This summer, we spent a warm three months docked in Bali. Had I been backpacking or on holiday, I probably would’ve found myself in some hostel/resort/villa in Kuta/Legian/Seminyak, but being on the boat, we had to pretty much take what we could get. You might not know this, but there really aren’t any options for dockage in Bali besides Benoa Harbor. Haven’t heard of it? Not surprising. This is Benoa Harbor:
With the lingering stench of feces (both animal and human) and festering trash, Benoa Harbor isn’t at the top of your Bali “must see” list. If that weren’t enough to sway you, I could also regale you with stories of being chased by rabid stray dogs while on my daily runs, all the while with locals pointing and laughing. Even cab drivers would think I was crazy when I told them to take me back there after a day out in town (white girl to Benoa Harbor all by herself? Yes, sir). Honestly, the only way you would have heard of it at all is if you happened to take one of the Ferries to Lembongan for the day (they were docked right next to us).
After a couple weeks, I needed to get out and see the lush green Bali I had always heard about and envisioned. Plus, I would take any excuse to leave and explore when given a day off. The marina had a few brochures for various activities and excursions, which is where I found out about cycling tours through the Bali countryside. Quite easily I booked a tour for the next morning from one of the tour group/activity stands that are scattered all throughout Kuta. All I had to do was show up at the stand the next morning and a shuttle would pick me up along with other tourists from various resorts and hotels around town.
The tour began with an hour or so van ride up into the hills of Bali. Before reaching our ultimate starting point for the cycling tour, we had a short detour at a coffee plantation where we learned about how Balinese coffee is grown and produced and then were able to sit and enjoy a nice cup right there in the lush green forest. FYI, Balinese coffee comes from mongoose poop. I am %1oo serious. From what I was told, the mongoose (mongeese?) eat only the best coffee beans which then pass through into their feces, which are then cleaned and roasted. I mean, if it’s good enough for the mongoose, it’s good enough for me. (New life motto?)
After the piping hot cup of mongoose excretion, we made our way up to a scenic restaurant in Kintamani overlooking Bali’s Mt. Batur, an active volcano. However, it was shrouded by a dense fog upon our arrival, so the effect was that of sitting in a cloud (kind of eerie to be honest). Luckily, after enjoying a complimentary breakfast (!!!) the fog began to dissipate and more of that dense greenery I had been looking for came into focus.
Now, I would like to tell you that the 40km bike tour that ensued was a testament to my athletic prowess, but i’m afraid my nose would grow six sizes and my pants would spontaneously combust (and I really like these pants) so the good news for you is, the tour is (almost) completely DOWNHILL. Pause for cheering. Honestly, I basically rode the brakes the entire trip, often at the back of the pack watching the other daredevils (yeah, so one kid was nine) fly down steep winding roads while I took my sweet precious time. Also, you wouldn’t have any of these photos to enjoy if I had been so reckless. You’re welcome.
The ride was an absolute delight. We passed rice fields and villages, saw children running into the streets to wave and shout “hello!”, and the tour guide was kind, intelligent and approachable- everything you want in a tour guide (…and a boyfriend. Did I mention I’m single?…) We stopped a few times along the way both for breaks and lessons in Balinese culture. We learned about how the rice was grown and produced and stopped at the home of a poor local family who was kind enough to show us how they survive on what little they have. It was really humbling to see them smiling and to have them share their home with us. It was also really interesting to learn about the way their religion and culture dictates how their homes are structured. Did you know that a young couple will often spend their first night as man and wife in their GRANDPARENTS room? Talk about a mood killer.
We ended the tour at yet another restaurant where we were treated to beautiful scenery and one of the best meals I had during all my time in Bali. I could seriously go for a plate of the mie goreng washed down with a watermelon juice right now.
If you find yourself needing a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown Kuta, a cycling tour is definitely the way to go. It’s great for any age, there are multiple companies that offer the tours and they are easy to book (and they all have basically the same itinerary), and all you need is some sunscreen and a comfortable pair of shoes (I wore flipflops…). Sorry, that was a lot of ‘and”s- that’s how many perks there are! To top it all off, it’s only about $50-70 (depending on how and where you book) for a full day of entertainment. *FYI, if you see in all the brochures and online ads that the minimum booking is for two people, it’s a filthy lie. So really, no excuses. *
…In retrospect, I probably should’ve titled this post “Cycling in Bali” seeing as basically my only motorbiking experiences included my adventure with Herman and the incident with the kind stranger in Lembongan, however I like the alliteration. Don’t you?