Feb 17, 2006

A castle in the sky.

There is something exceptionally magical about Kohala Mountain, especially by moonlight.

It has its special features that distinguish it from the other four volcanoes on the island, such as very pronounced windward and leeward sections. When studied on a map, it appears to be almost symmetrically divided between "wet" side and "dry" side. A series of deep, lush amphitheater valleys are carved into the soggy, rainforested windward side, while the leeward side is home to keawe trees and shrubby grasses (which very frequently and effectively fuel brush fires), and plenty of dust and bare, crumbly rock. It's like two separate worlds.

The mountain road, a truly magnificent drive, leads through the green pasturelands near the zone of transition from wet to dry. I travel this route quite often, and happened to be doing so early Thursday morning, no earlier than 1:00 in the morning. At this time of day, the road was desolate. I encountered not a single car. The sky overhead was mostly clear, so the pale, naked moon above was gloriously exposed. I was on my way home, but felt that home could wait awhile, especially since I was feeling restless. My body was yearning to be exercised and treated to fresh air, and my spirit longed to be sprung free from the track.

My penchant for night wandering is still as strong as ever. That's why I found myself trudging up a path leading up steep grass and cacti-laden slopes. I'm not sure why, but I just felt like climbing higher and higher into the rolling hills that seemed to hold so much delightful mystery and intrigue in the moonlight. As I gained elevation, I noticed the thick layer of mist that obscured the distant slopes above me. And when I turned around to gaze back downslope, I could see the lights of several towns and resorts a great many miles away, as well as three other mountains taller than the one I stood upon. The view was marvelous enough to take anyone's breath away, and the higher I climbed, the more spectacular it became.

The air was cool, but not uncomfortably chilly, and a brisk wind rolling down the mountain was strong enough to turn my hair in to a mess and make climbing uphill even more difficult. Looking up into the band of clouds looming above the rolling verdant slopes, my imagination decided to start having a ball. After all, reality would be quite bland and tasteless were it not for the spice of imagination.

I envisioned a castle. A large, majestic structure of stone standing tall somewhere up in these hills, cloaked in heavy mist at least half the time. I could not help but gaze upon the landscape and imagine where I would build it. What an extraordinary place to live it would be, for the farther I ascended, the more it began to feel like another world. Some medieval fantasy world of dark mist and fog and rolling green hills. Depending on the weather, I would either have a stunning view of much of the island from my castle, or be comfortably and cozily wrapped up in heavy fog, an insulator from the rest of the planet. And even when the sun was shining, the air would always be pleasantly cool, the wind keeping all winged pests at bay. It would be a silent retreat, but of course, being so far away from anyone, I could play music within my castle as loud as I want.

After ascending a certain distance, I arrived at a point where I could look up and see the patches of white mist soaring speedily by just above my head and simply vanishing into the zone of warmer air not far away. It was quite a remarkable thing to behold. Even more incredible was almost immediately being completely immersed in fog, brightly lit by the moon somewhere above, the view I had previously had down the mountain disappearing instantly. I could see no more than 10 metres ahead of me in every direction. At this point, I truly felt as if I had teleported to some floating island, and the fog was simply obscuring the edges, which I might plummet over if I was not careful. This was such a breathtaking sensation I actually found myself murring in delight. As I walked a bit farther, a lone tree suddenly materialised, its limbs twisted and gnarled, and my ears picked up the cries of nightingales nearby. I felt like I was involved in some phantasmal lucid dream. This, I determined, would be the ideal place to build my castle. I could just feel the magic in the air, and sensed the enchantment surrounding me. I was on the edge of the world, and it made me shiver.

I kept climbing slowly, noticing more and more trees appearing as the road skirted along a deep gorge. Eventually, it simply ended at the edge of a rainforest, what all of the terrain I just wandered over had been before it was converted to pastureland. If nothing else, my muddy bare feet attested to how much wetter it was at this elevation. A wooden stepladder crossed the cattle fence that separated the forest from the pastureland, but I felt a little too weary to lose myself in the woods that morning. I simply savoured the ghastly nocturnal atmosphere at 5,000 feet for awhile before finally heading back down ... just so I could be home before the rudely revealing sun caught up to me.

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