I had been told by a fellow traveler that the best way to escape the hustle of town and at the same time discover the magic of rural Bali was to go on the ever-popular Bali eco educational cycling tour by Bali Eco Tours. This tour is advertised in their website as the “original and authentic eco/educational cycling tour, designed to take visitors to Bali away from the tourist areas and show them the Bali they want to see”…
The tour started early in the day; after being picked up at my hotel in Ubud, the SenS Hotel & Spa, the minivan whizzed towards the mountains while Wuh our guide, a nice middle-aged man from Ubud, explained the program of the day to our group of four. Right behind us were the two support trucks with our bicycles on their loading back area.
The driver used shortcuts in order to avoid the morning traffic on the main road, and in doing so he gave us the chance to experience local Balinese life in the local villages we passed: shops were opening up, women in traditional ceremonial dresses walked to amazing local temples with trays full of veggies and fruits carefully balanced over their heads, men worked in the rice paddies and kids played happily in neat and tidy home gardens. Inside garages and porches, massive Ogoh-ogoh monsters were being prepared for the upcoming Nyepi Festival (2017 date is 28th March – http://asianitinerary.com/nyepi-day-in-bali/), and at the front of their shops, crossed-legged artisans carved amazing wooden articrafts.
We had a first stop to visit the area of Tegallagang, with its ethnic population, articrafts, rice terraces and majestic views over the rice fields, and as the weather got worse and the dark sky started to discharge small drizzle drops, we proceeded towards Kintamani, a village on the western edge of the caldera wall of Mount Batur.
The road got less and less busy as we climbed up the high hills, and the air turned fresh. At the roadside, dozens of simple wood and bamboo offered sold fruits neatly adjusted in pyramid shapes on the shelves. We finally reached the restaurant in Penelokan, Kintamani, where we had our breakfast of sweet black rice pudding and local coffee. From the perched up terrace, we enjoyed fascinating views over Mount Batur and its crater lake, both enveloped by low clouds. This is supposed to be one of the most stunning views in Bali.
Mount Batur, an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas, and its lake are now part of the Batur Global Geopark, one of UNESCO single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. The park has an entrance fee of IDR 15,000 (about 1,5 US$). Our guide Wuh entertained us with lots of information on the volcanoes and the lake: we got to learn about the goddess of rice and about the Bali Aga people , as well as dates of the most recent Batur eruptions. Wuh is a great entertainer and his culturally rich stories of nature, people and spirituality became an important part of the tour, I must say.
The following stop was a visit to a Balinese coffee plantation, one of several that have mushroomed up in the area thanks to a surge in eco-agro-tourism. We followed Wuh to an amazing garden of various species of plants and tropical fruits growing in their natural environment, and he explained all their medicinal and culturally important uses. The process of making coffee was also quite interesting, and so was the story of the civet cat called Luwak and his involvement in producing one of the most expensive coffees in the world. READ ABOUT IT HERE ! Next was a sampling of local herbal teas and coffees before we continued the drive to a parking lot where the assistants were preparing our bikes.
We were given helmets, a few instructions on signals and cyclist recommended behaviour in Bali, and we started riding downhill. Riding the mountain bike through the heartland of Bali, travelling on non tourist, back roads and minor village roads with little traffic – the only obstacles being potholes and dogs crossing roads – was good fun. The scenery was fantastic: we cycled past stunning rice paddy panoramas where villagers were seen planting and harvesting the crop, we saw plantations full of Balinese staples and cash crops like cloves, coffee, cocoa, vanilla, tapioca, taro, local vegetables and exotic tropical fruits, and lots of Balinese children calling out ‘hellos’. Each village had an amazing temple made up of stones covered in moss, and surrounded by lots of vegetation.
We made numerous stops during the ride:
- At a lush garden by the roadside, we got to handle huge spiders which are not poisonous, still it was eerie having these things crawl all over us…
- We marveled at an enormous Banyan tree.
- We stopped at a Balinese home/compound, where we got to see first hand how the Balinese everyday life is like, and were we received Wuh wealth of information on habits and lifestyle of the locals. Priceless.
To have an experienced and knowledgeable guide who gives an in depth explanation of their amazing culture and of the relationship the Balinese have with their beautiful island is a real treat.
25 km later, we reached the pick up point. We dropped the bicycles and boarded the minivan again for the journey to a local restaurant set in the serene surrounds, where we enjoyed a delectable Balinese feast and views, once again, over rice paddies.
This has been for me the best value tour in This has been for me the best value tour in Bali. I appreciated all the detailed information the guide offered, as well as the great organization and safety level from Bali Eco Tours, with one support car in the front and one in the back, and guides and assistant riders with lots of attention to details.
It was a remarkable day; Wuh was friendly, funny and informative, and the bikes were not the latest models but were well-maintained and great for the tour (Bali Eco Tours have a park of 250 bicycles, I was told). I like to describe the Bali eco educational cycling tour as both an adventure and a cultural, ecological, learning and culinary experience!
No wonder this tour is now promote
d in every guide book on Bali/Indonesia – the Lonely Planet Guide Books on Bali, Indonesia and Best of Bali, The Rough Guide Book to Bali, The Natural Guide to Bali and numerous French, German and Dutch guide books – and it has been consistently voted the best tour in Bali.
The cycling part of the tour is 90% downhill, meaning you can enjoy the views while appreciating a constant breeze and without a great deal of physical exertion.
The Bali eco educational cycling tour includes:
- Pick up and return to your hotel by A/C car.
- Mountain bike and safety helmet.
- Breakfast and lunch.
- Ample water and fruits on tour.
- Entrance fees and wet weather gear (if needed).
- Cold face towels after your ride.
BALI ECO CYCLING
Tel: 081 337 420 420 – If ringing from a mobile phone or outside of Bali dial +62 (0)361 97 5557. Inquire about Bali Eco Tour programs via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their booking calendar by following the links below to see what tours are already running: http://www.baliecocycling.com/cycling-tour/