Bali - Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

I had a 20 minute walk to the yoga training in the mornings, normally made with my friend Janice who as staying at the same place as me. As it was dark when we finished, I often got a lift back from Lisa but on a couple of occasions we finished early enough to walk back as the sun was setting. As I rounded the corner onto the little road that I was staying on (parallel to Batu Bolong for those who know Canngu) I was hit with the view of the bats swirling over the rice paddies catching up the insects in the sun’s orange glow. It was magical. Impossible to capture on camera as being there as they swirled above my head and darted back over the rice fields, was all part of it.  

Another magical moment, which sticks in my head, was the sunset one evening after we had finished early one evening and gone to the beach to surf together. Some of us had surf lessons, some surfed, some sat and ate coconuts on the beach. It was great to get back in the sea and on a surf board – the last time I surfed was for my birthday with Lee and Matt a couple of years before. I could stand up and catch some small waves just fine, the one thing I couldn’t do though was paddle! It was if my arms didn’t have those muscles, and I’m relatively fit and lift weights so goodness knows how unfit people get on. My instructor kept telling me to lift my chest and really scoop the water back with my hands to push myself forward, I tried and went almost nowhere, much to is amusement. It was fun though and I knew if I wanted to surf as I travelled that I needed to wake these muscles up. I really wore myself out in the strong tide and eventually decided I had had enough of being in a washing machine and headed in. As we dressed and headed off the beach to get some food, I paused and noticed that the sun was just finishing setting. I let the others head off and just stood. It wouldn’t have been more than a few minutes but touching into that stillness and beauty really stopped me in my tracks and I felt that connection to myself and everything that I feel when I sit to meditate. The beauty is like a door into this infinite consciousness, that most of the time we ignore. It’s hard to express in words, I’m sure you know what I mean though, perhaps you’ve watched the moon, or a bird or a view from the top of a mountain and felt stillness and everything all in one moment. The noise of your thoughts drops away and you are present. I can only be grateful to Bali for this and hope that I will experience many more the same. 

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It was moments like these that really masked the other uglier side of the island – the rubbish. Unfortunately the paradise portrayed online for us foreigners to see, well I didn’t find it. I’m sure there are parts that look like that idyllic palm tree postcard with the white sand, but on the postcard that I was seeing there was a plastic bottle bobbing in the ocean and plastic bags strewn up the beach, washed up by the tide. I was shocked; the kind of painful shock where you really wish this wasn’t the case and try to close your eyes and wish it away but upon opening your eyes you also notice the man burning plastic on the street outside his house as a child runs by inhaling the toxic fumes and you realize that this is a deep problem and one that needs to be addressed urgently. There is no organized government refuse waste collection, so if you don’t have money or don’t want to spend the money to pay one of the private companies, you throw it in the river or burn it – neither of which are prohibited and both seem very common place. In a tourist rich area it baffles me that this happens and has been going on for years. I was told by a friend that she came 7 years ago and the same occurred and they knew then that there was a problem; 7 years on and it’s only got worse. I spoke to several regular surfers about the waste in the sea and as the wet season was just about to begin they said that the rain rushes down the rivers that have been almost dry, washing everything into the sea that is waiting there for it, and so it is particularly bad at this stage, with plastic knocking into you as you paddle and the water being so acrid that you could taste the chemicals when you went underwater. This was also causing stinging eyes and really made being in the sea a very unpleasant experience. Which for a tropical paradise, is very sad.  

I began to try to delve into what is being done about it and found very little. There are several organisations that have begun recycling and refuse collection schemes, providing cheaper ways for people o have their rubbish collected. But it begs the question why are the government not doing something about it? Tourism is a huge part of their economy, bringing in $26 million in 2014, so why risk people being put off (I certainly am on the fence I’m afraid) just to save money on a refuse collection system. They managed to tackle the straw problem, the whole island seems to be on board now with either bamboo or paper straws, or no straws. So if they can do this, I have faith a turnaround on the rubbish front s possible. To see a fab documentary that a friend of mine Angela made about this issue go to www.plasticparadisemovie.com. We can all do our bit at home by using less plastic (don’t buy the tomatoes rapped in 3 layers of plastic), and also when we are tourists by asking for filtered water instead of a bottle and by bringing re-useable bottles with you. There are also beach clean ups in Bali that you can help with and generally being mindful that your rubbish goes somewhere they do use a collection system. We all have to work together and think. I am also thinking of starting a petition to the Balinese/Indonesian government as a direct ask from tourists that we really love Bali, but don’t like it with the plastic sprinkles on the top! Save our seas! 

 

When it rains, it pours 

Never has this saying been so true! The first time I witnessed Indonesia’s rain we were doing a session in the yoga Shala at SamadiToo, which was on the top floor. The rain began and it was so loud it drowned out Eoin’s voice; it would have drowned out someone on a megaphone I think. We had to just wait for it to stop. It was pounding on the roof and what seemed like buckets of rain were falling from the sky. I remembered the rain in Brasil being like this too, everything stops and it’s even too heavy to go on a scooter or motorcycle so you are stuck where you are. It was a welcome relief from the heat though as leading up to the storm for 2 days it was heavy in the air and even more humid than normal. Unfortunately the rain actually seemed to make the humidity worse after and we noticed the slow start of the cycle of the wet season.  

We didn’t have any rain then again for a couple of weeks until we all got stuck at the yoga shala one evening as we were due to finish. The heavens opened and as it was dark and we were all on scooters to get there, we had to wait. We made the most of it with a ‘Blissology Dance Party’ (BDP). It was amazing to watch in wonder that that much water could come from the sky! That sounds like a really dumb thing to say, but if you saw it you would know what I meant. We eventually made a dash for it (slowly) on the scooters to get back to our rooms. 

Unfortunately I didn’t quite pay attention to the fact that rainy season would be starting in November. I was in such a state of excitement to book my trip that I failed to be aware of this; sometimes excitement isn’t such a good thing as it can make us unconscious of what else is going on. Anyway, the rains came and my whole (rough) plan had to be changed.  I decided I wouldn’t make it to the other parts of Bali that I hoped to see, apart from Ubud, I will return in the dry season so I don’t get washed away by the endless rain of the wet ‘wet’ season they were having this year. I hear that Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida are less crowded and more typically beautiful parts of Bali, and Ulawatu and the famous Padang Padang Bay is somewhere to see for a few days. I also hoped to visit the Gilli Islands and Lombok, as well as Java (an island West of Bali), and Komodo. For the meantime though I headed to Ubud (a rainier part of Bali as it’s surrounded by jungle inland) to volunteer with Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) and plan my next moves to start my training for Kilimanjaro.