Going for a Walk in Bali


rice paddy walk.jpg

'When I first met Richard' says Wayan 'I didn't like going for a walk. I didn't see the purpose.'

We are on a splendid hike, edging our way along the soggy top ridge of one of the most beautiful expanses of rice terrace I have seen. In the pools grow the delicate young shoots, and the steel blue volcano, Gunang Agung, ringed round with its necklace of clouds, is reflected in them. Greeeeeen is everywhere! And the sound of trickling, flowing, lapping, gurgling water.

We stop for a break under a palm tree. Nyoman hands round a home-made snack wrapped in a palm leaf, a triangle of plump young coconut paste with a palm sugar filling. We unpin the eco-wrapping, let the sweet dissolve on our tongues for a moment, and we are on our way again. It is then that I lose my balance. I slip and make my second dramatic splat of the trip in to a rice paddy. Apart from Julian (the accidental mountain goat) we westerners are shamelessly rocky on the slim raised mud-bank.

I am thinking here a lot about posture and balance, and life style. 'Your spine is like a bamboo tree' says our yoga teacher. In the paddies women and men of all ages fold from the waist, their spines a parallel line with the ground. Their arms float down do do their work of planting or picking, or of scooping up a shovel. When they rest they do so on their haunches, feet planted firmly on the earth, the base or their spines hanging free. In the villages little girls flow in to the various mudras in preparation for the ceremony at the temple. I pass a bead shop and the bead worker is in the yogic pose 'cobra' on her workshop floor. Women carry concrete bricks on their heads with no help from their hands, their legs swinging effortlessly beneath still hips to move them forward. It is not a posture they have learned but a life style they have not un-learned. Movement is something that gets a task done or moves you from A to B and it is combined, it seems, with an extraordinary stillness of mind.

'You have to be in Old Mind' for this'. I am remembering my yoga teacher in Brighton, Pete, talking about balance pose. What is Old Mind? I ask myself as my foot sucks out of the mud in to which I have fallen and adds a loud squelch to my shaky step. 'Empty Box' said our Nepalese guide, I remember also. He was shocked at the amount we talked while we were walking in the Himalayas. There is laughter from the Balinese contingent at my stained bottom. Kind, but also sort of uncomprehending.

Suddenly Nyoman calls us to rush on ahead. He has spied two deadly poisonous snakes in succession, a root -black one and a bright rice paddy colored cobra. My fear gets the better of me and I slip again.

What is the purpose of this thing we do every day called Going For A Walk, I ask myself. For me it is to 'exercise' but also to try and become present with nature and still my thinking. For Julian it is to exercise whilst problem solving away from the computer and the temptation of more toast. But if, during your work of picking marigolds, planting rice, making your way to market across the hills, carrying a temple offering or a brick on your head, or weaving, your mind is stilled and your body released; if, while resting in the fields you stretch your ham strings and your spine rises up like a bamboo tree, or you bend your back in to the shape of the rice paddy cobra in between bead threading, what purpose indeed does Going For A Walk have?

'But now' says Wayan who lives half the time in Bali and half the time in New Hampshire with her husband, and who exclaims WOW all through the day at the vistas we encounter 'I love going for a walk!'



Lovely. I wish I was walking with you too.

I enjoyed reading your Bali Blogs and being reminded of Ubud and its many little restaurants, especially the 'Lotus Blossom' with its little stream and the flowers.
Trouble is we spent too much in Denpasar at that hospital!!

You've just reminded me of how every other person in Bali is called Nyoman!

Walking through paddy fields in Bali is very special - I remember my walk more than 10 years ago extremely clearly.

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