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July 14th 2015
Published: July 14th 2015
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Bali called me home to rest. Worn out after Kuta and craving alone time I sought out her nuturing highlands for solitary revival.

Just dance

The local ferry slowly chugged across sunlit waters. Sampling the hard seats and crowded floor napping space, I opted to sit alone on the scorching bridge, enjoying a therapeutic overview of our glide across the sea. I broke my journey in Ubud, arriving in the nick of time to queue for Yoga Barn's famed and oversubscribed estactic dance session. I met Jean-Francis en route, a fellow virgin to Yoga Barn's cultesque weekly highlight. After a deliciously nutritious dinner we joined the 118 others ready to do their thang. The rules are simple, no talking, no photos, no recording and the rest is up to you. As meditatively expressive music transitioned to upbeat groove winding down to spacey chill out, a room full of scantily clad sweaty bodies flowed, span, glided, pranced, piroetted or stepped awkwardly independently of one another. You come to dance with others, you come with others to dance; in your own bubble letting go in open expression to the music as you feel it. As top knotted, yoga panted donning cockerels strutted past toned, bra topped chicks flowing in their own zone, only a curious few self conscious newcomers looked around for reassurance that anything really does go in this extravaganza.

I was in my element. I had found, amongst Ubud's inner peace and wellbeing seeking expat community, people who join together to do what I love best...just dance. No routine or defined style, just feel the music and relish endorphin releasing, joyfully responsive movement until your body, mind and inner being are energised, exercised, revived, relaxed and you can dance no more. This, my friends, is escatic dance. It concluded with a meditation and warm hearted, but cringeworthy to outsiders, sing along and expression of thanks. Ubud's expat community joined hands with newcomers to share a taste of their compassionate philosophy and mindful way of life.

Mountains and Munduk: retreating high

Bali's central mountains offer panoramic views and respite from the lowland's grasping heat and crowds. I paused in Bedugal, a small market town painted with the colours of abundant highland fruit. Rows of stalls tempted my pallete with freshly picked strawberries, plump avocados, hearty carrots and sweetly sour tangerines. Loaded up with haggled down groceries, I negotiated my next ride. Winding roads led us into the clouds, cool misty gloom chilling my skin and nourishing my lungs. Nestling up high was picturesque Munduk, a ridge dwelling village overlooking deep valleys and neighbouring hill lines thick with tropical forest. Hotels sell rooms with soaring views, keeping the penthouse perspective for their rooftop restaurants. It is a hikers resting post. Crashing waterfalls tempt visitors to trek down steep valleys to admire their thundering cascade, before sending them on their way to take wrong turns at dirt path intersections. With an explorer's heart I weaved through vegetation deep into the valley until hot, hungry and lost I found a village and sought directions. Embarking on a thigh achingly steep climb in the heat of the sun, I panted and sweated my way up, pausing to soak up the views until I eventually emerged breathless and grateful on the ridge of Munduk's main road.

The next day I explored by two wheels. I vroomred around snaking roads to pass fruit and flower vendors, take obligatory lakeside photos, visit Gitgit waterfall and pause for a strawberry juice with a view. Relishing the liberation of my own ride, my confidence and enjoyment grew with every twist and turn.

I dined alone after dark. Munduk transpired to be a retreat for two by twos; romancing couples nestled in rooftop restaurants wrapped up in their affectionate conversations. Content in my solitude and appreciative of the reprieve, I took my kindle out on an overdue date. Over spicy prawn soup we began the first novel of our travels together. As gale like winds battered the hillside, shaking trees and shivering bones, we transported to pre-war Malaysia to wander the colonial streets of Penang.

A bitter sweet taste of the north

I was tempted north by half kept promises. Pulau Menjangan lived up to its reputation as Bali's best diving spot, but The Lonely Planet's description of Lovina as 'relaxed' and 'the polar opposite of Kuta' (Bali) was grossly misleading. Only in Kuta did I experience as much obtrusive pestering and unpleasantness. Admittedly I fell foul of a golden rule, do not stay where your driver takes you. But in bargaining a good price at a 'flashpackerplus' hotel with a beautiful garden and tempestuous pool, I foolishly bit the hook. Woe to the naive traveller who wanders into the path of wolves and forgets to check reviews.

Pounced upon at my 'welcome drink', I received the pushy sales pitch for a dodgy dive trip at extortionate cost from a man of questionable certification. Repeatedly hassled until I informed him I'd read the terrible reviews and knew his prices were vastly inflated, he scuttled away to seek more vulnerable prey. Marooned out of town I hired a bicycle to make my way in, fearing for life and limb as jostling traffic roared past on the ravaging road. Anticipating seaside calm, I was confronted by hungry vendors starved of sales...'come look', 'you buy', 'you want sarong?', 'where you go?', 'dolphin trip tomorrow?'. My hackles rising against this predatory town, I scrapped my plans to linger and see dolphins and decided to fastforward to Menjangan and get the heck out.

Unfortunately I was bitten. Waking up in the dark to find three scuttling bedbugs slying munching away on me is not my idea of a comfortable night's sleep. Recalling that the mattress had been missing when I first viewed the room, I realised that they knew and had thrown me to the bugs, how could I have been so stupid?!! Seeking a new
Fish dinnerFish dinnerFish dinner

Two men carried this Marlin through the restaurant and into the kitchen as I was eating
hotel in the early hours, gesturing explanations of bedbugs and bartering for a 3am check in discount with mixed success was a new, and I hope unique, experience for me. I settled into my new, sweltering, spider web strewn room just in time for the pre-dawn chorus of arrogant cockerels asserting their presence and position.

I wouldn't recommend a day's scuba diving on two hours sleep, but when needs must... Happily it was an excellent day. Safely in the hands of 5 star Padi Centre Spice Dive, I received personal service as the only diver of the day. Pulau Menjangan's thriving, colourful, fish teeming reefs were well worth the visit. The day was made by Andi, my fun, friendly and full of life guide from West Timor. He kept safety in mind as he joked with me above and below water. I learnt the underwater signal for tasty fish (trigger and parrotfish in particular) and that laughing under water can flood your mask. He helped me to move a new, clean and comfortable hotel and I relaxed into an evening of spicy grilled fish and unwinding. Until when settling into I found a bitey little bugger crawling up my arm. Arghhh!

Operation decontamination

Bedbugs are pesky squatters, their unwelcome night time visits and itchy bites are bad enough, but the real dread is in their underhand infestation. Able to hide and lay eggs in just about anything, getting rid of them is, well a bugger. Add the complexity of needing to simultaneously disinfect everything you are carrying, including the clothes on your back, without contaminating a new room, and you have the logistical faff that faced me. I travelled south to seek refuge at The Agung Residence, Seminyak, a hotel I know, like and trust. Buying clothes for the next day, I set to work sending everything that could be washed or tumble dryed to the laundry, soaking the remainder in hot water with dettol and chancing only documents and electricals to take no prisoners.

Returning to Seminyak felt like coming home within Bali. I relaxed into familiar comforts, lunching at my favourite warung, visiting Opy at his beach bar and devouring grilled fish and shrimp curry at the local food market stall I've grown fond of. All that was denied was relief for my itch to get back on a board; huge swells from Australia brought crashing walls of towering waves that collapsed in powerful explosions of white water, relegating all to the beach to watch mesmerized by their mighty display.

In Seminyak I closed the book on my solo travels and opened a new chapter as one of two. Joined by Yusuf Degri, who I'd met snorkelling the Gilis, I gained a travel partner to explore the lesser trodden roads of Flores. We ventured east to the beautiful Nusa Tenggaran island, where we were heartily welcomed by her people. To tell my tale of this happy fortnight is to weave from threads of wonderful experience. It is a tapestry I shall enjoy composing to share.


14th July 2015

Great Blog
Another great blog Lauren, beautifully written! X
15th July 2015

Mindfulness and bugs
Great blog it such a joy to read and is doing wonders fro my mindfulness, apart from the bit about the bed bugs!
18th July 2015

Thanks Lesley, I'm glad you're enjoying it :) There's two more to go. I'm now back so I'll see you on Monday.

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