Georgie and I visited Bali towards the end of July 2019 with the purpose of leasing land in Penestanan from an Australian expat who we had met at the end of 2018. As fate had it the deal fell through and we embarked upon a road trip up the east coast of Bali. It’s always easy to look back on adversity to realize that what seemed like a disaster was really a huge stroke of good fortune. What happened over the next couple of weeks cascaded into a series of events that have brought us to where we are today.
Our dream to own a property in Bali was rekindled in late 2018 when we met an American couple who had a property for sale. This almost came off but they shafted us at the last moment which turned out to be a good thing. Fate is a strange mistress.
As usual when it comes to memories and the correct time sequence there may be discrepancies with what really happened so forgive my indiscretions with time, place. form and event.
There were several factors at play in mid 2019. One being that Georgie and I had just got married after having been together for 23 years, another very significant and important component was that I had given up some very bad habits several months earlier and I was beginning to see some significantly positive results. Change is always easier for me when I force myself into a new physical location. The triggers that keep the habits in place aren’t in the new and often unfamiliar locations. There is a tangible freedom from these invisible forces that shape the habits that control one’s destiny in an often predictable manner.
Overall, I was in a new head space from which I could view the present and plan the future. In actual fact I think that we both were.
After the land deal fell through we caught up with an acquaintance, a woman who I had only met twice in my life. Once in 1974 and again in the early 1980s. She was the ex partner of a close friend and she “owned” a villa in Penestanan which apparently she was considering selling the lease for. We had lunch with her and visited her place, an exotic but run down joglo down an obscure gang (laneway) at the Ubud end of Penestanan.
After leaving Lily Lane and embarking on our road trip which turned out to be a success, staying in places that I hadn’t visited in decades, we got to experience a different aspect of Bali that in some ways cemented our desire to create a stronger bond.
When we returned to Penestanan we chose to stay at a place called Outpost, a mixture of a co-working space and some small but pleasant rooms located around a pool. The costs fitted our limited budget. What I liked about this place was meeting people from all over the world. Russians, Americans, Europeans. There was always a new conversation to be had in the breakfast space plus we started to feel part of life in downtown Penestanan.
This is where we first ran into our friend Purnami who was working on reception at Outpost which was located just behind a very exotic vegan restaurant called Alchemy. We had daily meetings with Liz, the Australian woman who owned the lease on the property that we had started considering and often chatted with Purnami when we got back to Outpost. She worked different shifts so she was there early morning some days and in the evening on others. The rapport between the 3 of us was always good. During the conversations that we had with Purnami we learned that she had 2 young daughters and wanted more flexibility in her role as a mother. Based on the possibility that we would lease the property from Liz we broached the idea of her eventually working for us. Very tentative discussions ensued where we both wondered about the other and what we were thinking.
We returned to Melbourne in mid August not yet convinced about Joglo Putih, the property that we had considered leasing from Liz or hiring Purnami. Life was changing for us, we still had Tusk Gallery in Kilsyth and worked our asses off to make it work but to no avail. It was just too far off the beaten track. Georgie started doing architectural drawings with her ideas of what we could do at Joglo Putih and bit by bit we convinced ourselves that taking a chance on buying the lease was feasible. We were still in touch with Purnami but had not come to any agreements with her yet.
Around this time she started posting about a small one bedroom villa that her Uncle owned in Penestanan. We had planned to return to Bali in early November and negotiated a pretty good deal on staying there for the time of our stay.
In true form we made a series of decisions that would begin to reshape our destiny. Firstly we decided to take a 20 year lease on Joglo Putih which we renamed Villa Tusk, we hired Purnami and on top of that we decided to lease Putu’s small villa D’Cahyani House for one year and rent it out on AirBnB. Within days of making these decisions we signed leases and moved the furniture from Joglo Putih to D’Cahyani House which we renamed Villa Kecil. We set it up with the additional furniture and I must say did a fantastic job in an amazingly short period and then listed it on AirBnB and started taking bookings. We now had a staff member and 2 leases plus a commitment to renovate Villa Tusk and we called that a holiday! By the time we left Bali to return to Melbourne we already had some bookings and our AirBnB business had begun in Bali.
Renovations began at Villa Tusk just before Christmas 2019. We arrived back in Bali in mid January 2020 to oversee the work being done at our villa and to choose furniture, tiles and other necessary items. The booking calendar had filled up pretty quickly at Villa Kecil and the future was looking bright. We had several trips booked back to Bali throughout 2020 to oversee the renovation and building work at Villa Tusk. The trip was successful, we were full of enthusiasm and optimism, we returned to Australia in early February.
And then Covid came to town! Purnami has worked for us now for a bit over 2 years. Georgie communicates with her every day via WhatsApp and between the them of them they have co-ordinated the renovation and overcome all sorts of unseen obstacles that reared their ugly heads along the way.
Bali has been closed to tourism for the past 2 years. Who knows what it will be like when the tourists start returning. March is the month when things open up again but the transition from Covid Bali to Bali : The Island of Paradise will be slow.
We both feel optimistic that everything will work out beautifully, there are obscure and abstract ideas and plans. Purnami is now entrenched with us and our journey is about to re-begin.