Back to Desa Seni we go

Aww Desa Seni, how I've missed you! Thanks Mandy for the Photo.

Aww Desa Seni, how I’ve missed you! Thanks Mandy for the Photo.

Cecilley and I are now in our last week. Our last week in Bali! And I can’t come to terms with leaving. After all the ups and downs and all arounds this place has a certain specialness about it that only took me over a month to find. Why is it that is always the way? But I suppose leaving on a good note with a bit of sadness and not pleading to escape is a good thing. I will always have a place for Bali in my heart. And who knows maybe I’ll end up back here again some day. I wouldn’t put it past me. I can see it happening. Especially if it means spending more time at Desa Seni.

Wednesday, November 27th has already happened on this side of the world (and everywhere else by now I know), but I like writing from the future, it’s seems kind of cool to me. I am after all 12+ hours ahead of everyone back home. But regardless of what day and time it is when you read this, the 27th was Dulice’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Dulice!) Before I jump too far ahead, you need a super quick update. While in Bali and living in Ubud Cecilley and I have spent a lot of time at the Green School. In particular we’ve spent lots of time with Green School’s Head of Communications, Charris, and his beautiful family, Dulice being his amazingly,wonderful wife. And today (or the 27th rather) was no exception. For Dulcie’s birthday Cecilley and I were invited to spend the day with her at Desa Seni! Hooray!! Oh how I’ve been dying to see that beautiful eco & yoga oasis among the rice patties in Canggu one more time. It was Cecilley and I who suggested a perfect romantic spa/yoga/beauty getaway at Desa Seni for Dulice. It would make for an ideal way to spend a birthday and given it was a Wednesday, the boys (Dulcie and Charris’s two children) would be in school and Charris would be busy at work. Lucky for us the invitation to join Dulcie was extended to Cecilley and I and boy oh boy I could not have been happier. Correction. Cecilley could not have been happier! Before leaving Bali we were trying to figure out a way to get back to Desa Seni, but how was the question. This was our answer.

If anyone, and I seriously mean everyone, comes to Bali put Desa Seni on your list of things to do. Whether you stay for the day, a night, or an entire week for a yoga retreat, Desa Seni is not to be overlooked. This inspiring eco village has too many amazing qualities about it I could write for hours. And all I would cover in that time is the food! But instead I’ll just capture the essence of the yoga class Dulcie and I went to. For the other things you can ask me later or you could just go to Bali.

I love all yoga. Even if I don't think I like it at the time. (Thanks again Mandy)

I love all yoga. Even if I don’t think I like it at the time. (Thanks again Mandy for the picture)

We kicked started the beautiful birthday day with a little brunch and tea before Dulice and I went to the Dynamic Hatha yoga class that morning. I was excited to practice in Desa’s second studio for a change and take a class from a teacher I knew nothing about. Manuela was hilarious and put a fun, playful twist on a more gentler styled class. I was hoping for something super dymantic – I was feeling invigerious and ready to move, but there is something about taking your practice down a notich. Working with core aligment and energetic flow from the ground up, the connection you can create within each pose is astounding. At least that’s how I feel anyway. Call me crazy, but the strength you can generate with attention works your whole body. You do not need a vinyasa level 2 flow in order to have a good workout. Sometimes I forget that. Being there with Dulice and Cecilley in Bali, back at a place that melts my heart and holds a lot of great memories, everything felt in place. Like all of a sudden the pieces of the puzzle matched up, it was such a great feeling. It was a great feeling to practice as the rain came down and we were tucked under the bamboo yoga hut, looking out at the luscious greenery. It was as if it was my birthday. Because if someone would have have told me it was I would have believed them.

After spending the day reading by pool, swimming, eating a yummy lunch and a great dinner (with the whole family!) it was just the thing I needed to part ways with Bali. Thank you, Dulice and Charris for sharing this special day with me and Cecilley. I can not begin to thank you enough for everything you’ve done for us.

Beach Days in Ulu Watu

There is always time for yoga on the beach!

There’s always time for yoga when you’re on the beach!

Surf, sun, and Bintangs pretty much sums up the story behind our mini three day vacation, within our major getaway. After what felt like weeks in Ubud (it was a long time ago when I began writing this post) the retreat was long over and not to long after we settled into our first home stay in Ubud. We finally made the trip to see the Green School, found our first WWOOFing spot – which did not work out, a huge bummer, but it was for the best. Like moving to any place it takes time to get comfortable, for Bali it was taking longer then I anticipated. But we were becoming familiar with the major streets and side roads, discovered good places to eat, grocery shop, pick up essentials, that sort of thing, it was like we were almost becoming commoners. Almost.

During it all, all the moving around, watching things unravel, seeing Bali in its true form, and just thinking a lot, I was feeling trapped and unsettled and not very happy (but this went for both Cecilley and I). This feeling – all the feelings – really bothered me. I didn’t like not liking Bali and missing things. I was out on a grand adventure, don’t be a baby, Jill!

We realized it was time to see something new. Although Ubud has many great qualities, we just needed a break from the business and noise, a place to think and clear our heads. And some beaches! There is nothing wrong with needing an escape. But where would be go?!

After examining the Lonely Planet little book on Bali we decided on Bali’s southern most beach hub, Ulu Watu. If you’re a surfer listen up. The surf is grand in Ulu Watu, coming from a complete bystander’s opinion and word of mouth from actual surfers. The waves there are crazy cool. Apparently there are special reefs in these parts that make the wave break to the left(?), if I was real surfer I may know what that actually means. As for onlookers and people watchers these beaches are quite dainty, a little on the rocky side, but capture cliff side sunsets so wonderfully you will run out of space on your camera.

Ulu Watu is well worth discovering with your rash guard and surf board, but if you’re like Cecilley and I and don’t go for the waves but for the remote beaches instead, Bingin Beach was my favourite. With plenty of cute (and cheap) surfing hostels you will have no difficultly finding a place to store your things and rest your head. For all the other hours of the day you’ll be at the beach, eating the cheap and yummy eats, or like all the surfers do at the end of a long day enjoy a cold Bingtan.

Bingin Beach, Ulu Watu, Bali. So pretty!

Bingin Beach, Ulu Watu, Bali. So pretty!

There were many things to do at Bingin Beach, yoga and surfing being the two most popular activities. Although Cecilley and I didn’t take any classes, we did practice on our own. The beach is great for yoga! There was a spa and yoga place nearby and one hostel had sunrise classes, but only certain mornings of the week. We happened to be there at the wrong time, which was a huge bummer.

Ulu Watu is about an hour, if not a bit longer, south of Ubud. Cecilley and I caught a bus to Kuta then flagged a cab for the rest of the way. Buses are the cheapest mode of transport in Bali and going through a travel organization makes it pretty easy. Cabs here are tricky. It’s wise not to take a cab without a meter, otherwise you run the risk of getting scammed – Cecilley and I learned this the hard way. The cab company to use in Bali is Blue Bird, should you ever need one. Don’t make deals with the Taxi guys on the streets holding the signs (you’ll see these guys everywhere) unless you know what the cost of your trip should be and are up for barding. It can work, Cecilley and I learned the easy way.

At the beach there is always time to jump off things!

At the beach there is always time to jump off things!

Ulu Watu is a good destination point given there are three beaches very close to one another, Ulu Watu Beach, Bingin Beach, and Padang Padang Beach, all of which are beautiful but offer very different experiences. All reef beaches with cliffs and beautiful look offs, Bingin was by far the least busy, the best for soaking in the rays and feeling relaxed. I can’t say much for Padang Padang because we didn’t stay long. It was the busiest of the three and crowed in comparison. I wasn’t thrilled by it, but we also didn’t spend as much time there. But the reviews from people I’ve talked to say it’s beautiful you just have to find the right spot. I think we were in the wrong place. Ulu Watu, like Bingin, had lots of surfers. It too was a little more of the tourist spot with lots of surf shops, restaurants, and lots of beach spots to discover. We didn’t spend too much time at this one either, we had a bus to catch to get back to Ubud that night. But should you go take the time to explore all of it. If we had more time we would have. Some secret beach gems are located in these parts of Bali and I can only behind to picture how beautiful they’d be.

If you are traveling between beaches, going by foot is doable, but keep in mind you’ll be in for a long hike, which Cecilley and I ended up doing for part of the way. Cabs are scarce, so your best option is biking or going by scooter or motorbike. Or you can hire a driver for the day.

Other than a few bumps along the way – some very good traveling/learning experiences for the two of us – it was the perfect weekend escape. If more yoga had happened, or maybe even a beach run, that would have been perfect. But everyone needs a break from everything once in a while. So no yoga or running was completely acceptable.

Climbing Mount Batur

We made it! Cecilley and I at the top of Mt. Batur!

We made it! Cecilley and I at the top of Mt. Batur!

After being in Bali for almost a full month it was time to embark on a serious fitness adventure. As some of you may know Bali is famous for it’s live volcanoes (Mt. Batur last erupted in 2000, remember that?!) which have created quite the “tourist thing to do” in Bali. I’ve had a few friends mentioned they too went on a mountain trek to see the sunrise while visiting Bali, claiming it to be an amazing experience completely worth the very early wake up call. According to every Bali guide book Cecilley and I have come across each one also mentions it’s an activity not to be missed. Given that Cecilley and I are tourists (as much as we don’t want to say we are, we are) 1) we had to follow the guide books and 2) when would I ever hike a volcano again? But there was no way we were doing this alone. Both the books, and people before us, recommend hiring a guide to take you up the volcano (which ever one you decide to climb). Some are way more treacherous then others, requiring advance climbing skills to complete, but other are far more leisure so pick the hike that best suites your climbing capabilities and interest. Cecilley and I went part way, Mt. Batur is the third highest volcano in Bali. It’s crazy to think there are mountains even the people of Bali do not climb. I’d stay away form those ones.

So right from the comfort of our little home stay, which made it all too convenient, we booked our trek. Wayan (our driver and one of the many guys you can call to organize a mountain trek for you) we discovered later lives nearby and knows the family we’re staying with. How nice! Wayan was super and pretty hilarious. I’d recommend giving him a call if you’re ever in Bali, but before you do, do your research. Given this is a tourist attraction there are tones of companies to choose from offering different treks and a variety of things to do in addition to your climb. That being said there are also companies who may try and charge you a ridiculous price for a tour. Just be aware of that. For our trek, which included a pick up and drop off right at our home stay, a guided hike up the volcano (we had two guides to our group of seven), lunch at the top, water, and a tour of a coffee plantation (with lots of samples to taste!) and a stop to see the rice fields on the way home, all came to a total of 350,000rp each (that’s $35 Canadian). This was a good deal for what we got in return. Anything more is not worth it, unless more things are included. Again, just do your homework before going and don’t be shy when asking around.

At the time I had no idea of Cecilley’s love for hiking. To say I was a bit surprised with how badly she wanted to hike a volcano would’ve been an understatement (sorry, Cecilley, I have to stop doubting you!). Continuously talking up Vancouver and how much she loves the mountains and outdoors, you’d think I’d get it when she added climbing Mt. Batur to her Bali-must-do activities long before I even considered it. I wasn’t thrilled by the idea to be honest. For some reason climbing upward freaks me out. I have a fear of falling backwards then tumbling to my death. This is very dramatic, I know. In my head hiking should not be easy and requires way more preparation then just being able to walk. What about mountain hikers and the equipment required, throwing your body over boulders and around trees and things? And aren’t you supposed to be strapped into something? And carry a pack of some kind?! Not everyone should be able to do this. It’s like running in my early days, I just didn’t get it. But the idea of seeing the sunrise won me over. That, and conveniently I’m reading Wild┬áby Cheryl Strayed right now. I want to be just like Cheryl. And in so many ways I feel like the 26 year-old her.

2:30am Wayan – who was too awake and entertaining given the time, and perhaps was a little to comfortable driving the narrow Bali roads one many Bingtan’s deep for my liking (provided this was after the hike) – picked us and we drove us to the mountain meeting point, after picking up a few other people along the way. We were not alone but standing in the pitch black, a slight chill in the air, I felt so unprepared and completely isolated. I didn’t bring a long sleeve shirt, I didn’t have a flashlight, I was wearing my runners, all of a sudden this wasn’t a good idea. I was going to fall to my death on this mountain. I would tumble down backwards and plunge to my death. I couldn’t help but think this would be the end of me. Cecilley would be on her own from here on out, or I’d take her down with me as I fall. I really do have the wrong idea of what hiking means. But I do know hiking up a mountain is not something to take lightly. But for some reason people didn’t seem to sweat it at all. What gives? Why was I the only one freaking out?

Look at the fog roll in! Just before sunrise.

Look at the fog roll in! Just before sunrise.

Our group began our trek to the top and our guides were kind enough to loan us some flashlights (one for Cecilley and I to share) I made sure to grab it and held onto that sucker with all my might. Hiking in the dark made my heart race. Slowly one step at a time the gravel path began to incline, then steepened out as small boulders in the mountain becoming our handles and stepping blocks. I thought this trek was for beginners! No experience required… not true. Maybe it’s just me, but do not attempt Bali trekking without previous experience of some kind. But if you’re up to the challenge then go for it.

Each stop break along the way, I wanted this whole thing to be over. I wanted to be at the top, see the sun, get the hell off this mountain and be back at the home stay sleeping. But at the same time I wanted to enjoy it, but I honestly couldn’t the entire way up. Poor Cecilley trekking behind me blinded in the darkness because I was too afraid to give up the light or come to a full stop, for that matter, she was a much better trekker than I. Once we reached the first look off I was done. We had the option to go to the highest peek which was another 15-20 minutes to climb. I was quite content staying put, but Cecilley on the other hand was not.

Oh jeeze… fuck it. So I climbed.

Finally, watching the sunrise!

Finally, watching the sunrise!

At the top the view was spectacular, but I couldn’t enjoy it right away. Realizing I still had to climb down, this trek was far from over. As the fog rolled in we were swarmed by misty grey clouds that swallowed us whole and blocked our view from everything. It was a bit chilly at the top, but not for long. As the sky transformed from black, to blueish grey and purple, then bursts of orange and pink and red and yellow pierced though the sky as the giant glowing sun appeared beyond the distant mountain tops. I was silent. All the commotion of the people around me disappeared. My fear melted away and my breath was all I could hear. I was memorized by the beautiful picture before me as it unfolded. It was totally worth the trek. This moment. That moment on that mountain in Bali. I will take that picture with me forever.

Dam monkeys. These little buggers are not cute in the slightest!

Dam monkeys. These little buggers are not cute in the slightest!

And then a monkey jumped on me! Seriously. But this was on the way back down. After eating a lovely little breakfast (banana sandwiches and hard boiled eggs, yummy!) cooked and prepared by the heat and steam of the volcano we were standing on, we began our ascend (which, to my surprise, was not as terrifying as I thought it was going to be). It’s probably because I could actually see! On the way down we stopped at the crater – the gigantic hole in the volcano – and came face to face with monkeys. These critters are not cute by any means and freak the hell out of me. But feeding them was kind of fun. That’s until one jumps on you! Then the fun is over.

Reaching the bottom was like a breath of fresh air. But as I looked back and saw Mt. Batur from the distance gave me the feeling of “Ya, I climbed that.” Right then I was glad we did this. Afterward we thanked our guides, said goodbye to two lovely German couple we met along the way (hi Stefanie, hi Jens!), then made our way home, but only after a making a few pit stops along the way (one to the coffee plantation and the other to see some rice fields). Finally after all of that I was in my bed sleeping once again. That’s all I wanted to do after a day like that. Sleep! Then I would think back and enjoy the experience later.

Eat. Pray. Love. (Fitness) Adventure.

We arrived in Bali!

We arrived in Bali!

Wow, my brain and life have been on warp speed since god only knows, to say the least. It feels like this anyway. Really, it all started back in August when my life took a dramatic turn – I lost my part-time job, discovered mold in my apartment, was struggling to find some kind of balance between my desk duties and teaching at MYD, and found myself struggling personally on a number of different levels. To say the least I was stressed. Stressed out with so many things. But oddly enough it was my marathon traning that kept me sane. Marathon training and Cecilly.

See Cecilley and I signed up for another retreat with Jackie many months ago, but this time we were going to Bali! I offered to help Jackie and Julia with the organizing and planning of the excursions for this retreat, therefore I had to go! But both of us were in need of some serious balance at this point in our lives. Little did I know then exactly how much balance I really needed. It was after all the above series of events unravelled when I really felt stuck. I needed a serious change. It was then that Cecilley and I decided to pack our bags and book a one way ticket to Bali. She quit her job, I left the studio (but on a temporary bases) we now had nothing holding us back! It was time to leave the comfort of Toronto and see the world! I have never done any extensive traveling in my life, this is a huge first for me (and for her!).

So hello from Bali! And sorry for the lack of posts on my behalf! Thankfully in my absence Erin has been keeping busy while I’ve been busy planning my next whereabouts. But I promise to keep you all in the loop of my traveling, working, and trying to find ways to be healthy and fit abroad. Right now I am settled in Ubud, Bali for a month. To fill you in on the Bali portion to our travel plan, Cecilley and I will be WWOOFing on an organic farm and plan on making a visit to the greenest school in the whole world, The Green School.

Now that I have a much better understanding of what brings me balance (running being one very important thing, more on this later) I feel better about so many things. One being a better blogger!