Breathe Deep: Gili Iyang and the Fountain of Youth

There is no greater authority than the word of mouth. Legends rise and truths fall on account of their sharing and by whom the words find substantiation. Consider Gili Iyang, one of the more obscure outposts flanking the eastern coast of Sumenep.

So the legend goes, the island’s level of oxygen is the second-highest on the planet. Only Jordan can lay claim to a greater level, but this is shrouded in hearsay. Such numbers are recorded in corners as yet uninhabited by humankind; one could say, therefore, that the highest and most accessible level of oxygen resides somewhere on Gili Iyang. For this reason, does it earn the pseudonym of Pulau Oksigen.

‘Somewhere’ is the keyword. No-one knows or is willing to say, where this source originates. Pockets exist on the island, of course, and they leave in their wake a kind of preternatural calm endowed with a still, numinous quality. Stillness and tranquillity are, evidently, oxygen’s constant bedfellows. Still, no-one will share the secret of its source. Such reticence is understandable; imagine the devastation wrought as companies seek to harness this superlative something for their ends.

No, the mystery remains, as well it should. Some things are better left unexplained, a gift from Mother Nature for her children in the corner of Java. 

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Its life-giving qualities are startling. Should the traveller breach the perimeter at the island’s heart, they will hear tales of villagers living well beyond their predicted life spans. Faculties still fully intact, their continued health and vitality illustrate the subtle miracles of their prolonged existence. And its source? The island’s oxygen.

The feeling is vaguely supernatural; the traveller watches as an islander, evidently well into his eighth decade, shimmies, unaided, up a palm tree. The action is smooth and expertly completed in a matter of seconds; this is a man with decades of such practices behind him. He finishes his task, scoops up swathes of palm sugar and begins his descent with a speed and grace that is both startling and enervating. 

Action complete, the man goes about his business. His manner is calm, and his attitude content; such is the contentment endowed in its inhabitants by the superlative, inexplicable Gili Iyang.


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