smile crept onto my face as I embraced my uniqueness.
As we trekked through someone’s private property to avoid a 3-ringgit fee, I couldn’t help but be anxious. Confronted by security personnel and their loud dogs, Taylor fearlessly stood her ground, and her determination won us passage. As for me, well, I was happy to let her do the talking – no need to stir up any unnecessary trouble. And yes, I tipped the security guy; better to keep things smooth, right? My silence in the face of confrontation wasn’t cowardice; it was the guilt carried in my skin color.
As the sun began its descent, we strolled back to the hostel, our camaraderie growing stronger with every step. Silent contemplations, Jokes, laughter, stories, and contact numbers were exchanged, and our hearts were filled with the warmth of newfound friendship. Taylor reminded me that where there is a will, there is indeed a way.
As I nestled into the comforts of my hostel bed, sleep beckoned like a gentle lullaby. My heart was full of gratitude for the enchanting escape to Cameron Highlands – a chapter in the grand saga of my wanderlust-fueled adventures. Life’s rich tapestry had woven a tale of peculiar encounters and daring escapades, and I couldn’t wait to turn the next page and see what thrilling surprises awaited me on my journey through the vast expanse of the world.