Shanti Agung – Peace Mountain

Posted on September 10, 2013

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Shanti Agung

What an incredible little part of the world we have just left.

Tucked away on the eastern coast of Bali, away from the hustle and bustle and the tourists, is the remote farming, fishing and surfing village, Jasri.

After 22 hours of travel we arrived at Shanti Agung to begin our week-long yoga retreat with Nathan and Chanthalah from Core Yoga.

Shanti Agung is thanks to Gwynn Williams, who conceived, created and gifted it the people who now live there and run it, Mr and Mrs Komang (Komang being the first name, indicating order or birth, of the couple running the centre). Most of our group stayed at Villa Matanai, right on the water and a 5 minute walk from the centre; more modern, luxurious and palatial but much less homely.  We were lucky enough to be staying at Shanti Agung in a little room with green walls, a four-poster bed and an outdoor bathroom right outside. Mr Komang, as he is lovingly known, built the centre, which includes four rooms for accommodation, a main section consisting of a kitchen, eating and living areas and several bathrooms. Above the main area is a beautiful open air yoga space, with ornate wooden carvings and traditional roofing, backed with a coconut palm forest and facing the magic rice fields of Jasri. As we practiced our morning asanas, in the distance across the rice fields, Mount Agung peeks between the clouds, an incredibly humbling sight.

Each morning we would meditate and watch the sun rise over the ocean and the looming Island of Lombok. This was followed by a morning yoga session, often a challenging energiser class.

We would then head downstairs for breakfast (amongst her many skills, including sewing, weaving, singing, and playing guitar, Mrs Komang is an amazing cook), which could be anything from pancakes to fried corn fritters but was always accompanied by fresh fruit and a Bali Coffee.

Nathan and Chanthalah would then lead a specified yoga session, nidra, technique, pranyama etc, which would end with free time and lunch.

The afternoon sessions were usually shorter and concentrated on a particular type of yoga or working deeper into more challenging poses.

The last group activity for the day was always dinner. Mrs Komang (with her staff of 4-5 girls, mostly family) always out did herself, cooking the most exquisite Tempeh, snake beans, choko, tofu, and banana leaf wrapped fish.

Most days we also had the privilege of seeing some of the local hotspots. We visited the nearby chocolate factory (owned by Charlie) and beach – Prasa Puti, where we splashed around in the waves, drank from coconuts, received traditional Balinese massages and shopped at the market stalls on the sands. One of our favourite adventures was the trip through the rice fields –not always the easiest path travelled– to find a hidden water temple known only to locals, complete with crystal clear water, fish and lush forest surrounds. We swam here, watching Mr Komang in his natural habitat, ordering coffees that were floated to us on the water, playing the water like drums and offering water massages.

We also spent a full day in Abud, a very eclectic town but a complete sensory overload compared to our little Jasri. Some fantastic shopping to be had at Abud and perhaps with a little more time, its offerings may seem conquerable.

On one of our last days we visited Tirta Gangga, the King’s Water Palace. This trip was a little touristy but the gardens and swimming pools were superb. The Palace was originally built in the 1940s but was destroyed when Mount Agung (actually a live volcano) erupted in the 60s. The Palace is now a mix of original and reconstruction. The water, running from the heart of the mountain above, runs directly into a sacred pool used for special blessings and then to the swimming hole. A few of our group took the time for a dip in the icy cold, cleansing waters. We had an incredible meal here, a buffet of chicken, fish parcels, prawns, coconut salad, marinated pork, and many other local delights.

All in all, the trip was a perfect start to our residency… except for one little hiccup.

The Saga of the Pontoon:

During one of the free time sessions Gabe and some of the girls from the group wanted to swim out to a pontoon, moored about 150metre from shore – he had swam out to it two days early – no problem.

Caitlin stayed in her room to catch up on some light reading, so the others headed off. The water was a little rough on that particular day but once they got past the break it was smooth sailing. They had been enjoying the ocean and the pontoon for about ten minutes or so when they realised it was drifting. Gabe reached down to check the mooring rope, only to discover it had come loose. Just as he did so, one of girls exclaimed “Oh shit” and Gabe looked up to a 5-6 foot wave bearing down on the Pontoon. He did his best to communicate to the girls to hold on as they were lifted up into the wave. As the pontoon tipped to vertical Gabe grabbed the bars of the roof, the side of the pontoon now facing the sky, his feet dangling in the air and watched the two girls slide down the base into the water below.  Gabe and the girls where flipped and tumbled in the waves, panic stricken they tried to head back to shore, but Gabe quickly realised that they were fighting against the current and with the prospect of more waves to come, knew they needed to get out of the water as quickly as possible. So they swam with current and started heading towards the nearby rocks. Unfortunately, two more huge waves hit as they were trying to get out. Gabe managed to get out unscathed, however, one of the girls, was scratched from head to toe after the last wave smashed her into the rocks, and the other had a terrible 3inch gash down her calf, needing six stitches and several days on crutches.

And so the moral of this story is – the Jasri waters can go from calm to a swell in the space of 15minutes, hedge your bets.

The Balinese people we met were vibrant, beautiful and generous. The culture seemed to be steep in traditions, ceremonies and endless smiles from strangers. It was such a pleasure and honour to spend time with these people, to share and learn about them and their way of life.

Now on for the next and main leg of our adventure…

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