The Farmwork Chronicles

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It’s been a little while since I popped up a new post, apologies. I’ve worked ten days straight blueberry picking in Coffs Harbour, Australia and it’s been…busy. Our hostel, as wonderfully clean and closely located by a beach as it is, does not have unlimited wifi and the small amount we get for free daily is not enough to upload pretentious pictures onto a privileged blog post. It’s been good for me. But I have a free day and a nifty cafe with awesome wifi, coffee goodness and vegan cake so I’m coming back at ya with some wordy rambles. So here I give to you my new series ‘The Farmwork Chronicles’. I’ll start way way back in the beginning with my very first nightmarish attempt in February, delving deep into my journal and bringing back the dark memories just for you.

The journey is fine: one train, one bus, approximately seven and a half hours in total. We arrive in a ghost town. The bus station is an empty shed of seats and a loo. Though we see houses there are no people, despite it being only 4:30pm. When we are picked up by a smiling lady with a bubbly demeanour it all starts to be looking up. After a quick supermarket sweep and idle car chatter we arrive at the Fruit Shack. Though slightly intimidating with its broken down retro vehicles, scattered as trophies around the site, it looks as I’d expected. Lots of dust and shrubs. But the dust carried on into the tin accommodation huts, the too small bathrooms and then into the kitchen with its mess of stinking dishes, dirty counter tops and insects on every surface. The mattress was floral, stained and sunken with the weight of many a weary backpacker, the linen faded and mismatched, the dorm itself a cramped shipping container, no air, very dark. But despite first impressions I am delighted by our room mate Rosie and the other smiling faces greeting us around the site. It gave me hope that this maybe wouldn’t be so bad…

I am not a quitter

I am not a quitter

I am not a quitter

But then I guess maybe I am and I’m starting to see that maybe that isn’t so bad when the that which you quit is not benefiting your happiness. It was too early on in my Australian adventure to have any kind of motivation for a second year let alone this level of discomfort.

Forty two degrees and I’m in direct, mid day sunlight, cutting at bundles of wine grapes in bushes which snag at my clothes and scratch at my skin. Spiders crawl down my arms and I shrug them off, too tired to care much anymore. My T shirt is drenched in sweat and I’m interrogated by a supervisor on my way to top up my water bottle. Apparently I should of done that at lunch, three hours of thirsty work earlier. I look around at the other machines tainted by their tasks, lost in the repetition. And the owner Michael, a tyrant on his bulldozing throne, has servants drugged into worshipping him. I laugh as they talk so highly of him around wooden, rotting, picnic benches. “Michael this, Michael that, we must do what we can to keep Michael happy.”

Then I leave, we leave (my travel companions too) paying more for our train just to get out of there. At the other end we rush out of Sydney central and almost kiss the ground in relief. The comfort of city lights, traffic commotion, pollution in the air and no shrubs in site. We leave our two days at Leeton behind us and talk of the Fruit Shack as a fading nightmare. I’ve since seen many an advertisement for the place on backpacker job boards. The pay was dire, the accommodation pretty much inhabitable (I don’t care if it was free) and the work was brutal (this opinion comes after more experience with farm work in a couple other places). Don’t go there, I don’t care how many of those people thought it was a good experience or not so bad, there are so many better places you could spend your time doing farmwork.

Uluwatu Vs. Tanah Lot

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Tanah Lot
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Tanah Lot
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Tanah Lot
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Tanah Lot
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Tanah Lot

Uluwatu is the one we’ve all heard of right? I had never heard if Tanah Lot until my Indonesia friend and her local friend took me there. It wasn’t even on my little bucket list, big mistake. I loved this place. It just makes perfect sense to have a place of spiritual purity and prayer by the ocean. There is no place that reminds you more of how small and insignificant you are. Its enchanting looking out to the lonely rock amidst the swell of frothy waves. The excitement of having to cross through knee deep tide to wade your way out to the rock. The way they accept you to a degree, bless you with holy water in their traditional way yet keep their place of worship closed off to your ignorant eyes. I felt so much respect, acceptance and awe here and I would 100% recommend a visit, even if you had to prioritise Tanah Lot over the infamous Uluwatu.

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Uluwatu
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Uluwatu
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Uluwatu

Uluwatu was no doubt beautiful in its own right. The rocky descent of the cliffs into the most serene blue surf. The colours are insane and if you make it for a clear sunset (which I was unlucky with) it might just be something purely magical. But where Tanah Lot has its abundance of open space for the crowds of tourists, Uluwatu and its smaller spaces were almost unmovable, a fight to get to each photo opportunity spot and always a random tourist in the background of your selfies (how selfish). Every evening they put on a performance, a traditional balinese dance showcasing some of their tales of gods and spirits. It sounded impressive but with the amount of people and the quick filling up of the amphitheatre we ended up giving it a miss. It’s such a tourist problem to be bothered by other tourists at a touristy hotspot.

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Offerings to the Gods, a symbol of gratitude from the people.

Temples are obviously not a rarity as you drive through the island, their intricate beauty dons every street whether surrounded by a group of tin worn huts or hotels and fancy restaurants. The little offerings to gods are never amiss outside any place with inhabitants, their brightness speckles the narrow pathways, sits risen on holy sculptures. The magic of a place so in sync with their spirituality and religion isn’t so recognisable when you’ve grown up somewhere like England where your countries religious heritage is tainted and the beautiful religions which have found their way their are ridiculed and terrorised. This is a place where religion is peace and the locals live their modern lives, inspired by generations of religious practice. The arts are rife, painting and dancing, all to incorporate the tales they won’t let die. Even in open dance, the idea of a tourist spectacle doesn’t take away from the beauty of the movements. These two main temples are different in the ways they announce themselves. Tanah Lot to me just seemed a whole lot more of a unique experience, though that may have just been because I hadn’t knowingly sought it out. So if you’ve not planned to see it definitely do and if not enjoy the examples of Bali’s spiritual core along every street you walk and be careful not to step on the offerings.

 

 

Peace, Love, Glebe…

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Glebe is a quirky little Sydney suburb, not incredibly exciting on a normal day bar the infamous Donut Time and the cute little cafes and bars. On a Saturday though Glebe is alive with vintage wearing, coffee drinking, record collecting, youth. Any Saturday, anywhere in Sydney, will be busy but this is uncharacteristically so.

The market is a mess, a colourful, patterned mess, of flea market type thrift stores, second hand bargains, crystals, independent boutiques and food vans. There is live music by the field where groups sit in there 60’s style clobber eating from brown paper boxes and drinking from coffee cups. There is chatter and laughter and freedom dancing through the warm air. It’s an energetic space, an inspiring space, a space you go to connect and reflect and escape.

The stall runners are warm, encouraging purchases but more interested in getting a good chat out of you. My vintage denim obsession thrives here and I’m talked into buying crystal donned jewellery from a gypsy soul enthusiastic about the properties of the stones and there value to enhancing life. I grab a coffee from van, a soy vanilla latte before approaching my favourite stand, 80 raw 20 paleo, of vegan treats for a banana and peanut butter pop. In the warm breeze I sit and take in the space around me, the music soothing and the people are living.

If your trip to Sydney is short and you’re there over a weekend then Glebe Markets is definitely one of my first recommendations, you’ll probably see me nosing through some stalls and stuffing my face with vegan cake, so come say hi!

Revolver Cafe Seminyak

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Down a random, albeit pretty quaint, alley in Seminyak, through a manned door, into an underground, speakeasy vibed cafe, is where you’ll find some of the best coffee I tried whilst in Bali. Revolver is the hipsteriest of the hipster and I loves it! The interior is thought out from corner to corner, with an upstairs and a kind of secret second cafe bar. From the pursian rugs, to the fragmented mirrors donning the walls, everything encompasses a artsy, pretentious aesthetic, all part of your coffee drinking experience. I went for an almond iced latte and my friend for a tell tale long black. Both of us left satisfied. As much as I loved the coffee aspect (when am I not overjoyed about good coffee?) the place itself lived up to the high expectations Australia has taught me about how coffee should be made and experienced. The music is alternate guitar based and upbeat. The reading material stretching from local newspapers, to quirky beautifully produced magazines, to an outdated (only just) copy of the Sydney Morning Herald. I fell in love with Belly magazine, a surf/urban culture magazine straight out of Kuta. The interviews were actually interesting, carried out with fascinating and talented individuals overlooked by most popular magazines. On the way out are printed T-shirts, product of a highly anticipated spot to visit. It’s a great place for a sit and cool down and perfect if you’re slightly homesick from Sydney and its coffee culture. It is a very western thing I’ll admit but its uniqueness makes it a worth while addition to your Bali bucket list. If you need a spot to catch up on some work, or an inspiring place to update your blog and edit some photo’s it makes stopping off at a coffee shop while you’re on one of the most beautiful islands slightly more excusable.

A Day in Seminyak…

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Following an eclectic street of typical tourist tack gift shops, small airy boutiques, tattoo parlours, and all manner of foodie traps from Kuta is how we make our way to Seminyak. The road gradually fizzles into boutiques only, leaving the messy open stores lining the raging roads of Kuta behind, with room only for tidy store fronts, Australian inspired coffee shops and a more varied selection of vegan and health food shops. Seminyak shows the least of Balinese culture of the few places I have time to explore. The beach gives more of that western holiday makers vibe with up market hotels meeting the sand, advertisements for rooftop bars and a serious lack of salesman in comparison to the haggling background noise on Kuta beach.

Our day has turned cloudy by the time we reach the shore and the chill in the air takes away any previous excitement I had about swimming but the grey hues of the water are a steely wonder and as you hit where the ocean laps onto the shore you walk on the ghostly reflection of the clouds. As we take a seat on the sand a dog comes over sniffing at my friends taco’s and I try desperately to be friends but he backs away nonchalantly at my excitable, petting ready, hands. His cheeky attitude brightens our day after an earlier encounter with a stray dog, blind in one eye, covered in bites and rashes, thin and lost on the busy street. He stopped bewildered in our path and though I tried to encourage him to drink some water, he looked at it confused before considering his surroundings again. We lose him down an alley eventually but like the netted dog in Kuta I regret not helping him enough.There are so many dog walkers going by, joggers panting along and families strolling by in a chorus of giggles. This beach, more than any of the others, reminds me of Australia and that gives me comfort.

Seminyak is definitely worth a day of your time but personally I’m glad I chose not to base myself there for the trip. I love a pretentious coffee shop, shopping in trendy overpriced stores and munching on vegan brownies but I do all of that in Australia. It was an awesome day, definitely a nice spot to chill out and relax and we stumbled on a cute little market too. Maybe if we’d have explored a little  more we would’ve branched out into a more realistic Seminyak, I’m not sure I researched the area quite as well as I should of. A day of cafe hopping and scrummy vegan food at The Earth Cafe (I’ll do a vegan food guide soon) still made the trip worth it.

A Guide to Ubud…

There is so much to do in Ubud and of the three places I spent time in (Kuta, Ubud, Seminyak) it was definitely my most favourite. I spent four nights here in the Pandok Permata Homestay, maybe a night too long if you’re pushed for time but you could also definitely spend longer here if time, and money, is to your advantage. The hostel was beyond what I expected, beautiful intricate balinese furnishings and impeccably clean rooms with the most serene of views. The family who owned the place were forever happy to help and organised for a tour of some nearby hotspots for us at a ridiculously reasonable price. And a bonus? They have dogs! And the cutest little puppy full of hugs and playfulness.

Places to visit:

  • Jalan Gautama -My favourite little side street, quirky and busy with the yummiest and most creative eateries, lots of vegan choices on flavoursome menus too, there’ll be a couple spots reviewed in my Bali vegan food guide.
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    Please excuse the face, I was mid scream.

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  • The Monkey Forest – A rare moment when human’s are the spectacle.  I was honest to goodness attacked by two of the cutest little shits when I tried to grab my camera out of my backpack. I saw a few keys glittering in small, almost human, hands and a few of the more sinister little guys terrorising tourists keen to take a close up of their deceptively innocent faces.Processed with VSCO with c1 presetOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Tegenungan Waterfall – A great stop for that pretentious “traveller” snap and quick dip, we timed it right, getting there just before an onslaught of tourists. img_8299screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-15-14-02
  • Tirta Empul Holy Water Temple – This is the place to go for that famous holy bathing snap us tourists go nuts for. But make sure to wear something that covers your knees, or buy your own sarong. You get given one, free of charge at the temple entrance but you’re not allowed to get them wet, so I missed out on actually going into the holy bath.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Goa Gajah Temple – Or “Elephant Cave” temple. All of the temples we visited were awe inspiring to me, it’s such a peaceful space and all of them connect with the natural landscape in such a beautiful way. This one in particular had me feeling the Indiana Jones vibes.img_8322img_8330
  • Tegalalang Rice Terrace -One of the most iconic Bali landscapes, I think. I’ve seen this space splashed all over travel instagrams for years. As with everything “touristic” though, you really do have to see it and experience it for yourself.

I’m pretty sure none of these things are new to you if you’ve ever been to, or have planned to, head to Bali but I wanted to share them anyways because I had one of my favourite travel experiences so far touring through them all. Happy travels to anyone headed to Bali soon, it’s beyond magical and by far my favourite place I’ve been too.

 

P.S. If you’re interested in seeing some of my less than average travel photography then check out My “photography” blog

Ubud…

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I never really understood what living in the moment really meant until I was riding on the back of a strangers scooter, through the streets of Ubud, Bali. We ride fast downhill, weave through cars, the sun beats down on my unhelmeted head and after a brief cry from subconscious ‘My mam would kill me!’ I shut it up and give in to my here and now. Such a small simple pleasure, an easily reached adrenaline rush, no caution, no over thinking, just acceptance and genuine happiness. It’s normal here to ride on pavements, squeeze through tight spaces in spaceless traffic, to ‘yip’ and ‘yew’your way through barely policed streets. Even on a bicycle the adrenaline is hammering through your body, impatient cars and scooters scraping by. Nothing compares to that feeling of rolling down the hill from the hostel to the centre of town, that light summer breeze twirling through free hair, feather like brushes against your arms, the rice paddies in all their earthy beauty bordering your journey.

Ubud is a hub for the free spirited, the spiritual, the artistic, the life livers. Yoga enthusiasts in harem pants sit crossed legged on the floors of restaurants, bare foot in respectful tradition, eating plant heavy foods, simple but heated flavours and a side of green juice or a cheeky bintang. The energy is subtle and easy, none of the Kuta chaos. The closest to a party is a chic bar, house music and fairy lights crowding a beer garden escape. Nature peeks through everywhere, vines up shop fronts, trees in the centre of organic vegan restaurants, the beauty of the monkey forest on the outskirts of town, rainforests meeting gritty pathways. The western and eastern are co existing in some bizarre city nirvana here and its the most grounded yet excited I’ve ever felt in a place.

As peaceful as Ubud is, it’s very easy to forget where you are in its wistful embrace. Other than a few homeless women, children in arms with outreached hands, the town is neat and void of the poverty you know the people of Bali are victim too. Whilst in Kuta you see the worst of both privileged drunken westerners and homeless wandering locals, Ubud is slightly too manicured, no wonder considering some of it’s most frequent visitors are celebrities and well to do’s looking for a yoga retreat and spiritual cleanse. Ubud is beautiful, it’s a delicate, artistically rich space and I can’t recommend it enough, but try your best to see more than just Ubud on your Bali travels. Though any interaction with the locals is always a genuine pleasure. One of the aspects of my trip I was so awed by was the genuine willingness to help, sweet smiles and generous gestures of the Balinese people.