Brighten your day with Light Stays interviews discovering more on inspirational people from around the globe. Tameera Kemp speaks with...John Bludstone, the owner of Bali Eco Stay with his wife Cath and 8 year old son, Huon. They arrived from Australia in March 2010, opened 27 December 2010 and haven’t looked back.
My wife our son and I were looking for a new direction and went on a camping trip around Australia for some inspiration. We became friends with an Australian family who ran an eco retreat in Bali, they told us how beautiful it was so we finished our trip, went home and took ourselves straight to Bali and fell in love with the place.
We had a good look around but couldn’t find anything suitable in terms of a location for our retreat, we were talking to the cook feeling a bit jaded who mentioned they had some property. This was the last place we looked at and it was perfect with a 12 meter waterfall, great feng shui and a mountain right behind us. It couldn’t have been more beautiful with the rice paddies.
We went back to Australia after agreeing to lease the land for 50 years – we don’t buy the property, as we have to respect the traditional indigenous owners. To get started we had a bungalow suite built for us, they were beautiful right by the stream so we went ahead with the whole thing and Bali Eco Stay was built within 9 months, with a hydro system. The whole thing was very serendipitous.
There are certain cultural differences, as the Balinese don’t like asking how to do something so we were there to watch over the build. All the materials were sourced locally and the builders were local too. Norm and Linda Vant Hoff from Sarinbuana Eco lodge were a great help – they’ve been operating for about 8 years now and won two awards for eco tourism and are pioneers in this area. We’ve become great friends of course.
This was a completely new experience for us in terms of learning about eco systems. Cath got her certificate in permaculture before we left. Chakra runs the permaculture in Ubud and has been invaluable too; he did the initial hydro system. The hydro system is a simple process from a mountain fed swimming pool, it’s a large wheel with scoops on it, just before it hits the peloton wheel the pipe goes from a 6 inch to a 3 inch and drives the wheel around then drives the generator which gives us 58% electricity. We’re just getting a new one, then hoping to move to an even bigger one then buy solar panels which only need heat not sun so we’re totally self sufficient.
We had to sell our house back in Australia and it’s just been a leap of faith – it’s been amazing for all of us really. We have our son home tutored, they come stay with us, he’s doing amazing now and really enjoying his new education as he was struggling in Australia.
We’re 90 minutes from Ubud, about 2 hours from the airport. There is a swimming beach 50 minutes away by car; we have a great mountain bike ride to a beach near us. Most of the beaches in Bali are black sand very different to Australia.
There’s 30,000 expats living in Bali from all over the world, most of them doing business – we’re getting a lot of people from Western Australia with holiday homes. It takes a while to go through the paperwork process though!
I’m originally from Tasmania and Cath is from Mount Tambourine, which is around the Gold Coast, Australia.
Our 8-year-old son Huon already speaks Balinese! We’ve had a lot going on – we want to learn. For the moment our son is our interpreter but we can’t wait to learn more.
I’ve always been environmentally aware and health conscious. Many years ago in Hobart in the early 80’s I had a health food shop, and was a huge supporter of the free Sheppard Conservation Society and a founding member of the Wilderness Society. I was working in America on a yacht and got really sick from putting a knife through my hand-shelling oysters. I went to see a naturopath then changed through natural therapies, yoga and nutrition. It all moved forward from there.
It’s really interesting because when I got involved healing myself with raw food and yoga in the 70’s with juices, fasting and yoga it seems to have all come back again now in a full circle.
One of the main reasons people keep coming back to Bali is the Balinese connection with their spirituality. It’s quite a complex form of Hinduism and Buddhism with 96% of the population Balinese Hindus.
Our dry season is May to October and the wet is November to April. Dry means cool nights with sunny days and occasional afternoon rain with temperatures ranging around 18 to 30 degrees celsius.
The wet season is beautiful in the morning then heavy rain in the afternoon with temperatures around 22 to 35 degrees celsius but the humidity is much higher. In 2010 it just seemed to rain the whole year! Strange weather happens everywhere though.
When guests visit they can expect a sense of space with the freshness, green and openness. Most people just go “wow how did you find this place?” because the views are just stunning, we’re the only people in the valley.
Visitors are mostly Europeans from July to August, around Christmas and Easter we have lots of Australians. We’ve recently had some visitors from Shanghai and Beijing, they were into Taoism, a form of standing meditation. Being an eco lodge we attract likeminded people and have been really lucky.
I start my day going for a walk or with some yoga, have a swim in the stream then have breakfast with the family then do emails. At the moment it’s tricky as we’ve lost our Internet tower! I then check how the guests are, there’s always lots of gardening to do. In the afternoon we have English classes, we teach English there and setting up a library. It’s a amazing how the day goes, sometimes we take guests for walks or up to the mountains. When we have six bungalows we’ll stop building – we like to spend more time with our guests if needed, giving quality time.
We don’t grow all of our own produce but we’re getting there with lots of trial and error as well! Had to build shelters over the lettuces because of the rain. Growing vegetables is new for all of us, we do most of this ourselves, we try and grow as much seasonal fruit we can. We grow our own organic rice as well; it’s delicious and healthy.
My signature dish is called Pepisikan a traditional Indonesian dish of fish, wrapped in banana leaves baked in the oven with lemon grass in tomato salsa. I also love a Nasi Campur, it’s like a Balinese version of a tapas plate. Little bits of all the favourites you can sample!
I feel inspired by trying to live in the moment - watching the Balinese live in the moment and I’m trying to learn from this. They give so much in how to be in the here and now. I think this is why their smiles are so infectious.
My favourite part of the Balinese culture is sitting around talking; they just want to talk and communicate and are not in a rush.
One thing Bali Eco Stay has taught me is patience!!
We have a real mixture of activities for example the kids want to do carving and kite making and the adults like to do trekking and walking. Some people just like sitting and reading and we have some self guiding walks too. Our cooking classes have become quite busy after our guests sample the food here!
We’re trying to bring more wildlife in and teach the locals about animals. We don’t have many monkeys around here, although there are some in the rainforest.
Our most popular attractions are walking and trekking. We have seven fantastic walks! And carving...learning how to carve, one Balinese guy just turned 18 had been carving since age seven, he’s now a master carver and people love going to see him.
The favourite part of my job is watching peoples faces when they arrive. It’s just a blast really! It’s a bit a of a rough ride getting here but once they arrive it’s like WOW!!
My worst job was in a chicken farm it was the most horrendous experience knowing how cruel humans can be.
My motivational tip is to just have some faith and trust in your intuition. For instance meeting this family whilst travelling in Australia, visiting Bali and realising we didn’t know exactly what we were doing but having faith in the process. For us it was perfect timing all round. You don’t know until you jump in and immersing yourself in another culture is such a rewarding experience.
I don’t like talking about my lack of Indonesian!
My most treasured possession is a whale a friend carved for me from timber called huon pine only found in Tasmania and very slow growing, they can make fabulous boats out of this and it’s totally water proof. The whale had just eaten a whaler - it’s beautiful.
My happiest moment was when my son Huon was born.
I’m very bad at being romantic…my poor wife!
Friends say I’m a pretty good friend to have, I’m also very hospitable.
If only I could stop greed on the planet.
The hardest thing I’ve done was my last math exam.
I’m always being asked how on earth did you find this place?!
At the moment I’m listening to the new Siddharta by the Buddha Bar and I also really like Angus and Julia Stone.
I often wonder if we really are reincarnated. Do we really come back?!