Hanging Ten and the Hash

Pity my poor thighs. I knew they would get a workout in the mountains of Hawaii and Nepal, but I had no idea how hard they were going to work here in Bali. If they hadn’t been trained, I’m not sure I would have made it through yesterday as well as I did.

I started the day with a quick breakfast with Sylvia. We met up with two of her expat friends for a paddle board/surfing lesson on the beach here in Sanur. I had seen paddle boards in Santa Cruz this fall and in Hawaii. Now it was my turn to give it a try.

We started by standing on the surprisingly stable boards and paddling out to where the waves break. It took some balancing but I was able to stay on the board until the first wave came toward me and I plopped into the sea. There was a leash connecting me to the board so it (or me) wouldn’t get lost and I hopped back on, this time in the kneeling paddling position. Our teacher, a young man with a good way with bule (foreigners), helped us each get ready for riding a wave. Having been in the outrigger canoe in Hawaii, I knew the position in the water is important as well as furious paddling to get onto the wave when it came. On my first wave, I stayed down on my knees, paddling for all I was worth (my arms got a workout too), and felt victorious as the wave carried me almost all the way back to shore. Wow, that was fun! I paddled back out for my next turn.

Over the course of several waves, I took my fair share of dunkings. One time I was too far forward and caught the tip of my board and went down in the churning water. I flashed back in my mind to the huge surf in Hawaii and had even more respect for the surfers there. These waves were tame, enough for a novice, but not overwhelming. After a few tries on my knees, our teacher encouraged us to stand up, yelling “Stand Up! Stand Up!” as the wave carried us. My first try ended with me flying off the board but eventually I was able to balance myself precariously and with shaky legs on top of the wave. I wouldn’t win any prizes for form but I did it! We spent a couple of hours paddling out and riding the waves back to shore. A few times I succeeded in standing and I got much more comfortable falling off the board. It took a huge amount of energy to clamber up, paddle and balance on the waves. If I did this every day, I’d be in great shape!

Soaking wet and with huge grins on our faces, we drove back to Sylvia’s. I returned to my guest house, took a quick swim in the pool, and packed up my bags. I carried them around the corner to Thomas and Sylvia’s house to settle in to their guest room, a separate building with an outside bathroom. We were going to meet up again at 3 to drive to the Hash. Sylvia headed off to work.

The day before, Sylvia had taken me to the office by bicycle. Although the offices are ready in the upstairs part of the building, the rest of the building is under construction. It will become their house (they are renting here) but lots of work needs to be done first. On my way back alone on my bicycle, I got completely lost. The streets are narrow and full of scooters, driving on the left side. Traffic is completely crazy. The center line is just a suggestion, cars and scooters passing each other with only centimeters between. The noise of the engines is a constant and it takes vigilance not to ride on the wrong side of the road as you turn a corner. I decided not to worry about where I was going and just enjoy the ride. I didn’t have a schedule to meet and there was so much to see!

One of the distinctive things about Bali is the offerings everywhere. There are statues along the roads, little bamboo baskets filled with flowers, incense and other things placed on the ground (for the low gods) or up high on posts. The streets are filled with little shops open to the air carrying a few groceries, some tables for eating or scooter parts and gas in bottles. As you get to the tourist areas near the beach, there are lots of souvenir stands with clothing waving in the breeze and swimming floats for the children, just like in so many other places. There are also lots of spas, massage and reflexology places. I decided to stop for lunch at an open air restaurant and bought some very spicy chicken fried rice and a bottle of water. My bill was about $2.50. Next door was a spa with several young women sitting outside chatting. I parked my bike and went in. Ever since I finished the Northern Tier ride I have wanted to treat myself to a massage. After all those hours in planes, I decided it was a good way to start my time in Bali.

The menu of services was several columns long. I opted for the 60 minute aromatherapy massage with lavender. I was led into a room where I was given a cup of ginger tea to drink while my feet soaked in warm water filled with flower petals. The woman massaged my feet with scented soap. After, I settled myself onto her table where I blissed out under the therapist’s able hands. The cost was all of $10 including a generous tip.

All that muscle relaxing was almost completely undone yesterday. After a bit of rest, we headed north for the Hash. North in Bali means towards the mountains – not a geographical north. We picked up Shane, a coworker on the way, and were in the car for maybe an hour. I was mesmerized driving along, eyes wide open, mostly to the traffic. Cars came at us in our lane, scooters buzzing around everywhere, as Thomas gave Sylvia directions. Turns were especially exciting, going across the traffic to each road. The sights out the window were of stores, homes, and businesses lining the busy, narrow roads. It was a long time before we reached any sort of countryside. Thomas pointed out the many shrines that were now wrapped in black and white checkered cloth. This is for the huge holiday of Galungen, a 10 day new year’s/thanksgiving sort of festival that will culminate on Saturday. It is about good winning out over evil and the black and white symbolizes the balance between the two. Everyone returns home to their villages to celebrate with the gods who come to earth to celebrate. On the last of 10 days, people give thanks and say goodbye to the gods.

As part of the celebration, huge bamboo poles with a curved top are placed at the gates. These are called penjors and are decorated with lanterns and flowers. Several of the ones I saw enroute were quite ornate. It’s kind of like decorating a Christmas tree and will be taken down and burned later as an offering.

We made it to the Hash late. These are international events that were started many years ago by British expats at local hash houses. It’s a lot like a cycling group in that people gather at a regular time to run or walk the course. There is a long version and a short version laid out in advance by bits of shredded paper and occasionally, silver paint on the foliage. Thomas and Shane went out ahead of us to run as Sylvia and I brought up the back with the other participants already on the trail. I had no idea what we were getting into!

The route started out fairly innocently through jungled paths. We passed a cow tied up here or there and simple dwellings in the woods. Soon though, we were headed downhill through incredibly slippery brown mud grabbing onto whatever foliage we could find to keep us from sliding into the water at the bottom. Crossing the slippery rocks was a challenge as was trying to get uphill on the muddy paths on the other side. The temperatures were probably in the 80’s and the humidity was thick. Between our efforts and the weather, the sweat was sliding down my face and wiping it away with my muddy hands made me look a bit like I was on a Survivor show. It sure felt like one! I put away my glasses before too long as I was likely to lose them sliding down my nose on the sweat. I was also glad for the wipes in my backpack so that I could clean my hands at times enough to take some pictures.

Eventually, we made our way out of the jungle to a beautiful set of rice paddies. The green was brilliant from the young rice and fields with shrines went off in all directions. We followed the bits of paper through the paths, seeing rice in various stages of planting and greeting the people in the fields along the way. I can’t imagine what they were thinking as they watched us pass.

After a couple of hours or so, the trail led down a steep ravine in the jungle to cross more water. It was about a 8-10 foot drop without much to step on or hold onto. We tried to scout an alternative route but found none. Seeing no alternative, we headed down and somehow navigated our way across and up the steep bank on the other side. Slippery and triumphant, we started to get a little punchy as we followed the easy trail through the village back to our starting place. We could hear the drunken cheers from the other participants celebrating the finish with beer (hmmm, just like some cyclists I know) and joined in with the crowd of mostly Balinese and a few expats.

We were the last ones in but discovered on our arrival that Thomas was missing. Shane said he had left him not far from the end. It was getting dark and Sylvia was worried that he had fallen somewhere or was lost. Knowing he is fluent in Balinese helped somewhat but how to find him was a big question. Eventually, after a couple went out on scooters to search, he came in. He had taken a wrong turn (easy to do) and had ended up bushwacking through some bamboo forest causing an intense itching from insects and scratches. He wasn’t concerned but we were grateful that he was back.

After a nice dinner back in Sanur, I settled in to my little cottage for a welcome slumber. This morning I woke again to the sound of rain but after an outside shower in the rain (an interesting combination) the sun is back out. Thomas had a business meeting here at breakfast where I had my first taste of a durian. This fruit is forbidden in many taxis and hotels for its pungent smell. I found that if you can ignore the smell, the taste is quite creamy and sweet. Sylvia and I spent some time going through piles of travel brochures and one of my tasks this morning is to make some phone calls to arrange my time in other parts of Bali.

We will be going to celebrate Galungan with Thomas’ Balinese family tomorrow in a village north of here. He lived with them over 30 years ago and has stayed close. After, I’ll head to Ubud for some time. My other task is to get my laundry done. I have been handwashing but with the constant rain and humidity, laundry is hard to dry. This morning I walked up the street and left my clothes with a woman and her children. They should be ready in a couple of hours before the holiday festivities begin. Imagine asking someone to do your laundry on Christmas Eve. I just squeaked in.

My thighs this morning are not happy when I go up and down the little steps here. Maybe I should head back to one of those spas. Just a thought…














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  1. Phyllis Biegun

     /  February 10, 2012

    What a marvelous adventure! I can hardly imagine your thighs hurting after all the previous workouts. Woo hoo.

  2. pam perkins

     /  February 10, 2012

    Beautiful descriptions, which took me back to similar places. But the slipping and sliding in the mud would have been the end of me. Love the sign. What is “fool furniture?” Maybe they meant the house is full of furniture.

  3. Connue O'Connor

     /  February 10, 2012

    Been surfing since I was 14, so I loved reading about your lesson. I’m probably one of the few knee surfers left. My arms are always tired after an hour of good surfing!
    Glad you tried paddleboarding too! Bravo

  4. Mary Kay

     /  February 10, 2012

    Oh my gosh! That was a huge workout day! You go girl! I read a travel tip today: While traveling in Thailand by diesel fueled autos, carry a handerchief with you to cover your mouth and nose from the fumes.

  5. Joanne

     /  February 10, 2012

    everything sounds wonderful Ellen. Sylvia and Thomas look fantastic !!! Give them a hug from Johnny and I and keep on having fun…

  6. Candice Stein

     /  February 10, 2012

    What extraordinary adventures!!!! I am about to reread this entry. Love all the details, and love that you have been able to find WIFI.

  7. Barbara

     /  February 11, 2012

    thank you so much for taking the time to describe your days so far in Bali! I find I can’t wait to open the entry when I see a new posting……I know they won’t always be as regular as they are now, but they put a smile on my face when I read them. Take care.

  8. Mary Blake

     /  February 11, 2012

    I awake every morning to look for a new post from you. I love reading them and I’m so happy to have such a vivacious friend.
    Becareful out there on those roads. Let me guess, there are no helmet laws in Bali.
    I saw the picture of the room for rent and was surprised to see it in English (?).
    I am experiencing the world with your blogs.

  9. Mary Blake

     /  February 11, 2012

    Me again. I was showing Preston the pictures on this blog and we were commenting on the room for rent sign. As the next picture popped up he said “and there it is”. I just wanted to share the laugh.

  10. Penny

     /  February 11, 2012

    Oh Ellen, I am so jealous. What fun you are having and I love your blogs. I too can’t wait to see the next one. Tracy and Kala were here for dinner last night and bit remarked what a great writer you are. I had shared your earlier blog with them. Can’t way for the next one!

  11. Sandra Timko

     /  February 11, 2012

    I have read this twice. What grand and exhausting adventures. I will go into withdrawl when you don’t have internet access. Lots of love. Love the pictures.


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