I wanted to see outside of Ubud, a bit of the Bali countryside. I had not yet seen rice fields properly and that was definitely on the hit list so for my second day in Ubud I signed up to the Bali Eco Cycling tour. Starting at 8am you were taken to the top of the mountain and then glided pretty much non stop all the way down the mountain, ending with lunch at a local Balineese home.
Leaving the city we headed towards Mt Batur, an active volcano and made a short coffee break at a local coffee plantation on route. Used to looking at orderly rice fields it was almost refreshing to see the mismatched gardens of the plantation. Cocoa, mandarin, vanilla, aniseed, chillies and cinnamon were all grown amongst the coffee plants. They also had a Luwak, a cat/raccoon like animal which eats the coffee bean. It digests them however their stomach doesn’t break it down, it chemically changes the beans, ferments them so the bean ends up in the cats poo. The beans are collected and low and behold you have one of the best coffee in the world. My theory is that a wealthy lord or landowner asked for a cup of coffee and the servant realising they were out of coffee went on search for loose coffee beans on the ground and found them in the cats poo. Hoping his boss wouldn’t notice he made the coffee using the beans he had found not saying where they were from. Coffee was tasted and proclaimed amazing and the truth came out. Low and behold coffee from Lewak poo. I don’t know what the real story is but I like the idea of that one in my head.
I personally don’t drink coffee. I am one of those people who loves the smell, thinks that ice coffees, lattes or cappuccino’s look amazing but am disappointed when I taste them. At the end of the tour we were given a small welcome tasting with several several types of coffee and tea which are made on the plantation. Obviously it would have been rude not to taste them and when in Rome…I tried the ginseng coffee, coconut coffee and vanilla flavoured ones and they were actually really tasty. The catch – they only have about 40% coffee in them. So for me, just enough to make me flush and give me a kick of energy to start my day.
We then continued to our breakfast destination – the crater rim of Mt Batur. Food wise, nothing to write home about but the view was! A view of the volcano and crater lake spread out before us and I think we all spent most of the time just taking photos.
After breakfast it was bike time. I looked at the selection of mountain bikes and remembered Lombongan and hoped for better. Thankfully, they were so much more comfortable! So armed with bells, helmets, a quick check to make sure we knew what we were doing we started our decent.
It truly was three hours of holding onto the brakes so you didn’t fly by or ram into the person in front of you and I looked forward to the few moments when I got to cycle, using my legs. Saying that though, it is what it says, a downhill tour and the tour was perfect and really worth doing. It was a great tour in part due to our guide who was brilliant. He spoke perfect English and knew masses about the area and was eager to share about his culture. We were taken off road through a mandarin orange farm – the smell of mandarins filled the air, through local villages and were treated with a closer look into a traditional Balinese family home. Each family home has a temple and what I had thought from walking through Ubud were entry ways to temples I learned are actually the entry way into the family home. On both sides of the carved stone entrance ways there are little windows where offerings are put as protection against evil spirits and a wall behind the door will stop them if they try to enter.
The next part of the road took us through a small rainforest and out into the rice fields. They are so green, almost electric in colour! Our guide led us on foot through a field, explaining the process and pointing out things as we went. I just couldn’t get over the vividness of the green. Having lived in Ireland, accurately named the Emerald Isle for all it’s shades of green, I would have thought I had seen most shades but not rice field green. The orderly fields went on in all directions. The only sound the clacking of their whirligigs to shoo off birds.
But of course, a bike ride with Lia would not be complete without some sort of accident and I would like to say my embarrassment was for the benefit of a village but I did have a knight in shining armour or lack of armour as he was shirtless.
I had my scarf wrapped around my purse (I thought it might be chilly on the mountain) and as we went through one of the local villages I suddenly realised my bag and I were being pulled towards my bike and I couldn’t move the peddles. My scarf had gotten stuck in the chain and back wheel of the bike. As I stopped, realising something was wrong and looking at my wheel rather stupidly I must admit, my story’s knight arrived to tell me my scarf was stuck and immediately set to getting it out in front a small crowd of amused local ladies. Many thank you’s and your welcomes later with the whole village having stopped to watch I was set to go on my way. I hopped on to make my get away and found that my bike peddle would not move. One of the other girls in the group had stopped with me as well and we both inspected the bike. I realised that the chain had come off the wheel and I did not have a clue how to get it back on. The small group who had watched from the sidelines came over to us at this point now. My knight ran back over to us again and asked what was wrong, I explained about the chain… well hand signalled and he immediately took to rectifying the situation as I stood by looking like a hopeless girl. Our tour guide arrived at this point slightly worried or exasperated I couldn’t tell. The bike was fixed, thank you’s and bowing ensued, my scarf was tucked safely into my friends bag, blushing face and all and all, I have now vowed to learn how to fix a bike chain and change a tire for good measure and we hit the last stretch of our tour.
The tour ended, as mentioned before with local food. The owner of the company’s brother hosted us for a delicious lunch – Tempe, chicken, pork, mie goreng, vegetables, rice. It was scrumptious and definitely a highlight! A nice way to draw a conclusion to the biking.
Having been watered, fed and at the bottom of the mountain we were taken by car back to our accommodation in Ubud feeling we had seen a bit more of what Bali has to offer.