17th January – The Departure:

Surprisingly calm and serene, travelling to the airport, checking in, going through security and wandering aimlessly around the duty free.  I had a couple of hours to kill and just kept walking, up and down the terminal, getting into my travelling zone.  Stress-free, what will be will be, and never ever look at the clock.  Factoring transit times I had nearly 27 hours of travel ahead of me.

Thank God, for the beautiful man presented before me for the first leg of the journey.  To Doha, we go…He must have been a rock star.  Rugged hair, ice-blue eyes, Maori style tattoos etched elegantly up his arm.  I tried not to be too obvious at first – glanced over discreetly with an accusational, “you think you’re hot don’t you?” stare.  Five hours later, when he brushed up against my arm stretching his legs, I’d dropped the facade completely and nearly fell out of my chair as I leaned across to watch him.  I figured when you come across someone who’s that far out of your league, there’s no point worrying about making a complete dick out of yourself.

The flight itself wasn’t so bad.  Regular supply of food, abundant choice of films and sitcoms to chuckle away to, even had the occasional nap.  My problem is staying hydrated.  Getting the balance right is almost as treacherous as fluid intake for the marathon.  Too little, and they’ll have to scrape your bedraggled body from the floor and chuck you away with the used socks and blankets, too much and you’re crying as the seat belt sign flashes on and you know you won’t be able to go again until you’re through to the next transit.  Pelvic floor muscles have had a decent work out mind…

18th January  – Purgatory:

By the time we got to Singapore, we were half-way through day two of travel, and I could see the homestretch but excitement and anticipation was giving way to impatience and irritability.  It’s just so exhausting, suspending yourself into purgatory, half a mind mulling over what you’ve left behind, the other half not quite ready to enjoy what lay ahead.  And the smell.  There’s nothing quite like the musty, been stuck in a tin-cupboard for 24 hours, smell is there?  I was daydreaming about diving into a pool, pouring ice-cold handmade lemonade down my throat, scrubbing myself clean under the powerful blast of a steaming shower, when I felt that familiar dip of descent.  I shuffled over to the window seat (there were only a few of us remaining post-third transit) and pressed my face against the window.  I was right above the wing, so couldn’t see more than the condensed grey clouds, and red sun, but as the plane tipped again and we spiralled  our way down from 39,000 to 11, 000 feet, a great mountainous volcano came into view.  It was blanketed by the cloud, and looked like it was of a different time, a different place.  Soon I could see the islands beneath me and my pressure headache and tiredness fell away.  It looked like something out of Jurassic Park.  The dimmed lighting, the heavy air, that intense green.  I was looking down on a place that I will be calling home for the next 7 weeks.

By the time I got through visa checks and customs, Narok, my Balinese contact, was waiting for me.  He took my over-sized backpack from me, without so much as a flinch and heaved it onto his shoulder.  It was such a relief to have somebody there, and know that the rest of my journey – to Ubud was in the hands of a trust-worthy other.  My energy levels were replenished, as we talked about snakes and spiders, families and travel.  I thought that I’d feel completely disoriented, but the humidity, sweat and chaotic streets remind me of my childhood, and there wasn’t enough light to really see the distinctive stone-carvings and daily offerings.

I’m staying in a hotel for 3 nights.  Slightly over my budget, but it was a good call.  It’s a quaint, open-plan place, just on the outskirts of the town centre.  My room is clean and secure, and I have a four-poster bed with mosquito nets draping elegantly down each side.  It was late by the time I got here, so I squatted in the bathtub, under the hand-held shower and patiently waited for the cold drizzle of water to rinse through my hair and wash away the jet-lag.   I unpacked a few of my things, and nestled into bed with the lovely Brian
and a contented smile.

19th January – Morning

And now its morning.  8 am Bali time, midnight GMT.  I feel rested, relaxed and like a proper grown-up!   Cup of coffee, out on the patio, and this is the view:

My plans today are a healthy breakfast, quick email to family to say I’m ok, and then a leisurely stroll down Monkey Forest road.  I want to find the Yoga Barn, and see about their class schedule, and then eat some lunch, read a book, and get back in time for 3.  When Narok is going to pick me up on the motorbike, and we’re going to investigate and negotiate for a more affordable, long-term homestay.

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