When you are far away from the routines of your usual life it is easy to fit in a large number of things into your day but still not feel rushed or busy. That is how yesterday felt. Our first full day in Bali was only our second day here, yet I already feel that with the amount I have experienced I must have been here much longer. We started the day on Sunday with something that the resort advertised as a “rice trek” but that turned out to be a walk along a path on Campuhan Ridge. We could see some ride paddies from the walk, but I think we were expecting to be walking directly among the growing rice. That’s not what it was, but it was beautiful and enjoyable nonetheless.
We were dropped off on a road near the start of the walk just after 7.00am. All the small things are entertaining us here; the sleek and wiry free range chickens with their chicks following along behind, the cats that all seem quite petite and fierce when they look at us, the dogs that lie around basking in the sun, the geckos on the walls and the massive butterflies. And for me, the level of detail is continually intriguing. The detail in the stonework, in the carving, in the flower arrangements. Add to that the lushness of the vegetation and the contrasting colours of the shades of green, magenta, frangipani flowers, fruits. It could easily be a sensory overload for many people.
We were invited in by a gentleman called Marjana to see his traditional Balinese home. He explained the layout of the family compound, and talked about the number of people that lived there. The rooms are primarily open rooms, most on platforms. We were introduced to his wife and another relative who was preparing offerings. It was a little surreal to be inside someone’s house as a tourist while they carried on their usual morning duties. Marjana is an artist, and often takes the opportunity to show people through his house as an act of generosity. He said something along the lines of “in Bali we don’t have much money, but we do have much Karma”. Our guide did later point out to us that this was actually a very nice Balinese house, and many were much simpler.
As we continued walking the road gradually became a path along the top of a ridge. The views were spectacular. The buildings are all very impressive in design, and are completely integrated into the environment around them. For example, as I type this blog post I am sitting in the resort “lobby”. It is a platform with a thatched room, overlooking pathways to other similar rooms, with a fountain trickling beside me and ponds nearby. When I glance up I see trees and ferns, and if I look a little more closely the odd giant ant wanders by. In the distance I can hear the sound of straw brooms sweeping the pathways.
Near the end of our walk we came to the Pura Gunung Lebah temple complex, overlooking the Campuhan river by the confluence of two rivers. You can often hear the sound of running water in Bali, and we can hear this river babbling and gurgling from our resort. Then it was back over a bridge across the river and back to our resort in time for breakfast, two hours after we began. By then we were all hot and hungry. Breakfast tasted appropriately scrumptious!
Our next activity for the day was taking part in a Balinese water purification ceremony. This took place at Sebatu temple in Gunung Kawi about half an hour’s drive from Ubud, located at the bottom of a valley. I have to admit that I was rather pragmatic about the ceremony, expecting to enjoy it and find it interesting and educational, but with a modicum of cynicism. We began at Puri Gangga Resort. We started with a delicious and healthy juice while the purification ceremony was explained to us by Andrea and Emma, our beautiful guides, then we changed into bathers and ceremonial sarongs. Because when they say this is a water purification ceremony, they really mean it – you get completely immersed.
From the resort we walked down to the temple following our guides, looking rather like a mother duck and her ducklings as we paraded in our matching sarongs. Emma explained the design of the temple in terms of the architecture and what it represented spiritually and religiously. It seems to me that in Balinese Hinduism there is a focus on balance of the elements. Offerings are given to both the “good” and “bad” gods, and everything is acknowledged and appreciated for its role in the balance. This is even one of the reasons behind all the steps into and out of buildings – you go up steps at the entrance of a compound then immediately down them again, when it seemed to me that you didn’t need steps at all. There is a deeper meaning for everything.
While we were guided around the temple, our priest was preparing to conduct the ceremony. We sat by one of the two purification pools as he chanted prayers and made offerings, then we all made offerings as well using incense and flowers. Then it was time to enter the water. The ponds are fed by a spring, and the pools have a number of water spouts flowing into them. They also contain a large number of Koi fish, many said to be decades old. One by one we entered the water at the far spring. The contrast of the heat that had risen in our bodies while sitting in the sun as the prayers and offerings were made with the shock of the cold water was initially quite intense. At each spout we raised water to our lips three times, splashed our faces three time, then put our heads under the flowing water three times. Our guide had explained to us that it was important to do this with intention, and to think about the things that we wished to purify and wash away within us and our lives. After the fifth spout we fully immersed in the pool then emerged again, as a symbol of our purification and change. We then repeated the process in the adjoining pool. I think that there were ten spouts in total, with two full immersions and emergence.
Well, it only took me to about spout number three to be sobbing, and I am even feeling teary many hours later as I type this. I found the purification ceremony to be an intensely emotional experience, as I thought about emotions that I wanted to let go of and how I hoped to emerge. I cannot describe it adequately, but it was clear that I wasn’t the only person in the group who was affected in that way. Words aren’t enough. It was such an amazing and special experience,
The ceremony was followed by a raw food lunch back at the resort, and it was absolutely delicious! By the time we were back at the resort it was around 4.00pm. This gave us time for some of us to head up the street outside the resort and look in some of the shops and cafes, as well as giving me time for me to book a massage at a small spa in the rice fields for the next day. We found happy hour that lasted for three hours, so took the opportunity to enjoy a Mojito or other drink, before returning to the resort for a dip in the pool before dinner.
Dinner was another beautiful meal, over which we discussed the day we’d had and made further plans for the days ahead. Some of the group ending the evening learning a new card game “Exploding Kittens“, while many others retired early to their rooms to either sleep or settle down with a good book. And out of interest, two of the group are wearing their fitbits, so I can tell you that yesterday we walked at least 14,000 steps and climbed 54 flights of stairs!
So I’m typing this early on Monday morning, knowing that we have another wonderful day ahead of us. I’m also wondering how my husband has gone with getting the kids back to school for term four, but have every confidence that all is going well at home. Actually, I have evidence for that confidence, as Stella has been busy leaving me text and voice messages on Whatsapp that I can access whenever I am in wifi range. All is well.