My Life as a Traveler

Bali

Purified

 

Today, after breakfast, I will become Hindu again and visit the renowned Tirta Empul Holy Water Spring Temple with Ketut and Kadek. It’s sort of a Hindu baptism. They visit the temple a couple of times a year to pray and make offerings, but also to bathe in, drink, collect, and bless the holy water that comes from this sacred spring. They then take the blessed water home with them and share it with their family members so they may also be purified.

We’re here!

The temple was built around a clear spring in 962 AD during the time when the Balinese king reigned. People came from the entire island to worship here. Some call this the Balinese Ganges, and I get that, seeing the line of people patiently waiting to get to the sacred fountains. Nowadays, people come from all over the world. It’s especially nice to go with Ketut and Kadek, because they are not just taking me there, they are allowing me to participate in this ceremony with them. Actually, it turned out that Ketut was the one who led me through the process.

Decorated for ceremony

 

First, you pay your approx $1 to get in. Balinese get in for free. I noticed a group of Asians wearing Harley Davidson t-shirts pass by us. Then K&K took me to the side of the temple, where Kadek produced a not-so-fancy sarong and sash for me to wear. T-shirt was ok. That gets us into the temple area. We went up to see the place where the underground spring gushes out, took some pics, then off to the lockers. I take my shirt off and tie the sarong around my neck, making sort of a dress. Bra stays on. We’re ready to take the waters.

I get by with a little help from my friends

 

Kadek stays out to take pictures, so I hop in the water, following Ketut. The line is long, mostly Balinese with the assorted western or Japanese person thrown in. The temperature of the water is cool, but after the first moment, it feels nice. It’s a little cloudy today, though, not as warm as usual, and soon Ketut is freezing. There are 13 fountains altogether, and there is a certain order of visitation. Ketut has brought a huge jug, and I am persuaded to buy a small jug of my own to take home. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the first fountain. There are large fish, koi, I hope, swimming around my legs. I think I felt him take a nibble of my leg. Eeek.

 

The locker room

When you finally get to the first fountain, here’s the drill: face the fountain and say a prayer. Each of these fountains is good for something different – there is a Sanskrit word written on each of the fountains and the water passes over it as it gushes out. I’m sure the Balinese say a different prayer at each one, but me, I’m just thankful, and happy, and want to continue to be so. After prayer, cup your hands, right over left, and drink 3 times. Then dunk your head underneath. Then, take your jug and put it under the fountain, getting a little water inside, but not filling it all in one spot. You want water from each of the 13 fountains, so be sure and leave room. Repeat this process, skipping the two fountains that are only for funerary purposes only. Ketut follows me. Out we go to another pool where there are 2 fountains. At this one, we do the same process, but Ketut tells me the last one is for Om Shanti. I sing/say out loud, Om, Shanti, Om, and receive smiles from the Balinese around me.

The line is long when we first get here

 

But we’re not done. We get out of our wet clothes, change into some dry ones, and go to the inner temple where Ketut prepares the offerings. We bring our jugs to the altar, stuffing the offerings through the jug handles. Then we find the right place to sit, make prayers (the bowing, drinking, sprinkling, and rice on the forehead), then grab our jugs and go. Kadek says I should share this water with everyone in my family; it’s extremely special and healing.

 

After visiting the source of the spring, we take our jugs and join the line

I’m pretty hungry now, and ask K&K if they want to stop for some grub, my treat. Their favorite restaurant serves Babi Guling, suckling pig, and rice. They order and for less than $6 we all get a plate of rice with different parts of pig: meat, skin, sausage, and a couple of chewy things that uh, I really don’t want to know what part of the pig it came from. Spicy soup sauce is on the side. And there’s orange soda. It’s really good.

 

They drop me off at the Nest and head home to their kids. I like to think that my spirit is a little more cleansed after this experience. What I know for sure is that I am extremely thankful and happy. Thankful for K&K and all the people I’ve met here so far, thankful for my friends and family back in the US, and grateful for the opportunity to be here, alive, and happy.

First, to pray

 

Next, to drink

 

Third, to cleanse the outer body

Then a bit from each one for take-out

 

Now prepare the offering for the jugs, leave them on the altar and pray

 

Dinner time!

 

Parking lot of the restaurant

 

Yum

 

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Just another Saturday…

Start the day with mangosteen

 

It’s just another Saturday in Bali. Begin with the fruit of the day, mangosteen (squeeze the red ball of the fruit until it cracks, peel the thick skin off, eat the white part, spit out the big seed in some of the sections) and a Bali coffee before Kadek comes to make her yummy rice/milk breakfast.

Black rice cooked with condensed milk – yum!

Today, Gus and Krista head for the surfer’s town of Canggu and I enjoy another heavenly massage from Kadek. When she’s gone, I have the place to myself and it looks like no other guests are expected. Since I was out and about all day yesterday, I am taking a break today and just hanging out, doing some writing, photo editing, and reading my smutty novel (thanks, Michelle!) This is a fantastic place to just be. I walked to Mama’s for a solo dinner, visiting with my friend Manik, then back to the quiet (well, except for the roosters, bugs, and frogs) house. I thought, though, that I would just post some photos of other random stuff going on this week.

One of the things we did earlier this week was attend the kecak dance. This is another telling of the Ramayana story but with no music, just 100 bare-chested men chanting “chak chak chak chak chak” at various volumes and speeds. Not sure exactly what happens in the story here, but at the end, they clear the floor, pile a bunch of coconut husks in the center of the room, throw some lighter fluid on them, making a huge bonfire, then a guy comes out as a horse rider and gallops around it then stomps through it. Impressive.

Enjoy the photos!

The lotus temple right behind the Starbuck’s

 

Fighting roosters ready for transport by our next door neighbor

 

Notice the tail in the upper left hand corner. Sadly, the lizard did not make it.

 

Only served after it falls to the ground?

Setting the scene

Dancers tell a story

 

The gang’s all here

 

Lighting the fire

 

Horse guy riding around the fire

 

Horse guy in the fire

 


The Bird Walk of Bali

Rice paddies of Ubud

You know, normally this time of year I travel with my friend Susie. We’ve been to Italy, Alaska, Costa Rica, Spain, Switzerland, and a number of other places. This is the first May vacation where we are not together. Susie is a Master Naturalist, birder extraordinaire, and all around nature gal. We’re always on the lookout for local flora, fauna, and partiularly the birds a-flying (or nesting, or tweeting, or whatever birds do).

Spotted Dove

So in honor of my friend, I have signed up for the Bird Walk of Bali, a guided walking/birding tour through the rice paddies around Ubud. Besides going out with Ketut and Kadek to some temples and walking around town, I really haven’t seen much of the area surrounding Ubud, so I’m excited to get out and see some stuff.

Rice fields with mountains in the background

 

Our guide is Sumadi (Su – can’t go birding with Susie, so I’ll go with Su), a lifelong resident of Ubud. There’s 5 of us total, and she makes sure we each have a pair of binoculars, essential for the day. We also get a list of over 100 birds that we may or may not see, depending on our luck and the season. The restaurant (warung) overlooks a deep gorge lined with tropical foliage. I want to keep the list handy to check the birds off as we see them, but she says she will remember each sighting and we will see how we did after the tour.

The birding begins from the balcony of the warung. A spotted dove sits in the tree right in front of us, swiftlets (white-bellied and edible-nest types) dive and dart above. Su says they fly all day, even napping on the wing. She sees some other birds in the distance, but says we’ll get a better look at them later. Up the hill, through a neighborhood, we points out snails, butterflies, and other insects. This woman knows her nature!

 

Harvesting Rice

Overlooking an empty field we see the gorgeous java kingfisher (there’s one that visits the Nest – I’ve seen him in some mornings) and a brief flash of the java sparrow, this one only found here in Indonesia. Then we head up into the rice fields. Su is one of the best birding guides I’ve seen, finding birds from just a speck of movement and not explaining what it is until she makes sure everyone can see it.

 

The rice paddies are a great spot for, duh, finding the birds who like to eat rice. Su’s family owned some rice fields, and it was her job to go out there each day and shoo them away. That’s what all the colorful flags are for in the middle of the fields; they look like decoration, but they are actually makeshift scarecrows. But they don’t do the job well enough, we see kids and older women walking through the fields waving big red plastic bags to scare the birds and save the rice.

Going to town

Transporting straw for roof repair

 

But it’s not just birds that we are learning about today, we talk about the community rice culture, harvesting, and irrigation systems as we see a team harvesting the rice. She points out cinnamon trees and wild lemongrass, turmeric plants and huge ficuses. We got a great look at the design of the St. Andrew’s Cross spider and saw some iridescent butterful chrysalis’ as well. We talked about elder care and retirement, foreigners buying up the rice fields for luxury condos, and the fact that most of the rice fields we walked by are for home consumption only. Balinese have rice three times a day, and we saw both white rice (unprocessed) and black rice. People pass us transporting different types of materials, sometimes, Su says, from 2 hours walk away.

We picked up a snack of sweet rice cake from an old man on the trail, then at midpoint stopped at a small food stand for some fresh coconut and taro chips. As we wound back into town along a canal, we could see the new construction she was talking about. No low-walled Balinese family compounds here – villas and western-style houses try to blend in, but really look out of place.

 

Eventually we get back to the main road and hop a taxi back to the warung where we started. The $37 tour included the snacks, taxi, and a fabulous lunch with lemongrass tea. We pulled out our list and checked off about 20 different types of birds. Pretty good, she said, for this time of year.

Lovely moth

St. Andrew’s Cross Spider

After lunch I walked back up the hill to meet Gus at Starbuck’s (yes, there’s a Starbucks here, filled with Japanese and American tourists). We were going to go to the monkey forest temple, but he has some other errands to run and I’m still looking for bigger balls. Turns out by the time we get to the monkey forest temple, we don’t have enough time to explore it because the Yoga Barn offers karma (free to the community) yoga tonight and you’ve got to get there early. I snap a couple of pics of the college students feeding the monkeys in the street and we head to yoga, which we do not want to miss because the fabulous Violeta, healer and pathfinder extraordinaire, is teaching. Gus has been seeing her and has been raving about her all week. The insights! The cleansing! I’ve got to check this out.

Chrysalis

 

The class, a yummy yin class (few poses held longer), was fantastic. We found fellow nester Krista there and all went to our favorite Mama’s for a last meal together before Gus an Krista head out to Canggu, the surf beach town, tomorrow.

When we get back to the Nest (appropriate after the bird walk, no?) we call it a night. Susie, you would have really loved this!

 

Red for scaring birds

 

Taking a break

Beautiful!

Wild lemongrass (in so many Asian recipes!)

Careful!

Dragonfly

After you drink the coconut water, scrape out this juicy meat

Su and the group at coconut stop

 

Chicken for lunch

 

 


Looking for Bigger Balls

First place to look

 

This ball is too small

These are the right type of balls

My friend Peggy wants me to find some Balinese Balls for her. They’re special balls, Harmony Balls, which are shiny brass and have little fairies inside of them (or something) that sounds magical. When these balls are shaken, they emit a tinkling that sounds like you have captured some stars in that ball and they are happily colliding. Supposedly the balls that come from Bali are the best.

Entrance to the Ubud market

Coconut, anyone?

Now, I haven’t had much time for shopping, or more truthfully, the energy or desire. But I’ve been here a week now and it’s time to see what’s out there. I’ve been to the Gianyar market, the K-Mart of the area, so now it’s time to look at the Ubud market, which has not really been high on my list because it’s so touristy. Finding some balls for Peggy is at the top of my list.

Getting ready to set up their stall

First, I find a jewelry store on the street. Silver is the precious metal of choice here, and there are many stores. In the store, I ask the woman, do you have any balls? She does have ballls, but they are small, the size of big marbles. Peggy needs big balls, the size of a small orange. The size that you can comfortably cup in your open palm. Where can I find big balls, I ask? Check the market. OK, will do.

On a shopping street

In the market, I see a woman selling silver earrings, bracelets, etc. from a cart. Does she have balls? Yes, but they are also too small. How big do they have to be, she asks? I show her using my hands, cupping the air. Oh, she says. You be here tomorrow? I’ll have them then. Hmmm, I say. Thanks.

I stop at every silver seller looking for big balls. Finally I find a store that has the right size balls, but the woman there only has one ball. I need two, maybe three if I get one for myself. One ball is not enough. Maybe she’ll have some more later this week. Another store has two balls, but they are not shiny brass, they are inlaid silver, a little rough. I don’t think these balls are the quality of balls that Peggy needs. She wants balls of superior quality, I’m sure.

Monkey Forest Road

Of all the places in Bali, I would have bet that Ubud, yoga/new age/spiritual healing center of Bali would have amazing balls on every corner, or at least in every nice store, but no. Big balls are surprisingly hard to find.

Finally, near the Monkey Forest, I find a store (the first store run by a man, no joke) that has big balls, made here in Bali. Big balls of brass as well as silver. Whoa. He says he always has these balls in stock. Always. I’m not ready to buy these balls yet, because I have another place to search for them. My friend Kadek says she’ll take me shopping to the place outside of town where her friend makes jewelry. She’s never heard of these balls, but you never know.

I’m not saying it

 

I emailed Peggy, informing her about my search. The website she sent me that sells these balls has them packed in a silk-lined box with a special ball stand. The Monkey Forest Road man’s balls do not come in a box, but in a plastic bag. Will balls in a bag do? Do they have to be brass balls or would she like silver balls? She emails me back with some sound files of how the balls should and shouldn’t sound. Balls in a bag are ok, as long as they tinkle with the right amount of magic. Ok, now that I’ve got that straight, I’ve got to go back to that store and give a good listen to that man’s balls. Haven’t done that yet, I’ll keep you posted.

Fish satay lady with sauces

 

Fish satay staff

 

 

Chef Gus at work

Stopped at the satay stand for some grilled fish on a stick, met Gus at the Yoga Barn for a nice yin class, and back to the Nest, where Gus is cooking cleansing soup with rice again. Yum!

 

This soup is sooo good!


Healed?

Chokorda Rai at work

Today we see the famous Chokorda Rai, Balinese healer. Not that I have any particular physical malady that needs to be cured, but with all of the stress since the first of the year, I just want to cover my bases, you know? Maybe he can see something that I might need to address. And really, I haven’t been sleeping very well.

Bali living room

Gus, waiting for the healer

I persuaded Gus to go with me. He’s also interested in all types of health care and such, so this is right up his alley. Ketut picks us up; he hasn’t been to see this healer, ever, but is always up for learning something new.

Chokorda Rai, age 86, is a traditional Balinese healer. He has learned his craft through a set of books that have been in his family for generations. This ancient knowledge is written in Sanskrit, Old Javanese, and Balinese. He has taken these writings and has created his own way of diagnosing and healing as a channel of divine knowledge. You can read dozens of testimonials in the blogosphere; people have been radically changed after seeing him.

So I’ve got to check this out.

We get to his home compound and drive through the gate and around the yard until we get to his garage. It’s early, maybe 1030am, and we wander around his yard trying to figure out where to go. He has some lovely art and architecture. We stop and wait at what looks like the fanciest platform, but then Ketut calls us over to another platform nearer the house. Out comes a really old guy, all dressed in white. He doesn’t have the wide smile that most Balinese greet us with. I wonder if we woke him up?

Art around the Balinese house

Nevertheless, he’s ready to go. Ladies first! He sits in a chair and I sit on the floor at his feet, facing away. He starts with my temples, then pokes at different places around my head and ears, working the energy meridians, I’m guessing. When he pokes my lymph nodes just under my jaw, I yelp. Ow! Much anxiety, he says. How old are you, he asks. Fifty-five, I say. He asks me more questions, pointing just below my belly, I think regarding menopause, and I say I’m done with that. A little more head poking, then I’m instructed to lie down.

The colorful other living room

He then goes to my feet, pulls out a little stick, and starts to poke me between the toes. Doesn’t tickle, doesn’t hurt… until Ow! That hurt, he asks, as he pokes that sensitive spot once again. OW! I say. Ok then, he has a diagnosis. Seems that my ovaries are blocked, and he will try to unblock them. He will try.

He then stands up at my feet, facing me, and begins to chant and wave his stick around. Am I supposed to get up? No, stay down. I feel like I should close my eyes but I can’t not watch him. Will he poke something else that hurts? He finishes and then goes back to my toes. Poking, poking, poking, but no Ow. Success! My ovaries are unblocked. He pats me on the leg and says I can get up now.

I ask him if he has some sort of prescription of behavior or diet. “Don’t worry, be happy.” Yeah, he really said that. Lol.

He then did the same sort of procedure with Gus. So interesting. Gus yelped at a different poking place. Too much thinking, that’s the problem. Then to the toes, then the standing incantations, then back to the toes. All better now. And all for $25.

Beautiful detail!

While I was being seen, a Russian guy came with his Indonesian guide. Since this is really not a private procedure, we hung out to see what C.R. would say to him. I would have like to stay longer to see what he says and does to each person, but Ketut is ready to roll. When I ask Ketut his opinion, he said C.R. seemed angry. Huh.

Do I feel different? Ehhh, no, but perhaps (and I’m sticking to this story) it’s not a thunderbolt treatment but a slow-acting over time type of treatment.

Back at the Nest, Gus is off and I’m writing and editing photos when Kevin comes in. I put all that aside to get some tea and just hang out with him, sharing stories and trading insights. A great way to spend the afternoon.

Gus is back and I accompany him to the Yoga Barn free lecure on Shamanic Astrology. Cool. Then back to the Nest, where Gus, who is on a cleanse-type diet, makes us Balinese Pumpkin soup with black rice. Yum. New to the Nest is Krista, fresh from her Annapurna Trek in Nepal (she was not near the earthquake the week before). I learned from her that this walk around one of the greatest peaks of Asia can be done solo, like the Camino. That’s what she did. Walked at her own pace, met some amazing people. We are now Facebook friends so when I am ready to go, she will help me prepare.Yay!

I love this place.

 

Healer’s office

 

 

To the toes

 

Unblocking

 

The Nesters – me, Krista, Ketut, Kadek, Gus

 


Hindu Ceremony at Pura Samuan Tiga

Where I start my day every morning

Yep, I’m paying for yesterday’s adventure! I can barely walk, I’m so sore. After sleeping in, a good breakfast, and another marvelous massage (no chicken fighting this time!), I’m just hanging out. I’ve somehow lost my glasses, so I go to the optician and order some readers. I spend a fair amount of time editing photos from yesterday. Gus wants to go to the Yoga Barn once again (they have a free lecture every evening from 5:30pm – 6:30pm) so I arrange to meet him there. He doesn’t show, but that’s ok, it’s Indonesian yoga, with some english thrown in. It’s easy to follow and it feels really good to stretch.

Kadek with offerings

I get back to the Nest just in time to dress for tonight’s festivities. My kebaya is ready and I am going with Kadek and Ketut and their children to the thousand year old Samuan Tiga Temple for the Full Moon Ceremony Festivities. I tug the corset tight, wrap the s

First stop, we pray here

First stop, we pray here

arong like Mitsuyo taught me, buttoned up the hundred buttons up the front of my jacket, and brought my belt. Oops, belt has no velcro. I Facebook messaged Kadek, can she bring a pin? No problem. I love technology.

I shuffled (no big steps with this narrow skirt) to the top of the ramp where Ketut and family will pick me up. Traffic is bad by the temple, but not impossible. We are directed to a special parking area and pull in. There are hundreds of motorbikes and parking lots full of cars. Everybody’s here! As we get out of the car, I can see what the rest of the crowd is wearing. Kadek, not in her usual t-shirt and leggings, is a Hindu Princess with her white kebaya. Ketut, who just yesterday was hauling himself up the mountain in sweats, was splendid in his white shirt, headband/hat, and sarong. The kids were dressed in mini versions of their parents. I felt like I was among royalty!

The temple in front of us

The temple in front of us

 

Kadek retrieved the offering from the trunk, a huge basket full of smaller woven baskets of flowers, food, and shredded pandanus leaves to offer to the gods. She carries it on her head while holding her 5-year old daughter’s hand. We make quite a procession in the parking lot.

Second praying location

Second praying location

We join the throng of people heading into the temple. It’s like Saturday night at the state fair, but better. Everyone is dressed up, ladies in kebayas, men in their white shirts and hats, so many white shirts with bursts of color from the women.

My beautiful kebaya

My beautiful kebaya

 

 

 

 

There are bands of gamelan playing, and the temple is decorated with colorful umbrellas, fabric over the statues, and other decorations. We pass an area with over a hundred people praying. That’s where we’re headed.

The crowd surges up a small hill and around the corner. We press toward the gate to the praying area. I’m holding on to Kadek’s kebaya, hoping not to get lost. Ketut and the kids are behind me. When the current group finishes their prayers, the gates open up and we crowd in. Ketut finds a place to sit while Kadek brings the offerings up to the stage. She sits with us and gets some incense and flowers out. Once everyone is settled, a voice over the loudspeaker begins the prayers. I got this! I kneel and do the prayers: no flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers, no flowers. There are many panditas to serve this huge group and ours comes by with the water: sprinkle sprinkle, drink, drink, drink, hair, rice. Even the kids, age 5 and 6, participate. I am the only westerner that I see.

The gods

The gods

We file out after I get some photos and go up to praying station #2 and do the same praying, water, rice ritual. We take pictures of each other. I admire the decorations and the gods of the temple. I feel so energized! There is a small group of westerners with cobbled-together kebayas. They look uncomfortable.

What a beautiful family!

Like the fair, there are all kinds of booths with folks selling food, toys, and all kinds of other things. We go up the hill again to find a huge stage in front of a large area with no chairs. Everybody is just sitting on the floor, sometimes indian-style, some kneeling, waiting for the show to begin. Ketut says wait, it’s a great show. Kadek is getting snacks for the kids and buys me a bag of chips. Yum, Bali barbecue flavor. The show begins, gamelan music, ladies dancing, men dancing, then the Mahabharata again. Dang! Still haven’t read the Cliff wpid-Photo-20150511192950801.jpgNotes, but it’s beautiful.

Getting snacks

Getting snacks

It’s also getting late. I’m pretty tired and making hints about going home. Kadek is on her phone, her daughter fascinated with the play. Ketut says stay, it’s a great show, but their 6 year old son, who has been sick last week, has fallen asleep. Ketut was going to take him home and then come back, but it seemed better to call it a night. I was still pretty tired and somewhat sore from the day before. We file out and back to the car.

Kadek and Ketut were planning to have dinner when they got home and wanted to make sure I wouldn’t starve either, so I left with some kind of puffy chips, an orange, some grapes, and some sweet puffed rice crackers. Even though it’s almost 11pm, it tastes good.

 

 

When they drop me off, I shuffle down the ramp to the Nest. I feel like Cinderella after her pumpkin coach disappeared, just regular Julie again. Sigh. I go straight to bed, tired but thankful that I got to be part of the Hindu royal family tonight!

Frist the ladies dance

First the ladies dance

wpid-Photo-20150511215856693.jpgwpid-Photo-20150511192950805.jpg

 

 


Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Top of Mount Batur at 630am with Marsha and Gus

The alarm goes off at 215am. Strangely, 5 minutes later, I hear the alarm go off in Gus’s room next to mine. I chuckle a little because it is the same ringtone my son Morgan uses. Sounds like the most obnoxious car horn: Honk! Honk! Honk! Soon I’m ready and Ketut, our driver, is at the door. Here comes Marsha, also ready. And here comes Gus, joining us after a late night invite from Marsha. Great! The more the merrier!

The drive should be about an hour, so we all try to get some shut-eye. It’s hard to sleep, though, with the bright lights of oncoming trucks and roadside ATM stations coming through my eyelids. We get there in record time, 320am, and pile out of the car. We persuade Ketut to join us on this trek; normally he stays in the car and sleeps. Ketut connects us to Nyoman, our guide, an extremely sturdy woman. We agree on the price and begin our trek up the mountain, fast-walking to get ahead of the groups still milling around in the parking lot. Everyone has a flashlight.

I get a chance to chat with Gus on the way up. He’s been working from his computer in Thailand and other places in Southeast Asia for money, but his passion is fitness and health. He’s in amazing shape and this trek should be a piece of cake for him. Hey, I’m in good shape, too, and I’ve climbed volcanoes in Guatemala and Nicaragua before, this should be fun! Even though the almost-full moon is out, it’s hard to see the top of the mountain, our destination, but soon we gain some height and can see the moon’s reflection on the lake below. Seems like we’re making good time. Why did we have to leave so early?

Then we really start to climb. After about an hour, the flat trail through the fields turns into rocky stairsteps. Not actual stairs, though, just climbing up the trail, over rocks, big and small. Ok, no problem. How hard can this be? We climb some, then rest, climb some, then rest. We leapfrog past other groups resting, then they pass us. Each resting spot under this full moon is more lovely as we can see more of the lake appearing below. Now we can see, pretty much straight up, a line of lights, some even at the top, of those ahead of us. Each time we stop, finding a “moon watching rock” we see the trail of lights lengthen below us. The stops are getting more frequent. My thighs start to burn. Some of the rocky stairsteps are so big that Nyoman has to reach down and haul me up. Geez, she’s strong! Sometimes she hauls Marsha up. When she’s not hauling me up, she asks, “Marsha, you ok?” When she’s not hauling Marsha up, she says, “Julie, you ok?” Ketut is bringing up the rear, also huffing and puffing. It’s his first time doing this, and I think, like me, he didn’t know exactly what he was getting himself into.

After a little over 2 hours of climing now, we reach a spot where there is a platform and they are selling coffee and tea. I’m thinking, “We made it! Thank God!” My breath was ragged and my legs were a bit wobbly. Small rest, says Nyoman. Half hour more. Sure enough, I look up and around to see the trail of lights above us. Really? I had heard stories of some people not making it all the way to the top, but thought it would be just the out of shape and elderly. No, they are not here. I consider for a nano second just to stay here; the view is actually quite nice. But it’s not the top and my companions are ready to go. Besides, it’s just about half an hour. No time at alll, right?

The trail is different now. No rocky stairsteps. Phew! Now it’s sand. Sand is easier, right? But this is deep lava sand. The kind of sand that, when you take a step up, you slide back halfway. The kind of sand that gets in your shoes, under your socks, and between your toes with each step. The only way to make headway is to snowplow your feet and take it slow. This is truly torture, but I keep going. “You ok, Julie?” Yep, I’m ok. Finally, thankfully, we are back to a rocky climb (never thought I’d be thankful for more stairstep climing!) Ten more minutes! Climb, rest, climb, rest. Finally, with one big step that once again, I need to be hauled over, we make it to the top! The jackets and scarf that came off during the hike come back on.

Sunrise from Mt. Batur, Lombok island peaks in the clouds

 

The sunrise comes up over the clouds in front of us. Bali’s biggest mountain (we’re on the second biggest, Mt. Batur) rises up in front of us. The tops of the mountains of the island of Lombok float above the clouds. Behind us, the moon is making a descent. We try to take photos but the light is bad. Some things, though, are maybe better left just in memory. We are at the top edge of a huge crater and can see 360 degrees.

Sunrise from Mt. Batur, Mt. Agung straight ahead

Once the light gets better, we begin taking photos: tree pose on the mountain, mountain pose on the mountain (not so interesting), group pics. We order coffee and hot cocoa and congratulate ourselves and profusely thank Nyoman for her strength and encouragement. She does this every day. Amazing.

Then the monkeys come. They live in the valley below but know that when the sun is up, it’s breakfast time. They are fun to watch, as long as they stay far enough away. Gus wants to take home the puppy that is wandering through the now crowded mountain top. Ketut brought some snacks for breakfast. We are a little too worn out to eat, but have some fruit.

The other side of the sunrise

Here comes the sun!

Coffee never tasted so good!

The last lava flow was in the 1920’s

Lucky monkey

 

Nyoman, our intrepid guide

 

We stay as long as we possibly can, almost the last group left at the summit. Then we head down. As I learned on Camino, climbing down can be just as hard, if not harder, than climbing up. So we gingerly take our time, protecting our knees. When we get to the lava sand, Nyoman starts running down, so we do too, lava sand surfing, laughing with abandon. Farther down, we stop at a cave where the steam is coming out of the rock. We breathe in air from the center of the earth. There are some monks there who trek up every day to leave offerings to the mountain gods. They let us take their picture.

 

 

 

Yes, we climbed up this for 3 hours

And now we are resting

 

1717 meters

Finished with the offering and on the way down

We are all very good friends by now. You don’t share an experience like that with strangers. At the bottom of the hill, farmers are growing tomatoes. Nyoman encourages us to poach some for snacks. They taste real good, even the green ones. We look up to see the mountain we just climbed. We are proud. At 1030am, we are back at the car. The parking lot is mostly empty. We finish the snack that Kadek packed for us, got in the car, stopped a couple of times for photos, and make it back to the Nest by noon.

Steep!

I hang out, write a bit, run a couple of errands, take a nap. Gus wants to go to the Yoga Barn for a lecture on fasting and I join him. We grab at bite at Mama’s and it becomes his new favorite restaurant. Mine, too!

Moon watching rock

You had better believe that I slept well that night!

 

The last part is a bit flatter

 

Mountain bloom

 

Poaching tomatoes

 

Came to say hello

Yep, we climbed that!

 

At the bottom!

 

PB&J snack

 

Too bad we don’t have time to visit the hot springs here

 

Panorama – we climbed the one on the left

 

Greens for dinner – morning glory at Mama’s – about $1

 

Saw this little celebration of the full moon on the way to lecture – all you need is a bridge for music, food, and prayers!