19th of January:

Hotel construction site built up over night.  Sawing, hammering and workers  chatting distracting me from any peace and quiet.  Seemed like a good time to venture out and find somewhere to live long-term.  Money’s an issue.  When I was researching accommodation I’d basically conceded defeat and was expecting to pay a fair old chunk out of my budget for it.

Narok, rather generously offered his scooter-driving services, so I clambered onto the back, clung onto him for dear life and we headed straight to Nyuhkuning, just South of Ubud centre, and where my daily Mysore Yoga will be taking place.  Turns out, finding somewhere wasn’t so hard at all.  After a couple of viewings, a bit of negotiating, I’ve found a massive room on the Mawa compound.  A homestay run by a wood-carver, and his wood-carving family.  It’s pretty basic, with no ac, pool, kitchenette or any other amenity I’d kind of hoped for in a best case scenario, but for £9 a day, I’m not complaining.  With a 5 minute walk to the yoga studio, and a ten minute walk through the monkey forest into Ubud centre, I’ll be perfectly happy, and with the spare cash I can factor in a few extra luxuries, like a day at the spa, or a more upscale guesthouse, with pool, at the end of my stay.

I popped in to see the yoga studio and was able to finally meet Radha and Prem.  Standing next to them, I realised how fleshy and white I am.  Have a long way to go before I look like a yogi.  We decided to bring my yoga forward which means I can start this Sunday.  I think I’ve been putting the yoga off for some reason.  I seem to always find an excuse as to why I can’t do it.  Blocked nose, bad toe, bit of a headache, always thinking that once I feel better I can really go for it.  What I forget is that it’s Yoga that makes me feel better.  Why am I so intimidated by it?  About 6 months ago I was stronger and more flexible than I’ve ever been.  Right now, I’ve kind of let myself go, and feel embarrassed about it.  Wanting to start from a position of strength, not with beginner’s weakness.  But you have to start somewhere, and what better way to build myself back up again?  Under the highly respected guidance of two ashtanga gurus.  Yoga’s also about non-judgement, acceptance of everything as it is.  So I’m putting any self-conscious doubts to one side and preparing myself for a lot of shaking and aching.

Having sorted house stuff out in a much shorter time than expected, Narok took me out to Banjar, to see the Kokokan birds.  It didn’t take long to shed the stream of traffic, as we climbed up past a patch-work of rice fields and fishing ponds.  How far away England felt suddenly.  I couldn’t stop smiling, eased my grip on Narok and sat back and just enjoyed taking everything in.

Once we reached Banjar, Narok stopped the bike and waited patiently as I wandered up and down the village taking pictures of herons – there were literally thousands of them, and avoiding the more disgruntled of stray dogs – also thousands of them.  I was smiling away at the locals, saying hello, and entertained an old man, when a heron shat on my head.  Through the fine art of we-can’t-understand-each-other sign -language, I ascertained that it had in fact splattered all over my hair, and it was only when he pointed to the tip of my nose, that I realised he was taking the piss.

By the time I got back to the hotel, I wasn’t so fussed about all the construction work, and by the morning, I decided it was time to try one of the spas.

20th January:

I’d never been to a spa before.  The closest I’ve been to one, was the painful, yet necessary, sports massages I had for my running injury, with the lovely Massage Man.  I’ve been thinking of him these past couple of days for some reason.  He was one of my inspirations, along with Sasha, my yoga teacher.  They both decided one day to change their lives , pack in their 9-5 jobs and pursue more holistic career paths.  It was hearing their stories that first planted the idea in my head – that 9-5 isn’t the only way to live.  I’m not sure what will come from this adventure, but it’s burning away at the back of my mind – the hope that I can discover my own path into a less conventional way of life.

So, back to the spa.  I opted for a two and half hour massage and body scrub.  Standing in a pebbled room, Enya in the background, and wearing nothing more than a pair of ballooning, disposable pants,  I wasn’t entirely convinced that it was for me.  But, for a mere £15 I thought it was worth a shot.  Man alive – my back’s tight!  I was spasming all over the place, and at one point she actually mounted the table to release a knot the size of a fist in my right shoulder.  It wasn’t nearly as painful as the sports massage, but perhaps slightly more intimate.  I think if Masssage Man had massaged my breasts like she did we’d be married by now…

Once the initial discomfort had been worked through, I found myself lolling into a state of absolute serenity.  I jumped with a start when she whispered into my ear that it was time for the body scrub.  Felt a bit like sandpaper rubbing my skin off, but after being hosed down, lathered in yoghurt, hosed down again and eased into a warm, flower-filled bath I was already making plans for my next visit.  A few more weeks of this, and I’m going to be as zen as a mountain monk.

Now it’s early evening, and the sky is heavy with its daily burst of tropical rain.  I’m still jet-lagged, so going to find a place to eat, and go to bed early with a book.  Tomorrow I move, and on Sunday morning, 7.45 am, my life as a yogi finally begins.