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January. Misogi One. First time solo-travelling at a ripe old age!

I know, I know. I look 25 and I still get ID'd, but I'm actually on my 32nd lap around the sun, which is scary but also kinda cool. 7 year old me would have thought anyone in their 30's isn't too far off retiring; then again, 7 year old me probably had no idea what that meant. Before I kick into it, I want to thank everyone who's been so encouraging on my last post. I had people reach out, sharing their own experiences, and that's so cool. We're always stronger together.


December 29th, 2022.

After a mad dash around town in the morning, picking up a few last-minute supplies and squeezing in my travel vaccinations, the time had come. My last minute E-visa for Vietnam had arrived the night before, my bags were packed, I was armed with 40% DEET bushman mozzy spray, and I was off to the Tauranga bus station. Two weeks earlier, my life had been looking fairly different; I won't dwell on it, but for context, a relationship ended and a lot of plans changed. It happens, and that's part of life, but that also doesn't take away from the suck. I spent the first week inching around like a zombie (Kelsey, my lovely flatmate, can probably verify haha), and then I had an ingenious thought that went a little like this: "Fuck it! I'm getting out of here and I'm going to Vietnam!"


Equipped with my bougie new North Face duffel bag and my slash-proof, theft-proof-water-proof backpack, I boarded the noon Intercity bus to Auckland. * Disclaimer regarding the backpack: one can never be too careful while traveling, okay, which I realise is spoken in the manner of a true first-time traveller or one accustomed to staying at resorts.


As I boarded the bus, my heart and head were heavy. Most people would have been excited for this opportunity, but I was escaping, and I knew it.


Truth be told, I didn't really know what else to do so I removed myself from a place that held so many memories and embarked on a journey to create new ones.

I wasn't scared about being in a new country, getting lost, or having confrontations. I was scared that being so isolated would leave me trapped in my mind so far from home, and at that stage, my mind wasn't somewhere I could handle being.


As the bus slowly rolled out of town, I threw on a podcast and eased into the journey ahead, awkwardly trying to avoid eye contact with the person sitting right across from me. Why they have the seats facing each other is beyond me. Two hours into the journey and with flights booked for 8:00 am the next morning, I started to second guess my last minute decision to travel Vietnam. Firstly, Vietnam was somewhere that my ex and I had wanted to travel, in particular by riding a motorcycle the full length of the country. Secondly, as I sat on the bus gathering more intel on Vietnam via my good friend Google, I apparently had decided to book my trip when they were about to celebrate TET, which is their version of New Years and can last 8–10 days. It's a huge affair, and families travel all through the country to visit relatives, go on vacation, and enjoy some much needed time off. The downside is that travel costs absolutely SKYROCKET and it can be hard to even get tickets. Call me dramatic, but the last thing I wanted was to get stuck on a shitty broken-down Honda Win in the middle of nowhere, with limited public transport options to get me to my next destination. That little bit of extra anxiety was all it took to throw me off course. I called Qantas from the bus and changed my ticket there and then.


The next destination? Baliiiiii Baby. Time to eat acai bowls and read Eat, Pray Love (kidding...sort of. I did read Big Magic, by the same author). Sometimes a little course correction based on how you're feeling is just what's needed, and sometimes you just need to truck on through. It's up to you to discern what you need and when.


I arrived in Auckland at around 5:00 pm, and I was fortunate that my old business partner and friend Danny-O was there to pick me up and give me a place to crash for the night. I hadn't actually seen him since we'd sold our business in 2021, so it was bloody good to reconnect! Because I had decided to change my flight, it also meant that I was stuck in Auckland for an extra day, and this is where Mr. Pera Gibbs came to the rescue. When you're deep in the feels, I can't stress enough how important it is to have good people around you; reach out and let some good friends in. Having these guys here for me made a world of difference.


6:00 a.m. rolled around as it should, and I caught an Uber to the airport. Once my bags were checked in and I was through customs, I had one mission: track down a coffee and crack into my first ever journal entry. People talk about the importance of journaling all the time, but it wasn't something I was ever drawn to, and the one time I tried it, I failed...miserably. Surprisingly, this time around, it wasn't as hard as I remembered. Perhaps I just had a lot of thoughts to unpack as the words flowed freely.


Journaling was an extremely grounding practice for me throughout my time in Indonesia. Amidst the chaos of Bali, meeting new people, changing locations and dealing with my thoughts, it provided me stability and some semblance of routine. It became almost ritualistic, and I actually sought out this quiet time regularly. Armed with my pen, my journal (shout out to Henry and Kelsey for getting me the journal for Christmas!), my Instax mini printer, and my thoughts, I'd track down a suitable cafe, get my coffee, and see where the words would take me. I got the printer as a way of bringing more life to my writing; how cool would it be to look back at these words and pictures when you're 60? Or how about giving it to your children when they get a little older? Only once you've carefully removed a few of the darker pages, of course haha.


I'd frequently write about the previous day's events, people I'd met, and things I'd seen. Other times I'd write about a particular thought that had been frequently recurring. Sometimes I'd sit there completely blank and unsure where to start, but I found that once I did start, my thoughts and feelings would unravel themselves.

This blog would be almost a thesis if I were to detail every day's adventure and learning. Instead, what I'll do is share a small story from my adventure hiking Mount Agung with my Tassie mate, James, who I met on day 2. Enjoy the read mi familia!



 


8th January, 2023


Today is the day. We're hiking Mount Agung, baby! At 3142m above sea level, it's Bali's highest mountain and holds a huge level of spiritual significance for the people here. It dominates the surrounding landscape, influencing the climate and weather patterns. Originally, James and I were discussing whether to climb Mount Batur instead, which is a much easier climb, but luckily our ANZAC spirit took over and we chose the hard path.


While today is indeed the day, we aren't actually getting picked up until 11:00 pm in the evening, so it was going to be a long one. But that is exactly what this trip is about: saying yes to adventure. Creating new memories, making new friends, choosing the "hard," and doing it all with a smile on your face. I woke up at 7.30 am at my Airbnb, "Ubud Ku," and meandered off to meet James for a coffee as he was staying at a nearby guesthouse. The top man already had his Jetboil up and running, and before long, he'd made a delicious batch of fresh Javanese coffee with his Aeropress. He speaks my language (caffeine! ) so I reckon this is a friendship I can participate in. After hydrating, we part ways, as he's off to explore some waterfalls and my goal for the day is to find some duct tape for my sandals (more on that later), pick up some supplies for the trek, and find a journaling spot.


I managed to find some tape from a local supermarket and had a breakfast consisting of various sliced up melons. Unfortunately, I had recently picked up a case of the infamous "Bali Belly," so up until today, I'd been eating a steady diet of chips, biscuits, and milo cereal. Basically, anything in a packet made in a factory, where I thought the risk would be lower. I also grabbed a few bottles of Pocari Sweat, the Indonesian Powerade. I come from a background in strength and conditioning, so I couldn't help it as my sports science hat came on and I started glycogen loading, knowing that the climb ahead could be a gruelling one.


The afternoon passed without incident, and later that evening, James and I reconnected and returned to our accommodations to try to catch a nap. This bloody guy falls asleep in minutes, but unfortunately, sleep eludes me. It doesn't matter though—I'm running on excitement! Normally this would be bedtime, but tonight, we're taking in the best view Bali has to offer! Our driver arrives on time as scheduled, and we depart Ubud, setting off into the darkness. It takes approximately an hour and a half to drive to base camp; I listen to a podcast, and James somehow manages to fall asleep AGAIN, which wouldn't be the last time today either!


We arrive at base camp, where the temperature is noticeably colder, and it's the first time that I've felt a chill since being in Indonesia. There are about 12–15 others doing the same hike; however, most of them have a different guide. They side-eye James and me like we're nuts; they're dressed in proper hiking gear, complete with poles, gaiters, and gloves, while we're both dressed in shorts and tees. To our credit, we did bring headlamps, though. I took it a step further and decided to wear socks and sandals instead of hiking boots, which I'd unfortunately left back in New Zealand. I wasn't about to go and buy a pair, so it was time to test out the trustee Teva's, and this is where the duct tape came in. My mission is two-fold: to waterproof my sandals and stop pesky volcanic stones from getting under my foot. The guide thought it was hilarious!


Duct taped sandals, James signing his life away and Pasar Agung Temple



After a quick breaky of fried banana and Balinese coffee, we set off into the darkness. Headlamps on, hearts racing for the adventure ahead. The trail started off with a wide concrete staircase that snaked its way towards Pasar Agung Temple. Our guide sits, and after taking a few moments to say a prayer and burn some incense, we set off again. The Balinese respect mountains as the dwelling place of the gods, and in old times you couldn’t climb Agung without a Hindu priest present.


The trail is steep and winding, and while we don't have great visibility, I can tell that we're trekking through some kind of tropical rainforest as we use small tree trunks to pull ourselves up in steeper sections. The landscape continues to change as we continue upward, gradually changing from lush forest to lighter trees and scrub. Just as we begin to get into a good rhythm, our guide signals for a break. No complaints here; it's about time for another fried banana. As it would turn out, there would be many more breaks to come. The guide lights his cigarette and quietly puffs away as James and I take in the view. We continue the ascent, and before we know it, we're out of the trees and walking on volcanic rock.


The guides find a little spot, collect some branches, and light a small fire. Camped out on the edge of Mount Agung, with a roaring warm fire and a coffee en-route was bloody marvellous! As the wind continued to shift, we caught plenty of mouthfuls of smoke, and our eyes sting, but it's easily forgiven as the fire warms our souls. To make things even better, we're now high enough that we can see the stars in all their shimmering glory. Simply stunning, and a memory I won't soon forget. We set off once again, scrambling up the side of Gunung Agung, searching for safe places to put our hands and feet. My jacket goes on as the wind begins to pick up, but not for James. The man is from Tasmania, and that's all the explanation you need. After another rest break or three, we approach the summit and a feeling of achievement, excitement and wonder all hit at once. Fuck yeah! We made it. Even the duct-taped sandals held up!


As the sun slowly begins to kiss the Island of the Gods, the sky warms and puts on a dazzling display of the most beautiful hues of pinks, yellows, and reds. Taking this all in after a big hike is incredibly rewarding, and I sit in awe of this place and this planet. As I reflect, I find myself feeling inspired, something I hadn't felt in a long time. I feel myself being swept up in emotion, thinking about the past month, my life, and the changes afoot. Everything is uncertain, but for now I am present.


Everything is uncertain, but for now, I am present.

Deep down I know and trust that things will work out.

The inspiration has returned. Did it find me? Or did I find it? I guess it doesn't really matter.


Our guide, his offering at the top of Mount Agung, and a couple of friendly stray dogs that came for the adventure


I just had to throw in some evidence of James sleeping. He even managed a quick nap at the summit! What a legend


That's all from me this week fam. As usual, I hope you enjoyed the read and Charlie Mike (continue mission). P.S. The walk back down was absolutely horrendous! Could have used those bloody hiking poles.


Chat soon.


Shal









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