Wet hands behind my back, with a slipping grip on the hot chrome bar. Meters shrunk to inches as we cut through the chaos, buzzing like angry wasps, disturbed by a hungry, honey loving bear. This was my introduction to Indonesian traffic, no lights, no lanes and fury dice for rules. I’m getting too old for this, I thought, while wincing at the narrow zip of the oncoming trucks overloaded with sun dried locals. My tour guide – a guy I met on the street, offered to take me to Uluwatu on his bike, he was in his element, which is more than could be said for me.
I was exhausted by the time we had arrived, half an hour later, but the views were worth it – sort of. Uluwatu houses a huge Hindu temple perched on the edge of Bali’s southernmost peninsula, if you go later, you can enjoy the spectacle of traditional Balinese dancing followed by a legendary sunset. I missed both, but I did almost have my phone stolen by a monkey with a taste for Apple. I just wanted a flying visit and to get a feel for the place, way too many tourists for me. I was happy to save some cash on dancing and enjoy the plethora of jungle greens, juxtaposed with the blues of the sea as my tour guide sat smoking and sweating in the shade.
I wasn’t sure if it was him or his tires I could smell as we returned to the hostel and the owner approached me. She’s this beautiful, petite Indonesian woman who had, only the day before, subtly showed me her wedding ring while handing me a map. I wasn’t lost, I just looked like that with my mouth hanging open. She had heard I was interested in yoga and wanted to invite me to a class.
I was delighted and immediately said yes. No, I wasn’t, I said I wasn’t sure, twice, before eventually agreeing. So, this morning, at 7am – now I remember, I said yes, she said it was at 7 in the morning, then I tried to back out, I mean yoga at 7am, what’s that about? Maybe it was some local custom, who was I to argue, eventually I agreed…
…And I’m glad I did. When I stepped out of my room this morning, rubbing my eyes, in shorts and long johns – pretending not to notice the boy at reception who looked as though had never seen a gown man dressed like a twat at that time before. Well I didn’t have the full Yoga- guy wardrobe admittedly, but I was up after the second snooze so that must have meant I was well up for it, right?
The owner smiled while ushering me through a small door at the back of the hostel, I hadn’t even noticed it until then. When I walked through, I couldn’t believe my eyes – no I hadn’t just noticed myself in a mirror. At the back of the hostel, it wasn’t simply a garden, it was a whole secret neighbourhood, with stunning houses and hand crafted, wooden roofs, with manicured lawns and ornate horticultural sculpture. It was a breath-taking contrast to the grey urbanised alleyways of outside streets with their huge walls, it was like day and night and to think, I didn’t even question what was on the other side of those street walls. I understood what little Lucy Pevensie must have felt like.
I said, “what is this?” She said nothing, just smiled and led me through the bite sized Shangri-La and into a little wooden yoga studio with a small group of people, I only recognised one other person, a lovely looking girl, it turned out was from Cuba, who was also staying at the hostel. The class was led by a Japanese woman, it was exhilaratingly intense but just what I needed. I was finally in my element, a secret garden sharing breath and stretching together with other beautiful, like-minded souls. It was during that yoga session that I remembered myself and why I had chosen this adventure in the first place, to say yes! To heal, wasp free, to breathe, to open my heart again and for this bear to find his bliss, his honey under the sun.