Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Freewheeling down Kintamani volcano, Bali

Can't get any better than this!

Snake skin fruit - taste between a cross of pineapple and apple but looks like garlic.

Students excused from PE. Can you spot why?

Roast Pork marinated in spices. A Baliness must eat! Some would disagree...

Kintamani Lake

The name Bali evokes all sorts of mystical and exotic impressions and rightly so. Hindu in religion, it has its unique blend of culture and traditions. Some call it the Island of the gods. Its people are easy going, friendly and relax and the food though is Indonesian, is spiced up differently.

Throw in great surf beaches, green terraced rice fields, skilled traditional artisans mix with world class hotels, spas and a plethora of superb restaurants and pubs, no wonder it attracts tourists from all over the world.

For Perth folks, this paradise is but a 3 hour hop and no wonder it is easily the no. 1 destination for West Australians. I had the privilege of having some father and son bonding time these few days in this beautiful island and we decided to stay in Ubud, the heart of art and culture.

Exams are over and tonnes of "schoolies" (High School graduates) make their annual pilgrimage to Kuta Beach for some fun in the surf and sand. Throw in hormones, alcohol and drugs, we were not keen to join the party.

I wanted a homestay and ended up at Ubud Dreams, right in the heart of Ubud town on Monkey Forest Rd but yet off a quiet street.

Ms Titik is a jolly young lady boss who is very friendly and helpful. No wonder her place earned top reviews in Tripadvisor.

Planned to stay for 2, but ended up 3 nights because I felt like it was home. The only bug bear was we could only have the aircon room for the first night, and spent 2 other nights in the fan room. It took a while to get used to the tropical heat once again but at A$22 a night for the 2 of us with breakfast, we can't complain.

This morning we signed up for a 30km bike ride with Bali Eco Cycling Company. They picked us up promptly and Made, our guide, welcomed us warmly. We were driven in a comfortable bus to see some fantastic rice terraces.

We then were taken to the top of Kintamani where we had breakfast over the spectacular view of the volcano and the crater lake. It was breathtaking! 1600m also meant cool weather which was absolutely delightful.

Next stop was a tour of the coffee plantation and we were given a thorough explanation of the various coffees and plants grown in this cooler part of Bali. Luak Coffee, made from the droppings of the Civet Cat, is cultivated here and is the world's most expensive coffee.

No wonder the unique coffee made it in the Bucket List of Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Not being a coffee person, I tried it and sadly couldn't appreciate it but I enjoyed particularly the choc coffee. I was getting restless and fortunately, no more detours and we were taken to the starting point of our ride.

The field had about 50 bicycles and we had to select a suitable one. The company provided helmets as well and we took some time to adjust the bikes to make sure all was ok. Made gave us a thorough safety briefing which was important.

I chose a shining bright yellow MTB with disk brakes for Jem and I. It proved a good choice as it was relatively new and had great stopping power.

Made led the pack of 10 and there was a sweeper as well. It was fantastic gliding down at 25kmh, zipping past villages, temples, friendly school kids, lush green rice fields along the quiet back roads. We stopped at a Baliness home and saw how the family of 19 lived.

They had a bamboo based business and it was interesting to see how they made it into all sorts of things. Continuing on, two young Ozzie teens in my group were having a lot of fun racing each other and doing all sorts of theatrics on their bikes. They were pretty skilled but I hung back a safe distance. Crashing at 30kmh + downhill can truly spoil a great holiday.

The highlight for me was riding through the padi fields and a MTB proved itself through the muddy paths. Serene, breezy and a sense of freedom were felt as we admired the priceless view and I understood why the Bali people, though seemingly lacking in material things, were so rich in community and spirit.

We were privileged to see a team of rice harvesters and learned that they are only paid US$4 a day plus some rice for their back breaking efforts. Yet, they were all so gentle and never fail to break out in smiles for us pesky tourists, interrupting their day's work.

We ended our ride by crossing a small river and our team took the bridge while another team rode across it on their bikes. I felt a tinge of jealousy as it looked so much fun. There was an optional 8km ride to our lunch spot and it was not for the faint-hearted as it was mostly uphills. Of course, I put my hand up and despite being the oldest of 5 (3 strapping teens + 2 men in their 30s), I joined the testoterone charged brigade. This proved quite fun but demanding especially after 20km + of easy downhills and one middle-age American guy dropped out after 10 mins, so technically, I wasn't last! Jem reckoned this was the most fun bit.

The tour concluded with the much appreciated ice cold towel and a most fitting hot lunch of delicious Baliness food. Satay, tempe, veggies, duck, chicken all cooked with exotic spices eaten with rice and noodles, washed down with ice tea and a lovely fruit dessert.

The bus took us back to our respective hotels and this is probably the best thing to do here in Bali for us cyclists - freewheeling down Kintamani! Certainly a must do in this beautiful island paradise.

23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:23-25


omegaforest said...

Bali is always so inviting! U reckon a foldie wld survive the downhill?

Oldyonfoldy said...

Foldies with bigger tires can do this trip but going thru sandy and muddy rice field tracks a bit tough for skinnied tire bikes. BF Llama, no worries! :)

Taiwoon said...

Spending family time is nice. Spending time with wheels and family is nicer. Spending time with family, @ Bali with wheel??? Awesome! I love the writeup and photo!! Esp the kids bombing down the slopes, the little girl and the padi fields... can feel all the joys and laughter from the writeup! Wonderful!

Oldyonfoldy said...

Bro TW, thank you so much for your kind and perceptive words. A Big Dummy ride in Bali with mommy n Momo behind will certainly make the headlines! So glad you have such a happy family. They are blessed to have a superb father like you...