The chill of the early morning bites through to my bones like starving dogs tearing savagely at a discarded piece of meat. It is incredible to contemplate that within just a few hours I’ll be craving shade and gasping in exhaustion, as the midday sun strikes out with the abruptness of a wronged woman.
Easing myself away from the reassuring warmth of my well-travelled sleeping bag, I pile on layers of clothing and head out into a slowly awakening world.
A small clutch of early morning risers huddle together in companionable silence, their shoulders swathed in blankets as they nurse steaming mugs of coffee. We acknowledge each other with the briefest of nods and I make my way briskly to my trusty bicycle. My morning meditation begins elsewhere…
I cycle through the still slumbering village, swerving to avoid scurrying chickens and lazily stretching dogs. Labourers are setting off for a day’s work in the fields, colourful bundles of cloth and battered straw hats slung casually across their backs.
The quiet of the morning is disrupted only by the ‘putt-putt’ sound of motorbikes ferrying children to school – up to 4 passengers at a time overtake me with toothy smiles and shy waves.
The road ahead is murderously steep and my feeling of cold is soon forgotten as I struggle to reach the top on a bike without gears. It is then that I get to savour the glorious reward – the pure adrenalin kick of racing down the other side. I feel so free and exhilarated… I just hope that the elephants don’t emerge unexpectedly from the banana groves – my brakes are not designed for sudden stops!
After about half-an-hour of steady cycling through a landscape of patchwork fields and bamboo huts, I finally arrive at my destination: the hot springs.
Descending into the nature reserve, I can already see steam rising from pools of water set amid dense groves of shady trees. The sight of this raw, natural energy never fails to make my heart lift in sheer happiness – there is such a sense of beauty and tranquillity here.
Once I have reached my favourite spot, I peel off my clothes and tiptoe carefully into the cloudy water – the temperature always comes as a wondrous surprise! Slowly allowing my body to adjust, I ease myself into the pool and rest my back against a moss-covered rock.
As the warmth envelops me in a layer of protective calm, I feel a sense of absolute peace. Submerging myself further into the delicious warmth, I am aware of nothing but the melodious birdsong and the gentle morning sun peeping timidly through the trees. At this moment, I feel utterly content and totally free. I want for nothing. I am unaware of any problems or fears, decisions to be made or obligations to fulfil. All that exists is the here and now. And right now, there’s no place that I would rather be…
Closing my eyes, I listen to the comforting flow of my breath in the knowledge that I am very much alive.
Originally from the UK, my studies of fashion journalism in London were followed by a move to Munich, Germany. Here I worked as a PR in fashion and then in film, before the path of destiny led me to Vienna, Austria and a stint as an editor for the Associated Press. I now live in beautiful Biarritz in Southwest France, where I am a translator and sometime-writer. Travel is my constant muse and I feel truly blessed for all of my amazing experiences and for the wonderful people whom I have met along the way…
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