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Bali Eco Cycling tour

30 °C

During our BAWA volunteering we had the weekend free which worked out well. Having a break from the sights, smells and sounds of the clinic was appreciated as it is a lot to take in for two days on the go as a newbie. How the long term volunteers like Barbara and Laurina do it everyday for months is a testement to their determination and dedication.

Wena, our homestay owner in Ubud had passed on a leaflet for the Bali Eco Cycling tour which is extremely popular as it includes a trip to view Gunung Batur, an active volcano, whilst having breakfast. It continues with an easy downhill bike ride taking in the different Banjar's (villages) and scenery of Central Bali. A perfect way for us to soak up some more culture. Wena was very helpful and organised it all for us and didn't charge a fee. We just paid the Eco tour company directly.

In their brochure they explain that they were the first company to introduce the tour and subsequently other companies have stolen the name. We read up on tripadvisor just to see what people's experience was like and it was coming back very positive. We had also mentioned it to the people we knew at BAWA and all of them were singing its praises so it was an easy decision to go with them.

In the morning we waited outside our homestay and were told by Wena that the company would pick us up. However, time started getting on and we were getting a bit edgy because of previous experiences of people saying they have booked something and then it falls through. Fortunately that was not the case and our ride turned up only 20 minutes past the original ETA, and we got to see our local street waking up.

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After picking up everyone we made our way to the Gunung Batur eagerly awaiting breakfast. During that time we got a chance to mingle with the other members of the group and it was quite nice to be able to converse with some Brits for a change. The British contingent was Samantha, Adnan, and Sophia. We also had River from Taiwan, Mikis from Finland and Tabea from Germany.

Before we made it to the volcano we had a quick photo stop off to take in the view of a rice paddie field that was cultivated on the hills. It was a idyllic spot.

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We made it to the Lakeview restaurant for breakfast and were met with an even more glorious view of Gunung Batur. Sarah initially thought that the dark area was a shadow but then realised there was nothing to cast one, this area was actually the black lava flow from the last explosion back in 1972.

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And the crater lake, Lake Batur. This is the holiest lake in Bali and each year a cow is taken to the centre of the lake and sacrificed.

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The breakfast was pretty good and we continued to chat with the members of our group, helping other people get that group photo of the volcano. We had to do it too.

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After photos were taken it was time to leave and I thought we would be jumping on bikes from this point but instead we got back into the van and headed to the nearby coffee plantation to be introduced to the famous, and expensive Luwak coffee!

On route I was unaware of our destination and still was eager to get the wind in my face!

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The guide showed us round and explained about the Luwak coffee which was exactly the same process we witnessed in Vietnam all those months ago although in Vietnam they used weasels rather than Luwak's.

Here is a Luwak.

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And here is the before and after having gone through there digestive system. Can you guess which is after?

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After a bit of information we were then shown to the restaurant to have samples of coffee and tea. Three of us chipped in to have a pot of the Luwak coffee and to be honest, much like the one in Vietnam, it wasn't that great. I like coffee and have had it most days just black so its pretty rich and this wasn't that much richer but I guess it had a more earthy flavour.....I guess that will be the Luwak's doing.!

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Not long after the taste session we moved on to try some exotic fruits and I got a chance to ask our guide about his opinion of the tourism in Bali and Ubud. I'm always interested to find out the truth from someone who has been there when it was just one hotel and restaurant and then seen it multiply. He was of the general opinion that the development is good because people have more income but ultimately a part of their culture gets lost on the way as younger generations see the opportunity to earn money from tourism rather than participate in more traditional ways of earning a living. That being said I do think that tradition in Bali is still very important part of their lives.

After the plantation we headed on to the starting point of our cycling trip!! Finally! ...having been a keen rider to work back home I was really looking forward to getting on the bike. We got kitted up and waited for the other groups to disperse before taking our first cycles on the Tarmac!

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It wasn't long before we passed our first bit of culture as there was a a procession being held by the local villagers. They had all come out in their traditional dress and from what I could gather they were taking their god from one temple to another as there was a ceremony happening in another village. I don't think it was part of the normal tour so it was great to see everyone doing what they do without really caring what us 'Boolays' (foreigners) were doing.

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Moving on downhill we then stopped off at a Balinese home/compound, where we got to see first hand how the Balinese live outside the tourist areas.
Our guide gave us some interesting facts that we were not aware of like if there is a roof over the entrance that means it is someone's home but if there is no roof and only two sides to the entrance then it is a temple.

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He also told us how the census for the island is kept by marking down how many people live in the compound on a board outside. Using this they can determine how many families are living here and how many men, women and children.

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In the centre of the compound is the family temple which is raised off the ground and an important focus point for all important ceremonies, like marriages and funerals. When someone dies they are embalmed and laid in this area for up to a month whilst a wooden animal is constructed, once it is period of mourning is complete the body is put with the wooden animal and burned. The ashes are then collected and put in a shrine along. You will often see many of these shrines as the families tend to live in the same place for generations and so are always with their ancestors.

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The elders in the family live in a separate house which is slightly higher off the ground than the rest of the family buildings as a mark of respect. When there is a marriage the elders give up their room to the couple for their wedding night, which is seen as a great honour. Also when there is a birth in the family the placenta is buried outside this room, boys on the right and girls on the left, and marked with a stone. Offerings are made to ward off evil spirits and protect the child.

Much like the many of the countries we have visited in Asia, a lot of people make their living using natural materials to build items such as baskets and weave mats.

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And of course the petrol was sold in similar deceiving bottles.

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We were taken through the compound and shown the kitchen and were told that Balinese don't have breakfast, lunch & dinner, you just eat when you're hungry. One of the local specialties is sambal, a spicey sauce made of chilli, pepper and salt. This is made with a large pestle and mortar and superstition means that these can never be cleaned, and it is believed that the spicey sea of the chilli will kill any germs.

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This family specialised in making things from bamboo and we were shown how it is split and that different parts would be used for walls and others for ceilings. Sarah also like some beautiful batik she spotted hanging up to dry.

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After the compound we zoomed down the hill passing young kids and adults who all liked to shout 'hello' as we rolled passed. Lots of smiles and waving. We stopped off at a rice paddie field and were allowed to take a walk through whilst the guide told about the two types of rice that is grown. A new type of rice has been introduced to the island which is genetically modified. He also told us about how the men and women split up the duties of cultivating the rice with the men taking the job of planting and the women take the role of harvesting. Both back breaking jobs!

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We came across a snake skin, which made us think we are a little vulnerable standing out here.

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After the rice field we moved on and our guide stopped us to show us a HUGE spider from the side of the road. It was pretty big but seemed harmless as he let it go up his arm. He then beckoned me over and I thought why not. It was very creepy and its legs felt very strong as it climbed around my arm. Sarah was beside herself.

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Then Mikis decided he would take on the challenge of letting it walk over his face!! Eh...I drew the line there!

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The next stop was by a huge banyan tree that is sacred but as we got there I got a bit distracted by some kids playing footie and my inner kid went to go join them. Subsequently I didn't hear about the tree.

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But we scored a goal to the delight of the younger kids I teamed up with who were playing the older kid.

We rolled on and stopped off quite soon to go and have a look at what the local women do to collect the rice. The method is pretty simple, you just grab a clump and bash it on a board releasing the rice! So we all had a go.

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Some of us took it a bit too far!

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The rest of the trip was a nice windy roll passing villages and fields and it seemed us though we were on a bit of mission to move on which I subsequently found out was because Tabia was trying to get her flight later in the day. Unfortunately it meant that our guide was not very good at communicating this desire to get to the end of the bike ride and I was a bit bemused because I was expecting to be given the option to give the harder cycle to the finish a go, but it had been decided that we wouldn't be doing this. Thankfully, Sarah egged me on to question it as we had paid money too and should get the experience we want and so I got my chance to give it a go once we dropped off the rest of group.

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I changed guides and riding solo with him we tackled the route. I was definitely glad I gave it a go because I wanted to test my fitness but I wasn't aware that we would essentially be riding on a much busier road than the tour had been on. My London riding held me in good stead to not be too phased but in the heat with the constant incline of the hill that we went up it was tough and I was pleased to make it in good time to have our scrumptious lunch with famous Bali smoked duck. Yum Yum!!

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During lunch we arranged with everyone who could to meet up with us at the Shisha Lounge bar in Ubud that night. It ended up being just Samantha and Adnan who joined us which turned out to be better as we all got on really well and it was nice to hear about their lives and talk about their plans for the rest of the their trip. It turns out that they were going to Gili Islands for a few days and would be coming back to Jimbaran bay in Bali to stay at the Intercontinental. They generously offered us to come and visit them at their hotel in a few days which would give us a chance to ask them about the Gili's and also through their recommendation we would be able to tie in going to see a Kecak dance in Uluwatu which was performed in a Open theatre looking out to sea!

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Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 04:36 Archived in Indonesia

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