Saturday, 13 October 2012

Enjoying the Altitude

It really wasn't a lot cooler or less humid in the small mountain village of Munduk, in central Bali, but the stunning views of cool green terraces made it seem fresher. We often looked down on to clouds below us, our perch was so high. That made for steep walks when the weather was fine. We learned quickly that mornings were cooler and clearer than steamy, wet afternoons. Our first day was such a slow start that we only made it down the road about 250 meters from our hotel before we ducked to another rooftop restaurant. A shower turned into a downpour that lasted 2 hours. There we were, caught on a sheltered rooftop perch, with spectacular views of the weather passing through the valleys below. Tasty bowls of soup and steamy rice dishes arrived at our table, but windy gusts kept us table-hopping, seeking shelter from wet spray. Finally, clear blinds were lowered for protection and we were able to eat our delicious meal in dry comfort. Considering the high quality of the fresh, tasty meals we were served, prices almost always amazed us, as three could eat like kings for under $5 each, easily. Since we were the only customers that afternoon, the service was very good! We found this to be true in most locations, unless we chose an upscale eatery.
By the time the rain stopped, we were quite content to make the short climb back up the road and read books. At least I was. Kees felt compelled to rent a motorbike and join the throngs of bikers weaving up hairpin turns through the valleys.
He took Gina with him for a few hours to ride down the valley, to Lovina. They found a fine little beach hotel there for the next leg of our adventure, right on a black sand beach, between 2 fishing villages. We eventually moved there by taxi, after our fourth night in charming Munduk, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Upon their return that day from Lovina, the two of them were wrapped in thin blue plastic, as another warm downpour had forced them to pop into a shop for $1.00 rain ponchos. Kees was so invigorated by the fun he'd had driving, despite the wet, that he convinced me to hop on the scooter for another adventure, while Gina went to change into dry things.
I had been curious about an extremely large tree that could be seen across the valley, several kilometers away. It towered above all others in the clove forest easily, so I knew it wasn't a clove tree. Off we shot, buzzing through the village and up toward the hills beyond. We had to stop for a liter or two of petrol, sold in recycled milk jugs at roadside shops. We were directed to the huge tree by the simple sweep of an old man's arm, up a road past breathtaking views of the villages below.

The massive Banyan tree had been blessed and protected by a small Hindu temple near its sprawling base, with fabric bunting wrapped around its monumental girth. Cave-like chambers under the exposed root system made for mysterious hiding places, where the air seemed to hum with energizing life. As I stood in timeless reverence at the heart of the tree, I felt calm and safe, knowing that I was protected by many tons of living, growing wood around me, reaching both far above and below. The tree is over 750 years old and surely has many stories to tell, if only we only knew how to listen.
I had to climb it. Handing over my sunnies, phone/camera and bag to Kees, I began the ascent. It was easy at first, well worn by thousands of climbers before me. But as I climbed higher, several meters above the blessed bunting, I found myself weaving my body through smaller places, forced by solid growth to the branches and root systems on the exterior of the tree. Finally, I had exhausted all safe options and had to listen to the message offered; time to enjoy the view. I respectfully swung and twisted my way to a perch about 35 meters up the tree , then turned and balanced, looking out over an emerald valley below. I'm not sure if it was the beauty of the view or the empowering energy given off by the tree that made me feel so euphoric. It was a moment like no other, to be placed with my most precious memories and treasured for a lifetime.

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