The Magic Healing of Balian

I’ve fallen into the trap recently of becoming complacement.  Lazy.  I came away wanting to get my writing done, study, enjoy the things I was doing at home and online; but to do it in a much warmer setting, whilst experiencing a different culture. 

That was happening, and I was moving around at the same time, exploring, fulfilling my life in different ways with new places, new experiences and excitement.

In the last few weeks I have rented a small room for myself and my boyfriend, who is arriving this week.  However in the run up to his arrival, because neither of us were entirely sure when it would be, I have spent my time preparing for him; nesting if you will.  However, due to work commitments, his arrival date had to be pushed back, and I didn’t realise it until these past few days, but I’ve managed to put my entire life on hold for this.  I’ve not been doing any of the things I love, instead have just been going to the gym, and working on my tan, thinking of nothing more than how big my bum looks, and filling my brain with self indudlgent and trivial thoughts, rather than doing the things I set out to do.

To add to this, I ended up doing something last week to a friend I have made here, that really, really hurt her.  It was a completely drunken and foolish thing to have done, and I can make every excuse in the world, but essentially I hurt someones feelings, someone who I care about, and as a result of this, have spent the past week being rather critical of myself, and evaluating the kind of character that I am, if I could have done something so clearly hurtful to another human being.

  

❤️

 
So as you can see, even though I am in paradise, I’ve slipped from my healthy place of self love and self worth,which I was discovering, back to not really knowing who I am.

A few photos from my favourite place in Canggu; Echo Beach

     
   

Thankfully, I feel that I realised this pretty quickly.  
So having woken up yesterday morning, after an evening of drinking with friends from home, and a dark cloud of hangover and guilt looming over me, I packed some clothes in a bag, rolled up my yoga mat and caught a ride, North up the coast, to a small village called Balian.

I’ve been here now for less than 24 hours, but having got my head down last night, woken up early this morning, and completed a yoga session for the first time in ages, I already feel better.

I felt a sense of guilt; for feeling disappointed in myself; when I’m in the most beautiful place on earth, and I’m not sat behind a computer in an office in Highbury & Islington, working in a crap job for the council like I was before.  I should be just embracing it, and being happy.  But instead, I’d become lazy, waking up every day to lounge by the pool before going to my gym session down the road.

My brain works 1million miles an hour, and I know this.  I need to have more mental stimulation to challenge myself each day.  Yes, I’d be meeting people all the time, making friends, going for dinner, having drinks, but I still wasn’t filling my mind with substance.

 

Deni, lovliest guy and best waiter in Bali

   

Monggos; my local bar /restaurant / sofa spot

 

Wednesday night drinks at Old Mans

Complaining about working out, post training at Bali Fit

Teaching the most loveable, oversized pup in Bali, how to swim

 

Looked after a puppy for the day as a trial. It was great til she peed in my bed. Now revaluating want of children or puppies in life

 
I woke up this morning in Balian, and as I say, went to practice yoga.  I then came back to my hotel for a breakfast of watermelon and pineapple with yogurt, and some gritty Bali Coffee.  I then slipped into my bikini, grabbed my novel, and walked down to the beach.  Here, in between reading chapters, I’d look up at the surfers taking it in turns to catch a wave, or the men out on the fishing boats, not too far from the shore.

 

Last night’s sunset at Balian

 
I looked to my right, and saw the ocean crashing against the rocks that were jutting out into the water, and the little bungalows situated on top.  To my left there was an expanse of more beach, with palm trees lining the way.

  
   

After overheating on the black sand, I gathered my things to return to my hotel, a short 3 minute walk up the cliff.  I came to the (infinity) pool, even though where I’m staying is certainly budget accommodation, and took a swim, before stopping to look over the edge, at the waves rolling in from the Indian Ocean.

  

“Budget” Accommodation


 I’ve since been sitting in the sun, taking positive actions to get myself back on track with where I need to be.  I’ve done some writing, and looked into more online work, as well as chasing up some other things that have been sat at the back of my mind, niggling at me.

I’m glad I took the escape to Balian.  Yes, I was living my own paradise in Canggu, but even the most perfect of places have their way of grating on you.

For me, I needed the change of scenery, just so I could hit the refresh button, and remember why I was here.

If you’re reading this and you feel like you need somewhere with no distractions, and somewhere that literally will give you a reminder of the true Bali, and not the tourist version, I can whole heartedly recommend Balian.  I’ve achieved more of my “to do list” here in one morning, than I have done in one week in Canggu. 
 After spending a couple more days here, I’m going to head back to the relative hustle and bustle of the hipster town, and keep my newly rediscovered work ethic intact, finish my online studies, whilst getting some writing jobs under my belt.  And then finally get to see my beautiful boyfriend.  Perfect.

  

 

How not to make life hard for yourself; renting in Bali

After having spent yet another week living out of my backpack in a hostel (the very lovely, but very cosey single room I rented in Serenity Eco Guesthouse, Canggu) I suddenly had the realisation that I should be thinking of getting settled.

In my mind, I was waiting for my boyfriend to fly out and join me until I rented somewhere more stable.  Perhaps because I wanted to make sure we found somewhere we liked together, but in actual fact it was more likely that I was hoping then he could do the searching so I wouldn’t have to.

However, with his arrival impending, and a gental nudge and suggestion from him to find somewhere, I agreed.  Having trapsed through the Internet half heartedly, looking for somewhere to stay on all the usual site (AirBnB, Booking.com), over the last couple of months, I was so sure that nothing was within our budget.  Our budget being as cheap as possible, without living in a total dive; a dive so dismal that would inevitably make us want to kill one other.  Not asking for much then.

So having exhausted the Internet, I was slowly giving up hope.  It was only when I took a trip to the beach in Nusa Dua with another girl I’ve met here, I was advised to just keep my eyes peeled, and that I could find really good deals just by walking down the street.

The boyfriend and I had already agreed upon the village of Canggu, on the west coast of Bali.  Here, he can surf daily, and for me, there’s loads of places to keep practicing my yoga.  Its somewhere that has enough social life to be fun, but not too busy like Seminyak or indeed the living hell that is Kuta.  It has a good mix of all the positive aspects of Bali, my only worry being the amount of showy “hipster” types, but again, maybe the more yoga I practice, the more zen I’ll get about this kind of thing (!)

So I took to the Internet once more, sitting in a bakery in Seminyak last week, ferociously Googling every phrase I could think of for finding property to rent in Canggu.  There are many real estate sites out there, however, unfortunately most are tailored towards those with a grander disposable income, and my searches kept coming up with entire villas to rent, with three bathrooms, a swimming pool, and a dreamy view of the rice fields.  That would be lovely, however, not realistic.  How could this be so hard?  All we wanted was a decent sized room with an ensuite; no kitchen or living room necessary.

I did find a couple of basic properties through random searches, however all were a good distance from the beach, and were nothing spectacular.  I arranged viewings of several properties for the next day, feeling a little disheartened, as I don’t ride a moped, and was hoping I could live somewhere I can access all necessities by foot.

That evening, I made my way back to Canggu, and asked the moped I had caught a lift with, to drop me off in the center of the village.  The main part of Canggu is pretty much three parallel roads running to the beach, which meet at the top near a few bars, restaurants and a smattering of shops.  I walked the length of one of these roads, right from the shops, all the way to the beach.  It’s funny how I hadn’t noticed before just how many signs there were saying “Rent a Room”.  I’d been in Canggu for almost a week, and hadn’t noticed a single one.  However, now that I was looking, the signs were everywhere.  I must have poked my head in ten different properties, all basic rooms with an ensuite.

 Edit   

These properties varied significantly.  I saw ones that had no windows, moth eaten beds; ones with puppies running around, (however, this unfortunately isn’t worth living somewhere with no access to clean water) ones where there was mould growing in the walls and ones where building and construction work were still ongoing, and would be for the next year, at least.

However all of these were relatively within budget, and it was looking like the best option would be sharing a twin room with fan, and using an outdoor cold shower.  Not awful, however, far from the image I’d dreamed up before, of living in papardise.

I was just about to call it a day on househunting, when I passed one last guesthouse.  It had big gates, an outdoor pool, and was walking distance to the beach and to the bars.  As I enquired further, I learned that it had hot and cold water, and air con.  All this for the same price as the other dingy rooms I’d been shown.  

I asked to be shown around, and it kept getting better.  The rooms were bright and airy, no small, cramped and depressing rooms.  There was furniture, a beautiful big white bed, the pool was small and clean, and it had 24 hour security.  The cleaning gets done and the bedding changed twice a week. And there are no bills – everything is included.

  

    

    

  

  
Across the street we have our local, Monggos, but I prefer to call it Bintang Toed Joes.  Down the street a little there is a gym called Bali Fit, which offers training programs which are pretty much Cross Fit – exercise so difficult it makes you weep, but is incredibly good for you.

     
The room is being let for £268 per month, a price I couldn’t afford on my own, but thankfully with Sam coming, it is possible.  For the solo traveler with a tighter budget, I saw plenty of rooms that were half this price and a little less luxurious, however still perfect for one person.  

I’m glad I shopped around and compared properties, as I almost went for a room at half the cost that wasn’t even in Canggu; instead it was in some sort on no mans land between here and the next village on.
From walking around all day I managed to find something that is perfect for us.  Sam can wake up with the sunrise and walk with his board to the beach for his mornin surf.  I can attend Bali Fit for their 7.30am class of the, beating my ass into shape.  

We can later grab breakfast together in the cafe at the gym, where they offer gorgeously healthy food, smash avacado and eggs on toast, or natural protein smoothies served in coconuts filled with goodies such as acai berries and flax seeds.  

  

 

After letting it digest he can go off for another surf and I can join the yin yoga class then maybe do some writing in the sun.

In the evenings,there are the most beautiful sunsets to be seen, a few hundreds metres from the front door.  The surfers can be watched, catching the last waves of the day, as the sun sets behind them.  Looking to the left, you can see the planes coming in to land in the distance at Denpasar airport, the lights on their wings cutting through the clouds seemlessly, before touching down.

There are an array of restaurants, otherwise know as warungs, that can be eaten at, all servings a mix of Western and Indonesian food.  Many of these warungs are health orientated, as Canggu is just one of those kinds of places, and you can eat beautifully fresh fish for great prices.  

Another option is the beach at a bar called Old Mans, where street vendors gather to sell food for next to nothing; grabbing one of these whilst watching the sunset over the sea is another great way to finish the day, on the cheap.

It just goes to show, the Internet isn’t always the answer, and sometimes all it takes to find your own personal paradise, is a bit of legwork and a lack of laziness.

And with that, I’m off to “Warrior Training” before meeting friends at Old Mans for a game of Beer Pong.  Ciao.
 Edit   

My boobs got groped, and it’s not even the boys that did it who I’m most mad at.

Boobs.   Breasts.   Chesticles.   Norks.   John and Paul.  Whatever you want to call them; they’re everywhere you look, and God love ’em, they’re great.

They’re all a bit of fun; they’re soft to play with, they’re portable comforters, and fortunately, I have learnt to love mine (after spending years comparing them to traffic cones and mouses noses throughout puberty) I now feel proud to wear them on my chest, as two protruding examples of my femininity and curves.

Pride.  That’s exactly what I feel.  If I so wish, I can wear a bikini, or a low cut top, and let them be.  Yes they’re ample, but I’m by no means a page three cleavage – wielding babe.  So me and “my girls” get on with our daily lives without thinking much of it, dressing them how I wish and never really getting any unwanted attention.

Last night I went for a drink with a beautiful girl I had met here in Bali.  We were talking over some wine about our experiences here in paradise, and I was picking her brains, as she has 5 years of Indonesia under her belt already.  I was exclaiming at how remarkably safe I felt here as a solo woman, especially coming from traveling Central America, where I felt quite the opposite.  She was agreeing, and saying that generally speaking, this is a very safe place to be.  So I was quite shocked when she told me that she was once victim of a drive-by groping, on one of the busiest roads in Seminyak, in the middle of the day.

She told me she was sat on her moped in traffic, and a man drove past her, reached out and grabbed her breast hard and purposefully.  Not that it should make a difference, however she made a point in telling me she was wearing a big jacket and not showing much skin (however even if she was in a bikini, this behavior is obviously wildly inappropriate and sickening).

I was shocked, as my experiences so far here had been so pleasant.  I in no way felt threatened by sexual harassment; if anything quite the opposite.  So today, when I had a rather similar experience regarding my very own Danny DeVitos, naturally, I grew even more disgusted.

I moved into my new apartment in Canggu, right by the beach and in the center of everything earlier this afternoon.  I’d just finished unpacking and wanted to take a walk around the block, picking up new household necessities such as soap and what-not, before coming back home to nest some more.

It was late afternoon, and as I passed Deus Ex Machina, one of my many new local bars, seeing happy, smiley people walking in for their Sunday night sessions, a big smile spread across my own face, as I appreciated what a lovely part of the world was currently my home.

And as if my internal monologue were being read out in a narrative from a movie, this was about to quickly change.  I saw about four mopeds quickly zip around the corner, approaching me, filled with a mix of local teenage boys and girls, presumably on their way back from the beach.

They were laughing and shouting amongst each other loudly, when the bike spearheading the group, suddenly clocked me, and started steering to the other side of the road, the side on which I was walking.

It all happened so quickly, and in a moment of panic as they started getting closer and leaning in, I could only presume they were after my handbag, which was strapped across my body.  With that thought I took both my hands and grabbed my bag, anticipating it being ripped from my body any second now.  However, instead of feeling the strong jerk of someone pulling at my bag, what I felt instead, was much more upsetting, and much more invasive.  I felt the hands of two teenage boys lean in and squeeze my breasts really hard and forcefully, whilst laughing, literally right into my face, before speeding up again and driving on.  Not only is this act itself absolutely hideous from a sexual point of view, but on top of that, it really, really, f*cking hurt.  My breasts were grabbed in such a rough and aggressive manor, from two boys on a moving bike; it’s hardly going to tickle.

To make matters worse, shrieks of laughter instantly ensued.  Stunned, I looked behind me, as the four mopeds of teenagers were looking at me, hysterically laughing as though they’d just spent an evening at an Eddie Murphy show.  All mopeds were carrying young girls on the backs, who then proceeded to make the classic “wanker” hand signal at me, inbetween a few middle fingers, which I happily reciprocated whilst my face was, hopefully, portraying the vile sickening feeling I was currently experiencing.

That’s the worst part about all of this.  Yes, those boys are loathsome and gross for their actions, and they should be ashamed, and I only wished I had a moped myself at that point on which to follow them and really make a point about how they would feel if someone did that to their mothers or their sisters.  But the thing that really, truly left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a heavy heart, was the fact that these girls were so involved, and so entertained by the sexual harassment of another female.

I just wanted to scream at them everything that the Spice Girls ever taught me in my youth about Girl Power, and on a more serious note, that making fun of, and degrading another woman, only allows men and boys to think it’s even more ok to act in such a lewd way.  These silly little girls actually made my eyes water with sheer frustration at their stupidity.  Everything their sisters from around the world have fought for, and indeed still are, becomes more jovial and trivialised by their behavior of such ignorance and idiocy.

Frustratingly, as they were on mopeds, none of my feelings will ever be known by them, so obviously the only way to vent is to take to my computer and to write down how I feel about what, for them, was such a little joke and a mindless act, but for me, put a total dampener on what was a really beautiful day.

Of course, my immediate feelings towards them were of violence and rage, however I can only hope instead, that the next unfortunate woman they do this to, has the means to turn around and really explain to them why this isn’t funny.  Why it’s not laughable to make a woman feel self conscious walking down the street, having taken an innocent walk to the shop, or in any other situation for that matter.

Yes, I am the first to exclaim my love for boobies.  I think they are great fun, and should be embraced, loved and appreciated, in whatever shape and size they come in.  But that joyous feeling I have about boobs, takes a somewhat dark turn when it comes to sexual harassment.  And it sickens me even more to think the next generation of girls are being taken on drive-by gropings by their pubescent boyfriends as some kind of a sick sport.    I can only hope that these boys and girls do some growing up, and fast.

Eat, Pray, Love and some Colonic Irritation

Back in Costa Rica, once having booked my flights to Bali, I started browsing the pages of bookyogaretreats.com to find, well, just that. A yoga retreat.  Many options came up, however many were for the traveler with a far larger disposable income.  And that’s ok, I mean if someone were to tell me they’d be going to a yoga retreat in Bali, I’d too think of big white beds, and fresh pressed juices, being waited on at every opportunity, whilst enjoying the whole experience with their beautiful other half, sharing a salad whilst laughing intensely.  These were the OTT stock photos coming up in my searches, with the prices to match.  

As I scrolled the pages I found an option that was totally within my budget, in fact the deal was wonderful; 7 nights, breakfast every day, two yoga classes a day and on top of that, one lymphatic and one deep tissue massage, all just outside of Ubud.  I seem to have misread the part about me staying in an ashram.

An ashram, by definition of Google, is “Traditionally a spiritual hermitage or a monastery of Hinduism”.  So as you can imagine, pretty intense to abide by and to stick to rules that are set down, rules which I wholeheartedly respect, however I just wish I’d maybe prepared myself a little better beforehand.  An example of this would have to be abusing the free whisky slightly on the flight over from the Americas.  I followed the instructions and got a taxi to a resort called “Om Ham”, which was across the street from where I’d be staying.

I was delighted with everything as I clambered wonkily out of the taxi, as my bag was taken by the beautifully dressed Balinese staff, and I was thinking of how much I’d lucked out.  Maybe I would be staying here at Om Ham Retreat.  No.  “Follow me Miss Kate”, and I was shown across the road, and through a beautiful gate, down big steep steps and into a jungle liked wonderland, with Balinese locals all dressed in white, chanting in conjunction with one another, as they slowly walked in line around the grounds and up into the gates of the temple.

   
 
I was shown up to my room, which was a dormitory consisting of three beds, female only, with a shower, toilet and sink attached.  There was only one other student staying at the ashram; a very intensely devout Christian – turned – Hindu, from France, who now splits her time between this ashram, and one in India.  I later learned that this French chick gets so into her chanting, she actually often passes out at the shrines.  Now, I can respect other faiths and religions, but that does seem a bit much.  Surely you don’t need to chant that hard and get so into it?  It struck me instantly that maybe we were very different people, and I already felt a little guilt that I knew I wouldn’t be taking this experience as seriously as her.

However, as it turns out her family were visiting from France, and so I ended up not having to worry about her catching me not going to prayer (puja) at 6am each day, as she spent most of that week with them.
Other than the awkwardness of realising that this was certainly no hotel I’d chosen for my retreat package, everything was perfect.  The dorm was not crusty and horrible like a hostel dorm, it was airy and spacious, with a balcony to sit at.  There was a yoga studio in the center of the grounds, made from natural materials, with a woven leaf roof.  There was the Holy spring from which you drank, and cleansed in before going to prayer.  You would then follow the path up to other shrines of different Gods, and bow and pray, before moving to another.  Once inside the temple you’d enter a cave, and follow the path round to again, visit the different Gods.  I wish I was able to take photos to really show how beautiful this all was, however with it being inside the temple it would have been rude for me to do so.

The best part of this, was seeing the beautiful Balinese people going to prayer, holding incense and offerings for their Gods, all wearing white sarongs, and the women with lace tops, and the men with cloths wrapped round their heads, known as Udengs.

They would do this at night, when the sun had gone now and it wasn’t too hot, as they’d chant the mantra; “Om Namah Shivaya”.  It was beautiful, however also slightly reminiscent of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, with the way they all moved together to their shrines in a trance.  Luckily these guys were way nicer than Mola Ram and his Thuggee cult, and no one had their heart removed, so all was pretty peaceful.

   
  
    

   

When I wasn’t observing others praying, (I felt this was a nice balance of not faking my religious beliefs but respecting theirs through observation) I’d be practicing yoga for four hours a day.
This type of yoga was unlike anything I’d ever practiced before.  I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of yoga taught by white chicks with great, toned, bottoms, however this was more of a spiritual type of yoga.  We’d start and finish with chants and mantras, but other than that, it was very intense.  
All classes were taught either by the Guru himself, a crazy but loveable bearded character who reminded me of Yoda, or by a number of his students; all of whom were slight Indonesian boys who had the frames of young teenagers, however were immensely strong and fit.

  

  

   
The classes I attended lasted for 1.5 – 2 hours, and were twice a day.  My first experience of such a class; I thought I was going to die.  They are so intense and you push your bodies for such a long amount of time, however it’s great at the end when you can feel it.  For the first time in years I can actually touch my toes. What a depressing achievement.

  
   

  

  
Ubud itself is a really cool little town.  It’s totally taken over by the obsession with yoga, I feel that was massively to do with the Julia Roberts movie, Eat Pray Love, being filmed here.  I’d looked online and had seen there was a place called the Yoga Barn, and decided to pop down and check it out, as it promised to be every yogi’s dream; a yoga studio set up with treatments, a shop, a juice bar, and raw vegan restaurant.  I arrived there and was instantly struck with fear and the sheer size and scale of the place.  There were all these vegan-looking models wearing designer yoga brands, sipping on wheatgrass smoothies, whilst standing on one leg.  Almost.

I quickly made the decision that this was far too much of a pretentious place for me to practice yoga at, and for some reason, I did the most pretentious and middle class thing I’ve ever done, and decided to book in there for a colonic irrigation.  Have water squirted up my bottom for a reason I’m not entirely sure of, except for it helps put a spring in your step?  Sure sounds great.

So I was guided away from the hoards of irritating, fake hippies, and taken to a little hut.  I was left on the porch of said hut, to fill out a questionnaire about my digestive health, whilst on a rocking chair, next to a big sign that read “Colonic Healing”.  Awkwardly I smiled as beautiful men that resembled Jesus, walked past me and smiled sympathetically, with their gorgeous, toned and skinny female companions, who looked like they’d just hopped out of a sportswear catalogue, as I sat there, hoping that no one read the sign, and certainly didn’t see that the questionnaire was asking me to draw pictures of my own stools.

   
   
The next hour consisted of the most awkward small talk of my life, as I laid on a table and spoke to a very nice American lady, around my age, whilst she held a tube in place, and massaged my stomach, as I whined in pain and discomfort.  I left that hut knowing that no amount of promise of “spring in my step” will ever make me put myself through that again, and I gladly left the Yoga Barn to return to the safety of Ashram Munivara.

I spent the next few days exploring Ubud, and its’ beautiful little shops and cafes, and visiting the rice terraces, which were just stunningly beautiful.

   

  

   

   
   

   
 On my last days I met up with two friends who I’d met whilst teaching in Thailand, who were holidaying in Bali.  It was so lovely, and was such a comfort to feel so relaxed and happy to see them, showing that travel really does allow you to have friends in the unlikeliest of places, wherever you may be.

  

I’ve since left Ubud to travel to the coastal town of Canggu.  I’ve checked into a place called Serenity Eco Guesthouse.  There’s several yoga classes a day, and the whole place is eco friendly, from the bricks of the building to the natural “soap nut” used to wash the floors.  And I’ve just written this whilst sat on a bamboo floor, enjoying a slice of raw vegan cheesecake and a spinach and cucumber juice.  Talk about pretentious. 

However, in all seriousness, this place lacks a pretentious vibe, and seems like a place that is genuinely just trying to make a positive difference with its footprint, without being too wanky. Perfect.

Leaving Nicaragua

So there I was, waking up inside the crater of a 23,000 + year old volcano.

  
  I’d arrived the previous day to beautiful sunshine, and a pristine, blue lagoon.  The night brought with it a Nicaraguan style thunder storm, and although that caused me to lay awake listening to the clangs and thunderbolts from the moody sky above for much of the night, it also brought with it that calming sense of safety; of me laying in a big double bed with white linen and four pillows all to myself, as I listened to it pour down violently outside my window, feeling thankful for staying in a hotel rather than a dark and damp hostel.  
The little things in life make themselves clear at times like this; such as meeting a fellow traveler whom I can share a room with; otherwise I’d certainly still be sleeping in a hostel.

We had chosen a guesthouse called “Casa Aromansse”.  We’d researched online whilst still in Ometepe, for somewhere that wouldn’t give us a party,instead, somewhere that would offer us a nice and relaxed atmosphere; somewhere preferably with yoga lessons that we could participate in each morning, before spending the remainder of the day relaxing and doing our individual writing, studying, reading or work.

  
Unfortunately when I awoke that first morning, I was to find that there weren’t to be any yoga lessons for the duration of my stay, due to the owner being ill (maybe that was my fault for not calling beforehand) but he welcomed me to practice yoga myself on their platform.  
The platform was elevated to look over the lagoon, surrounded by big white drapes and the sounds of the wildlife making odd and interesting noises from the surrounding trees and bushes.  I took myself down there embed with my iPad and a yoga YouTube channels and whacked out my best downward dogs and trigangle poses ’til I felt my butt cheeks no thigh were sufficiently stretched in all the right places.

 
  

  

   

  

  

  

     
After two nights here, it was time to leave; my flight out of Nicaragua was ever impending, and after being scared off cities by the monstoursly loud and fear-inducing Managua, I felt I owed it to the country to try one more city, so I took a taxi to the city of Granada.

Before parting ways, Sarah recommended to me I stay at a hostel called La Libertad, in a central location.  I’d been informed that grandad was a “Gringo Town”.  Make of that wan at you will.  I myself, took that as an indication it would be somewhere I’d be less sexually harassed, verbally, maybe because they’re used to seeing more of us Gringos around?  I’m not sure.  However as soon as I dropped my bag at the hostel, and walked into the streets, I was experiencing it all over again.

I’m not being big headed.  This isn’t me saying that I’m the female equivalent to a guy in a Lynx advert; where men see me and drop everything before running over to me to lick my face and tell me they love me.  
No, I’m pretty confident in saying that any woman walking down the road without having a man next to her is pretty much going to be subjected to this behavior.  It’s disgusting, and it’s degrading, not to mention exhausting.
Trying to feel comfortable running all over the city to see the sights, but questioning if you need to walk a different direction because you see a large group of men and don’t want to be harassed really means a lot of extra foot work.
If this behavior was to result in just one positive aspect, however, it would have to be the moment I got shouted at: “HEY MAMI”, and in that moment right there, I felt like Jennifer bloody Lopez.  Not aesthetically of course, however I was in Latin America, and the guy did roughly resemble Pit Bull, so I enjoyed my moment whilst it lasted.

Moving on, I spent two fabulous days in Granada, doing the whole tourist side of things that my mother would be proud of.  I paid real life money (58p) to climb Iglesias de La Merced, which is a lovely old shoddy  church which doesn’t have a lot to offer (in my humble opinion) however it does offer a beautiful view of the main attraction in Granada, Catedral de Granada, (the yellow one in the pictures online), and also the rest of the city, including Mombacho Volcano.

   
   
  

There’s a lot of churches in the city of Granada, however the main reason people visit would have to be the architecture.   It was founded by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, back in 1524.  Now to be honest, I just read that from the internet, however I think you’ll agree, that sounds pretty European, hence looking a lot like Spain.
  

      

 

   
On my last morning there, I decided to walk down the main street that runs behind the main yellow cathedral, Calle La Calzada, and ended up on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.  

  
Here, I was greeted by a nice man named Luis, on a moped, who kindly took me to the part of the bay, about 3km away, where boats were waiting to take tourists to the Islets of Granada; a group of 365 small islands where, from what I could gather, very, very rich people had houses. 

  

I was told to clamber upon a little fibreglass boat with about 4 local teenage girls, who took more selfies than me (if you know me then that in itself is ridiculous) and with them screaming out excitedly in Spanish, asking questions to the boat driver, I sat back, and looked around, only wondering what kind of people lived on these islands.

   
    
 
After a lot of pointing at beautiful homes on tiny islands, the screaming suddenly accelerated tenfold when we approached one island, with no building or infrastructure on it whatsoever. 
I suddenly hear screams in Spanish, and the only familiar words I can make out are “Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson” repeatedly.  Pretty sure this guys dead, I suddenly have irrational thoughts of the King of Pop having not died, and instead sacked off the fortune and fame, instead deciding to retire to a small bushy island scattered around the Asese peninsula.  
Alas, no. Instead crawled out a little monkey resembling MJ’s long suffering household pet, Bubbles, who I’m pretty confident in saying was never owned by Michael Jackson himself.

  
After suffering, much like Bubbles, for a little longer, the boat returned to shore, and I made the walk back to town.

Granada was nice, however I’m fairly certain in saying that Nicaraguas main attributes have to be its beautiful coast lines, and volcanic getaways.  
It’s a simply magnificent country, and I am SO glad I was fortunate enough to visit.  
I’ve met some hilarious and fabulous people, at the same time as meeting people who reminded me why I love traveling alone (God I sound like a miserable bitch), but I wouldn’t change any of my experiences.  I whole heartedly recommend this part of the world to everyone, as long as you’re aware that you’ve got to keep your wits about you.  
You can’t relax as much as you can in other destinations, the chances of getting mugged or assaulted are rather high.  I’d personally recommended girls to travel with friends or partner, unlike me, who as much as I’ve loved it, I’d have felt much safer with someone having my back.  
Saying that, I was fortunate enough to not encounter any real trouble, but did have to be careful with certain situations, which I’d have much preferred to not have.  I felt it was a place that pushed and tried my morals and views as an alone, independent woman, and indeed feminist.  
Things that were said, and ways in which I was sometimes treated, made me want to lose it; rant about how unacceptable and disgusting it is to be treated in such a way, or to be made to feel a certain way, however instead I’d find myself having to bite my tongue and breathe calmly, acknowledging that me sticking up for myself was going to land me in a lot more shite.  Example; some man gropes my bottom in London, he’s going to get shouted at and dressed down in public, however Nicaragua when I’m alone?  Absolutely not.  Instead my head drops down, and I shuffle away from the situation, embarrassed and angry, and that’s what I hated more than anything.

Saying that, I do hope to return one day.
  I’ve certainly ended this leg of my trip in a far better way than when I started it.  I’ve practiced yoga nearly every day, I’ve drank barely any alcohol, and I’ve appreciated my luck and self worth in a way that I certainly wasn’t before leaving the UK.

I now sit here in Houston Airport awaiting my flight to Denpasar, Bali, where I’m due to embark upon a yoga retreat.  I’m sure this whole healthy living thing will loosen up a bit soon, having been to Bali in March this year, I know what kind of debauhery it can bring out in a person.   However, saying that, I will endeavour to keep it up as much as I can. My bottom’s a little less wobbly, and I must say, I’m starting to like what I see. 
  
  
 

In and around a load of Volcanoes

As the name of my blog would suggest, I literally just do not know how to sit still and relax.  Every time I rest my backpack down and my feet up, I’m thinking about whether or not I’ve made the right decision; whether or not I should be exploring a different place; whether or not the place I am currently at is going to offer me what I’m trying to gain from being away in which ever corner of the world I find myself.

This time was no different.  I arrived in Popoyo, and thought “shit”.  Not because it lacked beauty, but because I guess if I’m being completely honest, there was nothing there.  Nothing to distract my overcreative and overreactive brain from itself.  I realised that it was going to be me, my brain, and not much else for the duration of my stay.  Yes, I’ve been traveling alone since day one, however there’s always been people there to me, to talk with and to keep myself busy.  Now I was in a place where it was just my thoughts and I.

So instantly the negative thoughts began, and I was already planning to go somewhere else.  I thought Gigante was quiet, but Popoyo was another level.  It’s worth pointing out that it is currently low season at the moment in Nicaragua, and that other times it may well be busier, however for now it was just myself and another couple, who seemed to want to keep themselves to themselves, staying at the basic but pleasant, Sunset Villas.
I went to my dorm, where I was the only one, and took a nap, before waking up to eat my freshly caught fish, and watch the most incredible sunset over a vastly empty and beautiful beach.  I took this in, and had a word with myself in that moment.  A word with myself about how it’s time to learn to switch off.  Time to learn to live in the moment.  Time to learn it’s ok just to not plan my next movements for the following 24 hours, and time to give that overactive, overthinking brain of mine a bit of a holiday.

  
Im so glad I made that decision, as I spent three nights being able to sort of touch base with myself again.  A huge reason for me getting away was to continue my studies online in aromatherapy, and during my trip to Popyo, I picked up my pen and papers for the first time since being away and did just that.  I’d take my breaks sunbathing, before coming back in to the sheltered area, sitting underneath structures, thatched with palm leaves, and read and write whilst listening to the waves crash down just meters from where I sat.

   
   
I’d wake up early before the sun was too strong, and managed to do a personal first; running on the beach.  Everytime I’d been walking on the beach, my feet would sink so far into the sand, it was a struggle in itself to get from A to B slowly, never mind running.  However, I’d seen a change in myself since being away, and having this as an incentive to spur me on further, I forced myself to get up and run.  And I tell you; it wasn’t even THAT bad.  I didn’t last for ages, but I got myself out of bed and did it, which was an achievement in itself.
On the Monday, I saw there was a yoga class along the beach, at a place called (appropriately enough) Popoyo Yoga.  I went along and attended the 09.30AM class, feeling much more comfortable in a Downward Dog, than the whole running thing.

It was myself and two other Western women in the class, one of which being the instructor.  I’ve practiced yoga all over the world, in all places and with all sorts of people.  The place where I’ve practiced most has been the UK, so I kind of felt that was the most likely place I’d encounter stereotypical white girl yogis.  No, no.  This tiny little beach of Popoyo, on a random stretch of coastline on the West side of Nicaragua was where I experienced my biggest and most cringe worthy white girl moment to date.
Eyes closed, beginning of yoga practice.  In a medatative position; hands rested on knees, palms facing upwards to receive.  It was Canadain Thanksgiving.  We were instructed, in soothing tones, to dedicate this practice to something we are thankful for.  To give praise and thanks to something that brings us joy and happiness.  I let my mind wander; thinking about the things I’m thankful for. To be lucky enough to be in Nicaragua? To have a boyfriend who I literally think is bloody beautiful? That I’m happy and healthy and blessed with a good life? As I drift off my attention comes back to the instructor’s soft and spiritual voice, and if I’m not mistaken, uttering the words “For me, I am thankful to Starbucks for their Chai Tea Latte.  And I look forward to having this again when I return to Canada”.  And in this very moment, right there, eyes closed, pretending to meditate, inhaling wafts of sea breeze and incense, I acknowledge that it doesn’t matter if I’m practicing yoga in Nicaragua or Clapham High Street.  I’m embarrassingly white girl, and always will be.

   

   

After my time here, I felt that I’d relaxed my body and mind enough to be ready for the next stage of my journey, so I got a cheap taxi to take me from Popoyo to the port of San Jorge, where I caught a ferry to the island of Ometepe.

  

Ometepe is an island that is formed of two volcanoes; Conception (1,610 M) and Maderas (1,394 M), in Lake Nicaragua, and about a 1 hour ferry ride from San Jorge.  

  
The volcanoes, especially Conception, loom over the surrounding areas of Rivas and Tola, constantly surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke.  The volcanoes are still considered to be very active, and as recently as 2010 there was an extremely violent eruption, resulting in an order from the Nicaraguan Government to evacuate the island.  However, very few residents listened to this order, instead deciding to stay.  This may be due to the fact that the volcanic ash makes the soil of the island extremely fertile, and with a huge part of the islands economy being based in agriculture and livestock, you can see why people wanted to stay.

  

It is clear as soon as you step onto Ometepe that the rich soil is unlike most, purely based on the flora that’s flourishing from any direction you turn.  I can honestly say I’ve never seen such amazing colours; bright greens and intense blues, pinks and reds of the flowers.  Even if you’re not big on hiking volcanoes and long walks (which is what many visit the island for) just to come and observe your immediate surroundings is worth the rickety ferry ride and endless bugs and mosquitoes alone.

I stayed at a hostel recommended to me, called Little Morgan’s.  It was situated in the small town of Santa Cruz (a lot smaller than the Santa Cruz I’d previously visited in California) and down a steep driveway running through a couple of fields.  I checked in, took note of the fact that I was in the jungle, staying in a building made entirely of wood (which was an extremely impressive piece of architecture) and that in hot season (thank God it’s currently rainy season, even though it barely rains) you can easily see up to 50 tarantulas here a week.  I laid my head down, flicked two cockroaches from my pillow, and slept.

   
 
I got up at 6am the following to day to walk to a hostel up the side of the smaller volcano to participate in the 7AM yoga class.  By the time I reached the yoga platform, in the middle of the jungle, my thighs were on fire and my bum cheeks felt an intense sensation of sore, having not known such movement for a good  few years.  I did a yoga lesson, funnily enough, with the ex lover of Xian, from the Yogic Ashram I stayed in, and the farther of her two boys.  To cut things short, he was pretty much as out of his tree as the people at the Ashram who were making digeridoos out of bamboo.  He started telling me how my star sign aligned with his and I was the sun to his moon, meaning we were a match.  Sensing his tantric lines that he undoubtebly uses on all of the girls, and thinking I much prefer my nice fella who doesn’t choose to wear a scrunchy and feathers in his hair, I smiled and continued the yoga practice, thinking I’d choose to channel my yogic energy to a Starbucks latte rather than someone who feels that lines from Game of Thrones are going to wash as spiritual karmic rubbish.

  
I spent the next day taking in the scenery and really appreciating that this was probably one of the most beautiful places I had ever been in my life.

   
 
   
 
   
    
    
    
    
   

After another night in the beautiful hostel, myself and another girl I’d met, Sarah, caught the 11AM ferry back to San Jorge, where we shared a taxi to a place called Laguna Apoyo. 
 I knew I’d wanted to visit, having been sat down on the toilet somewhere having a wee, only to look up at the back of the bathroom door to see the words graffitied “Visit Laguna Apoyo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️”.  

“Well,” I’d thought to myself.  “Amongst all the declarations of love etched onto the door, and numbers to call for good times guaranteed, someone’s gone out of their way to leave a five star review.  I’d better check it out.”
So I now find myself sat in the sunshine writing this, having had a deep and peaceful nights sleep on the edge of yet another volcano (this time on the inside)  this one having had erupted around 23,000 years ago, forming a crator in which sits a lagoon, 200 metres deep, and surrounded by the tall green hills of the former volcano.  I thought I was purely a beach bum, however I’m getting increasingly sold on the idea of volcanoes.
   
 

Changing Plans | Changing Places; Nicaragua

The thing about travel that resonates with me and attracts me so much, has to be the ability to totally change plans.

  
At the time of writing my last blog, I would have told you that I’d still be living as part of that yogic community in the forests just outside of San Juan del Sur. And although I am geographically still pretty close to there, in every other sense of the word, I’m a million miles from it.

So I left San José, Costa Rica, that morning and boarded a Tica Bus bound for Managua, Nicaragua.

I excitedly checked my bag on to the bus, paid my exit fee of US$12, and grabbed myself a microwaved breakfast of eggs rice and beans (Gallo Pinto).

It was 7am and I’d secured myself a window seat for this 8hour journey. I had a plan. To get on that bus and to sleep. Sleep and read. I’m not traveling with much music at the moment due to a broken laptop and freeing space on my phone for more photos; which I’m quite happy to do as it means I am more aware of what is going on around me on all these long bus rides. I’m sure you can imagine my distinct frustration to board the bus, American Psycho in hand, to be greeted by two Ticos (a polite word for native Costa Ricans) who were watching loud music videos, and seemingly not very funny comedy shows on their phone, and continued to do this for two hours straight, whilst laughing hysterically out loud. Once they finally stopped this, the male of the pair decided to take the seat behind mine to stretch out for his sleep. That’s fine. Sure. But he wasn’t a small man, and managed to stuff his knees up against the back of my chair, kicking like a small child on an aeroplane, whilst sticking his feet through the centre of my chair, and the chair next to me. You won’t be surprised to hear I have since downloaded some more music on my phone.

At the border things got very confusing. The entire bus load were directed off the vehicle and into an office, where we had our passports stamped. “Great” I thought. That was quick. Back onto the bus we got. Then a man in uniform came and asked me for money into Nicaragua. An entry tax, which again is common, and not a problem. He also took my passport, which I was slightly uneasy about, however, I watched all the other passengers and I followed suit.

We then pulled into a big concrete coach park, with about 8 other coaches. Everyone got up to leave the bus and again, I followed. No one spoke any English and my Spanish is coming on very well, when asking for an apple and if anyone has seen my trousers, however, those sorts of phrases are somewhat redundant in such a situation.

  
Everyone dispersed and I left the bus to be greeted by an abundance of moustached, Hispanic men, waving currencies at me. Dollars, Colones, Cordobas. Luckily it wasn’t for the reasons you may think, and they were simply carrying out their own business as exchange bureaus. 

I looked to my right and my bag had somehow exited the bus and was left on the floor. I picked it up, confused and sweaty, and shouting “No Gracias” as nicely as I could to the army of people trying to sell me things and exchange my money. I entered a big official looking building, that unfortunately was as unofficial as the car park, with people running around and yelling things in Spanish.

I followed the crowd, where I had my luggage X-Ray’d, before returning to the bus where someone grabbed my bag, asking me, “Managua?” before throwing it back into the underbelly of the bus.    

The bus driver sat in his seat, reading the newspaper, feet up on the dashboard, blasting the air conditioning, whilst keeping us locked outside on the Tarmac for around 45 minutes. Luckily there was no shortage of vendors selling food, so after perusing all my options, I settled for my second Gallo Pinto of the day. This one was served with, what I thought was cheese, but turned out to be the most disgusting curd I’ve ever tried, so I fed it to a stray dog hanging out in the immigration bus park. As I did this I looked up to meet the gaze of an angry looking local, standing next to the old woman I’d bought this from. Suddenly, wracked with fear that I’d just gravely insulted his mother and would be punished, I slithered off into the crowds to locate the ice cream man.
Eventually, we were allowed back on the bus, and my passport was returned to me, with a big Nicaraguan stamp. I was in.
Finally I got to Managua, where unfortunately I had to visit in order to run an errand, and hit the hay almost instantaneously.

The next day I was up early and got myself to Huembe Bus Terminal, to catch a bus south, to Rivas.

Entering the bus terminal was like going back to India. It was crazy. People yelling things, pushing, shoving. My bag got taken by a helpful yet unsettling man and thrown under what is known as a chicken bus. I didn’t see any chickens, however I wouldn’t have been surprised.

  
I felt like I was a child in wartime Britain (although everyone speaking Spanish) and was being sent away because of the Blitz. People were hanging out windows, saying goodbye to loved ones and crying; I was hanging out a window trying to buy a packet of crisps due to getting rushed and pushed onto the bus before having had time to eat.

  
After many people getting on the bus trying to sell a range of goods from tacos to colouring-in crayons to seeds, we finally were on the move.
 On this journey I experienced the most insane thunderstorm of epic proportions.
I shan’t bore you with details, however, was thoroughly convinced of own impending death due to fork lightning crashing down from the skies at alarming rates, and the fact I was riding, what was essentially, a tin can for adults rather than tuna. 

  
Alas I made it to Rivas after a thoroughly eye opening journey, where a nice man in a car said he’d take me to where I needed to be.

And so the treasure hunt began. I’d printed a set of instructions sent to me previously by Xian, who runs the commune, and it was certainly not the easiest of places to find. All I knew was that I was in Rivas. And there is a town 29KM away called San Juan del Sur. And on this road at some point between the two there is a gap in the barrier on the left, that has a very small sign saying “Rancho del Oro”, and I must follow this sign, even though where I’m going, isn’t Rancho del Oro.

After driving around and past the sign a few times, the taxi driver and I finally found it. I asked him to drop me there at the road side and I’d make my way in to the forest myself, not wanting to make a big scene of my arrival, as I knew that Xian doesn’t want to promote her commune to the neighbours, thus disrupting their way of life.

He insisted he drove me and after the car struggled to climb a very steep hill, pass a pack of very snarly and angry dogs, and almost get lost amid trees, I must say I was grateful for his persistence when I finally reached the sign for the commune.

I paid my fare, donned my backpack and walked through the overgrown path, over a chain barrier and into a vegetable patch, where I was greeted by Xian and one of her beautiful baby twin boys.
    

  
After remarking at how unsweaty I was considering the big climb with my backpack (didn’t tell them about the taxi), I explained “oh I don’t really perspire” (another lie) and sat in the back garden and talked to Xian and the three other volunteers helping at the Ashram / commune.

  
The day was drawing to a close, and some of the others made a big vegan-friendly dinner, whilst Xian warned me to keep an eye out for scorpions, tarantulas, a spider that lived under my bed that they weren’t sure if it was a scorpion as it moved sideways like a crab yet had a leg-span bigger than my left ass cheek, oh and of course the coral snakes whom are venomous. I took this onboard along with trying to stay level headed that it can’t be THAT bad, seeing as she lets her twin babies roll around on the floor freely.

  
I spent that night having a very uncomfortable sleep under my mosquito net, waiting to be abused or harassed in some way by various arachnids and reptiles.  

  
After sleeping for what felt like an hour, I was awoken by the chants of a Hare Krishna recording, and Xian making some odd bird like call, telling us it was time for yoga.

  
We each took out matts and did some poses on the floor, however, I found that maybe this place was less about the practise of yoga, and more about the theology behind it. There was a lot of talk of the art of breathing, Tibetan monks, and something that didn’t sit well with me; the importance of celibacy.

That was my first twinge of “maybe this is over my head”. After all, I want to do yoga to get fit and gain better balance, not know about the seven different ways I can breathe through my dominant nostril.

We then went outdoors to do our three hours of gardening in the commune, where I planted some nectarine seeds and raked out a path.

  

  
  
  
After playing with the babies some more, and reading my book, I could feel the beginnings of a headache coming on. To cut a long story short the headache turned into a migraine, which turned into a cold sweat, which turned into an anxiety attack which turned into a projectile vomit.

All this whilst a white guy with dreads insisted on playing his didgeri-bloody-doo that he’d just made from a piece of bamboo.

Debating over being a failure and then being reminded by the Trustafarian that nothing was worth this new form of torture, I made the decision to leave the next morning.

After saying my goodbyes (especially to the babies who I’d totally fallen in love with in that short amount of time) I again donned the backpack and made my way out into the forest and onto the dirt track, to find my way back to civilisation and toilets where people flushed their poo.
It’s nice now I’ve got to the grand old age of 26, where I don’t need to prove myself like I used to. I’ve lived in Fiji, and many other examples have been experienced by me to demonstrate my lack of fear in roughing it. However, I’ve done that now. And living in a house, however lovely the residents, where people generally have the runs and yet there’s no soap or cleaning products due to their chemical content, well….I just don’t need to do that any more.

  
 
   

  
I finally emerged from the forest, sweaty and exhausted on the side of the road, where I hailed a car and got a ride to the town of San Juan del Sur.
I checked into a cheap and clean hostel, and showered with soap (hurrah) and spent a couple of days practising yoga without having to discuss giving up my sex drive (hurrah again) and eating cheap, fresh and delicious fish.

  
  
  
    

I then caught a shuttle about an hour and 30 minutes up the coast to a tiny little hamlet called Playa Gigante. The minute I got there I fell in love with the beauty.

  
  
Nothing was there. Nothing. Just a selection of small restaurants and hostels; most of which were closed due to it being low season at the moment. I checked into a $10 per night hostel, which was bloody lovely as far as hostels go (own fan and everything, in big natural wooden bunks) and relaxed.

  
  
  
Later that day I met three people from the USA; Alexie, Kyle and Juan, and Robbie who was cycling through the Americas (although Australian), and instantly I hit it off with them all. I had a group, and it wasn’t even difficult.

  
  
The next day we met some more people, one of whom being Sierra, also from the States, who was just all round bloody lovely. We decided to all go on a catamaran booze cruise for three hours, which is probably one of the best $10 I’ve spent so far. We were all just mindlessly bobbing up and down on inflatable rings and life jackets, drunk as skunks thanks to the unlimited “Pirate Punch” we were given. I can’t tell you how much salt water I drank that day, having continually dunked my cup of Pirate Punch into the sea, however it was all worth it, and we had a great time on the boat.

  
The next day was our last all together, and after hours of lounging in the sun and swimming in the beautiful sea, we climbed a peninsula jutting out into the ocean called Giant’s Foot. From here we watched the sun set, beautiful colours pouring from behind the clouds and onto the sea, and we all got sentimental about how much we all liked each other, and drank some tinnies.

  
  
We’ve since split up, Which is really sad as we had the best couple of days together. However I guess I started this blog saying what I love most is freedom when traveling; I suppose even better than that is the people you meet who make the best impacts that last lifetimes.

  

  

  
I’m now in a small town called Popoyo, further up the coast from Gigante, where my current plan is to finish reading American Psycho. It’s a tough life. Peace ✌🏻️