To say I had a wonderful time in Bali would be a grave understatement. So much so, I haven’t been able to put down in words all the wonderful experiences I had with old friends and new ones, travelers and locals. I’m actually having a problem with words at the moment (yes, it’s true!), unable to find enough value in them to express the feeling of love, gratitude and connectedness I was blessed with during my time there. I met so many beautiful people, enjoyed delicious food and stayed at one of the nicest hotels in Bali with an amazing view of the ocean. I was truly blessed during my time there.
I will try, however to write (that’s what writer’s do, isn’t it?) of some of those moments, to fish them from my consciousness and catch them in a net of words and pictures (that’s what bloggers do, don’t they?), in a vain attempt to do justice to two weeks where I was blessed to spend time with so many wonderful human beings. Like a butterfly, I flitted between experiences, carried on the winds of fate, buoyed by an energy of connectedness that was most certainly something bigger than me, for I could never have dreamed it up if I tried.
A man climbs a tree for us, as we stop to take in the vista of rice fields during a cycling tour from Kintamani, near Mt Batur. Children crowd around crying “post card, bracelet, sarong,” trained to have a certain misery in their voice which makes me more determined than ever not to buy.
I distract one small girl with nutmeg coloured curls by singing “twinkle, twinkle, little star,” a song that she has no doubt never heard but bewitches her still, as though children’s songs carry universal joy in their time-honoured melodies. I make twinkling stars out of my hands then raise them into a ‘diamond in the sky’ as her sales cry is paused (thank God!) and replaced by a smile so precious I am forced to lightly pinch her cheeks.
We ascend the path from Tjampuhan temple, after participating in a Balinese ceremony. With grains of rice stuck to our forehead and flower petals in our hair, my new friend Liese and I follow our hosts away from the intoxicating intense and music-filled air, and into a market filled with trinkets and snacks for sale.
There is no time to process the overwhelmingly magical ceremony we were a part of. A once in a life-time for us, but just another visit to the temple for our hosts, the youngest of which is shrieking for a temple treat. With a colourful balloon quelling his discontent, we proceed to the next stall, where his older brother is pining over little electronic games with flashing screens and digital sounds.
After gaining permission from his Mother, I am able to buy him his heart’s desire for $2, remembering all the times a kind aunt or friend bought me a special treat during a boring family outing.
Back at the house, we feast on rice, fish skewers, cakes and nuts, and all the while the little boy is glued to his beloved toy, an imitation of the real thing he doesn’t even know exists.
I’m invited on a whim to jump on the back of a friend’s scooter for a ride with a group of five other new friends, and I say yes without thinking too much, which is the best way.
We zoom through rice-field flanked narrow roads in a convoy, and I completely give in to the concept of being taken somewhere, for that is exactly what is happening. We lunch, devouring the scene before us along with the food; a jutting peak, a wide blue lake.
We enter Ganung Kawi temple at dusk, and though we think the day cannot get any better, it most certainly does. Our weary, pot-hole jolted bodies are forgotten as we descend the stone steps into the most mystical scene, a cascade of rice terraces and palm trees that plunge into a ravine of rushing water. We take it in with awed silence, for there are no words, except oh my God, and that’s before we raise our gaze to the huge edifices carved from ancient rock.
The only words I think of are “Other Worldly.”
I meet a good friend from home for coffee in Ubud, and there are more friends and friends of friends, and we are invited to the beautiful Javanese Joglo-style home of one of the women. We are intoduced to Nyoman, the Balinese man who built it, his arms thick and his face softer than melted honey.
We are treated to an impromptu yoga class by yet another amazing woman, on the cool Javanese coloured tiles, gazing up at the intricate carvings of the pitched Joglo roof. In this beautiful home in the rice paddies of Bali, we exhale together and I know we are all meant to be here in this moment, because who could plan something as good as this?
And all of a sudden, as though a great wave had swept me away from something great to something greater and in spite of my attachment to the people and places of Ubud, I am in the night-market of Gili Trawangan, off the coast of Lombok, with one of my oldest and dearest friends, and I’m crashing her holiday with her university friends.
I swim in the private pool of their deluxe villa before high tailing it to my $15 bungalow at night, thinking isn’t this wonderful, and we share three fleeting days, celebrating her birthday and watching the red sun sink behind Mt Agung on Bali, which ridiculously, feels like a world away.
And now I have my feet firmly planted in the white sands of the neighbouring island of Gili Meno, waking early to send my body into the crystal clear waters that team with fish of so many varieties and colours, weaving and skittering and sometimes lumbering (yes, I saw an emerald green fish today that was so huge, he lumbered) through the depths of liquid glass.
And then there’s the turtles. Yes, five of them that I have seen so far, huge and speckled, and today I plucked up the courage to reach out to one and touch his shell, and couldn’t believe my own boldness, or his, for that matter since he came so close.
And as I relax on Meno’s shores, Lombok presents its highest peak to me through the mist and the miles between us. A tiny amount of dread and slightly more excitement fills my mind as I think, “I’m climbing that next week.”