We had heard about the allure of rustic and authentic Balinese village life, but it wasn't until we traveled far from the normal tourist haunts that we saw and felt the magic of traditional northern Bali.
Sudaji is on the northern slope of the volcano, facing the northern shore. There are places in the village where it feels like time has stopped and the older ways of life have been preserved.
You can feel the timelessness most in the rice fields that line the mountainside around the village.
The rice fields are carefully arranged almost to artistic perfection for water to continually flow through and nourish the rice seedlings.
A mere picture cannot fully convey the beauty of such artistic and functional stewardship. The various colors of greens are poetry to the eyes.
To compliment the visual beauty, much of Bali's tastey organic fruits and vegetables are grown on the northern slope near Sudaji. Aside from a few small machines, almost everything is done by hand and with the help of livestock, much like it has for centuries.
In the middle of the rice fields and crops, the village of Sudaji is bustling with movement and activity, but in the midst of it all is a small oasis that our friend Zanzan has created. It is a thoughtfully developed compound where he lives and invites people to stay called "Omunity."
Small bamboo guesthouses surround a small pool, where peace seems to percolate.
It was at Omunity that Zanzan hosted the Peace Run festivities with his family. Before the international team of over 120 runners arrived, a sacred fire ceremony started the proceedings at the compound "Omunity."
Select school children from around the village were present, getting inspired to run the entire route.
Ir. Dewa Ketut Puspaka, MP Chief of Regent North side of Bali lit the torch from the ceremonial fire. Zanzan, the host for the event, kneels prayerfully to the side. Zanzan and his wife Putu made arrangements for all the festivities.
The torch is passed to Salil Wilson, who respectfully wears traditional Balinese dress for the occasion.
A moment of chanting and meditation...
Media came to capture the opening ceremony.
Zanzan helps his daughter Dek Tan with the torch.
The founder of the Peace Run, Sri Chinmoy, once commented on the updlifting qualities of Bali, and how it stood first among all other nations in many respects.
Dancers with incredible costumes wait silently in the wings.
Drs. Gede Suyasa, M.Pd chief of Culture and Tourism Division North side of Bali welcomed the runners and spoke about the importance of Balinese culture.
Traditional Balinese dance was performed in all its ornate beauty and charm.
A live gamelan orchestra created a resonating Balinese atmosphere that sounds unlike any other place on earth.
Zanzan's son Oman keeps dry as the rain starts to fall.
A wooden statue of the founder of the Peace Run, Sri Chinmoy was carved by a friend of Zanzan's.
Students are in good spirits as they get ready for the run and wait for the rain to clear.
Jokes and tricks keep waiting children happily occupied.
The ceremonial team that conducted the fire ceremony poses in front of the fire.
Live gamelan music vibrated in the air.
Coconuts were cut down and collected from around the village of Sudaji to present to all the participants.
Down at the village centre, people gather in anticipation for the buses of runners to arrive.
Zanzan gets everyone into position.
Zanzan's daughter Dek Tan rides the ceremonial plow behind decorated Balinese cows, which are some of the most beautiful animals.
The tradition had been fading away, but Zanzan wanted to bring it back for this festive occasion.
The marching band provides jovial traditional music to welcome the international runners as the arrived on buses.
Oman sprints ahead.
Dek Tan leads the way with her friends as the international team walks from the buses through the village to Omunity.
Coconuts for the runners.
A guesthouse at Omunity provides some shade.
Zanzan offers a heartfelt welcome to everyone as they arrive at Omunity.
The fresh organic fruit from the village is amazing!
Orchids grow on the 108 different varieties of trees on the property.
Homecooked food for everyone!
Also joining to hold the torch were Drs. I Gusti Ngurah Suradnyana, Chief of the Sawan District and other leaders of the village, including the chief of the village (in costume) and other leaders from the north side of Bali.
After a final prayer, it was time to set out from Omunity to run with the torch.
Rama (behind torch) and his friends lead the procession to the centre of Sudaji to start the run.
Let the run begin! Rama leads the way.
Rumi runs and sets the pace.
And regardless of footwear, everyone joins in and the streets fill with runners.
The first school visit is very orange!
We are greeted in their courtyard with open hands.
After a brief ceremony, the camera can't quite capture everyone in the photo.
We leave the first school and start running by local rice fields.
A typical Balinese family on the popular mode of transportation.
Ducks blocked the way for a moment!
The next school is very green!
Some village children joined in from the very start and stayed with the run the whole way.
A moment's peace.
The run snakes through the rice fields and at times was almost a kilometer long!
And the rain begins to really pour, and at first some tried to stay dry, but at a certain point everyone had to to surrender and enjoy the deluge of moisture.
The headmaster managed to stay dry.
Vlodo clowns around with the kids to everyone's delight.
It appears some footwear was either discarded or lost, but that didn't stop anyone from continuing.
Keeping up with these kids was a challenge!
The water gets deeper!
Thumbs up for rain!
And even deeper!
The day's steepest hill finally managed to slow down the front runners.
Farmers at work.
Picture perfect natural beauty.
The run stopped for a moment at the most sacred temple on the hill above the village of Sudaji.
The red and blue school!
Arriving back in the heart of Sudaji.
Slowing down for a landing.
Zanzan's mother, who stayed up all night cooking, was the perfect recipient of the torch back at Omunity. She walked it back to the gathering place for the children to light the hearth.
After everyone left, Omunity returned to it's peaceful stillness.