Bali by Bike
On the morning of our biking tour, we woke up to a torrential downpour. Not only would it have been not fun to bike through the rain, I felt really guilty that I had picked such a rainy day for Jeanie and Timon to join us. By the time we arrived in the lobby, the rain had tapered off a little, and the front desk receptionist assured us that even if it was raining in Ubud, it was probably clear in the mountains (where we would begin our ride). Luckily for us, it turned out to be a beautiful day!
When Greenbike Tours picked us up, Jeanie and Timon were already in the car. We then picked up one more couple (from Spain) and headed to a Balinese coffee plantation. Our wonderful guide, Darma, was extremely knowledgeable and friendly (he always had a bright smile on his face). I learned so much about coffee beans: Robusta coffee has both male (smaller berries, only one bean per berry) and female (larger, with two beans per berry) fruit. The male and female beans taste different, and are sorted by hand. The Robusta coffee tree is taller than the Arabica coffee tree. The Asian Civet cat is really picky and only eats the red, ripe Arabica berries. Once the jungle cat poops out the seeds, the seeds are then cleaned (no difference in taste between male and female seeds, so they aren’t sorted) and roasted, producing the world’s most expensive coffee (kopi luwak). People say that luwak coffee is so delicious because each berry is selected by the Civet cat and then processed in the Civet cat’s stomach, to give it a unique flavor.
We sampled over a dozen different types of teas and coffees (lemongrass tea, ginger tea, coconut coffee, Arabica coffee, Robusta coffee, etc) for free, but coughed up 60,000 rupiah (equivalent of roughly 6 USD) for one cup of luwak coffee. The coffee was brewed through a special process (looked like a science experiment). The flavor was very bold, and did taste very good! But, we’re not sure we’d ever pay so much for one cup of coffee (in Manhattan, for example, a cup of luwak coffee may go for 50 USD)!
We ate a breakfast of noodles, rice, fresh fruit, and more coffee in Kintamani, overlooking Mt. Batur. It was one of the most scenic breakfasts we’ve had! We drove down to the starting point of the tour, applied sunscreen, adjusted our helmets and bike seats, and were off! Darma stayed in the front of the group, and would signal for us to stop if there was anything of interest to point out. Wayan was always at the back of the group, and would stop traffic if we had to cross the road. The van followed behind, incase anyone was hurt.
Riding through many small villages, we passed by many small temples and shrines. The local school children would wave at us and shout “Hello!” At our first stop, Darma showed us HUGE spiders (he took one off a web and brought it over on his hand). “Are they poisonous?” someone asked. “No… I’ve been bitten three times and I’m still fine,” was Darma’s reply! Next, we stopped inside a local family’s compound. We learned that each family has its own temple, and you can tell by the ornateness of the temple how wealthy the family is (each family’s temple is the top priority). We learned about the tooth-filing ceremony, a coming-of-age tradition for the Balinese. Before becoming an adult, the front teeth (everything between and including the canines) are filed down by a priest, with a party for the whole village afterwards. These ceremonies usually cost around 5,000 USD! People who can’t afford it can postpone the ceremony until their wedding day, and lump the tooth-filing and wedding celebrations together. We learned how to make a daily offering “box” made of palm leaf and flowers. In the mornings, you can see many of these offerings in front of the doorsteps of homes, businesses, and temples.
We went “off road” for about an hour or so, riding through the woods and rice fields. I didn’t enjoy riding through the woods because I really had to keep my balance, as there was a very narrow path for the bikes, as well as ditches that we had to avoid. The rice fields were much more pleasant. It was neat to watch the farmers harvesting rice… it looked like really hard work. We were surprised to learn that a lot of it is still manual. After returning the bikes and helmets, we had lunch overlooking rice terraces. The lunch was a sampling of Balinese food, with a little bit of everything. Very delicious!
Alex and I ended up following Jeanie and Timon back to Sanur, a beach town on the east coast. Many visitors to Bali stay along the southern coasts, and rarely venture beyond the beaches. While Alex and I really enjoyed Ubud and the rice fields and volcanoes inland, it was nice to see the southern part of Bali. Unfortunately, because tourists tend to stay down south, the area is also a target for terrorists. There was a huge explosion at a nightclub (frequented by tourists) in Kuta back in 2002, and large establishments have been vigilant ever since. Before our van was allowed to pass through the gates of the huge Sanur resort, the guard checked the trunk and used a mirror to check underneath the van!
The four of us cooled down in the beautiful infinity pool, overlooking the beach. We then had a nice dinner downtown, before Alex and I took a cab back to Ubud. We had a wonderful time biking through Bali with Jeanie and Timon. We’re so glad that we were able to see them again! 🙂