Sunday, 25 January 2015

Divinely Delectable, Super-Healthy Blueberry Ice Cream!

Yep, 4 glorious weeks of year-end break!

Being on a break from work has given me all the play time a girl could want or need!  I even had time to play with my new  "app" that allows me to write on photos to make them self-explanatory - such fun!!  Learning to be a little more techno-savvy this year!

I have spent much time outdoors, in the garden, in the shed and soaking in a few rays of Vitamin D, for 10 mins at a time.  Enough to be sun-kissed and not sun-burnt!
(And no, those hairy knees above, are not mine, but belong to my son!)

Mixed fruit and berry smoothies for breakfast makes use of  produce from the garden: blueberries, strawberries, nectarines and a frozen half banana (store-bought).

It's soo simple, it's a recipe that needs 2 things: vanilla ice-cream and blueberries.  Oh yes, and a blender.  Simple.  Delicious.  Simply delicious and deliciously simple!
And, it's incredibly healthy junk food!!

I have had even more time on my hands for 10 days as my Buddha Boy went for a Vipassana 10 day retreat, leaving me home alone, on my own sort-of-head-space retreat!  And indeed, absence does make the heart grow fonder!
The dilemma of my cat; to snooze or not to snooze!  What a marvelous role model in taking life less seriously!
Definitely 2015's New Year's Resolution for me!  To sing more, to enjoy more, to chill more!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Eco-Cycle Tour, Bali and the Chocolate Factory

Ornate doors signal entry to homes... what lies beyond such sumptuous gateways??
I couldn't resist the proverbial "flogging of the dead horse"; Bali Memories.  It is such a Land of Beauty and Contrast!  A little like India.  I think I could easily have taken 20 photos a day - 10 days in Bali = 200 images!  
We wanted to try something a little different on our holiday, less shopping-craze, less resort-laze, so we opted for an eco-cycle tour.  Nothing too untoward there for the average tourist, but wait.............. I haven't sat on a bicycle in 15 years??  And then, only brief flirtation with 2 wheels quickly discarded as a bad idea.  I did try to once cycle to work - all 4 blocks.  It nearly killed me - and that's mostly flat ground!  After that, my legs were like jelly and I could barely get off the darn contraption and walk the 5m to our kindy gate!!  So what was I doing putting my hand up for a 3 hour eco-cycle tour in Bali???
A Bali bicycle parked up at the beach.
I should probably rather have put my hand up for scooting around where you don't have to exert much effort in such a hot climate, but no, I had a trick up my sleeve!
Litte fella is showing me how cool it is to ride a scooter!!

Or perhaps I could have asked this local for lessons riding a paddle board sitting down,
 with a salad bowl helmet on for safety
When I told my friends about the cycle tour, they looked at me with wide eyes and questioning grins - how did I ever expect to succeed, as exercise is just not my thang!  Everyone knows that!
But ha! I had read that the cycle tour was 3 hours downhill!  I reckoned if I could just steer the thing, the bike would do all the work free-wheeling down the mountain!!

Our tour started with a buffet breakfast on top of Mount Kintamani,
overlooking the crater lake below.
We were picked up from our resort and driven 1 1/2 hrs to our breakfast stop, before being taken to the waiting bikes.  There were 8 of us, and a tour guide, a young buck from a local village (the tour is a village initiative).  I must admit to being a little nervous when I realised that the bikes were big, and I suddenly doubted my ability to not tumble off on a corner or when applying brakes!  With heart pounding, I made sure I was one of the last to leave so no-one would see my ineptitude (my gallant man offering to cycle behind me and ensure I didn't get left behind)!
The proof we did it!!

Rice paddies
The saying, that "it's like bike-riding, you never forget", well, it's true.  It took me 10 mins and I felt like the king of the downhill road!  My confidence picked up with each passing village!  After about an hour, we stopped at one village and were guided through a typical home compound.  We were shown the family shrine, the typical layout and learned a little about Balinese life and culture.

The pavillion building where families gather for feasts, for death and birth ceremonies (bodies are kept on ice on the raised platform for 3 - 30 days!!) and on this same platform, women give birth!
Drying cloves in the sunshine.
Balinese woman making baskets
Ingenious children's eco-swing made from bamboo
Old lady watching festival parade
Festival procession
The women's procession
We stopped to view an awesome, spiritual-Avatar-like 500yr old Banyan tree, where we were given water and a banana to replenish our energy.  Then we walked into a rice paddy and were given a agri-lesson on rice growing, and finally, we stopped at a coffee and spice plantation for a tour and taste testing all the different types of coffee beans.  Truly a broad spectrum view of rural Bali for off-the-beaten-track tourists.  I made the cycle tour, (just - there were 3 small hills - the first I managed, the second winded me and the third nearly killed me with the effort required in the tropical heat, and in fact I nearly caused a 3 cycle pile-up when I hopped off!)  Afterwards, we were taken for a sumptuous lunch - vegetarians generously catered for!  And then we were driven the 1 1/2 hours back to our resort - a full day's entertainment all for less than $50!
I felt such an immense sense of achievement!  Yay, I made it!  Lil' ol' lazy me!!

Charlie's Chocolate Factory
After seeing how raw cacao grows, we were keen to discover another unusual little attraction; Charlie's Chocolate Factory in Jasri Beach.  What an amazing discovery!!  Charlie, an ex-Aussie lives in a basic little shack on prime real estate beach-front paradise!  He builds his empire with bamboo and has created some fantastical Hobbit-like shacks to house his chocolate-making factory.  We bought some chocolate and goji berry drops, and had the BEST-EVER hot chocolate drink whilst his mournful honking goose followed Mike around like a faithful love-sick dog!

The chocolate factory office
Hand-crafted to perfection, Bilbo Baggins would have LOVED this!
The Chocolate Shop
The beauty of the inside, with sky-lights for natural lighting

Charlie's Goose
This is where Charlie lives.
Of Charlie, we caught but a glimpse!  I guess he is not used to too many guests, and he scarpered a quick getaway dash as we arrived, leaving us in the capable hands of his beautiful Balinese right hand lady.  In a rustic bamboo factory, he produces chocolate, soap and candles to fund his love of surfing.  Gotta love a guy who follows his dreams!!
Charlie's view - a popular surf spot
Charlie is busy building a bamboo shipwreck restaurant to serve his chocolate treats in.
The factory
A swing suspended between the coconut palms - Charlie calls it the Chair of Enlightenment!
So if your'e headed down Karangasem way, Charlie's is a definite must-see!  Inspirational!  Check out the video link above for a 15 min interview with Charlie.

Back in Sanur, we took a walk along the beach and discovered these gems:
Some eco-art, bottle caps hammered into drift wood demarcates a beach-side restaurant,  I loved the sign!!  "Sorry.  No wifi.  Talk to each other."
A beautiful re-purposed pallet table.
A Yoga Retreat with shop below, with Hammock Therapy.
Sign says it all...
I think I need Hammock Therapy.  Everyday.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Bali Bliss Reminisce

Welcome to Bali!  Traditional Legong dance.

Holidays are blissful; time to tackle the 101 chores around the house and garden, time to chill, and time even, to remember past holidays.... in Bali.  We went for 2 weeks in October 2014 and had a blast!  Didn't cost us too much as the accommodation was courtesy timeshare vouchers which cost us under $100 per week!

Beach at Sanur; the golden sands raked each day to remove detritus from ocean pollution
This was not our maiden voyage to Bali.  We had been 7 years before, staying in Kuta for 3 weeks.  The hotel in Kutua was a slice of paradise, but as soon as we stepped out of the resort threshold, we were aggressively targeted by hopeful stall tycoons, eager for our kiwi dollars.  It left a most unpleasant taste in our mouths and so after many discussions and research, we decided to give Bali another chance, given that it is only a 5 hour flight from New Zealand and boasts the sunny climate we desperately need to cure our seasonal winter depression woes!
Sun, surf and sand!  Beaut!
The amazing crab-like local fishing boat (and it's reflection)
Bali is bright and blissful, ornate and exciting!

Yoga on the beach at Sanur

Little girl on beach
Early morning blessing.

Our first week's stay was at a 3 star resort called Parigata Spa and Resort in Sanur. Tired, yes, but small and once-was-grand, and close to the best organic, vegan restaurant called Zula.  The hardest part each day was choosing from Zula's endless mouth-watering food choices!!

Beautiful food, beautiful sentiments.

Street-side spas line the road, enabling tourists to take advantage of the somewhat painful, somewhat blissful reflexology, massage and mani/pedicures.  An hour of pain and bliss sets you back NZ$5!!  So this was an almost daily event!

We visited a kindergarten in Sanur, called Cheeky Monkeys, and on the way, passed a resort where we watched a photo shoot for a Japanese wedding, though the sign-wielding was a little bold for a bashful bride, perhaps she was a Cheeky Monkey too!
Meeting Dayu, a teacher at the kindergarten we visited, who made me feel like a giant!!

Not-so-bashful bride 
Our second week we spent 4 days of an intended 7 day stay at Bali Palms in Candidassa!  A hastily-built resort that could not stand the test of time and was not only tired but in a state of disrepair, on a tired, dusty strip of a tourist accommodation town that could have been the Goa of Bali back in the 70's but now looks like everyone's packed up and gone!  We couldn't wait to leave after our timeshare presentation (a condition of the timeshare accommodation voucher).  We did however, get to see some amazing attractions in the area, namely the Tirta Gangga which was built in 1948 by the Raja of Karangasem, and his Ujung Water Palace.  

Koi swim in the clear waters

The whole Tirta Gangga is fairy-tale-like, with bridges, stepping stones and statues over and in the water, which is derived from an underground stream.  There were lots of tourists taking pictures of themselves at all the features and I had to patiently wait for them to move on.

Tirta Gangga, meaning Holy Waters of the Ganges (in India).  Hinduism is the predominant religion of Bali.

Statue dancers seem to float on the water

An opportunity to walk on water.

Fish swim lazily among the water-borne dancing statues

Giant fountain water feature

Local families are allowed to bathe in the Tirta Gangga pools.

Tame, well-fed Koi fish 

The next destination we checked out in Candidassa was the Ujung Water Palace, also built by the Raja as his Summer palace to entertain foreign dignitaries and visiting kings from local regencies.  It is vast and also includes several large bodies of water.  The palace is grand, and gives a peek into the lives of the Raja and his 10 wives and 24 children.  Obviously, there were no televisions for night-time entertainment, what with all those wives to keep happy!  I found this place quite spectacular and enjoyed watching a bridal party's photographic exploits.
Ujung Water Palace

Capturing the photographers at work

The bride in her red dress.  She also had a toy-Pomeranian dog also dressed in a red tutu!
Tactical manoevres to get the right shot!

Recording the event

The Raja of Karangasem in his youth.
A bike stands casually in front of carved relief palace wall friezes

The view from a marble-floored room in the palace

Old photos line the walls, this one depicts (I think) the Raja in the middle, as a young boy.

Another view of the water gardens from a palace window
The old king and his eldest son, who I think became the Raja
Glass-less windows with shutters to keep out the tropical heat

The terraces behind the palace were once rice paddies that were flooded with water for growing.

Ornate plaster work

The Royal Palace is entered on each end, by a walkway-bridge over water.  What a lovely way to come home each day!!

A view of the palace water gardens from the top of the hill

The gateway bridge to the palace on each side
So our days in Candidassa were not entirely awful!  Apart from the shonky, crumbling resort, and the air of general decay about the town, there were great highlights!  The spa ladies at the resort gave us the BEST massage ever!!  We even got to see Charlie's Chocolate Factory (more about that later), and met some great taxi drivers!  We had such a wonderful time, a nice mix of relax and chill, with look, see and do!  And it didn't break the bank either!  There are endless shopping opportunities in Bali, so much to buy, so little space in the suitcase!  However, this time round for us, it was less about the need to own things and more about the love of looking  (not good for Bali's economy but great for us, not accumulating yet more 'things" to clutter our home with).  

So many road-side statue shops selling these Buddhas!  I soooo wished my suitcase was big enough!!

Aaah, Bali.  Methinks I'd like to go again!!