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An eruption in paradise: Bali in the wake of Mount Agung

Flights booked, bags packed – my partner and I were about to embark on the common-held dream of backpacking Bali.

“You’re still going?” a friend asked us a few nights before our departure. Her voice brimmed with bewilderment. “Haven’t you heard? They evacuated half of the island!” An impromptu Google search confirmed her cause for panic. “Travel Warning in Effect!” the headlines shouted. “Experts Warn of Mount Agung’s Massive Eruption!”

We shrugged our shoulders, crossed our fingers and headed to the airport as scheduled. We agreed that if Mother Nature was going to blow, we were prepared to witness her fury firsthand.

Bali sits in the southern part of the Indonesian archipelago as the only predominantly Hindu island in the mostly Muslim country. For the Balinese locals, Mount Agung is a volcano that bears a sacred importance. Along with being the highest point on the island (and, therefore, the closest to the heavens), many locals believe that it is a replica of the cosmological Mount Meru, which, in the Hindu religion, is considered to be the centre of all universes.

I had always heard of Bali to be a magical meeting point of spirituality and nature. When I arrived to the island, this truth was confirmed. Inside and out, the beauty of Bali was overwhelming. It’s an island that people often perceive as the ultimate paradise, but its merit goes so much deeper than the lush tropics and sunny coastal beaches; there’s something present in Bali that I can only describe as an ‘aura,’ created and sustained by various pieces of a cosmic puzzle- the people, the culture,  the environment, the spirituality and, above all, the devotion. Our first days on the island were seasoned with this energy.

Walking down the streets of each city on our journey, it was almost impossible to miss a holy ceremony or celebration taking place. The narrow sidewalks were lined with “Canang Sari,” handwoven coconut leaf baskets filled with flowers, small gifts, and incense as an offering to the gods. Nearly everyone smiled, said hello, and radiated a spirit of gratitude and love. And although many areas were heavily occupied by western expats and tourists, it seemed a place where locals and visitors thrived in creative harmony.

Prior to hearing about the brewing rumbles of Mount Agung, we planned to summit to its peak, but decided otherwise as the entire island (including myself) waited in anticipation for the volcano to explode. Instead, we opted to drive our motorbike to Mount Batur, another sacred volcano just 18 km northwest of Agung. It was far enough away that it sat outside of Agung’s evacuation zone, but many had still chosen to flee the area.

The foggy, uphill winding roads that led us to Batur and its surrounding villages were eerily quiet. There were very few locals, let alone tourists, frequenting what once were busy streets. As we parked our bike near a small market, a herd of nearby shop owners rushed to our side. They yelled about their products, waved fruit in our face and pulled us every which way. They begged us to purchase souvenirs, got angry when we politely declined, and watched in resentment as we eventually got back on the bike to continue our trip.

It was in that moment that I felt a shift in perspective.

My previous notion of a harmoniously tuned relationship between locals and tourists quickly transgressed into something that mirrored dependence. Of course, I understood the desperation for making a sale in an almost abandoned town, and such a scene is common in many tourist spots around the world, but the sense of despair revealed a fragility that I hadn’t yet noticed.

As we continued our journey, I looked around at all of the restaurants, resorts, and yoga studios that were overflowing with western tourists- a flock of simultaneous “Eat. Pray. Love.” journeys meeting at the epicenter of spiritual practice. “How much of this was built for indulgent visitors?” I thought.  

I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Mount Agung’s imminent eruption and the tourism industry’s imminent effects on Balinese culture.

See, Agung’s last eruption was in March, 1963, and just one month prior, a purifying ritual called Eka Dasa Rudra was to be performed by Hindu priests at the Besakih Temple on Agung’s slope. According to ancient texts, the ritual must be carried out at the temple every 100 years in order to maintain purity and protect humans from disaster at the hands of the gods. But, as the volcano began to quiver and bellow, the priests took it as a divine sign to postpone the ritual. Indonesia’s president at the time, however, urged them to continue through the warning signs, as he had invited foreign visitors from around the world to attend the event.

To the Balinese people, Eka Dasa Rudra wasn’t performed properly. In fact, it was tailored to accommodate foreign guests. As a result, many locals believe that its 1963 eruption, which destroyed villages and killed over 1,000 people, was the gods’ punishment.

If this moment in history isn’t already symbolic enough, you should know that Besakih Temple, which sat on the volcano, was largely untouched by the vicious lava flows that devastated the villages below. Most of the surrounding area was left in ruins, but Besakih stood tall‒ an emblem of devotion that, at that time, was spared.

I pondered on this story for the rest of my trip. Luckily, we left before Agung revealed its fury again in November 2017. When I read about the eruption in the news, I found little information regarding the spiritual importance of the volcano or how the locals were coping. I did, however, read plenty about its disastrous impact on Bali’s tourism.

“What would happen to Balinese culture at the whims of the tourism industry?” I thought to myself. “Could the island sustain its divine energy?”

But, in the spirit of Bali – in it’s exclusive wonderment to the rest of the world, I knew the answers to these questions were simply worries, curiosities of the future, not to be meditated on, as divinity is a power that, akin to a volcanic eruption, moves on its own terms. A feeling that I will never forget.

Metrolinx thinks to the future in new transportation plan

Metrolinx is thinking about the future — at least as far as 2041.

The board released their Draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area at their Sept. 14 meeting, with the intention of gathering feedback over a 90-day public consultation period. The information they get will be considered for use in the final draft, which will be available in December.

By 2041, Metrolinx says over 10 million people will live across the Golden Horseshoe Area. The new transportation plan will move beyond The Big Move.

The report reads: “We need to plan for a future characterized not only by continued population and employment growth, but also by changing demographics (including an aging population), the changing nature of work, new transportation technologies and services, and the impacts of climate change. In short, we cannot stop.”

There are five different aspects of this new transportation plan.

  1. Completing delivery of current regional transit projects: Metrolinx is in the midst of increasing their Rapid Express Rail, working on the Hurontario, Eglinton, Hamilton, and Finch Light Rail Transit, as well as the York VIVA. Delivery is expected by 2025.
  2. Connecting more of the region with frequent rapid transit: The goal is to create 15-minute all day service so that people can get around the region without delay.
  3. Optimizing the transportation system to make the best possible use of existing and future transit assets: Metrolinx has determined that fares by distance is the most efficient structure. It also wants to ensure that more people take alternative modes of transportation on their way to use the transit system. Their goal will be to increase the number of people who bike, walk, or carpool from 38 per cent to 62-64 per cent.
  4. Integrating land use and transportation: This strategy will help create mobility hubs and new developments, with the goal of intensifying certain areas so that transit becomes more accessible. The designs wil encourage cycling and walking as primary modes of transportation.
  5. Preparing for an uncertain future: The plan encourages a regional approach to transit planning as opposed to municipal or private enterprises. Metrolinx will also continue to study new technologies to help reduce greenhouse gasses.

The public will be able to provide feedback at six regional roundtables prior to the final draft.

5 tips to dress for a sweltering hot day

Dressing for hot weather can seem impossible — running makeup, frizzy hair, sore feet, and of course, all of the clothing clings that to your body. It’s gross and can really ruin your day.

But, Women’s Post is here to tell you that it’s NOT impossible to dress to impress in the summer heat. In fact, the key is embracing your natural beauty and having a bit of fun with your summer choices.

Here are our top five tips to dress for a scorching summer day:

Natural makeup: I don’t know about you, but in extreme warm weather, the mere thought of foundation, eyeshadow, and lipstick makes me cringe. All I can picture is my face melting off as I’m walking outside with friends. It’s not even worth it. Instead, go for a more natural look. Stick to a bit of cover up if you have dark circles under your eyes and a bit of mascara. If you really want to go crazy, add some eyeliner on your top lids. Lipstick (or preferably a light coloured gloss) should be fine — just make sure you do a teeth check with a friend after that first glass of wine.

Updos: Do you ever feel like the simplest thing to do in the summer is to chop off all your hair? While short hair looks good on some people, others may want to keep their long locks despite the frizzy mess the humidity creates. In those cases, the easiest thing you can do with your hair is to put it up. Whether it’s a lazy bun or a braid, just get it off your face. Sure, curling your hair or straightening it may look professional and sexy, but once the humidity or head sweat attacks, those luscious curls will turn into a crimped monstrosity.

The best part is that updos can be equally fun. My biggest piece of advice is not to pull your hair back into a really tight ponytail or bun, as it may give you a headache throughout the day. Instead, put your hair up as you normally would and then tug at the ends to create volume. Add a headband if you want some texture. Let a few pieces hang down around your ears. If it’s not perfect, that’s okay! Perfection in an updo is overrated. Play around with braids and hair twists until you find something that works for everyday wear. If putting all your hair up is simply too horrifying to imagine, try the half bun. This hairstyle is very trendy this year and still allows you to get your sticky hair off your face while having the rest of your hair down.

Wear comfortable and loose clothing: Ditch the spanx and wear what’s comfortable. No one needs extra layers on when the humidity hits. Luckily, the trend this year is to embrace the baggy and bohemian — lots of colours and patterns. Tops are flowy with peek-a-boo shoulders and can be paired with shorts or a comfortable skirt. Try to find dresses that flatter your natural body shape. The trend this year is to have a dress with sleeves, which is perfect to protect your shoulders from the harsh UV rays of the sun. Dress these outfits up with a pair of cute laced sandles and a hat or dress it down with a pair of converse or walking shoes (see below).

The biggest tip: stay away from black (however slimming). This summer, embrace light colours and breezy materials. You won’t regret it.

shoes

Walking sandals: What used to be old and clunky has been reborn.They come in multiple styles and colours, including ones with laces and funky straps. I recently bought a pair of walking sandals that I love, and received a compliment at work about how they looked. The plus side? They were incredibly comfortable. Most walking sandals have cushioning and an incredible amount of support around the ankle — perfect to avoid those nasty falls. No blisters for me this summer! With all of these new styles, walking sandals can be worn to work or a night out on the town.

Photo courtesy of @SI_Swimsuit

Hit the beach proud: Worried your body may not be “beach ready”? Screw that! If you have a body, and you go to the beach, it is beach ready! When I went to Mexico on vacation, I was really worried that I would look terrible in a bikini. But, when I got there, it was so hot that I decided to ignore what everyone else thought and I rocked the two-piece. I was able to survive the excruciating hot week thanks to that decision. The best part? I wasn’t the only one. Everyone on that beach, no matter their size, was wearing a bikini. Some were even going topless! If it’s a hot day, wear as little clothes as is legally allowed and be proud of your amazing body.

How are you going to dress this summer? Let us know in the comments below!

Summer activities and culinary delights in Abbotsford, B.C.

Summer is a great time to explore British Columbia, with her many outdoors activities and festivals. While some will make the drive straight to Vancouver, the more enlightened traveler will stop and visit Abbotsford, the largest city in the Fraser Valley. According to Destination B.C., Abbotsford is known as the “City in the Country” for its agriculture, hospitality, and outdoors activities.

Abbotsford is nestled on flatlands between the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges. With a burgeoning population of approximately 143,000, Abbottsford lies in the heart of the Fraser Valley, 68km east of Vancouver and just 5km from the US border. While Hwy 1 connects the community east and west, its airport has put Abbotsford on the international map. Abbotsford is an alternate arrival/departure point to Vancouver’s International Airport.

It’s a great place to stretch your legs walking, hiking or running one of Abbottsford’s numerous scenic trails or have a bite at some of the best eateries you’ll find anywhere, and perhaps spend a night. Enjoy the panoramic view at 300 meters after hiking the Abby Grind or run the Mill Lake trail, for a perfect sample of what Abbottsford offers outdoors enthusiasts. My partner, John and I checked out both trails recently in perfect mid-spring conditions. Read on for our detailed analysis:

Outdoors – Abby Grind

The Abby Grind is like the little sister to North Vancouver’s Grouse Grind. This was our first time hiking the steep Glen Ryder Trail. It has a viewpoint that can be reached in about 45 minutes. The 4km trek can be a challenge if you’re not wearing the proper shoes, though on this sunny day runners and walkers with their dogs enjoyed the trail as much as we did. The Abby Grind has been around since 2013 and offers a great workout. Steep though it is, there are sections that level off, allowing one to rest.

View from the top of Abby Grind. Photo by John Moe.

Outdoors – Mill Lake

We started out walking around the paved pathway and boardwalk that encircles beautiful Mill Lake Park in central Abbottsford, but ended up running parts of the two kilometre path. Mill Lake is a popular trail that attracts everyone, with picnic tables, a playground, and water park. Prepare for photo ops abound with spectacular views of Washington State’s Mount Baker. A fun fact: did you know that Mill Lake Park is the Jewel of Abbotsford because of its rich history? The first saw mill was built there in 1903 and  remained active until 1934.

Wellness/Health

After our workout we were welcomed to lunch by friendly staff at the Harvest Grill n Greens in downtown Abbotsford. It’s a one-of-a-kind eatery in which owner/chef Dion Brisson presents a varied menu of all healthy choices for the vegan and meat lover alike. It’s comfortable, bright, and super clean, built in part with 100-year-old cedar beams that were discovered under the original building by Dion’s friend and carpenter. The wood benches and foot rests are brought back to life from barns that once occupied the site.

Dion says he’s always been passionate about healthy eating from being an athlete himself as a hockey player, wrestler and an avid Abby Grinder. His passion for healthy eating led him to create custom meals from soups, salads to entries. Dion says the food is local and all fresh, as we tried his recommendation – salad served with local produce and sausage. Dion says, “it is the new Kits,” in reference to Vancouver’s trendy Kitsilano district, in offering a gluten-free menu to a knowledgeable clientele.

Brodeur’s Bistro carb loading!

Brodeur’s made me feel like I was home in Quebec with their Montreal style menu. It’s a great place for carb-loading before a hike or a long run. I couldn’t resist ordering my favourite Quebec dish, poutine, along with Pierre’s Cuban sandwich. Their specialty is Montreal smoked meat, which is served in large portions. John had a half rack of ribs with Brodeur’s barbecue sauce, which he devoured. Chef Jay Baker has about 20 years experience and the food dishes are a fusion blend of New Orleans and Montreal cuisine.

Brookside Abby

En route to our overnight stay at the Brookside Abby, we drove by pristine farmlands that seemed to stretch for miles. It’s a charming boutique inn on Chardonnay Lane that is close to local vineyards. The Brookside Abby was voted best small hotel in Canada by TripAdvisor for 2017 and their award list goes on. We stayed in the “Midnight in Paris” suite, which is themed after the romantic comedy about a writer, directed by Woody Allen. Each suite has a movie theme and is decorated with items based on the movie, such as an Underwood typewriter from the late 1920’s in our suite, as well as other fascinating artifacts and paintings. Chris and Sandi, the owners told us, “the items were to remind people of the movie theme. The movie is the central theme. All of that is Sandi’s idea. She thought of which movie themes: Thomas Crowne Affair, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We are not aware of any other hotel like this in the world.” We were treated the following morning to a homemade gourmet breakfast, which was included in the stay. As a rather muscular action movie star might say, “We’ll be back.”

If you have a passion for living a healthy lifestyle, your visit to Abbotsford will be fulfilling. The city is a gem of a place with healthy eateries, lots of outdoors activities, beautiful vineyards, parks, mountain views and lots more.

Look for next week’s feature as we explore Harrison Hot Springs……

 

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