Laura DeFreitas' Bali Yoga Retreat in full- August '08

Bali Travel Blog

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Day 1: The Danu Tour

It is morning over the rice fields. Expected sounds of roosters crowing and crickets singing spread across this valley. Small birds chirp as they hover over the sawah’s (the field’s) green carpet. Geckos skitter along patio walls. The daylight of Galungan is cast over Ubud, and amidst the silence of the hour, an elderly man acts as a human scarecrow. He barks tonal commands and guttural expressions. He swings a bamboo pole tied with plastic. This is his duty, and as the days continue and our presence remains, it becomes habitual. The man is protecting his family’s income, shooing away the flocks of feathers from eating their unhulled grains.

Morning�"it is standard. Rise for Balinese kopi (coffee) and teh (tea) before an 8AM yoga practice with Laura DeFreitas. During the movement and stretch, I recall the day’s significance. For every religious local August 20th, 2008 is the first day of Galungan�"a day of cultivating goodness to overcome evil. From a Western perspective it is equivalent to Christmas morning, and as the gamelan (the traditional Balinese orchestra) begins to play upon the streets, sounds of drums and cymbals echo through the coconut palms whilst my body heats to the number of sun salutations. I become aware of the tension in my hips and hamstrings. I recognize my feelings, my drive to let go and surrender. I listen to my breath, the pulse of my heart-rate. I try to slow it down�"all of it�"to the pace of life around me, this Balinese life.

Then I sweat. I sweat bucks as my voluptuous glands drip strings of pearls down my cheeks and off my nose. My earlobes get slippery. My cracks and crevasses slide. I am cleansing. I am burning my body’s toxins along with the ill-tempered thoughts found within the mind. I breathe in Galungan, and as the practice finishes with savasana followed by a seated meditation, I jump into Ubud Aura’s swimming pool with anticipated relief. The cold water washes over me. The feeling of floating releases Earth’s dense gravity. I’m free and take my seat beside the group of nine yogis for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, muesli, yoghurt and fresh fruits.

10:30�" Judy Slattum, the leader of Danu Enterprises, greets us with the day’s activities underneath a long traditional bale�"an open-air shelter with a table suitable for our Western seats. For an hour we learn basic Balinese conduct, the appropriate hand gestures and body language, and the cultural norms of the relaxed tropical civilization. We have a rundown of typical Indonesian phrases and learn simple historical facts past and present: with an archipelago consisting of 1300 islands, Indonesia is the world’s 4th largest country while the Indonesian tongue becomes the 4th most widely spoken language.

Outside the pavilion, a gentle mist settles over the verdant rice fields. I watch it descend with grace�"soft and calming, a blanket of moisture. In the distance the same elder is attempting to frighten away the birds in his sawah. He’s pulling on a tethered rope that stretches across the plot. The rope is draped with rows of more plastic, and as the ensemble dances above the rice with each yank he cries “Haaaa ya! Whoooooop!” He howls with assertion like a loyal dog protecting his master. He observes his rice field like a shepherd entering wolf country. And back underneath the bale, surrounded by the daily sounds of rural Bali, we fidget in the humid air, examining last night’s mosquito bites.

Eventually the clouds part in time for our Ubud exploration. The village is the cultural center of Bali, but on this day the streets are practically deserted. Signs with the word TUTUP hang behind glass doors�"the shops almost all closed. On Galungan, the Balinese congregate at their ancestral village temples, making offerings in the morning hours to a pantheon of Hindu deities and animist spirits. To the culture, it is imperative to catch the gods before they depart this physical world in the latter part of day, when it is known they fly for the heavens.

So we waddle like a gaggle of ducks across the rice fields, we march like a colony of penguins through Ubud. In tow behind Judy, we learn about the ceremonial decorations: the penjor, a long bamboo pole adorned with palm fronds, banana leaves and coconuts with the tip curved over like a stressed fishing rod; the lamak, a woven palm leaf scroll with images of Dewi Sri�"the goddess of rice; and the various boats of offerings placed on the street outside shops and family compounds to appease the lowly spirits. Inside these square plates made of young fronds are an assortment of red, yellow and coral-toned flowers; rice, fruits or Ritz crackers; and sticks of Copal incense.

“Don’t mind stepping on them,” Judy points out. “Once the offering is made, the offering has been made.”

The dogs know this well as they scrounge for leftovers.

We end up at Wardani, a fabric and textile shop on Monkey Forest Road. Here we are instructed to purchase two sarongs (pronounced sar-oongs) and temple scarves (kain). They are necessary codes of dress for entering temples throughout Bali. With a gifted 30% discount, a long hour of mayhem erupts as fabrics of batik and ikat fly from their folds. In the end, we are happy with our designs and fashion, ready for purification.

Twilight arrives and we find ourselves out in a small Balinese desa (village). In the local temple, we wear our day’s purchases, appearing like a circus of laundry cleaners after the drying machine blew up. Locals take notice, but only smile in our direction, happy and content with life and the sacred procession about to take place. The Barong�"a ceremony with protective spirits residing in two distinct masks are paraded around the perimeters of the village. Their purpose is to advise the lowly spirits to stay away. It’s a symbol for defense, a pronouncement of “Our lives are sacred and we’ve got our backs covered.” Each wooden puppet is immaculately painted and costumed, and as Judy informs us, these specific barongs are two of the island’s most sanctified. Only eighteen other Balinese villages possess these sacred masks, which stamps on the emphasis of our fortune to be present and bare witness.

Day 2: Purifying Bali-Style

With a belly still full of nasi campur (a medley of rice and vegetarian cuisine Bali-style), Laura and I emerge for 7AM kopi dan teh (coffee and tea). The eight others on the retreat slowly trickle from their rooms, sleepy-eyed and jet-lagged, still adjusting and adapting to Bali time. Yet instead of yoga clothing, we are once more elegantly adorned in our temple raiment. Soon, breakfast sinks deep into our guts and the 8AM departure is precise.

Tirta Empul is the first stop, and along with Surya (Judy’s Balinese husband), we become purified in the popular holy waters. As a natural spring, the waters rise from beneath the ground and collect into an exquisitely clear pool. Dark fish, neon plant life and colorful algae (as well as a 4’ eel) thrive in its nutrients, which together pour out of fountains for locals to bathe under. It is here where we gather with many others, wrapped in our second sarong and ready for purification.

After a blessing by the local priest, praying to our inner guidance, we submerge our bodies into the cool waters and attempt to file through the queues. There are approximately 15 stone spigots, each with symbolic significance. We take turns beneath the pours, feeling the smooth pebbles beneath our feet as we shuffle to the front. And we mumble our individual hymns, splash handfuls of water from the fountain over our face and head before completely sinking into the fountain. It is divine, the clear fresh liquid, the calm reverence of the springs. Founded in AD 962 men, women and children of all ages take part in this ritual coming from all over the island. They laugh. They giggle. They smile. They chant mantras and converse with our horde of white tourists. They welcome us to their holy springs.

Next�"Pura Tirta Empul, the site’s holy temple. Once dry we sit in the temple grounds as the high priest chants and gives blessings, dousing us with more holy rose water, flowers and bindhis of rice.

Yes, there is no doubt�"we feel thoroughly blessed, splashed with waters, pelted with grains of rice and showered with flowers. So we snack on the offerings, drink our holy water and feel like we’re floating. And like monkeys now crowned with halos, we load up and head to the elephant’s mouth.

Goa Gajah (goa - cave; gajah - elephant) is more stone, more water fountains and no elephants. Instead, the cave is garnished with a carving of a demon and inside there lays one symbol of Hindu lore: the lingam. Actually there are three of them. Three stone-hard phallic erections representing the trinity of gods Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu with a representative yoni�"the female Shakti energy. Within the dark cave, the air is moist and stale, exuding an 11th century origin. Shuffling around to the opposite corner, we find the elephant Ganesha. As son of Shiva, the elephant-headed Remover of Obstacles is depicted with the soles of his feet together. This is Bali-style, Surya explains. If we were in India his legs would be crossed and seated in meditation.

We step back out into the Indonesian sun, wander to the vans, and pass out before lunch. I retire poolside back at Ubud Aura and do a little more chlorinated purification. There’s 4PM yoga with the Luscious Lorikeet followed by a delicious one-hour massage at Jelatik Esthetic. Each yogi is scheduled for the first of two free massages.

Eventually, under the heavy clouds shading a waning moon, Laura and I melt back into bed as the lotus flowers begin to blossom. We are loaded with a sumptuous Balinese dinner and now turn to a pirated film, flying off to space with Pixar’s Wall-E.

Day 3: Bargaining Into Retreat

A hard bargain to beat�"morning coffee, tea and breakfast in Bali. At the table there’s an assortment of weary eyes detached from their bones. This is us�"Laura’s retreat group�"most of whom are still jetlagged, hovering above hot drinks with susu dan gula (milk and sugar). With a little more flare and color, there arrives the papaya, watermelon, pineapple, honey melon, and lime squeezed over white plates like morning clouds above the rice paddies. With sustenance we wake, smile and laugh. Off to yoga led by Laura DeFreitas at The Yoga Barn.

We work out the caffeine and sugar. We further stretch our bodies with Laura’s adjustments and loosen our minds into pending freedom. The roosters crow beyond the coconut palms. The birds flutter above the grasses. Crickets sound a choir in their reeds. No music, no sound. Just Bali. We’re in Bali and we’ve flown over the Pacific and China Sea for this�"we want all of Bali. Nothing else seems to matter but this one practice at this one specific location. So we let go with the help of Laura’s guidance, deepening our breath into the tropic air.

A swim and breakfast replenishes, and a 10:30 workshop with Judy Slattum of Danu Enterprises enlightens: The Art of Bargaining. Jack the great American explorer�"the wanderer of Bali living a dream of sun, waves and arbitrary adventures�"initially informed Laura and me about bargaining: “Offer half price and then go from there,” he advised. “It’s their game. They love to bargain with a courageous foreigner.”

“Yes,” Judy confirms. “Bargaining is a way to get to know a shopper. They want to know who you are, where you’re from, where you’re staying, and more. They come to know you and are happy to sell their merchandise at the bargained price. It’s a social interaction,” she assures. “So shoot for harga pagi, or morning price.”

Laura and I had previous experience. Having been in Bali for two and a half weeks prior to the retreat, we shopped our way through Kuta, Legian and bits of Ubud. And now we were receiving the full cultural index. Judy continued, “When the shop owner returns home at the end of the day, according to their custom, it’s an honor to be able to share your details with their family. They want to talk about you as if they know you as a friend, and to them… they do. You’ve made that connection by being open and friendly and sharing whether or not you’re married.”

By noon we hit the streets of Ubud ready to give away our secrets to any shopkeeper. The weather is overcast: hot, muggy, humid. It’s November weather, the locals say. The weather changes every year; these days it’s as unpredictable as your neighbor. By the time we reach our first shop along Jalan Hanoman, the first thick drops of rain splatter the cracked sidewalks, which resemble a war-ravaged pathway. Chunks of concrete, cement and tile rise like a mountain range causing us to focus on our feet to avoid landing face down in the offerings. Hati hati, or danger signs, are posted over massive holes where tributaries of run-off rush below. The sidewalks are waiting graves of broken ankles and cracked shins, not because of a lack of care or funding, but in fact, it’s done with purpose. When the heavy rains bring torrential streams the streets become blocked. Offerings, trash, Bali dogs, plastic bags and bottles clog the flow like busy beavers. Therefore, they tear up the walkways, scoop the trash into the passageways below, and habis (finished). The holes are left for the future passerby.

We make it to Gemala Jewelry without any missing persons. Inside we’re introduced to the tedious skill of the silversmith (in which the roadwork obviously lacks). We have an insider’s look at the melting, molding, meddling, and making of fine silver. The fire torch blows. The solid silver liquefies. Compressors roar and flatten. The mallet hammers and the tweezers tune with perfection. I’m amazed at the minute details and the steadiness of the hands required for creation. And together, we huddle over a fluorescent tube light, staring as the artisan tweeds and twiddles the silver pieces into jewelry. Then, with new appreciation, we descend the stairs into an air-conditioned hall like honeybees to stacks of display cases.

Sizing, purchases, gifts and individual embellishments�"back outside the rain passes, but the thick humidity resides. We truck further down the streets and discover more artistic luxuries inside the Agung Rai Museum of Art (where a current exposition of Walter Spies hangs), as well as a local weaving shop. But the day has just begun. We put our bargaining skills to the test.

Judy Slattum’s skill is Balinese culture. It’s why we’re here�"all ten of us. But her supreme specialty is the Balinese mask. Inside the vans, we pull into a palatial compound in the Ubud region. Like all other family compounds, it’s a simple walled property with a main bale, the family shrines, a raucous dog whom I befriend, and various rooms for sleeping. But what’s unique is the art adorning its red brick walls. Here we stand inside the home of the island’s most renowned maker of sacred masks.

The details are astonishing. The complexities too vast to grasp in the course the hour we spend listening to Judy’s rundown, sitting as I hang on to my camera’s lens searching for composition. But in short, the mask (topeng) of Balinese culture is in another realm of this physical world. They’re theatrical, used in processions, ceremonies and dances. They depict the good and the bad, spirits and witches, deities and characters of the great Hindu epics: The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. My minds is full and expansive.

As we careen homeward on our own epic adventure, tired with our bodies, sluggish in our full brains, the group makes one final stop at a painter’s home. Then rest and relaxation. Night comes and our group schedule reads: Legong. The Legong is a traditional dance with a bewitching tune struck by the gamelan. Therefore, in the back alleys of Ubud we find ourselves observing those detailed masks (both demonic and serene), admiring the elaborate costumes in motion, watching frangipani petals fall from women’s hair, and refreshing our souls with a few large Bintangs.

Day 4: Offering Routine

I’m hungry with last night’s beer on my breath. It’s 7AM. The order proceeds:

    1. Coffee, tea and fruit
    2. Yoga w/Laura DeFreitas.
    3. 10AM breakfast after a few strokes through the pool.

Breakfast is a duo of Balinese delicacies�"pancakes made of rice flour (lak-lak) and rice balls with a stuffing of palm sugar syrup rolled in coconut shreds. Both are died with green pandan leaves, which create a presentation of an eerie Halloween treat unsuitable for the sugar-crazed child and hypersensitive mother.

Of course, I indulge in these little secrets. I’m talking about the sugary green coco rounds oozing with brown syrup! I gorge myself as others fork their balls and shoot their juice at one other as if shouldering culinary Super Soakers. I quaff my sugary coffee and think little of my spiking blood sugar. Keep chowin’.

Thankfully, Judy shows up for our workshop�"the last of our language lesson. This slows down my appetite, yet I’m giddy in my seat, feeling the full effects of caffeine and sucrose enveloping my attention span. The others notice. They gawk at my impassable sweet tooth. And oddly, they choose without hesitation to continue supplying me my juice.

Time passes. Judy departs. We have downtime to swim, refresh, scrape the sugar from my gums and shower. By 1:30 we gather back under the bale for a workshop about offerings. Together we learn to make the square baskets seen outside every home and shop, along every street and shrine. Woven with palm fronds, the canang is filled with raw rice and an assortment of flowers�"plumeria, frangipani and hydrangea.

Next, with parting clouds and giggly words, we leap for the lounge chairs. The day passes without further schedule�"only swimming, lounging, reading and independent exploration. 7PM: Laura and I steal away for a luxurious dinner at Lamak.

Day 5: The Scree & Sunrise of Gunung Agung

It’s pitch black. My knees ache. My legs are loose, wobbling with each unstable step. This is not helping in the least bit. The scree beneath my feet, the chalky volcanic rock, crumbles with the slightest pressure. I grip my flashlight in my mouth, clenching the jaws to take a large step over an ice-less crevasse. I then reach out for the boulder opposite, quickly feeling for its handholds. Up ahead, as a streak of light breaks the horizon, there’s a tussle. Irregular noises catch my attention as a chorus of stones ring down the mountainside. A voice sounds alarm. Someone has gone down. I quickly pull the light from my teeth and look into darkness.

It isn’t long after dinner when Laura & I are in bed that I find myself rising again. It’s midnight. I rollover, throw off the sheets, and step onto the balcony. Above, the sky is clear for the first time in days. Stars dance. Their gaseous movements twitch and sparkle like a giant punch bowl of chilled champagne.

I wince. More than half of me wants rain�"lots of rain. I want a storm to blow in so I have the excuse to retreat back into the bed next to that warm naked body. I don’t want to get dressed. I don’t want to shoulder my pack and prepare for the ardor ahead. No. This isn’t very enticing.

I look back into the room at the white silhouette beneath the sheets. Laura is sound asleep. Damn, I think. I wish I were joining her upon our drifting cloud.

But the night sky is clear. Gorgeous, in fact. So I dress, slip on my boardshorts, pull the synthetic layers over my head and cinch a pair of Keens to my feet. Perfect attire for a volcanic ascent.

Gunung Agung�"Bali’s highest peak at 3142m (10,308ft) is a sacred volcanic abode suitable for only the gods whom last spit their fire upon the lesser humanity in 1963. To be exact, it was March 17th when the smoke and ash turned to searing lava, killing more than 1000 Balinese. The volcano is revered among locals. It has a spirit of its own, they say, and carries an energy deep and profound. Even cows can feel it, apparently sacrificing themselves into the 700m cauldron above. Respect.

With a 12AM wakeup call, five of us from Laura DeFreitas’ yoga retreat leave the cool confines of our rooms and meet a fellow Yankee by the name of Karen. Karen is a true Yank. She comes from New York and has a quick wit to fire and a sharp mouth to follow. At her first sight of the mountain after a two-hour drive to the trailhead of Pura Pasar Agung, Karen shouts, “Shit, that’s one mofo!”

Gunung Agung is a mofo, and I keep this thought to myself. Local legend tells of tigers and jaguars descending from the jungled slopes, claiming the lives of victims who showed ignorance to the mount’s powers. Hmm… Balinese tigers. I swallow hard as we begin the ascent, climbing steep temple steps before entering a slick dirt trail as dark as an ebony flame.

It’s a slow pace for us yogis. Despite the early morn, our joints feel loose, our muscles warm, bones stable and flexing. An erratic line of flashlights casts a menagerie of drunken spotlights on the foliage surrounding. Large green leaves, stringy vines, and stiff trunks leading to a tall canopy envelop us as we climb, one foot in front of the other. Before too long, the canopy disappears and the ground flora turns arid like a hillside in Mojave Desert. We move above the treeline and witness the vast spectrum of land and sky.

Our guide informs us of a little tall tale. On a sacred day, the priests and guides of the mountain wrapped imaginary yellow tape around the whole mound in respect to the gods and spirits. Gunung Agung was closed off, shut down to the tourist trap it induces (one that I was inevitably caught in). It was to be a day of offerings and religious duties at the temple, giving thanks and praise among other things. Climbers were turned back, asked to stay away. The mountain would be back another day.

But of course, mankind is indifferent to others’ needs. An Italian came along. He wanted to climb. I mean, shit, I can relate. He didn’t wake up at midnight and drive so many hours for nothing! But the local priests wouldn’t have it. No one was going to take him up at any cost. There was too much danger on the slopes. They all advised the man to turn back.

The Italian however did not listen. He heard only his own head clamoring away inside his rigid body. So he climbed, a solo ascent of Gunung. The morning passed. The sun rose, winds howled and the clouds hovered in the skies. Soon it was noon, next came evening, and before the climber returned it was dark again. Days passed. The wife worried. A search team lost patience. And eventually with days gone by, the helicopter was called off. However, there were remnants. One day, a party found his jacket and one of his possessions�"a flashlight or a shoe with laces undone. The locals shrugged, for they each knew the inevitable outcome of a man who disrespects the mountain.

Damn, I was happy we were out of the trees. On the open slope with dry brush and rocky ground, footing is more predictable, tigers less conceivable. So we climb upward, stopping to catch our breath, drink to rehydrate and gaze at the southern island below.

It is a beautiful sight. Standing above treeline on par with the clouds’ highways. In the early darkness of predawn, the wind moans against the terrain. It sings a low choir of remorse. I hear loneliness, a loss of a loved one. I feel its desires to sweep away mortals, taking victims off ground and into its constant stream of movement to be kept for personal company. This sound is hollow, desolate but calm like a siren trapped on a cliff. Above the melody, stars gaze upon our heads and a half moon rises over Gunung’s summit like the Northern Star.

We climb, stop, climb, stop. There are four of us feeling antsy. We want to move faster. We need a quicker pace in order to keep energized, in order to reach the summit before sunrise. So, the self-nominated four tag onto another passing guide who leads a French couple. We wish our two fellow climbers and guide a safe ascent and begin the scramble. Eventually we are a mere 300 meters from the top.

This is when it gets hairy. The terrain is steep. The rock loose and unstable. Pathways undefined, indeterminable. In a way, it’s a guessing game, and consumed by the dark it’s often a stampede on all fours. I’m in the rear, shining a light ahead to help illuminate the trail. Suddenly the rocks break free and voices rise.

I rush around a large boulder and come to a small canyon of stone. A member of our group lays on the ground. Her back rests against her pack; her pack rests against the slope. It’s Abbey, and with help, she slowly raises herself back on her feet. A flush of dizziness sweeps through her body. She reaches out for stabilization.

“I’m alright,” she affirms. “My handhold came loose.”

We look at where she points, following the line with our flashlights, and then trace them back down to the ground, measuring the five-foot freefall.

Abbey’s shin is bashed and blood leaks from her ankles and foot. It’s apparent her Chacos aren’t sufficient for mountain climbing.

“Take your time,” I remind her. “We’re in no rush. We’ll make it.” And smaller steps, I tell everyone. When climbing a hill, a knoll, a mountain, or a Stairmaster, the smaller the steps the better. Keeping the body’s center of gravity over the two feet is key to energy conservation and balance. There’s no need to count up the number of splits on the US Open tennis courts.

We continue, inhaling and exhaling, dropping flashlights, retrieving them, replacing batteries , and all the while navigating an impassable terrain in pitch-blackness. I think this is absurd at times. In the States or Europe, this degree of climbing would require harnesses, ropes and a level of training. We would be wearing hard hats and headlamps with requirements in regards to boot type. But this is Bali�"Indonesia to be more specific�"and the safety measures are each to their own. Before long, our guide drops us on the very pinnacle of all of Bali.

It’s 6AM and we’re the first to summit. At 6:30 as our bones shiver, our muscles spasm and our teeth chatter, the sun makes its grandiose entry like a virtuoso walking on stage. It’s 10 degrees Celsius, feels more like -78. Our adopted guide shares his kopi dan pisang goreng (coffee and fried banana). We snap photographs. We gape at the beauty of such great heights. And then we descend like wildfire.

Four hours up, two hours down. Each of our knees are blowing out as we reach lower altitudes. Our thighs quake. Our calves pinch us with monkey wrenches. We slip down the loose gradient and chase the clouds until eventually entering its blanket where only the sunrays pierce through.

Back at the car we meet our other comrades. They’re safe and happy, content with their efforts. Karen whips out a homemade loaf of date and nut bread smothered with a cream cheese lemon curd. Holy shit, my taste buds explode greater then the ’63 eruption! However there are no deaths, only victories.

No, we did not conquer the great Gunung Agung. We gallantly convinced our minds we could do it, therein granting us a rite of passage by the spirits of the summit. So, with taste buds lavishing and stomachs churning, we commence our return and fall to sleeping. It’s 9:30 on a Sunday morning.

Day 5: An Afternoon Continuation

I return from the volcano high with accomplishment, bloated with pride. And I return from the volcano defeated, physically pummeled with exhaustion as my knees and toes struggle to support my body above. We rose at midnight in the earliest of morning hours, drove two hours and proceeded to climb four hours through jungle, brush and scree until summiting at sunrise. Then all downhill. The knees faltering. The shoulders bouncing. Toes crunching at the forefront of my Keens.

Back in Ubud after the drive down the mountain, five yogis unload from our friend’s Acura SUV and stumble into Ubud Aura. I go up to my room searching for the Lioness, find the den empty, cold like a windowless cave as humanity’s pumping air-conditioner roars, and quickly exit donning boardshorts and towel.

At the pool I sleep, drifting in and out betwixt my pages of reading. Time passes as others come and go; to the pool, into rooms and beds, in search of Balinese treasures and the nourishment of their victuals.

Time is of insignificance in Bali. Only yoga times and food times; and schedules of culture, dance, art and exploration�"but these are the luxuries. Sometime passed noon, Laura emerges and the varied forms of hunger come with her. In search of food, we leave with Zoe and Francis to a warung setup as a sort of medicinal meeting grounds for progressive herbalists and neophyte spiritualists. Call it Wayan’s Warung (warung being the common term for food stall). Made famous by Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, Dra Ni Wayan is the healer the author befriended for her wise words of health, love and life.

Navigating the torn sidewalks and dogging the quiet traffic of Ubud, we stroll to Jalan Jembawan and sit at a sturdy hardwood table upon chairs of equal comfort.

“Feed us,” our mere presence exclaims. Drinks of fresh grated turmeric and limejuice sweetened with honey cleanses our blood and strengthens our bodies. Twenty minutes later the full spread. We’re served seaweed with spicy coconut (vitamin E for healthy skin/hair), water spinach with ginseng (iron for strengthened power), sautéed bean sprouts (protein for the vegetarian), grilled coconut (rheumatism prevention), an array of tofu & tempeh (calcium + protein), papaya (aiding digestion), a tomato chutney (vitamin K… strong eyes…), and a red rice (for strong heart). Each dish is provided with a tag describing its health benefits while Wayan circles the table like a disciplining schoolmaster making sure we could read and appreciate our spiritual nutrition. It’s exceedingly refreshing, exotic and intensely simple. And it packs deliciousness.

Shortly, with a satiated belly and the necessary ingredients for full-body rejuvenation, exhaustion creeps back and my mood sinks. I am Grouch, a fury tempered mongrel with downcast eyes that hang to my eye-sockets like a stretched Slinky. I need sleep. So, disappearing into my own realms of recovering low blood sugar and lack of sleep, I find the room and allow the rest of the afternoon to slip away, along with Laura DeFreitas’ restorative yoga class from 6:30 - 8pm.

Day 6: Monday August 25th, 2008

We dine for breakfast, skip the morning yoga practice and meet Judy Slattum at 9AM for more Balinese lessons. By 9:30 we’re out on the streets, loading into our two vans and departing for the State Temple of Mengwi.

The drive north is from out of a movie. Protected in our metal domes of vehicular transport, the outer Bali passes untouched. Traffic is to a minimum despite the narrow lanes, which are perceptively quant for one-way streets. And yet both ways flow steadily, even as we come upon large gaping holes where workers toil and perspire. They dig at the earth in tandem, using a method I’ve only witnessed in worlds without Western modernity. One worker mans the shovel, the wooden rod in hands; the legs, back, shoulders and arms heaving the blade into the soil. As the palate fills with earth, the second man assists with strength, tugging on a rope attached to the metal shaft where the shovel’s blade and its wooden rod meet. They heave and pull together, working like children on a teeter-totter.

The vans roll on, through large swaths of open land. Greenery. The vibrancy of chartreuse and neon. These are the sawah-sawah, or rice fields, lush and dense with the thickest sheen of verdancy. Each plot looks like a laying of shag carpet with small lice crawling around its hairs, picking, scything, harvesting the paddies. More workers bend over at the waist. The pictures remind me of rural scenes along the Vietnamese railways: palm trees and fruit trees, banyan and bamboo forests looming in the distance as strands of line hang over the rice with plastic bags tied in array. A rainproof scarecrow.

In through the farmland, and as if around the block, we enter back into civilization. The State Temple of Mengwi. Architecture from a deepened Hindu faith. Layered with stone and rusty red brick. Cats roaming the grounds. Dogs guarding its gates. We wander among other tourists, following Judy’s lead, absorbing her words like chicken feed. Like a stroll through a park, we gaze at lotuses and lily pads, counting the meru (or multi-layered thatched-roofs) ascending each shrine. Then we drive north between the mountains.

Large open valleys terraced with a burning ember of green and more palms, wooden housing and bamboo walls. Low clouds cling to the sides of slopes. The outline of a hilltop temple; mysterious, out of reach, reclusive. And then, pulling through small hillside towns we climb into the white ether, passing trucks loaded with jackfruit, durian, melons and corn. Soon we arrive at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan with sweaters stretched over our heads. As a Buddhist/Hindu temple, Ulun Danu is a shrine to Danu, the goddess of water. Therefore, locals pilgrimage to the site for important ceremonies to ensure a sufficient rainfall for the island’s agriculture.

Exploring, observing, taking in the temple that perches on different islands off the lakeshore. There’s a couple that stand out�"a woman and a man�"garbed in white dress and sleek suit. It’s their marriage setting with pictures taken, smiles bright, and a future unbeknown. It’s strange to see this Western style so far from home with the elegance and demeanor absorbing attention. I think to myself: It should be the two lovers solely transfixed on their union. It takes me in my head and back out as I pause my shutter and listen to my jumbling thoughts. I turn to Iris by the pathway. Watching its beauty, the lackadaisical petals, the bright yellows and the speckled jaguar spots of fiery orange�"it’s simple, modest. An expression of love without the fine details. It just is, and in the flower’s simplicity, it celebrates to those who stop and breathe.

From up off my haunches, I wander with the others back to the vans, load like shepherded sheep and drive into the neighboring town of Bedugal. There we leap into a full-frenzied market. Locals with woven baskets balancing on their skulls and tourists totting plastic sacks and backpacks slung with cameras mesh into the produce market. And spices like a color palate. Tables are lined with square bags. Maroons of saffron. Cocoa browns of coffee beans. Oranges of curries. Greens of peppers. Rich tans of cacao powder. It’s local, fresh. The long strands of vanilla. The hardened lumps of cardamom and Muscat. We make our deals, think of home, the ridiculous prices, and Homeland Security at customs. And then there are fruits, heaps and heaps stacked like pyramidal representations of an ancient time. Mangosteens, strawberries, bananas, watermelons and grapes, mangos and jackfruits. Sacks loaded, photos snapped, locals and tourists laughing with the exchange of money. And then homeward.

4:30-6:30PM yoga. Sweating, rejuvenating. Downloading the months away and the journey’s nearing end. Some yogis choose to visit the guru of Ubud Aura. Laura and I disappear into the sawah, creep through the rain and into the dim streetlights in search of pirated films and large bottles of Bintang.

Day 7: Morning Unto One’s Own

7:30 yoga. The usual routine with cowboy coffees, sugars and creams, breakfast and dispersal. Few take a cooking class at Bumbu. I vanish and exchange a book, indulge my tired feet in an hour’s reflexology, lounge poolside and fall into the consuming world of the Internet�"a connection to home.

4:30PM rolls lazily towards my consciousness and before I comprehend the transition of nothingness to activity, Laura DeFreitas’ yoga retreat finds itself at the Heron Preserve in Petulu. We sit. We scour the sky for birds at the canopy’s height where spindly boughs of foliage hang from dense trunks. Heady palms freeze in the stale air. Monotone clouds drift with faint recognition. Then a bird. Two. Three. White herons, what appear to be similar to the snow egret, swoop from the far shores and settle on the branches. They come and go each day for unknown reasons. Like clockwork they arrive at 5PM. And like clockwork they depart.

We watch and then we walk, strolling through the rural fields of central Bali back to Ubud. It’s a good 3-5 miles, long and winding stretches where fields of football enliven crowds of varying age, and men herd their ducks into the rice to devour scouring insects and drop their feces; pest control and fertilizer in one. Women bathe nude in the streams beneath bridges. Dogs snarl and yap. Scarecrows saunter in the still atmosphere. And old men pass on rusty bicycles. Bali today as it was years ago.

The gaggle of yogis halt at Terazo�"a chic, out-of-place establishment serving a fine fare of International cuisine. Laura, myself and others feast, taking to three courses that starts with a fresh tossing of greens before an entrée of pepes ikan (white fish cooked in banana leaves & Balinese spices) sided with a chocolate martini. Dessert tops a sated tongue. The belly fusses. I squeeze and make room like a jackrabbit digging deeper into the rabbit hole. Tonight it’s a ganache served with a regrettable selection of Jacob’s white and cherry brandy. Night falls into an oblivion of dreamscape & poetry:

Boundaries & parapets�"
The borders of a guardian prince.
In the majestic night,
Tantalized by a streaming of crickets & whirls of bats,
Forces unseen creep into my nostrils.
I sense a smell�"
The oily burn of dirt & diesel,
A flame that falters within the machine of common order.
The invisible brings this all down.
The untouchable leeches with an absorbed imagination.
And these shadows,
Set the fields swaying,
Informing the frogs to jibe�"
The snakes to slither below.
Coconut fronds stand still to this darkened tune,
While surrounding villages set lights to midnight�"
Temples empty of offerings,
And their wild packs of daylight.
I’m all-alone in this world,
Above the scene,
Below the gusts,
Yet mysteriously filled with the breath of Balinese magic.

Day 8: Balinese Habits

Routine sleep hounded by the silence of cricket song, frog croaks, and the deep dark of night. Then arise; a new day in Bali, a new face, a new dream, a new way of life to recreate, destroy and create again. A call upon a dawn-swim in order to wipe the sleep off my body. Next�"breakfast with kopi dan gula (coffee & sugar). Then further departures.

We leave for Batubulan at 9AM for another dance, another Barong (or mythical lion-dog creature assembled with a virtuoso’s touch). The costumes at the dance shimmer in the morning light, clear and crisp. And the artists follow the gamelan’s tempo; moving, slowing, speeding and twitching the hands, the head, neck & shoulders. With the underground beat, each footstep is precise, representative of a higher purpose. Toes perk up like alert dog-ears, and then there are the fingers. Each dancer twists, turns and contorts the palms and their worm-like phalanges as if they’re silly putty in the hands of a young Beethoven who lost his way within the medium of sculpture. Stunning, etheric, their motions otherworldly, with a complex storyline of love, betrayal and the common battle of Deities vs. Man.

Afterwards we proceed into the capital of Bali. Our caravans arrive in Denpasar at the Anthropological Museum. Hawkers check our sides as we check our pockets and bags. The heat of the exchanges thicken while the humidity of the city feels denser, more exhausting then the spurting traffic which heaves fumes of carbon monoxide in your vents. Inside, the air is just as stale and the hawkers continue to lurk. They make me feel guilty when I deny their items. They make me feel as though I have enough to purchase their works whether I like them or not. I try not to take pity on them. I fight my conscience to not ignore them, push them away farther from their dreams. So we strike a conversation.

    “All from USA?” they query.
    “Yes, and we come to Bali for yoga.”
    “Yoga! Oh, very strong, very good. And you go back to America?”
    “Soon,” I reply. “But I see no reason to return.”
    “Then what of your future president?” One man probes our thoughts.
    I shrug, tired of the thought, the rallying and the garble fit for politics.
    The man looks at those who listen. “Obama is president. Obama is good choice for the world.”

What affects me the most is the last word the Balinese chooses: world. It’s as though America is the center of the universe. It’s as if the president of the US of A decides the fate of humanity… and I pause, reflect… and continue to realize he is half correct. And this is what causes my stress.

Yes. It’s true. The President of the United States of America has a major hand in the state of the world. The President (and/or the puppeteers) make the choices for themselves, which in turn effect others on the opposite side of the globe; the government makes decisions on its own best interests despite the effects it might have on minute countries and their failing economies.

“Obama,” I say with conviction. “Obama,” we chant in unison.

This strikes a deeper memory, one found at the start of the presidential campaign. Obama stands before a crowd gathered to listen for change, hope and a brighter future and speaks (as I paraphrase): The United States will elect the future president that they deserve.

The thought is poignant, raw, unreserved and disarmed from the war-games of politics.

Then as we all look at each other, American/Balinese�"Balinese/American, I see the importance of Obama’s statement. I wake to the importance of this Balinese’s word-choice: world. They are one-and-the-same when striped of race, ethnicity, gender and age. Humanity is humanity. Period.

Lunch. Yum! Fantastic homemade Balinese lunch. We’re served at Surya’s house, partner to our tour leader�"the American-born Judy Slattum. Inside the 400 year-old family compound, we explore the grounds, laugh with the family and feast upon the incredible delicacies of Bali’s cultural cuisine.

Time ticks, our energies within the tropical heat dwindle, and we spin off; one van to pick-up mask purchases and paintings, while I load down into the other bound for home. Swim, nap, nap, and swim before a 4PM yoga session next door at The Yoga Barn with Laura DeFreitas. The end of the day creeps over us. Lotuses in their ponds begin transforming, bats begin circulating, and us yogis soon rise with renewed energy. It’s the night of the Arak Attack!

Slowly, not too fast, sip it. Sip the arak�"the Greek’s ouzo in Bali. Tasting like firewater, the liquor is made from fermented palm fruits. Goes down smooth. Comes out spittin’.

So we cruise into the night, feeling the need for celebration as fellow yogini and Gunung Agung mountaineer, Abby Bange, is to leave us the next day. Therefore, why not drown ourselves in illusion and let go of all defensives the way society knows best.

Shortly, as Monkey Forest Road wakes with languid nightlife, Napi Orti appears with the ambiance calling for reggae. We climb the stairs, settle in the highest alcove, and call for drinks.

    “What you want?” the bartender cries.
    “What you have?”
    “Arak Attack!”
    “Iraq what!?” We look at each other with suspicion.
    “Our drink�"arak. It will attack you.”
    Our heads bob simultaneously. “A round, please.”

And then they come, and come, and come again. The smart ones in the crowd choose to eat pizza. I on the other hand stick with the all-you-can-eat peanut dish and pay the price.

Time passes. People come and go. Things begin to blur. I’m seriously done for. After donning a local’s motto helmet, taking snap shots, laughing, taking more shots, and peeing countless times, I throw in the towel… habis.

Soon I find myself trekking solo back to my room. Emotions come up after all the joy and unhidden glee found in my drunkenness, before I know it I’m cursing under my breath. A bamboo rod makes it into my hands and I begin swinging. I swat at the pavement. I slash at signs. And I flatten blades of rice, quickly discovering myself inconsolably crying to the sheer terror of a passing local. Yes, I am on my own; alone with repressed emotions freed by intoxication in a world far far away from familiarity, comfort and understanding. With nothing else to do, I spit them out�"these emotions; the anger, the shame, the confusion and disappointment, the failures and losses. I tell my story to Mr. Toilet Bowl, too. He hears me as I hold him and heave my chest, spewing out the toxins, then before settling back into more wailing at the balcony’s banister. I’m pulling at it, putting my force into the metal, trying to rip it out of me. Sleep creeps into my body. It zaps me like a lightning bolt and tucks me deep into a fathomless rest.

Day 9: The Hangover & The Balian’s Cure

Dawn arises with pain and discomfort. Classic hangover amidst tropic humidity: weighty, dank and stale with arak and puke on the breath. At the breakfast I choose not to attend, stories are told. A group of yogis walked into Monkey Forest at 2AM and chanted the Gyatri Mantra for one hour. Others swam nude in the pool, lounged in a room, and sobered each other with their talk. I keep my secrets to myself and leave the unspoken for the balian.

A balian is a traditional Balinese healer. Typically a man, he is revered for his insights, intuition, and the use of his hands on the body’s meridians points for diagnosis. Everyone arrives excited, cheery, interested in the healer’s methods and what our predicted ailments might be. I can only hope for the best, dreaming of an immunity elixir to every present and future hangover.

Under an open-air shelter we sit on cool tiles before an elderly man, not decrepit or feeble, but short, thin and oddly powerful in presence. He goes by Jaya, or so I recall, and he’s sitting on his little chair in his modest healing room tending to other guests; Balinese, French and Americans turning up in streams. We wait, admiring him, speaking in hushed tones about what to expect. Surya, our guide for the day, gives us the background check.

Jaya was born on the isle of Java and worked as an automotive repairman until something shifted. He felt different, drawn another direction. He began communicating more clearly and seeing people in a different light: All of humanity suddenly obtained a compass, a blueprint of where they’ve been that forms their present circumstance. By healing the blockages found within this blueprint of the past, one can alter their present situation to better equip themselves for the journey ahead. Each of us has this imprint from the past in our consciousness. Each of us carries the map of the future in our hands. We just need the keys to access their energies. Jaya found that key in some greasy shop in Jakarta, taken not from a rickety motorbike with a blown gasket, but from his own purposeful will.

Jaya is a balian: calm, serene, peaceful & shining a fierce smile that aligns with his gentle humor. He is much like how I picture an Indian guru: present and confident, humble and willing.

We each take our turns and sit on the floor between his legs. With large brown hands, weathered as a horse’s hooves, he touches our heads; he grasps our neck, rubs over our shoulders and digs into our collarbones. Scouring into the upper body, Jaya uses pressure points to feel where energy is blocked. He seems to read the pulses and our responses at his pointed touch, somatically revealing what part of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lives are either whole, missing, damaged or incomplete. Each of us take turns under his hands before he lays us out on a matt to prod our toes. With use of a small eroded wooden stick, he uses acupressure to press the toe-tips and the crevasses in between. With Surya translating, Jaya explains that each toe and each point betwixt these root phalanges there rests a meridian corresponding to our internal organs. And with the right pressure he can determine whether the organ is in stress or ailing based on the response of the patient. After his upper and lower body assessments he then moves across the whole body applying the necessary adjustments, whether with further acupressure, massage or sorcery. Some of us receive tinctures, oils and an alchemy of mixed herbs complete with detailed instruction.

He reaches my turn. Rising from the cool floor, I move over to where Jaya sits on his chair and lower again to rest my back against his legs. His hands feel massive, as if they’re the sun and moon combined bearing down upon me. I relax, feel him glide over me like a hurried card dealer, and then he presses. He digs into meridians in the scalp, behind the ears and underneath my shoulders. I breathe, wince and wait; relaxing my twisted stomach, attempting to assist the clearing of toxins loaded inside my liver. Jaya reaches the crown of my head and uses his thumb with force, then speaks. Surya translates:

    Jaya: “Did you have trauma in your past?”
    Me: “Um… nope.”
    Jaya: “Are you sure there was no accident? I feel there was something significant.” He continues probing my skullcap.
    Me: “I have no memory of anything.”
    Jaya: “Nothing causing major damage or loss?”
    Me: “I don’t recall.”

Quickly he rubs me down, covering all areas. He pats my shoulders, then lifts his hands from my body. Finished. I’m in the clear with only a faint doubt in my mind about an unforeseen past. I breathe in the humid air of the Balinese culture and feel the queasiness of my hangover return.

Later that afternoon after lunch break, we depart and ride back to Ubud: Afternoon yoga, a full-body massage, followed by a free evening to our liking. Laura and I stay in with room service of nasi campur dan jaruk nipis (rice with an assortment of cooked spicy vegetables and orange juice) in front of a selection of pirated films.

Day 10: True Vacations in a Land of Pamper & Pleasure

August 29th, 2008�"the final day in Ubud. After two thick pots of kopi (Balinese cowboy coffee), the group of yogis and yoginis follow Laura DeFreitas to the neighboring Yoga Barn for 8AM practice. We ease our calming muscles into deeper elongation, stretch our tendons and relax our joints through various twists and salutations. After ten days of yoga practiced often twice a day in the tropical paradise of Bali, we’re significantly more limber. We have the routine, the flow of LauraNidra’s practice. And we love it. In more ways then one, we open our eyes, breathe in the life of the yogi and become aware of our innate gift. This is ananda: the bliss of pure consciousness.

Laura and I decide to linger further into this ananda with a day of ridiculous pampering. Next door to Ubud Aura we check in at Zen Spa. And for the next 4 ½ hours we discover the meaning of bodily pleasure (in at least one form). First a massage, body scrub and a milk bath garlanded with fragrant rose petals. Then a facial with a brutal extraction of blackheads (not part of the pleasure), a manicure, a pedicure, refreshments of apple juice and sweets, followed by a finale with an avocado hair treatment and a seated massage to arrive full circle.

That’s $35 please. We are at the front desk leaning against the counter to support our bodily jellification.

Come again?

$35 each.

$35 each? That’s it? Wow… I open my wallet, hand over some plastic, sign and cruise out. Pampered. Pleasured. Bali.

4PM yoga. Easiest, most fluid yoga session ever. Then a 7:30 group dinner at NoMad. Thank you Ubud and goodbye.

Day 11: The Sawah to The Sea

Waking on the final morning, we yoga at 7AM, pack, breakfast and depart all by 9:30. To the eastern seaboard. Our destination for the last two nights of Laura DeFreitas’ Bali Yoga Retreat led by Danu Tours is Candidasa, a lazy fisherman’s village found three decades earlier. But we arrive to discover a metropolis of small hotels, seafood chain-restaurants and a gray solemn beach. Sand? No. Forget about sand. To construct these buildings, which would cater to Bali’s burgeoning tourism industry of the 1970’s, locals needed lime to mix into cement. They used what they could�"the offshore coral�"crushing it to extinction. As a result the ebb and flow of the ocean’s currents entered the shallows and swept away the miniscule grains we love to squish beneath our toes and hate to find in our sandwiches.

And we drive passed. Turning off the highway and heading west back into the highlands. No, we aren’t leaving quite yet. Our first stop of the day is Tenganan, the walled village of the wealthy Bali Aga peoples. These people are the original descendents of the Balinese, extending their inhabitance upon the isle back before the Majapahit (late thirteenth century). And here, one of the few places throughout humanity, the Bali Aga weave the complex double ikat where both warp threads (those stretched on the loom) and weft threads (those woven across and into the loom) design detailed geometric cloth of varying color. The colors come from local plant pigments and are traditionally dyed and arranged in like tone.

We take to the common tourist wonderment and weave ourselves through the lines of stone housing with Judy Slattum in lead, listening to the history, the descriptions and the unique culture of Tenganan. All around us there exists the silence of a georgic land. No cars. No motorbikes. Only large beefy water buffalos lounging under trees, chickens and roosters caged under a chess match of reed baskets and sun… hot sun.

In route, our group of ten carries cameras, tote bags and limber bodies. And we’re tan. We look clean, yet weathered. From the outside, it appears we are on a worldly route�"young Aussies off for a 12-month venture round the planet. We’re slow, not too talkative, absorbing the humid environment and the thick history of Tenganan. Judy explains the demographics of the Aga:

Conservative and resistant to modern change, the people inside the wall are rich. Due to their double ikat specialization, as well as their virtuosity of the lontar (palm leaf books), the Agas have a history. It is believed they acquired their present land not by regular means of payment, or pillaging, or simple ways of inheritance. Instead, they preferred wit. Back in some unrecorded era, a King lost his horse. The people of Tenganan found it, however, it was not to their Majesty’s liking. It was the carcass. But the King was kindhearted and offered them a reward. The villagers gathered under the bale banjar (common meeting shelter) and put their heads together suggesting to receive the land where the horse was found, including wherever the rotting flesh could be smelled. The King agreed and dispatched a man with incontestable nasal talents. He began sniffing the land, walking with the village chief, trying not to hurl. The scent was everywhere, far and wide from where the carcass originally lay. So the King’s man with the impeccable nose returned, his shoulders up to his ears. He was confused because the rancid scent was everywhere he walked. The King couldn’t repel his promise and so granted the villagers of Tenganan a vast landscape. Meanwhile, the chief of the village returned to his banjar and pulled from his pants a chunk of rotting horse meat. I imagine they had a good chuckle.

I like the Bali Aga. I like them a lot, especially one man with a character akin to a giant fluffy bear. Picture the live mammal, one full of joy, excitement, creativity and unconditional love�"a Hollywood bear. Now, strip him of his fury coat and about 300 pounds and you would have this man, whose name escapes me. However, he has reputation. In all the land… no! In all the world, this bear-like hominid is a master of the lontar, which is the construction of the booklet of palm leaves requiring a degree in fine art. Made of the rontal palm, the leaves are first dried, then soaked in water, cleaned, steamed, dried again, flattened and finally dyed and cut into thin strips. Next, the artist gets detailed, inscribing a story with words and/or pictures with a fine point or sharpened blade. Afterwards, the whole strip is rubbed with a black resin that’s then wiped clean. The resin sticks in the artist’s grooves, bringing the words and pictures to life. After completing the story, the book is then stacked, strung together and held at each end by a carved bamboo cover. Not only is this nameless man a virtuoso of the lontar, inscribing the entire Ramayana in both scripture and picture, but he is also a musician and a puppet-maker with the greatest smile and the bushiest white eyebrows.

Staring with googlely eyes, laughing, absorbing the talented history of Tenganan, we depart through the wall. Lunch at The Watergarden back in Candidasa until unloading at The Lotus Bungalows. The sea breeze and an infinity pool; they go hand-in-hand. Trust me.

By 4:15 we’re gone again, loading back into the vans like shepherded monkeys off to a trance dance called The Battle of the Gods, which is celebrated nowhere else. It went like this:

➢ Long procession to a river temple
➢ Invitation of the Gods into the palanquins
➢ Palanquins carried back up hill in even longer procession
➢ Full-on trance frolicking
Kris (or knife) dancers running amok!
➢ One hour of trance with sweaty moshpit of young Balinese holding palanquins

Then… pizza dinner with our appetites fully awake!

Day 12: Goodbye Durga

End of the line. 8AM final yoga by the sea with breakfast and breezes, swimming and a Bali Dog photo shoot with varying vanity poses. 12:30PM quickly arrives and we all depart our separate ways, some staying extra days, others directly to the airport or to the armpit of Kuta Beach. This is a yoga retreat and a cultural exploration upon the island of Bali, Indonesia.

And reflections? All-and-all, after spending an entire month on Bali I was not ready for departure. In total Laura and I received 15 massages each. That’s one massage every other day! We also ate the best fresh fruits, drank the freshest fruit drinks, bathed under outdoor showers, practiced yoga every day, and learned a mouthful of Balinese language. However, there were activities we missed and I’d do in a heartbeat upon returning in… March 2010??

➢ Scuba dive
➢ More surfing and then some
➢ Travel to Lombok
➢ Rent a scooter in Candidasa and ride northward along the coast
➢ Visit the north and northwestern parts of the island
➢ Learn more Balinese
➢ Spend less time in Kuta
➢ Get a massage every day
➢ Find a home and live there for the rest of my life

So, that’s Bali via yoga with Laura DeFreitas and Danu Tours. And, if there are any interests in the next adventure, tune into March 2010 by following these websites. Come and join us for yoga and culture on the island of Bali!

Seattle-based yoga professional Laura DeFreitas:
Judy Slattum of Danu Tours:
The Poet
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photo by: mr_shanet