Although I have set my alarm to ensure I do not miss my date with my tour guide I rise earlier. My body is in rhyme with the sun.
Bubu makes me a cleansing fresh lemon honey tea as I wait for my ride, the best potion to begin one’s day to keep one’s system sparkly. My long haired escort named Gusti arrives with his spotless car and we head out of town, past farms, rice fields, the beauty of Bali. This island is paradise.
The tour begins at Tirta Empul, a sacred site of holy baths and a temple. I am wrapped properly in a sarong before I sit with Gusti in front of an altar of offerings. He tells me to close my eyes and ask for prayers, to speak the intention for the cleansing. I enter the cool water from the left, the pool with floating flowers and various sized orange and black koi fish. Under each fall I ask for healing, for my family, soul brothers and sisters, ancestors, those yet to be born, the elements, for specific people I know need serious healing, for water, water, water. I skip over one of the fountains for I am told it is only for those participating in a cremation ceremony. Yup. Don’t need that one. I am crying for the energy is so powerful.
We dry off in the sun and then head into the temple complex where Gusti asks a priest to bless us. I drink sanctified water three times as it is drizzled into my cupped hands, the right over the left followed by a face and crown chakra clearing three times in the same manner. The Hindu cleric then places some rice in our palms, a few pieces are swallowed, and the remainder stuck like bindis on our foreheads.
I feel magical, purified, smiling from every cell of my being.
The next portion of the day includes an exploration of a coffee plantation. A lengthy walk through a garden of fruit and herb trees, papaya, mango, avocado, durian, pineapple, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, ginger, galangal, cacao, leads us to tasting area with traditional equipment for roasting and grinding the beans. I try crushing the beans with the huge mortar and pestle before I sit for the complimentary sampling. Traditional Bali coffee, ginseng coffee, lemongrass tea, ginger tea, vanilla coffee, hot cocoa, red rice tea, rosella tea, coconut coffee, and then the infamous Luwak coffee. The coffee made from poo.
Luwak coffee is a delicacy, the most expensive coffee in the world. A cat-like animal sniffs out the beans and swallows them whole. The feline dung is collected, cleaned, the beans peeled and then roasted gently by hand over a low flame and ground. It is the beverage equivalent to truffle mushrooms. Luwak coffee is low in caffeine and rich in flavor. It tastes the opposite of crap and is served like a long espresso, neat, with the grinds on the bottom. I ask Gusti if he can read my sludge remaining in the cup and he jokes he can only do palms. I am wired and ready to continue the day!
Drive to the area of Kintamani next, to the active Batur volcano. Another idyllic ride through fruit plantations, countless stands of tamarillo, durian, pomelo, snake fruit, mangosteen, oranges, and sweet lime sold road side by women wrapped in ornate sarongs. The volcano is magnificent, powerful and standing strongly next to a huge crater lake lined with traditional villages and lush greenery; I will trek to the top in the future.
Gusti is a wealth of local knowledge and will organize a hike for me. I am grateful again and again; I am floating in the clouds. He has also called John (the Aussie yogi from the workshop) to set me up as a booth assistant in exchange for attending the Bali spirit festival for free. Hello, flow, hello.
The gifts continue as Gusti takes me to an organic farm in Ubud where I can come volunteer beginning next week. The compound is revolutionary and with amazing energy. A couple of assistants are making a fish pond with homemade cement; there is a composting toilet with worms that eat bacteria, an area for children and Chakra, a brilliant founder, sharing his objective for transforming plastic bags into something valuable. He suggests shredding bags and making cushions, an activity local children who visit the adjoining center could create individually. I share how we made plastic bag stuffed chalk board erasers in Laos.
My chaperon leaves and tells me we will meet later; he wants to find me a cheap homestay in the center of town. Ok. I will follow. He predicts I will remain in Bali for a long time and fall in love. As I leave the farm I walk on the main street heading into town and am flagged down by a woman on a motorbike. It is the French Jewish jam maker. She is radiant and also offers her home for slumber. More love. I will see her at the festival tomorrow as she will be vending her homemade jars.
Gusti grabs me again and we drive around the town, researching many of the homestays in Ubud for the perfect location. Having a local guide and a car makes the process so much easier than doing it alone, especially without a heavy sack on my back. Apparently Gusti worked for a hotel for ten years and we head there to check for a vacancy. It is around the corner from Buddha café and on the main street of town, with a pool, a bathtub with hot water, breakfast, and wifi. He calls the owner and voila! I am granted a room for the same price as my place in Perastanan, one third of the posted rate. Fuck. I am blessed. I know I am, we all are equally, worthy of gifts.
So I return to my old abode and place my bag in the car, hugging Bubu goodbye with a bit of guilt for she and her husband are so delightful. I will dine with her again and perhaps ask to learn how to make her magical sambal. We drive away as I also view the meditation sister. She waves a friendly hello and I send light in return.
A new form of gado-gado at Buddha café with chunks of dense, sticky rice fills my tummy. A glorious day will begin early tomorrow at the 2012 Bali yoga, spirit, music festival. I am bursting and can barely wait!