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An Indonesian journey continues with visits to the islands of Bali and Komodo (Second of two parts)

We became “students” of Balinese dancing at a children’s dance school, where we joined the skilled dancers as they performed. As we watched and tried to emulate the bent-finger hand positions and eyes looking up and down, we quickly realized how difficult it was.

In Candidasa, Bali, the festival preparations were in full swing. (A great thing about OAT is that they will stop to become involved in an “unplanned” cultural happening, which is what I love most about travel.) Erected outside many Balinese homes the day before the start of Galungan, elaborately decorated, stories-high, swaying bamboo poles known as penjors could be seen everywhere.

We drove through rural villages on the southern slopes of Mount Agung on the way to visit blacksmiths and a Balinese ikat textile maker, all the while keeping our eyes on the volcano.

As we enjoyed a picturesque lunch at Tirta Gangga, a former royal summer residence, we began to see smoke in the near distance. It was on our minds every day, and it started to frighten me. (Right after I arrived back in Napa, in July, Mt. Agung started to erupt, sending a massive plume of ash skyward.)

In Kusamba, a coastal village known for its black-sand beach, I was fascinated watching an older man make some of his hundreds of trips a day to carry salt water from the ocean. Using his homemade invention, he processed the water to provide salt to the entire community. His agility and strength were awe-inspiring.

He pointed at me, a volunteer, to work the mechanism to cull the salt from the sand. Of course, I never say “No.” A bag of his salt is now sitting in my kitchen.

Jumping in

The highlight of my trip was yet to come. We traveled to the Sudamala Purification Temple, where a Hindu priest conducted a purification ceremony using ice-cold rushing water from the temple’s holy springs.

This was especially spiritual because of the significance of the Galungan holiday. Some of us jumped in, fully engaged in the wet purification experience.

We had to go through all seven roaring springs that were pouring out from the mountain. The roar and power of the rushing water was frightening, but I felt serene and, personally, fulfilled.

Finally, the priest gently placed grains of rice on our chests and foreheads after we received his blessing.

We climbed out of the water trepidatiously and walked over to another temple, where we all partook in a dry purification ceremony, which ended with the Hindu priest tying a ceremonial bracelet on each of us. I still have mine on, though it’s a bit raggedy.

We continued on to Ubud, Bali‘s artistic heart, where I was able to spend quality time visiting my good friend Connie Jones, an expat who now makes her home in Ubud.

In the 1920s, Ubud grew from a sleepy but charming village into a nucleus for the arts. The scenic rice fields, hills and streams surrounding the town enticed European painters to settle there, and an influx of arts funding resulted. Today, it’s a bustling, full-of-tourists city, with lots of charm.