“Mum, there’s someone here to see you!” How sweet the sound of these words, knowing Zephyr was no doubt talking about Juliana. How sweet and nearly alien after several months spent in isolation in our bubble of four, to be expected by someone. My eyes swelled with joyful tears. Yes, in the middle of sailing peregrinations, we could still manage to catch up with old friends, and so it was, that in the middle of crazy busy touristic Ubud, my friend Juliana, who I had met in Montreal more than fifteen years ago, who had become a Balinese for the last three years, just after I had last seen her in New Zealand which she escaped in extremis before the whole country went into lockdown, and who was now about to fly away the next day to South Africa, was here, at our hotel, Sania’s House, to see me.
I rushed downstairs and lifted her up in elation. Apart from a different hair style, she hadn’t changed a bit. Still this classy boho style of hers, wearing a large white linen shirt with rolled up sleeves, silver bracelets and big creole earrings. We started talking about anything and everything speaking as fast as we could to make up for lost time and cover the three years where we had barely followed what each other was up to. Meanwhile, in the middle of this continuous flow of questions and exclamations, we decided to find a little warung to have lunch together. Ubud was getting very stuffy with rain threatening to drench us any minute, and after randomly turning left then right then left again through the alleys, we landed in Warung Biah Biah, right on time to observe the big downpour sheltered in a corner of this simple yet welcoming local restaurant. We summarised our sailing trip so far, explained how we had reluctantly left Obelix for a few days anchored in Lovina, under the distant care of a fellow sailor met the previous day who had assured us Northerlies were still rare and had only occurred twice in the last 6 weeks he’d been there, but who we had forgotten to exchange details with, in our precipitation to grab a taxi to Ubud.
She described life in Bali, the countless daily offerings that occupy Balinese, the privilege to have had to themselves, during Covid, the best places of the island, beaches and temples alike, devoid of tourists, and briefed us about her next project, filming an expedition ship from Antarctica to the Galapagos Islands. We shared our highlights of Ubud so far, being pampered with a welcome massage at the hotel and our long walk on the ridge of Bukit Campuhan that morning rewarded by an indulgent breakfast (with ice blocks, iced coffee and fresh juice) overlooking the jungle, at Warung Bukit Sari. We agreed on the limited artistic value of the Kecak dance show offered to tourists which first ten minutes might impress but grew quite boring for the rest of the hour weren’t it for the exuberant costumes and elegance of the dancers. We evoked our common friends, exile, the evocative bottle openers and other souvenirs sold at the market that neither of us had dared enquire about (but which startled Azur who had raised this rather relevant question “Why do we have to cover up when they sell penises in the streets?”) and the concerning state of the world between climate catastrophe, global inflation, and wars casting a shadow on our otherwise exciting lives.
And some fresh coconut served with lime and ice, drunk from a natural bamboo straw, nasi campuh, mie goreng ayam and sate later, we were ready to say our goodbyes and place a bet on our next country of reunion, God knew when. Too bad she still needed to pack her bags and couldn’t meet me for a salsa or tango night, a few selfies (could she believe I was introduced to selfies shortly after Azur’s birth by a common friend who was touring New Zealand!?) and she was donning her helmet, blowing me one last kiss from her rented scooter before driving away.
There is something about meeting old friends, the continuity and validation it provides when we are still on the same wavelength, that is so satisfying. And I wish we could have tasted the same delight visiting our friend Puck in Nusa Lembongan, but the winds, currents and thunderstorms weren’t on our side, and we ended up anchoring in Amed and Lovina only, as most cruisers going through Indonesia on a tight schedule.
Still, our Ubud escape definitely counts towards our best memories in Indonesia, soaking in the Balinese array of colours, its intricate architecture, uplifting culture, and legendary kindness, and meeting a dear friend (after making new ones, a family of French people established in Brussels met in Amed while on a 6-month-6-country sabbatical adventure).
To Bali, and honouring friendships and connections around the world!