Downhill on a Bike in Bali

20180509_165707.jpgShaking out the Rice

The highlight of my first trip to the Indonesian island of Bali was way out of my comfort zone.

Indeed, I questioned my sanity at setting out on a Downhill Eco Bike Tour, on the singular recommendation of a seventy year old tourist, for I had not been astride a bicycle for more than fifteen years!

The great day arrived, and I was collected from my homestay accommodation in the village of Nyuh Kuning, and joined a small group of others on a trip north to Kintamani, a town overlooking Mount Batur, an active volcano rising to 1717m.

IMG_3953Kintamani

The vast lava fields from the eruption of 1968 could be viewed from our first stop – a local restaurant. Mount Batur last erupted in 2000, and I wondered if it would produce a crackling display as we ate breakfast.

Thankfully, we escaped unscathed!

A visit to a Luwak coffee plantation followed, where a poor Asian palm civet consumes coffee berries, digests and ferments them internally, before defecating them into a new more aromatic form. Luwak coffee is known as “The World’s Most Expensive Coffee.”

Indeed, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s ashes were placed on either side of a tin of this delicacy, atop a Himalayan Mountain in one of my favourite movies – “The Bucket List.”

Leaving the coffee plantation behind, we stopped once again, before beginning the highlight of our trip – the downward descent…

Our tour guide equipped us with bicycles of the right size, helmets for our safety, and bottles of water to prevent dehydration. Meanwhile, a lovely Australian couple gave me great tips on the intricacies of gear changing, before our little group set off on smooth, tarred roads that were thankfully free of traffic.

Throughout the bike ride, we encountered only an occasional scooter, but LOTS of smiling children cheered us all along our route. Thankfully, I had a minder – a second tour guide – who kept a good watch over me, and added to my education on the laws of gear changing!

Feeling more relaxed, I actually began to enjoy myself. However, I remained at the rear of the group for the first half of our trip.

“We will stop here,” my minder announced, as we joined the others outside a village house. The owners welcomed us inside a series of small buildings, somewhat less affluent than my accommodation back in Nyuh Kuning.

 

Village House and Placenta Stones

“These stones guard the family member’s placentas and will protect them throughout their lives,” he announced.

The rear of the compound held a garden, planted with neat rows of vegetables and a few flowers. The shade provided a welcome retreat from the sun for a family of chickens and two suckling pigs, which looked over a stone pig pen with imploring eyes. Sadly, they lead a very short life as suckling pig is considered an essential ingredient in traditional Balinese ceremonies.

20180509_165808

Piglet in Pen

Rural villagers are largely self sufficient, supplementing home grown vegetables, chicken and pork with locally grown rice. The rice paddies were our next stop.

Here we learned of the length of the growing season – three in a year- the irrigation system known as subak, and the organic method of fertilisation, using ducklings to manure the fallow paddies, whilst fattening them up for the gastronomic delights of Balinese smoked or crispy duck. Incidentally, everyone who works in the rice paddies shares in the season’s crops, although the landowner gets the largest portion.

20180509_165737Duckling in the Paddy Fields

As we stood amidst the paddies, having stepped over subak streams and slippery clods of earth, to delight in the endless green landscape, I had a burning question and asked, “Are there many snakes in the rice paddies?”

The reply was brief. “The farmer kills them every morning.”

Later, we witnessed a poor, muddy worker ploughing a flooded paddy field with a large version of a garden rotavator. We learned that he earned around 7 euro for ploughing a field of ten square metres – considered a small fortune by Balinese standards.

20180509_170350Paddy Worker

I wondered how many snakes he encountered each day?

Our tour continued.

The next stop was a village temple, filled with beautiful Balinese ladies, all chatting and laughing, as they created floral offerings for the temple. I delighted in photographing them in their rainbow of traditional lace tops and sarongs.

20180509_165606Ladies in the Temple

My energy levels were flagging, and I was now wilting from the heat. I silently wondered, “Are we there yet?”

Thankfully, “The End” was in sight.

I breathed a sigh of relief as VERY welcome iced face flannels were distributed, and a discussion followed…

“Do you want to go for lunch now, or do you want to continue for another 8km UPHILL?”

Guess which option I chose?

Six of my travelling companions voted for the lunch NOW option, while two younger energetic cyclists chose the extended route. Ten minutes later, our group descended on a lovely restaurant, complete with its own organic vegetable garden, and delighted in a feast fit for royalty.

The uphill team joined us later, obviously the worse for wear!

“Downhill on a Bike in Bali” was adapted from my memoir “Watching the Daisies.”

I submitted it for author Robert Fear’s May travel writing competition, which you can visit HERE

“I Had a Dream” was entered in the March competition. You can read it HERE

Entries are still open for the June and July competitions. 

Bali Posts

If you enjoyed this post you might like these other posts on Bali:

A Balinese Royal Cremation Ceremony

Petulu’s Sacred Herons

The Balinese Priest’s Bell

Brigid P. Gallagher

89 thoughts on “Downhill on a Bike in Bali

  1. I think you’re very brave to take on a bicycle tour Brigid but what a grand job you made of it.Your observations on Bali are excellent and hey seem as nice a people as they’re always portrayed.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I suppose that could be said for a lot of beautiful countries Brigid, certainly the inland villages of The Gambia are quite different from the Atlantic coastal areas.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a glorious account of getting to really feel a place. And what a place! I remember reading this part of the book and thinking to myself ‘I absolutely HAVE to do this myself …. go to Bali and do it like Brigid’. One day I will and that is the power of great writing ✍️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A wonderful post, Brigid and it sounds like your bike riding skills far exceed mine…I am legendary for stacking it as my grandson puts it…lol..Bali is on my list for a visit as my grandson has a Balinese girlfriend and spends much of his time there.Growing rice is hard work my son is currently weeding the rice as if you don’t you don’t get such a good crop ..it is hard work and you cannot wear boots as they get stuck so it is socks only and he is hoping he doesn’t meet with any snakes I have asked for photos…His mother in law who has done it all her life amazes him as at 85 ish she knocks the spots of the youngsters for stamina so he will probably come back absolutely worn out is my guess..But it is an experience and something I never ever thought I would see him do…I thoroughly enjoyed your post, Brigid 🙂 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Goodness. I do not think I would weed in my socks! She sounds amazing. I hope you get to Bali. I have been twice but want to go again. Ubud is my favourite place – full of daily inspiration and so much to see and do. Wonderful food and spas too. 🌼 xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So do I Brigid..It seems very much like rural Thailand. Yes I know but appparently if you wear shoes or boots the mud sucks them down so it is easier in just socks..Jay was not too keen but he felt he should help and not just leave it to the old lady and his other half..he might get some brownie points although I think he enjoys the experience he said he is not cutting the rice this year he will pay someone to do it..One was enough for him I think…lol..He is better suited to planting trees… 🙂 xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful post! I especially enjoyed the way you wove the pictures into the story, although you did such a great job of describing everything that I felt as though I could see it all anyway! It sounds like an exciting, fantastic adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What an experience, Brigid. I can just picture the children cheering you on as you rode by. It sounds like a wonderful way to take in the sights and learn more about life in Bali. Wonderful pictures. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! What an amazing experience, Brigid. I’m happy you decided to do it. This is why we have to step out of our comfort zones, once in a while. I enjoyed your post and pictures! 😀 xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love it too Julie. Bali is beautiful. I visited Seminyak for 9 days on my first visit followed by a month in Ubud. On my next trip I went straight to Ubud. There is so much to absorb. Just walking around town there is always something special happening. 🌼

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a cousin who went to Bali, just last year. She said it was such an amazing experience! Her husband got sick during the travels, but other than that she said everything about the entire trip was rewarding. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Brigid, this is a wonderful post which takes us to Bali with you! The descriptions of your surroundings and people are beautiful and detailed, catching the setting and atmosphere brilliantly. The lunch must have been heavenly after such a ride. The accompanying photos are lovely and I particularly like the women by the temple, meditative and calm in their actions and bearing. Good luck in the competitions … with such superlative writing you have a good chance I feel! Fingers crossed. Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

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