13 Jul Rice, Bikes and Volcanoes – Our Bali Eco Cycling Tour
The best parts of our turbulent trip to Indonesia were without a doubt the days when we were out exploring the country, as opposed to working in a hotel room or killing time hanging around in one place trying to stick to our stringent budget. Our happiest days were those spent visiting Borobodour temple and Mount Bromo, snorkelling on the Gili Islands and taking on the Campuhan Ridge walk in Ubud. Another highlight was our one-day Eco Cycling tour; we got to explore the countryside and get an insight into Bali life as we biked through the heart of the island – here’s how it went.
Breakfast at Mount Batur
We began the day with a banana and chocolate pancake breakfast overlooking Mount Batur; an active volcano nestled in the heart of Bali. On the way there we stopped at an incredible rice terrace; as you can see from our pictures, the views were absolutely spectacular – enough even to rival those of our favourite country so far, New Zealand. This was the Indonesia we’d been waiting to see.
Bali Eco Cycling Tour Plantation Visit
Next we stopped at a local plantation. Our guide Wayan showed us all the different plants that are grown there, including tea and coffee, ginger, turmeric, cocoa and ginseng. We got to sample some of the products they sell, including lemon tea, coconut and vanilla coffee and our favourite: creamy, caramel-tasting pandanus tea.
We also learnt how Luwak coffee, which is the most expensive in the world, is made. Luwaks are small, stoat-like creatures who eat the skin of coffee beans and swallow the rest, which ferments in their stomach to be passed out, collected and roasted.
We actually saw some Luwaks in small cages at the plantation and concerned, asked Wayan about it – he told us the animals are only kept for three months at a time as part of a breeding programme before being released. Since our visit however, we’ve heard concerns that this might not be the case. Given that the tour we were on comes highly recommended and is endorsed as ‘eco’ by sources like Lonely Planet, we like to believe that Wayan was telling the truth but we can’t be sure.
Balinese Family Life
Now it was time to get down to the cycling. I had great fun when we took to our bikes in Hervey Bay, Australia, so I was looking forward to getting back in the saddle. We set off in single file, weaving down back roads through villages and past family compounds; as we cycled, people called out cheerful Hellos and kids waved to us.
Next, Wayan took us to a real Balinese family compound and told us about family life. We felt a bit uncomfortable walking around the place with our cameras out but were assured that the people were reimbursed in exchange for our visits so we awkwardly continued. Later, Wayan took us to see his very own family compound, where his relatives were busy creating some wood carvings.
Balinese people have a very structured culture whereby extended families all live together; when women marry they go to live with their husband. Each compound has a temple where ancestors are buried – under no circumstances, Wayan explained, should the place be left uninhabited as they believe that evil spirits will invade.
Here’s a video of our day cycling through Bali:
Cycling through the Paddies
We spent the next couple of hours cycling through the countryside, stopping to take a stroll through the rice paddies and check out a giant Banyan tree. By the time we finished I was exhausted and starving, Andrew however, opted to cycle an additional gruelling eight kilometres uphill in the searing heat before lunch – that’s how much he’s missed having his own bike.
We mostly chose to travel around independently while we were in Indonesia, our Bali Eco Cycling tour was an exception to this rule but it was well worth the cost. The tour provided an easy way to get out and explore the beautiful, remote Bali landscape – Wayan was an excellent guide and gave us a real insight into Balinese life.
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*The Bali Eco Cycling tour costs £22 per person; we were given a 10 percent discount. Make sure you book through the company directly, as there are a number of copy-cat, substandard cycling tours operating in Bali.