Mak­ing magic in per­fect har­mony

Balonne Beacon - - LIFE - CHRIS GIL­MORE

HERE I am, not yet a day into my stay in Ubud, and my arm is aching as I use a mor­tar and pes­tle to pound a piece of aloe vera into a gel. Not ex­actly how I ex­pected my week of re­lax­ation to start.

“Not smooth enough yet,” smiles Dewi, who runs Ubud Botany In­ter­ac­tive, as she looks into my bowl of glug.

I sigh. But in this small stu­dio off one of Ubud’s qui­eter back­streets, it is im­pos­si­ble to feel any­thing but seren­ity.

I have signed up for one of UBI’s botan­i­cal work­shops, in which par­tic­i­pants cre­ate their own body-care prod­ucts from all-nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents Dewi has sourced from around Ubud.

In front of me is my mor­tar and pes­tle, a tim­ber chop­ping board, a tra­di­tional knife, an ar­ray of plants and flow­ers and a bowl full of en­chant­ing es­sen­tial oils such as frank­in­cense, ylang-ylang and tuberose. The smell is in­tox­i­cat­ing.

I have al­ready made a sham­poo from finely chopped hi­bis­cus leaves and frangi­pani flow­ers, and now I am work­ing on a nat­u­ral sun­screen, made from aloe vera, co­conut milk and co­conut oil.

With a lit­tle help from Dewi and her ever-smil­ing team, my sun­screen fi­nally passes the test. It is poured from the mor­tar through a strainer and into a glass bot­tle, ready for me to take back to my ho­tel.

Dewi clearly has a pas­sion for plants. She grew up on a nearby farm and stud­ied botany at univer­sity in Denpasar. Her en­thu­si­asm is in­fec­tious. But it is not just her love of plants that shines through.

Her love for her Ba­li­nese com­mu­nity is also ev­i­dent. She is aim­ing to cre­ate a busi­ness that pro­motes the lo­cal econ­omy and is en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing my third prod­uct

– a face mask and body scrub made from rice, tomato and turmeric – Dewi (pro­nounced Day-Wii) no­tices my snif­fle.

“You have cold?” she asks. I nod. “This will fix,” she says.

We are mak­ing our fourth and fi­nal prod­uct, a tra­di­tional Ba­li­nese heal­ing scrub called boreh.

It is made of rice, clove, gin­ger and galan­gal, all ground to­gether us­ing the mor­tar and pes­tle. Once Dewi is sat­is­fied with my boreh, she gently scoops some up in her fin­gers. She rubs blobs on my fore­head, tem­ples and be­hind my ears, then smears the rest on my neck.

“Do you feel it?” she asks.

“Noth­ing yet,” I say scep­ti­cally. But then the sen­sa­tion hits me. There is a feel­ing of warmth. My nose starts to clear. I feel reen­er­gised.

UBI also of­fers guided walks of the rice pad­dies around Ubud. A par­tic­u­lar high­light of the walk is watch­ing a lo­cal farmer scale a co­conut tree. He brings a co­conut down then cuts it open for us to share in the sweet juice in­side.

The work­shop and walk are a per­fect in­tro­duc­tion to life in Ubud. A cou­ple of hours’ drive from Bali’s Ngu­rah Rai In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Ubud feels like a world away from the gaudi­ness of tourist mag­nets such as Kuta and Seminyak.

For the ad­ven­tur- ous, it’s a lit­tle over an hour’s drive to Mt Batur.

The trek up this ac­tive vol­cano for sun­rise is well worth the early start. But be warned: it is a stren­u­ous climb in dark­ness the mus­cles will cer­tainly ache af­ter the de­scent.

Luck­ily I have my magic po­tion, a bot­tle of hand­made boreh, await­ing me at the ho­tel.

Photo: iStock

PIC­TURESQUE: A farmer work­ing at rice field in Ubud.

Photo: Chris Gil­more

A lo­cal farmer climbs a co­conut tree.

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