Adventures in Wonderland

.......not just a travel blog

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Location: Canada

In our sixties, with apparently no other authentic option, my husband Don and I sold our car and apartment, sold or gave away all our stuff, and set off to discover the world. And ourselves. We started in Italy in 2011 and from there have travelled to Spain, India, Bali, etc. - you can see the blog archive. We will continue travelling until it's time to stop - if that time ever comes. So far it suits us very well. We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works. As we travel and both "choose" our course, and at the same time just let it unfold, we discover the "mechanics" of life, the astounding creativity of life, and a continual need to return to trust and presence. Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both.

Monday, June 04, 2012


Hello there,

Our blog has been revamped, redesigned, and upgraded. You can find it here:

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All posts to date have been transferred to the new site.

We hope you enjoy it. If you do you can click on the "follow" button to receive emails each time there's a new post.

Thank you for visiting.

Alison and Don

Friday, May 04, 2012

Australia - part 1

Our plane from Bali landed in Sydney at about 6 am. We went through customs and immigration, then breakfast at the airport, and major sticker shock! Australia is expensive!!!!! Eating out anywhere costs twice what it would in Vancouver.

There was a bus to Canberra at 8.15, but we deliberately took our time so we could line up early for the 9.15 bus in order to get the front seats so we could enjoy the scenery along the way on the 3-hour ride. Which we did. Get the front seats I mean. And promptly fell asleep.

Canberra. The Nation’s Capital. And my home town. Julie (sister) met us at the bus station and we were whisked off to lunch at (sister) Carol’s. I think. Can’t remember. All the details of our time in Canberra run together. It was so much fun and so good to be home. Except it was freeeeeeezing. Especially after Bali and India. Our first day there was 13 degrees (after about 40 in India and 30 in Bali) brrrrr. It was Anzac Day (a national holiday) so everything was closed, but the next day we were off to the thrift stores to buy some winter clothes, and borrowed hats and scarves and gloves and pj’s and fleeces from Julie and her husband Robbie. Robbie’s over 6 ft and Don’s 5ft 8in. Don looked pretty funny in Robbie’s clothes :)

Here’s what I do remember – there was a special dinner out to celebrate Carol’s recent award of the Order of Australia (for contribution to the arts in theatre). We might look like a motley crew but we had a good time and the food was to die for. Dinner was a work of art.

I spent a very fun few hours helping Carol shop for, and put together her two outfits for her investiture (daytime), and the black tie dinner (evening) at Government House.

Walking from Julie and Robbie’s we went for two hikes up Red Hill and saw four kangaroos the first time, and about 30 the next time. And lots of brightly coloured native birds. Canberra’s like that – great stretches of natural bush land interspersed with the suburbs.

We went to the Tidbinbilla nature reserve and saw a rare brolga, and kangaroos and emus of course, and most exciting of all we saw platypuses. Platypuses are notoriously shy and it’s very rare to see them, and we saw two! I know the photograph is a picture of a brown blob. But it’s a platypus! In the wild!

After the first three or so freezing days it warmed up to about 16 and sunny. With the right clothes that’s really lovely. There were a lot of days Julie and Don and I would go out for morning coffee and walk (at Regatta Point, at the National Gallery Sculpture Garden, along by the lake, at the Botanical Gardens).

At Regatta Point

At the National Gallery Sculpture Garden

At the Botanical Gardens

And two mornings we also went to camera stores to look for a new camera for me. We discovered the exact right camera. We also discovered that the absolute best place to buy cameras is…………….CANADA! Even better than Hong Kong apparently. So, a new camera for me when we get back near the end of May.

Carol and her husband John put on a fabulous spread one Sunday for as many family members as there were in Canberra at the time (about 16 of us), and we had dinner there on two other evenings, doing the half hour walk from Julie’s, and back again.

We had lunch with an old school friend and his partner (so good to catch up) and dinner with my oldest and best friend from high school and her husband. A very fun evening, that included an offer to house sit for them for 5 weeks in Sept/Oct this year. No firm decision yet, but we probably will. Just need to do a little more research on where we go from there.

And I spent a great deal of time with Julie (who’s a professional photographer) as she helped me set up a new system on my computer for editing and adjusting photos. A big thank you to Robbie who did the uploads (of editing software). And a huge thank you to Julie who spent hours teaching me how to use them (and my camera! – I had a lot to learn even about the one I currently have) – a big learning curve but hopefully one that will bring, along with the new camera, some improvements. Apart from travel photos, there’s so much potential for creative fun. Like this:

We were in Canberra for 12 days and the time flew by. We could easily have stayed longer. We had a wonderful time. It was good to be home.


My niece Megan and her husband Malcolm have a hundred-acre property, 30 minutes from Coffs Harbour. Coffs is on the east coast north of Sydney, and their farm is about 10km inland. They have 3 dogs and 10 horses. They’re both endurance riders, and Megan is a horse podiatrist.

Rubber boots – the latest thing in horseshoes. Who knew?

Warm again. Days were sunny and about mid twenties. Sweet. Australia’s east coast is pretty much one long string of white sand beaches, one after the other. We went for walks along the beach.

And walks around the property

Malcolm made a valiant attempt to get us to the top of a ridge to the beginning of an apparently excellent hiking trail. We never made it – the road was closed in one direction due to logging, and in another due to wash out. So we went to follow a track up a creek up to the waterfall only to find that track had been washed out too and it became too dangerous to continue. But we had fun trying. They’ve had a lot of rain here over the past while. Megan and Malcolm have been flooded out 6 times in the last two years! But we got lucky. It was fine and warm and sunny every day we were there. And obviously the floods didn't wash away the golden globe spiders. Glad I saw it before I walked into it.

It’s beautiful there – miles from anywhere, still and silent, surrounded by fields and bush. It’s been wonderful to catch up with Megan and to finally meet Malcolm. A big thank you to them both for having us, and to Megan for cooking us very yummy meals (which you’d expect from an ex chef !) with such ease and panache, even after long days trimming horses feet. And a huge thank you to Malcolm for driving us around, showing us the sights and the best beaches, and generally being an expert tour guide and fountain of knowledge about the area.

Next blog – Mullumbimby and Vancouver re-entry.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bali - part 4

The annual ceremony at Batur Temple is also held at Besakih Temple. Besakih is the Mother Temple of Bali and is located at the foot of the sacred Mt Agung. On an island of thousands of temples these two temples are the most important, and every year the Balinese come from all over the island to pray, to make offerings, to honour their ancestors, and to honour the temple, at either Batur or Besakih, during the two-week period of this ceremony. I was told the Balinese name of the ceremony but it was too much to take in. Translated it means “when God comes down for all”. How wonderful – the time when God comes down to earth for ALL.

Our guide Ketut and his wife were planning their annual pilgrimage and offered to take us with them to join in the ceremony and ritual. In a heartbeat we accepted.

Ketut and his wife

Crowds streaming towards the temple

Ketut’s wife had brought all the offerings for all of us, flowers and small cones of banana leaves (not sure what was inside them) and we first went through a small ritual of prayer and offering at the smaller temple of Ketut’s family ancestors. She also had two baskets of food blessed by the priests. Then we went to the main temple.

The inner courtyard of Besakih Temple presented the same scene we had seen at Batur Temple – hundreds in prayer, and wonderful energy and respect for the sacred. And this time we actually got to take part in the ritual: holding up our hands in prayer with flowers held between our fingers, and then with the small banana leaf offerings held between our fingers, in an age old ceremony of devotion and connection with spirit. Moved to tears again. Magical.

The Priest

And of course there was dancing – intentional, traditional, sacred, and focused. And spoken performances – hilarious (even not understanding the language) almost like stand-up comedy. The spoken performances are from their traditional mythology, and had the crowds laughing out loud, side by side with hundreds of others kneeling in prayer, and others chatting in groups.

The only way to see these dances and performances is to go to Besakih Temple at the time “when God comes down for all”. They are never performed outside the temple.

The Dancers

The Performers

What’s different here from western spiritual practice, it seems to me, is that there is a great sense of community here, and a light-heartedness that I’ve never come across in the west. Everyone seemed committed to their pilgrimage and their religion, but at the same time very relaxed – it was a holiday and Holy Day both, and families wandered around chatting and smiling, while others knelt and took part in the ritual offering and blessing. It felt sacred and like a party both at the same time.

Heading home, in the car, Ketut’s wife opened one of the baskets of food that had been blessed and we all had snacks for the drive – oranges, some yummy things like potato chips but made with rice, and little cakes very like North American muffins.

Then we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, with a fabulous view, where Don and I ate. Ketut and his wife took the other basket of food and wandered off somewhere to have a picnic of blessed chicken.

A wonderful day: one of our best days in Bali. The temple so colourful, the people so devoted, and open, and light hearted, the energy of spirit so strong, the ritual so ancient and heart felt, the dancers so serious in their portrayal of the traditional stories, the actors so humorous, so obviously having fun while at the same time honouring the sacred. A wonderful day.

A new day and we were off to Tulamben on the east coast to go snorkeling at the second best place in Bali. There’s a shipwreck there, and colourful tropical fish. We rented equipment and paid for a guide. The water was a bit rough and we went out quite far. Not sure we would have gone on our own but with a guide it felt safe enough. We saw lots of colourful fish, and it was interesting to follow the outlines of what once was a ship now covered in barnacles and coral and other sea life, but the highlight by far was the huge school of jackfish that suddenly appeared out of nowhere under Don. He stuck his head out of the water and shouted for me, and then our guide saw them too and we followed them for a long time as they swirled around and around, moving as one entity. Other purple and yellow fish attached themselves to the outside of the swirling jackfish. It was fascinating to watch them all. So exciting. We were just enthralled. We’d never seen anything like it. Our guide had an underwater camera and took lots of pictures for us.

After snorkeling we went swimming at White Sand Beach near the town of Bugbug. I love swimming in the tropics. I can stay in the water for hours: so soothing and warm.

Our friend Linda was travelling in Bali with other friends and came to Ubud to spend a few days with us. Together we went to Yeh Pulu (thousand year old relief carvings) and Goa Gajah, known as the Elephant Cave (a 9th century sanctuary carved into the rock), and the village of Petulu where every evening about 15 to 20 thousand cattle egrets come to roost for the night.

Yeh Pulu

Goa Gajah

Cattle egrets at Petulu

We had many wonderful meals together, but the very best thing we did together was to climb Mt. Batur. In the dark! To see the sunrise.

We were collected from our hotel at about 2.30 am, and along with 4 other people, drove for about an hour to who knows where. We were given a cup of coffee and a banana pancake and then back in the car for about another 40 minutes. Then we met our guides for climbing the mountain. Our group of six turned out to be all Canadians: three twenty-somethings, and three sixty-somethings! We were given flashlights and set off up the volcano behind one of our two guides.

It was easy enough at first, but gradually got steeper and steeper and rougher and rougher. Eventually the three twenty-somethings took off ahead of us with one of the guides, and the other guide stayed with us. It was not an easy climb. I wish I’d had one of those headlights, rather than having to hold something in my hand. Lava rock is very rough and sharp and crumbly. And it was pitch black. When we looked up all we could see was a sporadic line of small lights slowly moving – vertically! We didn’t look up often, or for long. Best to keep flashlight and eyes on the treacherous path directly in front of us. But we persevered! We are intrepid travellers! We climbed higher and higher into the fog. We could see the dawn beginning to come and we persevered! Eventually we reached the top - only about 10 minutes after the others in our group. Just in time to see the sun beginning to appear through the fog.

There were about 50 people in all who had climbed the mountain that day. There was a little building with a kitchen where you could buy hot drinks (much needed), and we were given a simple breakfast of bread and banana and an egg hard-boiled on one of the steam vents from the volcano (yes it is still active).

We were taken to the rim of the volcano, and to some of the steam vents, and monkeys came to beg for food.

And then we began the long trek back down, almost more treacherous than coming up. I climbed down like a monkey – it seemed to me that 4 limbs would keep me more stable than two. As we walked away from the volcano a backward look revealed just how much of the top of the mountain was blown off by one of the major eruptions.

In between all these long days out exploring both the Balinese country side and culture, we would have days at home – lay days, as my sister calls them, just staying at home doing not much, catching up on photo editing, reading, writing. It took a while to feel like home here, after having been in the same apartment for over two months in India, but after about ten days or so it started to have that familiar feeling of home. And then, kind of suddenly it seemed, our time in Bali was over and it was time to leave. For our last day we went to Turtle Island (where they breed, and then release, turtles that were becoming extinct), the serene beach of Nusa Dua to sit for a while and watch the waves come in, and to the cliff-side temple of Uluwatu to watch the sunset. And then off to the airport for a late night flight to Sydney.

Nusa Dua

Uluwatu sunset

Bali was divine. We will definitely be back.