The bamboo floors, doors, walls and ceiling were loud. They don’t keep noise out very well and they creak when you walk worse the old boards in the farmhouse I used to live in. Every morning I tip toed down the noisy stairs, the creaky steps seem to be stretching awake with my joints in the morning light.
The Balinese girls opening the café got used to seeing someone else so early in the mornings, and poured me a cup of strong, dark Balinese coffee. In Bali, they simply grind the coffee to a fine powder and pour the hot water over it in the mug: similar to cowboy coffee. Some of the grinds float up and stick to the edge of the mug, so I used my finger to wipe the rim clean and take a sip.
We spent quite a few days in the beach town of Kuta before coming to the Serenity Eco Guestlodge in Canggu: a small bamboo hostel with a health food café and yoga on the beach. In Kuta we stayed in a quiet hostel tucked into the middle of the big city, with a little garden in front of our room. I marveled at how quiet our hostel was in the middle of Kuta, the party town of Bali.
In Kuta we had a few reasons to stay as long as we did. The hostel was quiet and cheap (around $3 each per night), the vegan food was plentiful, cheap and delicious, and the surf was within walking distance. As I spent a few days adjusting to the time difference and learning to surf, we took advantage of the money saving town.
The first day I got there my body clock immediately adjusted right into Bali time. The next morning we woke up early and Andrew led us in a yoga practice on the front porch. We walked through quiet streets as street vendors opened their booths slowly, stretching and yawning and guzzling coffee. The beach was a five-minute walk down an alley and across the main road.
The surf was good, Andrew decided. I rented a board and got my first lesson. Andrew explained how to catch waves, what to look for, and, most important, what to do when I got pummeled. I paddled out on top of my board after Andrew, like a baby duck, and sat in the calm water waiting for waves. They started coming and grew and before I knew it I was getting thrashed in the surf.
At first, it felt terrifying. In whitewater, being out of control in water, especially big waves that take your entire body and spin it under water, is never a good thing. My instincts are to maintain control, to stay in or on top of my craft, and to avoid the pummeling.
But after popping back up after each wave and finding my board bobbing beside me, I realized they were pretty harmless. I wasn’t even touching the bottom of the ocean. In fact, I was getting spun upside down under the wave, which was a new experience. Knowing I’d just float back up after each wave helped me relax and begin to enjoy the crazy surf that kept coming. I only caught a few rides, and never stood up on the board the first day. But I loved the craziness of the waves, and the addictive glide of catching one.
I was hooked.
After two hours, the waves got too big, even for Andrew. We called it a morning and took off in search of lunch. On our little scooter we weaved in between traffic on the main roads. Scooters whipped by us everywhere: in between cars, over sidewalks, gunning down the opposite lane trying to get ahead before another car came at them. Finally we were out of the big city and on smaller country roads. Andrew turned onto a road through a small hole in a concrete wall and we were suddenly on an elevated brick road driving through the middle of rice fields.
Balinese were hunched over in the hot sun, crouching in the mud working. We bounced along the road and then stopped in front of a little villa called Serenity. We had driven to the nearby beach town of Cenggu. The surf here was also suitable for beginners. After a quick lunch, we scheduled massages and then walked to the beach. Afternoon surfing was followed by a massage, then dinner and a drive back to Kuta.
Except for the day where my belly reacted to the recent change in diet, atmosphere, living situation, salt water, sun, and routine, our days began to unfold mostly the same. Morning yoga, followed by surfing at Kuta, a quick drive to Cenggu when the Kuta waves were out for better surfing, then dinner at the vegan café and back to Kuta.
Well, most days ran smoothly like that. One day we started out on the scooter like normal, bouncing down the weathered streets that barely saw upkeep, when the usual bouncing turned into a more rhythmic lumping. Andrew pulled over and I hopped off the back discover a flat tire! Stuck on the sidewalk on a busy street downtown Kuta, I looked around trying to find something resembling an auto shop.
In Bali, you buy gas in old vodka bottles and there aren’t places like auto shops. Instead, we started asking around and found a skinny little man in an alley with a clamp and some glue. He didn’t look to be bigger than a ten year old, but lit up a cigarette in his weathered lips as he pushed our scooter up on the stand and started pulling the tube out of the tire to patch it. Twenty minutes later, we were on the way.
And two blocks later, after a delicious raw vegan lunch, the rhythmic thumping started back up. This time we pulled over right in front of another back-alley tire shop. We explained our predicament to the young man using a combination of words and body motions (mostly I came up with an interpretive dance), and before he even took the tire off, another guy had tossed him a new tube.
Twenty more minutes, and $4 later, we were once again on the way. This time we made it all the way to Cenggu and home just fine.
After a few days, we realized we were spending most of our time at Serenity in Cenguu, so made the move for a few days. After our cheaper room in Kuta, a warm, dark room with a large, smelly bathroom, our room at Serenity felt like a five star resort. Made entirely of bamboo, the building we were in was situated above the main complex. We had views of the ocean and nearby houses with gardens. We had a beautiful bathroom with hot water, and a private porch off the back of the room.
The café at Serenity served food focused on the alkalizing principles. Always interested in different ways of eating, I immersed myself in the books in the common area: a bamboo room appropriately called “cozy room”, full of giant floor pillows and mattresses covered in red satin. Low tables were scattered around for afternoon treats of homemade banana sorbet and tea.
The meals were simple but delicious: guacamole with fresh vegetables and homemade bread, rice stir-fry with tofu and tempeh and vegetables from the garden behind the villa, banana pancakes with fresh papaya juice. We enjoyed massages and beautiful surf sessions.
The waves were beautiful in the afternoon and perfect for beginners. Out on the board as the sun slowly began to fall in to the ocean behind me, I watched the afternoon rays light up the temples on the beach. Behind the temples were miles of mountains. The warm salt water lapped around me as I sat on my board and thought about how incredible the island is.
By the second day at Cenggu, I was standing on my board. If I had thought I was hooked before, standing as the waves sped my board along was an incredible feeling. The morning yoga was strengthening my core and mental strength. I would pop up as my board caught a wave, and in my mind I would find an overwhelming peace, a calmness in the middle of the wild ocean.
After three nights in this magical place, it was time to move on to the small, rural island of Lembongan.