Show­er­ing with friends

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

A friend of mine who’s a long-time Bali res­i­dent once told me that if I were to stay still long enough in the grounds of his villa, some­one would ap­pear with a chisel or a gar­land of marigolds. He was laugh­ing, but he then pointed out that no stone sur­face in his gar­den was safe — all were per­fectly carved by his grounds­men and the stat­ues of Hindu gods dot­ted about wore strands of vivid orange blooms, re­plen­ished daily.

It’s this ef­fort­less artistry and in­trin­sic re­gard for na­ture in Bali that en­hances ev­ery visit. At many villa com­pounds, even the door keys, whether stone or wood, are carved, and plunge pools and feet-wash­ing bowls will be scat­tered with frangi­pani or roses. Lie face­down on a spa couch and your view from the padded in­sert will be of bowls of flow­ers and, in one re­cent case, a lit­tle lime-green frog that stared straight back at me, and not in a friendly way. A pe­tal on your gue­stroom pil­low or break­fast tray? Yes, you are wel­come.

It’s in trop­i­cal des­ti­na­tions such as Bali where semiout­door bath­rooms at re­sorts or vil­las are such a treat, too, even in the rainy sea­son. “You are get­ting wet any­way,” says my friend Putu, and he is right. At Kayu­ma­nis Nusa Dua (pic­tured), a quar­tet of lit­tle stone chaps guarded my al­fresco shower, eyes mod­estly averted, but not so shy was the tree squir­rel that scam­pered past nor the mouthy gecko perched on top of the wall. “O-oh!” it seemed to be chirp­ing as I dropped the soap, but luck­ily not one of the dainty ce­ramic con­tain­ers of cin­na­mon-scented sham­poo and con­di­tioner.

Many African camps and lodges of­fer out­door show­ers where the au­di­ence can be even more dis­turb­ing. Macaque mon­keys could swing past to say hello and bare their tomb­stone teeth or, as once hap­pened at the bliss­fully rus­tic Chada Katavi camp in south­west Tan­za­nia, an ele­phant trunk might ap­pear over your en­suite’s reed fence. Luck­ily the jumbo was just af­ter some leaves on an over­hang­ing branch and, af­ter it de­mol­ished its break­fast, padded off. It took me some time to ven­ture out. At a jun­gle camp in a na­tional park in In­dia’s state of Mad­hya Pradesh, a mon­goose joined me for al­fresco ablu­tions in my can­vas-walled shower. “Hello, Rikki-TikkiTavi!” I greeted him brightly. A mon­goose, par­tic­u­larly in a Rud­yard Kipling tale, will bite with pur­pose when alarmed, but he just fluffed up his tail like a bot­tle brush and ran clean away.

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