My Bali.

It will come as no surprise to my regular readers that I’ve had a long standing love affair with Bali since I first came here in 2002. I’ve travelled overseas more than 30 times, according to my quick calculation this morning, and half of those trips have been to Bali. I’m here right now for a month working on writing a book about my year living in Ghana, and it was the only place I could imagine doing this. I was blessed to be able to host an intimate time out writers retreat for women that concluded yesterday. I honestly couldn’t be happier than when I’m here.

There are so many things I love, that they could truly fill a book, and maybe I will one day, but for now I will write about a beautiful experience I had here a few days ago.

I was blessed to enjoy a sunrise walk through the rice fields in Penestenan with my gorgeous host and friend Made and Noma, another friend. As the sun rose over Mt Agung and she poked her head through the top of the clouds, I saw so much beauty and wonder that I’ve been wondering how to put it into mere words, but I’ll do my best.

The rice fields stretched as far as the eye could see, and as the morning stirred, people went about their morning rituals of work and prayer. We saw women, dressed in their temple fineries walking elegantly along the rustic path with offering baskets balanced on their heads, as they prepared to make their prayers and offerings to the gods to thank them for their many blessings, and to ask for a good crop as they prepare for harvest. Small shrines were placed in many places amongst the fields and the smell of incense wafted everywhere. Heaven!

We saw men cutting crops to carry home and to market, another man sat on his haunches sharpening his machete, and an elderly woman sat in a stream washing her clothes. We walked past a man gently taking flowers off a bush to put into offerings, as his young son sat complaining of his boredom and asking to go home, while his wife offered her prayers to the gods. Parents drove past on motorbikes, taking their children dressed in crisply ironed uniforms to school, as roosters crowed in the delight of the morning sun.

As we walked, Made stopped to generously share her plant wisdom with us, picking leaves for tasting and telling us with passion and wonder of their medicinal properties. A complete pharmacy grew along the edges, corners and amongst the rice fields, and I suspect it all grew wild. Made spoke with heart and love for her home as she shared stories and appreciation for the magnificent beauty that surrounds her. She told us about walking to school with a pouch of salt and chilli in her pocket, in case she saw her favourite plant, which she would pick and dip into the spices for an on the way to school snack. We learnt of plants for aches and pains, bladder infections, body odour, digestion, leaves that can be made into a poultice to relieve stomach aches for babies, those to ease labour (making the baby slippery) and so much more.

I felt torn between wanting to immerse myself in each moment and wanting to photograph every single thing, so I could preserve it forever. I chose the latter, but next time I will carry nothing and walk in wonder and amazement.

Although it felt like just minutes, it was an hour and a half later that we returned to Lily Lane, filled with gratitude and wonderment for this place that continues to inspire me moment by moment.

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I feel disappointed when I hear that so many people think of Bali as Kuta, Legian Street, Bintang t-shirts, $5 massages, cheap sarongs, bartering locals down and arguing over 50cents, loud night clubs, wooden penises and other equally trashy souvenirs.

Kuta is not Bali, sure it’s a fun and interesting place to visit for a few days, but Bali is so much more.

This is my Bali.

To be continued.

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