Thursday, 29 November 2012


The wind blew a half-open hibiscus flower on to the driveway. It is on the bench top in the kitchen now and as it opens it looks like a mutant poppy; red, red, red. Near the stamen the colour deepens to smooth red/black.

Thinking about words; I do that a lot. Some longer words are fascinating and some shorter words are too.

The word Bat is short and sweet.
A bat is a flying mammal. To have bats in the belfry is to be a bit scatty or eccentric.
A bat is something made of willow to whack a cricket ball.
When we moved from Salisbury to Cape Town the removalist wrote on the manifest: 2 hockey bats. Why not a hockey bat?
Bat is also a verb.
A person can bat her/his eyelashes or not bat an eyelid.

My mum used to say, "Short and sweet like a donkey's gallop". Short has a multitude of meanings, check it out.

I have read that there are many words for snow in the Inuit language. This led me to thinking about how many words we have, in English, for those little beings that lived so vividly in my childhood: fairies, pixies, peri, imps, gnomes, elves, sprites and goblins among others.

In the book Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers reminded me of a word that I first heard many years ago from my mother: Apocrypha. The word is originally Greek (ἀπόκρυφα) and means "those hidden away". Set in Venice the story unfolds in unusual ways. The reviewer from The Tablet writes, "Salley Vickers’ subject is one that few contemporary writers dare to – or are able to – tackle, namely the growth of consciousness of the human spirit. The novel has vision."

Also set in Venice is the late Ruth Cracknell's memoir Journey From Venice. It is some time since I last read this book but I remember how much it touched me.

How do you live your life to the full? According to Wade Davis, named by National Geographic as one of the explorers of the millennium, to live life to the full you must do what you fear most. He will be giving a lecture at The University of Western Australia in December 2012 “The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World”. I'd like to go ...

Interesting, I didn't know that millennium was spelled with double n. It is a dull day when I don't learn something new.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Challenged by Philosophy

Peter Singer's The life you can save: Acting now to end world poverty is a challenging book by any measure. Singer is uncompromising in his discussion about ending world poverty. As I read, a lot of the time I'm wondering is he dictating what we should do to end world poverty or is he making suggestions? 

The three premises on which he bases his argument are set out in a clear and concise way. I quote
 First premise: Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care are bad.
Second premise: If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.
Third premise: By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care, without sacrificing anything nearly as important.
Conclusion: Therefore, if you do not donate to aid agencies, you are doing something wrong.

The example he gives in the second premise of his argument is this; by cutting back on unnecessary spending "... and donating what you save, until you have reduced yourself to the point where if you give any more, you will be sacrificing something nearly as important as a child's life - like giving so much that you can no longer afford to give your children an adequate education". I read that before reading more deeply into the premises and was, I have to say, shocked. In my thinking (and I don't know whether I am alone in this) I presume education to be of vital importance in alleviating world poverty. So, perhaps his example is not one that appeals to me! 

I may or may not add to this blog. The book really is difficult on all sorts of levels and I end up playing solitaire on my iPad to take my mind off it. In a way it seems Singer is provoking a guilt trip in the reader. 

One reviewer writes, I gave the book 3 stars because (a) I assume the *facts* presented are accurate, and (b) we should be doing something about poverty on this planet. Just not the way Singer says we should.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Garden Reverie

In this blog I will be writing about my garden. My garden is colourful and easy to look after. This is because I am a lazy gardener. 

In my garden there are many large, bushy dark pink pelargoniums and a few light pink/white ones. There is jasmine climbing up a brick pillar and opposite is blue wisteria. The wisteria is yet to flower as I only planted it last season. The grape vine, which is just coming into leaf, gives us a shady area next to the top fishpond. The fishpond is surrounded by maidenhair ferns. This is where we sit to eat breakfast and lunch. When we entertain it is usually here. 

All along one boundary, up against the fence, are native plants in purple, orange, red and white. Spring is the most colourful time of year. Soon the summer heat will take its toll. Water is rationed in my garden so if something can't make it through the summer, the poor thing is consigned to the compost heap.

Something has been eating the goldfish; the numbers have dropped significantly. It could be cats, these are the most likely culprits because since the Little Black Dog died, the local cats make free here in the garden. However, the fisher could be a kookaburra or even an osprey (doubtful). There are marron (fresh water crayfish) in the top pond. The marron eat the pond plants and the fish if they can get hold of them. They certainly eat the fish eggs as we haven't seen any baby fish for ages. I think I saw some babies in the bottom pond but as there are no marron there, the vegetation is much more verdant so it is more difficult to spot the fish. 


Because the garden was established when we bought the house there are plants in it that I would never have thought of growing. For example, camellias and azaleas. The camellias are far more healthy than the azaleas which seem to have some sort of rust or mildew on the leaves. The hydrangeas are healthy looking at the moment but by the time summer really sets in their leaves will also get the mildew on them. 

There are a couple of blue-tongue bobtails living down near the shed. Apparently they eat snails but I find that hard to believe. I have been catching snails in beer traps. The beer is a home brew that Roland gets from a friend of his. The snails have a happy smile on their tiny faces when I hook them out of the tin. 

There was an aviary next to the shed which we have started to take apart. I have plans for this structure. It would make a lovely small Yoga pavilion. It may happen but it probably won't. Covering the ex-aviary is tecoma. In my opinion tecoma is a triffid, but tucked away here it can do what it does best - grow and sucker and be colourful. The Little Black Dog is buried nearby, under the Lilly Pilly tree next to the shed.

The front garden is bright with colour too. There are brilliant red callistemon (bottle-brush) lining the driveway. The branches are so heavy with blossom that they are almost on the ground. Each time I drive into or out of the garage the flowers flow over the car. I'm careful not to open the door or window when I'm parked under the trees as there are so many bees in the blooms. Roland wanted to cut off the branches but I kicked up a real fuss so he hasn't done that! There was plumbago next to the house but we have had to dig it out. Somehow it (the plumbago) managed to find a small hole in the brickwork and sent a sucker through, up the wall cavity and out through the tiles! This gave us a big fright, thinking in terms of termites etc. There are still shoot coming up and we diligently dig them out. My sister told me that where she lives the plumbago grows wild.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Leaving Bali

Robbie came round to my home this morning and brought me a potted elderflower tree (sambuccas). We saw many of these in our travels around Bali. Robbie remembered that I admired them and so she's given me one from her own garden. I'm so delighted to have the plant and it will be a reminder of Robbie, Michele and our Bali Retreat. The most powerful wand in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a wand made of sambucus known as the "Elder Wand". Apparently herbal tea made from elder leaves has the possibility to poison as it contains cyanide.

Pavilion overlooking Wos River

These are the final days at Michi Retreat in Ubud before we make our way back to Legian and then the flight back to Perth. We didn't go into the Sacred Monkey Forest as I have an aversion to monkeys having been bitten by one when I was a child. In fact, whatever the word for monkey phobia is, I've got it!

So, on the morning of 18 June, we departed Ubud for Legian and the last night in Bali. Once again Gede drove us. The driving code in Bali is complex and I have a feeling a lot of it is not written down! Travelling behind a Bali truck overloaded with volcanic rock and barely contained by a piece of canvas is fairly nerve-wracking. However, Gede is a competent driver, courteous and, even if he had been watching football all night, alert. I certainly felt safe enough with him behind the wheel. 

The hotel Vilarisi where we began our trip was also the last place on the itinerary. We decided to have one last shopping spree and meal in Legian. Once again I was totally disoriented the moment I walked out the door! Just as well Michele knew exactly where we were and took us down the gangs, this way and that way to find the warung where we had eaten at the beginning of the holiday. 

For our farewell dinner Michele had organised for us to go to Balangan Beach. The road wound through the countryside; I'm sure following the paths that the elephants used to tread. Once we left the city, past the university and another new but empty hotel, it seemed we were travelling in another world. There was very little, if any, traffic and only occasional roadside stalls. Finally, we arrived at Balangan Beach in good time to watch the sun setting over the ocean. 

The beach is lined with warungs and we chose to stop at Froggy's. Lots of Reggae here! We sat and watched the sun setting, the few people on the beach and plenty of dogs playing in the sand. One last Bintang and then walk back along the beach to where Gede was waiting to take us back to Legian.

Michele & Robbie at Froggy's Warung

Sunset at Balangan Beach

So, apart from the early morning anxiety about being in time for my flight, that was the finale to a wonderful Yoga Retreat. It was the beginning of a great friendship between Robbie and me and a consolidation of my friendship with Michele. 

The theme of the Retreat: Reflections on the Inner Self, served me well. I guess you could put this in the nutshell:

"The unexamined life is not worth living" (Socrates) 

Friday, 31 August 2012

Michi Retreat, Ubud

Michi Retreat is an amazing place, quirky and whimsical. Arches, paths, doors and gates, rooms, steps up and stairs down. Some paths lead somewhere and some don't. Our rooms are right at the end of the complex, two rooms upstairs and one bedroom with a foyer downstairs - and a plunge pool. Always the sound of the torrent roaring below. Eating breakfast one morning we spied a young man swimming in the rapids. When he finished he stood on the rocks and stretched, oblivious to us watching him from far above. He dressed and scampered up the steep side of the ravine opposite to Michi. We saw children swimming there some days and building bridges with bamboo.

Our suite, my room on the right
The path to our rooms had a low wall with many different and eclectic statues and art pieces. Next to the entrance to the hotel a large dark stone Buddha keeps watch. I love how the statues are dressed daily with fresh frangipani flowers and small offerings; sometimes the columns are wound around with checked fabric. I used to watch out for the Balinese who do this with such reverence, never a hastily done chore.

Reception area
On our first night, Robbie and I were locked out of our suite. In fact the lock was broken, we hadn't lost the key. Wayan, the lovely hotel manager/concierge was not phased when I went to call her. She climbed up on the stair railings and swung herself over my balcony, through my room to open the door from the other side! The lock was fixed the next day.  I had to laugh when she kindly offered to bring my meals to the room as I was "... so old". Needless to say Michele and Robbie teased me about my decrepitude. The rooms are huge and a big balcony too. The furnishing is traditional and each morning I noticed a pile of fine sawdust on the floor beneath the luggage bench. The wood-borers are active, that's for sure, and the mosquitoes are always hungry!

I woke early one morning and took this photo from the balcony of my room. That is Mt. Batur in the distance. 

Sunrise at Michi Retreat
The Yoga Room at Michi Retreat is beautiful; the windows open directly over the drop to the Wos river and the noise of the water is breathtaking. Having our Yoga practice here each day was truly awesome. On a couple of occasions, Michele included a Warrior sequence I had taught her many years ago. How lovely to be acknowledged by one of my teachers in this way! After Yoga class one evening we decided to take a short cut to the dining area. We ended up in a grotto cut into the hillside and had to retrace our steps!

Once or twice we saw the Japanese professor who owns the hotel. He is elderly and quite eccentric, looking the epitome of how an ancient Japanese professor should look. One of his PhD students was staying in the hotel and we spoke to her briefly but I can't remember what her field of study was and I never did discover the professor's speciality either.

From central Ubud (i.e the Market) to Michi Retreat is a fair way and the road twists and turns. When you leave the main road, unless you turn off at the right moment you have to continue along a residential road behind the hotel with no apparent place to turn between the high walls that surround the houses. How do I know this? Well, it happened to us! The taxi driver had to do some tight manoeuvring to get us going in the right direction again, which is to say, back the way we came. On the one side there is a concrete wall that separates the road from the hotel and the sheer drop to the ravine below. This wall is not in good condition and has the odd gap! We gasped (well, I did) when the taxi driver went to turn through one of the gaps. 

A highlight of Ubud, for me, was the meal at Sari Organik. Sari Organik is a vegetarian restaurant in the paddies behind Ubud. Walk along the main street and then take a turn through what looks like a building site; follow the path and because this is another magical Bali portal, in no time you are in among the paddy fields. The path is paved at the start but soon becomes a dirt track.

Some people get to Sari Organik on motorbikes or motor scooters but it is a lovely walk with lots to see. The wild herbs and flowers flourish all along the path. I think it must be a couple of kms from the road. Since last time I visited, there has been quite a lot development. How strange it looks to see a house built right in the middle of paddy. Sad, too, because once developed there is no going back to being a paddy. 

Michele and I had Nasi Campur (vegetarian) with red rice; a memorable meal, one that I will remember for a long time. Robbie had grilled vege salad and that looked delicious too. To drink we had snake fruit wine, brewed on the premises! Robbie had a coconut so Michele and I had to drink up the wine. It was quite potent and added another dimension to the delightful meal and made the walk back to Ubud very entertaining.

Nasi Campur
Roasted veges

Michele & Robbie at Sari Organik
The best meals I had in Bali on this trip were at Putri's in Candidasa, the one at Amed and the one at Sari Organik. I had some fairly average food at other places and one or two that I'd rather forget about. Generally the food was good, fresh, inexpensive and delicious. 

Ubud has changed a lot in the three years since last I was there. It is much more Westernised now and, in my opinion, that detracts from the ambience. Michele's attitude is that this is a passing trend and puts it down to the popularity of the book Eat Pray Love, which I've never read and have no intention of reading either. 

Winding down to the end now, only one more episode before I sign off on this particular blog thread. Watch this space!

Monday, 20 August 2012

over the mountains to Ubud from Lovina

on the road to Ubud
After morning Yoga and another yummy breakfast at Villa Jaya, we set off with Gede on the road to Ubud. Gobang and Komang came by to say farewell and then chased after us as I had left my water bottle on the platform outside the hotel. These raised platforms are a feature in the more rural parts of Bali: they are situated all around places where people gather to wait or pass the time. They are usually a simple open, wooden structure with a roof. Hawkers wait there for a likely looking punter to come along; men pass the time of day, smoking and chatting and perhaps gambling. Gede was waiting for us there.

The winding roads took us over mountainous central Bali. Occasionally we would come across a full-size luxury tourist bus negotiating the hairpin bends! All the traffic would have to wait. These buses come across from Java and are full of wealthy *domestic* tourists. Our first stop was a Kopi and spice plantation near Munduk, high up in the mountains.

The speciality at Kubu Kopi is coffee brewed from beans that have passed through the digestive system of a Luwak - a civet. There was a tired looking civet in a small cage and that made me sad. The beans are cleaned (thank goodness) and are roasted in a wok-like pan over an open charcoal fire. Before we tasted the kopi we had a conducted tour round the plantation.

Apart from the coffee bushes, there are a variety of spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and a host of others. Apparently the season had not been good and the crop was poor. We were intrigued at the informality of the planting; no formal beds and borders here! The only structures were terraces to stop everything from landing up in the valley far below. If you missed your footing the chances are that you would also land up in the valley. I took this photo from the eating area of Kubu Kopi and while I was doing that, Michele took the photo of me with my new pet!
View from Kubu Kopi

The butterfly was on the floor and then suddenly flew up and did some aerobatics before landing on my shoulder! I quickly passed my camera to Michele and she took a couple of shots before it flew off over the valley.

Robbie and I had a pot of the Luwak pooh coffee and it was delicious! The coffee pot was made from a coconut and so was the cup. Robbie is an adventurous eater and even ate some leaves on Mejangan because Wayan told us they were a tonic of some sort. I was worried that maybe you had to cook them first and that Robbie had inadvertently poisoned herself - but she was fine! The mosquitoes here were fierce and although I was covered in DEET I still managed to get bitten a few times.

Further along the road we stopped at a junction where we could look out over two of the volcanic lakes. The scenery here is awesome. There was a man with a massive python draped over his shoulders and, for a fee, he would drape it over your shoulders! Not me.

When there were no tourists around the python lives in that box just behind him. The man also had some large bats and an iguana that I thought was a sculpture, so still did it keep. The huge banyan tree here had a shrine inside.
view over the volcanic lake and a raptor

shrine inside banyan tree
From here the road winds down toward Lake Butan. On this stretch we passed one of Bali's mysterious places, the Ghost Palace. This unbelievably enormous building was intended to be a luxury hotel. The timing for this could not have been worse as the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 reduced tourism to such an extent that the hotel has never functioned as such. Apparently it was built by Tommy Suharto but went bankrupt the day it was meant to open. Indeed, the beds were in and everything ready to go but now it is crumbling and unlikely to ever function as a hotel. The road winds round the edifice for a number of kms and, Michele, who has actually been inside, told us that you can see the ocean from the uppermost parts. It reminded me of the castle in Mervyn Peake's trilogy Gormenghast - a trilogy worth reading if you have the time. According to Wiki, a valid classification would be to place Gormenghast in the genre of the grotesque, with marked gothic and surrealist influences. It may also be considered a fantasy of manners. That seems to fit both the books and the Ghost Palace.

Lake Butan was another stop, manicured gardens and many domestic tourists. I was surprised at the size of the lake. Michele found a lion statue and posed in simhasana perched on its back! Next stop was Candi Kuming markets where we had lunch and did some market shopping.

We arrived at Michi Retreat in the afternoon. Once again we had to pass through a magical Bali portal to find the hotel and could hear the sound of he raging waters of the Wos River as we arrived. The river roars through the ravine on whose banks the hotel is perched. Michele had told me I would appreciate the quirkiness of the hotel but even that did not prepare me for the reality. So, next entry will be Ubud and in particular, Michi Retreat.
Michi Retreat

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Pulau Mejangan

Sitting here on a cold, windy and wet Sunday afternoon in Mandurah, I open iPhoto and find this photo of Robbie, Michele and myself and the anonymous boatman, (surely Ketut?) on the boat heading over to Pulau Mejangan. This small island is part of a National Park and is actually in Java.

We headed out from Lovina fairly early as Robbie and Michele were hoping to snorkel once we reached the island. In the event, we got there a bit late and the wind was coming up. The drive along the north-west coast took over an hour and then Michele had to negotiate with Wayan (our guide and official National Parks Ranger) for the ferry ride from Bali over to Mejangan. Wayan was an excellent guide, very talkative and full of tall tales to tell us. The boatman merely drove the boat.

The mountains of Java were so clear I felt I could touch them. This part of Bali has white sandy beaches - not the darker volcanic sand found elsewhere.

The water is deep here, I asked Wayan how deep, "57 metres" he told me, and added that the drop-off from Mejangan was sheer. As we approached the island we could see how the colour of the water changed from the dark, deep inky blue to a light turquoise colour. There were other boats already moored and many people snorkelling. You can see quite clearly in the photo below, which I took from the path above the cove.

Nobody lives on Mejangan but there are a number of temples dedicated to various deities - including a large one dedicated to Ganesha. The temples look old and weather-beaten but Wayan assured us they had been built fairly recently! The paths and various access points are fairly risky and there isn't much in the way of barriers even near steep cliffs. Nevertheless, we tramped around and looked at the flowers, birds and insects. When there was an easier option to climbing around a temple, we took it.

Ganesha Temple from the ocean

There were a few other people walking on the island including a couple who were keen bird watchers. Wayan assured them that they would be able to see many birds if they got there early enough! Mainly, though, the tourists visit Mejangan for the snorkelling. Local people come here to make offerings at the temples.

After walking around for a while we boarded our ferry on the other side of the island. The boat access here was unstable and Wayan told us that a German man had fallen there, only the day before and had to be transported to Denpasar to the hospital. The logistics are frightening as there would be the ferry ride back to Bali which takes a nearly an hour and then road transport across Bali back to Denpasar. Needless to say we watched where we put our feet and took any helping hand that was offered!

As we left the island, we went past the bat caves and could see blankets of bats clinging to the sides of the caves. Then the ferry turned back toward the Bali coast where we met Gede (our driver) waiting patiently to take us back to Lovina. Of course we stopped for a meal on the way.

There is so much more to Bali than the average tourist gets to see and experience.
Next entry will be about Ubud and the strange and exotic hotel in which we stayed ... Michi Retreat.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Still in Lovina

We practiced the salute to inner calm every evening. This is a beautiful sequence. It was one I was going to bring home to my daily practice but I've not done so. Maybe from this evening? I wrote in my journal, "I do know it and will sketch it in full soon - before I forget". Well, I didn't sketch it and I have forgotten it! Lucky to find the link on the Internet.

Each morning we practiced 6 rounds of Suraya Namaskar with chanting. I can remember when I would be puffed after a couple of rounds but even the 3 fast rounds with the Bija Mantras were good. The main thing is to keep one's focus on the movements and not let the mind wander.

I managed to get water in my ear at the swimming pool so booked in to have ear-candling. It was lovely and I felt so much better afterwards. I can't bear that deaf/discombobulated feeling when the ears are full of water. I had an aromatherapy massage as well at the spa. How delightful! In fact this was the first massage I had on the holiday.

Michele lent me The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan. I can't imagine why I haven't read it before as I am a big fan of hers. I did try and make it last but read it as quickly as usual! Lovely to chill by the pool and read. Since I've been home I've managed to read another one of her books and have 2 more waiting  to be read.

There are quite a few mosquitoes here and I have been diligent about applying Rid; nevertheless, I've bitten quite a few times and so damn itchy.

It must have been about this point of the trip that I lost count of the days and the date! I think that is necessary sometimes!


Next episode will be the trip to Pulau Mejangan and the Ganesha Temple there.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Lovina Beach

The four days spent at Lovina Beach seemed to fly past. This was 'recharging' my battery time! In our morning practice next to the pool I would lie in Savasana and gaze up into the cloudless sky sky framed by the brilliant colours of the bougainvillaea. The sound of the motor scooters buzzing back and forth along the dirt track behind the Villa Jaya didn't seem to intrude. Some mornings I would put fallen blossoms around my Yoga mat; frangipani and bougainvillaea. Suraya Namaskar takes on a new meaning when practised in this environment.

After our class the three of us would sit down to a hearty breakfast; banana pancakes, two eggs and toast and as much Bali Kopi as we wanted. Bali breakfasts feature in all my Bali blogs! On the topic of food, while we were in Lovina, we had a cookery class/demonstration with Michele's friend Komang and her husband Gobang.

Komang and Gobang live in Lovina, a short distance from our hotel so on the evening of our class we walked over to their home. Preparation for dinner was already well under way. Their middle son (age about ten if I remember correctly) was helping his parents with the preparations. Apparently he loves to cook. I am constantly amazed at the feasts that the Balinese produce from just a small cook top or even just a couple of burners. This demonstration was no exception.
Some of the food for our feast.

Komang & her son in the kitchen
In Balinese style we sat on the floor and used our fingers to eat. There was a big bowl of rice and a bowl of water to rinse our fingers. The food was spicy and delicious! The corn fritters were especially popular. I have the recipes now but haven't got round to trying them out yet. Gobang's mother who also lives in the compound popped her head in to see us and Komang's oldest son came in from playing football with his friends but didn't stop to say hello!

Bali was agog with the World Cup taking place and so many of the children and the men were following the teams with great fervour! Flags of all nations decorated the streets and everyone had a favourite team.

More later - now that I've got time to sit down and write. Thanks Michele for the itemised itinerary you gave me! Together with my Moleskine I've got it all together.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Singaraja & Lovina Beach

Robbie, Uki, Michele and Eleanor at the Ashram
Kawi's morning Yoga class at the Ashram Gandhi in Candidasa included a variation on the Warrior (or Hero) asana that twists the torso and the upper arm rests on the thigh, hands in namaste. I remember learning this a long time ago and so enjoyed re-remembering. I did try and sketch the posture but it didn't really work. I'm hoping I'll pull it out of my knowledge base if I ever decide to teach it.

We left for Lovina Beach after breakfast with a break for lunch in Singaraja, which was the capital of Bali under Dutch occupation. So much of Singaraja reminds me of areas of Cape Town, South Africa, especially around Observatory and the Malay Quarter.

We had lunch on the pier at the harbour; good, fresh food and a splendid view. The Balinese Hero of the Revolution is commemorated in an amazing statue. Balinese memorials are not of the subdued, concrete grey that we in the Western world are used to; rather, they are bright and strong. I don't know if anyone else remembers learning about the ancient Greek and Roman statues which were, apparently, equally as colourful but over the centuries the colour has faded and gone and now we accept that these works of art were created in shades of grey. I guess that if the people had continued to worship the goddesses and gods regularly, the statues would have been repainted and kept colourful.

One thing travelling the by ways and back ways in Bali are the frequent stops for Hati Hati (Caution: direct translation, 'heart, heart'). The stops are not only for road works (of which there are many) but also wedding processions and funeral processions. These events are so full of ceremony that traffic has to stop to allow the procession to pass. The funeral processions are particularly awesome with massive models of bulls or whatever the caste of the deceased demands. The nearest equivalent I can think of here in Australia is when we pause to allow a hearse to pass.

We arrived at Villa Jaya - one of my most favourite places, in the afternoon. This small hotel, only six or seven rooms and reached through one of the Bali portals (miss the turn-off down a narrow powdery white gravel road and you've missed a journey into another world).

the pool at Villa Jaya from my room
Since last time I stayed at Villa Jaya the stairs to the second story rooms have been altered and retiled. I'm happy about this because they were very steep and the risers were high. The old dog who lives at the hotel still sleeps in the sun on the landing or on the doorstep of the first room at the top of the stairs. As you step over him he looks at you with a sorrowful stare!

Our four days here, at Lovina Beach, have to be among the highlights of the Bali trip and I'll tell you more about it in the next instalment.

Saturday, 30 June 2012


Slight delay in writing up the blog ... mainly because I've been strapped for time now that I've *unretired* and am working at Murdoch Uni.

Candidasa, from my research, translates (albeit roughly) as Temple and ten, the Goddess Hariti is portrayed surrounded by 10 children. So women who have not been blessed with children bring offerings to the Goddess Hariti to beseech her intervention. Not only fertility but prosperity as well. I didn't photograph the statue in the main street of Candidasa of Hariti surrounded by 10 children so that means I'll have to go back soon and take that photo!

The Gedong Gandhi Ashram is the most peaceful place. A short walk from our hotel we take a sharp turn right behind a building (no sign-posts here) and we are in another world. Bali is full of these amazing, even mysterious, portals from one world to another. So, we walk through and there are palm trees, grazing cattle, the ocean, and a Yoga pavilion.
Yoga Pavilion

The first morning, Uki takes us through a lovely sequence of asana based around the Warrior or Hero postures.

The second (and final morning at Candidasa) Kawi leads us through a more vigorous class. This is Yoga, always something for everyone! Kawi's class also included Warrior.

We stayed at the Candidasa Beach Resort Hotel and when I walked out of my room (more like a bungalow) this is what I could see
Walking down the path toward the ocean and the swimming pools (two) and restaurant right on the ocean wall. The hotel was originally built as a 5 star but was out of use after the Bali bombings decimated the tourist trade. When I was here in 2009 the hotel was closed. When we arrived at the hotel the phrase "faded glory" came to mind. The hotel is comfortable and the service is good. The building itself is fairly rundown and the electrics could use some repair! I had serious doubts about the electrical system when I plugged in the fridge and a flame shot out! The plumbing is also a bit suss.

We ate breakfast at the hotel each morning (banana pancakes, a plate of fresh tropical fruit followed by perfectly cooked eggs, Bali kopi and toast). Oh my! In the evening we ate at Puspa's Warung and I can't recommend that enough.

Walking down to Puspa's Warung one evening we came upon a couple of security guards burying a dead ginger kitten in a patch of earth next to the road. So many cats in Bali.

Early on the second morning I found hundreds of tiny brown frogs hopping around on the path on the path outside my room. At first I thought they were leaves but on closer inspection discovered these teeny weeny little frogs!

Using Candidasa as a base, we took a day trip to Amed on the North Easterly coast and had another memorable meal on the beach front there (gado gado - I'd say 9/10). The road up through the mountain pass is ... interesting with many hairpin bends and so much traffic. The scooter and motor bikes fill up every gap in the traffic. On the way I saw a man with a big pink pig on a leash walking through the forest on the side of the main road. Pork (babi) is a favourite in Bali. I don't eat it so can't really comment. I saw a dead dog by the road - the first one I've seen which is amazing as there are dogs everywhere, even sleeping on the road.

At Puspa's Warung I had a delicious bean and coconut dish, highly spiced and well seasoned. In Aussie currency it was under $5.00 I ate it all. Yum yum.

From Candidasa, Gede picked us up and took us, via Singaraja, to Lovina Beach. Maybe this is my favourite place in Bali? This is Gede

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bali Yoga Retreat

Hurry up and wait.

Many journeys begin waiting at the airport and this one was no different. I have long been a subscriber to the philosophy “Hurry up and wait” which, my sister reminded me, was something that Mum used to abide by. So, on a cold morning at the beginning of June, I write in my notebook: Waiting at the airport, Saturday 12.55pm. Sod’s law says, “The earlier you arrive at the airport, the likelihood of the flight being delayed, increases”. However, I’ve discovered that all the years that I thought I was afraid of flying I was, in fact, stressing out about airports and getting there in time so as not to miss my flight; hence, hurry up and wait.

The Garuda flight was delayed because of dreadful weather in Perth. In fact, after takeoff, we were buffeted around to such an extent that we had to remain seated for some time (no toilet breaks or anything) and the meal was served much later than expected. The Garuda flight attendants were, as always courteous, friendly and efficient.

Perth went on to have some terrible storms on Sunday and much damage was done. Lucky me, then, to be swanning around in beautiful Bali, eating exotic and spicy food, having 1 or 2 Yoga classes every day and exploring some less visited parts of the island.

Morning on the second day started with our first Yoga class in (or should that be 'on') the roof garden of the hotel. Michele led us through some chanting, pranayama and asanas and finished up with an inspirational meditation.
On the roof garden
After breakfast we (Michele, Robbie and I) set about exploring Legian. Having no sense of direction whatsoever, Michele’s knowledge of the by-ways and back-ways soon had me totally confused. The moment we walked out of the Hotel Vilarisi into the gang (laneway) I was lost! First call was a money changer and then some shopping. I had forgotten the ins-and-outs of bargaining and a couple of stall holders made some money out of me! The way I look at it is this, sometimes the value being haggled over, when translated into Aussie currency, is about $2 or less. Anyway, I was happy and so were they.

After lunch Gede (pronounced G’day – like the West Aussie greeting) picked us up and took us through to Candidasa, further east along the coast. Lovely Candidasa and the Ashram Gandhi.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Kangaroo Asana

Kangaroos! Working on a Yoga asana that implies this Australian animal. I've asked the children for their suggestions. Not surprising, then, to have several littleys bounding around with hands folded at heart level making Skippy noises. I like it!

Rosie took the photo.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Noosa Head Walk

Day Four: Sunday

After some family time in the morning Heather, Roland and I walked the coastal leg of the Noosa Head Coastal Track. Dave dropped us at Noosa National Park and I took a photo of Harrold, the koala killed by a dog - poor little fellow, didn't stand a chance. Someone had put a bough of gum leaves in his paw.
Harrold, killed by a dog
A little further on we saw a live koala up a gum tree, fast asleep (koalas spend much of their time asleep)
koala up a gum tree
So, on one side a sleepy koala and on the other side the roaring ocean. Steep tracks lead down to the rocky shore at this point and there are many surfers on the track - coming and going.

Casuarina trees line the track
For most of the track (5.4kms) I trailed behind Heather and Roland - both of whom are fast walkers. In places the track was very rough and I took my time so that I didn't fall. Also, there was so much to look at and I didn't want to miss a thing.
Heather & Roland ahead!
Along the track there are places where the water is seeping through the surface. I saw a young man walking the track, barefoot, and he stepped right onto one of these patches and his foot sank right down into the mud. I had to laugh as it looked as though he had a shiny ankle boot on one foot!

Quite far into the walk we came to Hell's Gates, an awesome feature where the ocean channels into a narrow chasm. The sides are steep and rocky and there are no fences to stop people approaching the edges, only a couple of warning signs like these.

I went as close to the edge as I dared (not very close) to take a couple of photos.

Hell's Gates

Hell's Gates & Alexandria Beach in the background.
Alexandria Beach, politely known as as a *Clothes Optional* beach is a beautiful spot. Apparently very dangerous to swim although that didn't seem to worry the au naturale people on the beach and in the ocean. The ocean was very rough that day and although I was hot and ready for a swim, I wasn't game to get naked and swim - too much sand swirling around in the water for my comfort. So I kept my clothes on and took my shoes off for the hike along the beach. I didn't take any photos either, just this one from the track way above the beach.
Alexandria Beach

Dave met us at the far end of the beach, he had driven around so that we wouldn't have to complete the full round trip through the inland track; also because there was absolutely no parking available at Noosa where we started the trek.

The track was much rougher from here on, steep and rocky with some quite sheer drops. In one place there was a chain which was helpful and elsewhere the trees provided a handy support. I was excited to hear a Whip Bird - the first time I've heard one in the wild (we don't get them here in Western Australia). I have been practising the call ever since. I can get the first bit - the whistle - but the actual cracking sound is more difficult. I think the others were heartily sick of me making these whistling, cracking sounds all the way down to Sunshine Beach.

Beautiful Sunshine Beach! The breakers rolling in reminded me of the beach at Muizenberg in the Cape Peninsula (South Africa). I'd say this is one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen
Sunshine Beach
The walk had taken rather longer than planned - possibly because of my *slow/slower* pace! Anyhoo, we ended up in a delightful restaurant and hoed into a cold beer! Oh my did that taste good. Beer is not my usual choice of drink but this Boag's was nectar. A late lunch of tapas and great company put the finishing touches to an amazing, wonderful walk.

On the way back to Mooloolaba Heather suggested we climb Mount Coolum - seeing as it is *only* 200 or 300m high. While I would like to do that one day, this was not the day! In fact I was pretty tired by this time ... have to remember, I'm pushing up to the high end of the 60s now.