A Gentle Morning Stroll: The Joys of Slow Travel

Scrawny roosters start their crowing at 4:30, well before the first rays of sun peek over the hills, their sounds as varied as dogs’ barks, their brilliant colors of red, orange, and yellow sharp against the black.

SCReeeK! SCReeeK! screams one. ERRR ERR ERRR ERRGGGG hollers another. Then, the one crow that is clear, bright, familiar: Cock-a-doodle-DOOOO! Err er-er er-EEERRRRR!!! I arise in the cool dark.

Five odd, scrawny kittens meow loudly, tumble over one another, dart up trees and over steps, looking nothing like the soft, boneless, cuddly kitties I know. These are sleek, pointy-chinned, Abyssinian-looking, like miniature sphinxes. Just months old, they appear as wizened old wizard cats, sharp, alert, feral. They are fed rice. I cannot pet them.2016-01-11 06.14.01

An unseen Bali bird warbles a twirly, repetitive trill, not unlike a hobo’s whistle as he wanders down the train track. I sit on my private little patio and enjoy my breakfast of coffee, papaya, pineapple, banana, watermelon, honeydew, and eggs with tomatoes.2016-01-11 07.41.47

The chuk-chuk-chuk of another secreted bird interests the kitties as the temperature noticeably starts to rise.

thok-thok-THOK THOK!!! goes the carved wood weather vane atop the main house. Starting off as though someone is slow-knocking on my door, it gets louder, faster, more insistent as the pitch rises with each THOK!2016-01-14 16.18.54

ttwwweeeEEEE! tttwwweeeeEEEE!

Whoo whoooo, as though a pretty girl just walked by.

I dress for my pre-dawn jalan-jalan, my morning walk, in short, comfy cotton pants and loose top. Scooters rev in the early dawn, their owners getting ready to rip down the crazy narrow streets, zip among cars, trucks, other scooters as though they are the only ones on the road. And yet . . . everyone knows what to do. Completely ordered chaos. No one blinks. No one is stressed. Everyone just rides eight—six—inches away from each other like a school of tuna, turning together as one until a scooter carrying a mama, with her four-year-old on the back and her two-year-old standing on the floorboard between her arms, breaks away from the pack, perhaps heading to the market to sell her wares for the day.

I head down Jalan Raya Andong, past the shop owners busily brooming the sidewalks. I step around the ceremonial offerings the villagers set out every day by the thousands. The good fortune from their offerings clearly continues to smile on them.2016-01-11 14.10.29

 

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As I turn past the Community Temple and start on the path to the rice paddies, I leave the sounds of people waking, cleaning, moving about, and head into another world. This world is textured green and spongy and nourishing, is made of the very roots of Bali.

I walk down the cement path through what appears to be wild jungle but is actually highly intentional: banana trees, coconut trees, jack fruit trees grow in chaotic profusion, each one planted by a farmer’s own hand. Tapioca plants, lemongrass, and ginger dot the spaces between. The wild comes from the undergrowth, which is left to grow on its own, just like . . . nature.

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As I emerge from the jungle of abundant food, the verdant landscape opens wide and the rice fields appear like an expansive magic carpet. Stubbled clumps of rice plant remnants stick up like chopsticks through plots of watered mud. Crops have recently been harvested. In three months it will be harvest time again.

 

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I follow the path as it meanders through the warming fields. Two or three farmers bathe in the irrigation water. I modestly turn my head away. Oddly, unexpectedly, a young farmer rides straight toward me on his scooter, right in the midst of these vast fields. I step to one side of the narrow path as far as I dare to let him pass, being careful not to fall into a paddy. Just as he is about to pass me, we both spot a single little duck on the wrong side of the foot-high fence surrounding a single small rice field, squawking for his mama. The moment he is past me, the man on the scooter pulls over and dismounts. We smile at each other. He reaches down in one swift move and scoops up the duck, tossing it gently back into the rice paddy. We smile again and go our separate ways. Order is restored all around.CIMG0403

And so begins my day in the little village of Andong, Bali.

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