On The Road: The perfect ending (Aug 29th 2018)

Balinese offering to the gods

It’s nearly the end of the trip and I hardly know where to start. There’s been so many experiences since I last wrote. We made it to Kalibaru, after a long train ride, arriving so late at night we couldn’t see what Kalibaru or our accommodation, Villa Kendi, looked like. We climbed into bed, half-watched a bit of Indonesian TV and dozed off. We woke early the next morning to the sound of a man singing, calling the locals to prayer at a nearby mosque. It’s a sound we’ve got used to travelling through Java, that and the ubiquitous crowing of the cockerel, announcing each new day. We peeled ourselves off the sheets, showered and dressed, then threw open the villa doors. We couldn’t believe the beautiful sight that unfolded before us. A sky blue pool set amongst tropical fauna. A rainforest covering a mountainside in the distance. And a gushing river just down past the end of the decking, the perfect soundtrack for breakfast.

Itching to explore, we booked ourselves a private tour of Glenmore coffee, cacao and rubber plantation with a local guide. It was fantastic. We ate fleshy cacao fruit straight from the tree and learned all about the different types of coffee bean. There’s ‘women’s beans’ (weak), ‘men’s beans’ (strong), and ‘transgender beans’ (either weak or so strong you’ll be up all night). We also saw the biggest spider I’ve ever encountered in the wild, followed by the biggest bee who was pretty menacing by all accounts. There was so much variety on the tour and so many firsts, but it was our guide who really made it. He painted a vivid picture of his childhood on the plantation, where he’d get up to mischief while his mother worked. He talked highly, romantically of Glenmore, explaining how the factory had brought work to the area, how there’d been a strong sense of community, and how they continue to use the decades-old techniques and machinery. ‘It’s better that way. No chemicals. Best quality.’

After Kalibaru we continued on to Bali. Our first stop was the north-western beach resort of Pemuteran, famous amongst diving enthusiasts for its abundance of coral and 30m deep shipwreck, The USS Liberty. I’d been looking forward to some snorkelling but it wasn’t to be. Something I’d eaten, somewhere along the way, was making me pretty ill, so I flopped down on the sand and rested while Ben did the exploring. In front of me was a glorious expanse of sea. Behind me, cafés set in beautiful gardens. And behind that, rocky hills and mountains. Pemuteran was pretty as a postcard. But the bug got the better of me and I took myself to bed for the earliest of early nights.

I’d been feeling nervous the days leading up to the Bali leg of the trip. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake on nearby Lombok had left the land around it very sensitive. There could be further tremors and shocks, or even a tidal wave. As I buried myself under the covers in Pemuteran though, I felt safe. None of the locals here seemed remotely worried, life was carrying on as normal, and anticipation gave way to relief. My thoughts shifted to gratitude, for me and Ben’s safety. Then to compassion for all those families suffering heart-ache in Lombok.

The next day, enlivened after my mammoth sleep, we travelled onwards to Ubud, stopping at Nungnung waterfall to break up the drive. Here, visitors balance rocks and pebbles one on top of the other and make a wish. There are little stacks everywhere, including some in the river downstream from the waterfall, somehow still standing. When we finally got to Ubud, we stayed for a whole six nights, allowing us to really get a feel for the place. We threw ourselves into yoga, signing up for 90 minutes a day at the renowned Yoga Barn. We ate at so many wonderful cafés and warungs, and discovered it’s even easier to be vegan here than it was in NYC.

The highlight of Ubud for me had to be the yoga in the beautiful, high-ceilinged studios at Yoga Barn. In particular a Hatha class that was nothing short of transformative. I floated out of there, beaming. The teacher explained that we should ‘find our edge’ in each pose, the point at which the stretch became uncomfortable, but not so uncomfortable we lost control of our steady and purposeful breath. She told us that here, just a little way outside our comfort zone, we would grow and improve our practice, and that this principle applies to all areas of life.

Other noteworthy experiences in Ubud, in no particular order. Baby monkeys the size of dolls in the sacred monkey forest. The somewhat bigger monkey that flew at me full in the face! Cycling through rice paddies and fields of marigolds, the flowers offered to the gods, twice a day no less alongside other treats and fancies. Ponds filled with carp and waterlilies, lining the way to the stunning temple Puri Saraswati. Tea with Marina and Jerome who we struck up a warm and easy friendship with at Yoga Barn.

And finally… In our very last hour left in Ubud. Rain. A deluge of long, fat droplets and the heaven-sent smell of hot, wet pavement. It was just what I’d been craving before we set off and a truly perfect way to end our trip.

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