Yesterday we escaped from the tourist beaches of Bali to the cooler climates of the mountainous, inland region for a guided mountain bike tour. After getting transported to a lookout point over Mount Batur (a dormant volcano and the 2nd highest point of Bali), we enjoyed a light breakfast before starting our 25km “mostly downhill” tour.
Our guide, One’ lead us through the bright green countryside and its sleepy villages. Frequent stops allowed us to view old temples and traditional houses. One’ was from the area, and shared with us his knowledge of the Balinese culture and way of life. It gave us an insight into rural Bali that was fascinating to us.
From our bicycle seat we experienced stunning views of the various plantations – the main crop being rice, of course. The terraced hillsides with their rice paddies were just as I had seen in pictures. During our journey, we got to see rice shoots at various stages of their 4 month growth phase. Our guide explained how the rice is harvested, dried out and dehusked. I have a new appreciation of all the work that goes into rice production!
Our tour ended with a Balinese lunch in the little town of Ubud, recently made famous by the book/movie “Eat Pray Love”. Julia Roberts’ character chooses Ubud as the exact location of the Bali part of her trip. While Ubud and its surroundings is a pleasant contrast to the overcrowded Bali baeches, it isn’t quite the secluded, unspoilt place I had imagined. TripAdvisor lists no fewer that 94 hotels and 149 restaurants in the area. Nonetheless, it still exuded the charm of a more traditional Bali.
In a way I feel like Julia Roberts in “Eat Pray Love”. Except that I have been stuck in the “Eat” part these last three months – the “savouring life” part; using all my senses to take-in some of this beautiful world we live in. Okay, I’m also a few kilos up from indulging my palate with all the gastronomical delights we have come across. But that’s what enjoying and experiencing life is all about, right?
After the mountain bike tour, Andy and I went for a swim in the lively sea in front of our hotel. Being a surfer’s paradise, the waves are plenty and forceful. I earnestly dodged the large masses of moving water, while Andy harnessed the hydro-power for some dare-devil body surfing.
In the evening we met up with Maaria, a Finnish girl who we had previously encountered in the Philippines. Maaria is travelling around South East Asia for three months, and had just arrived in Bali. Besides for the two overlaps in itineraries, our travels are very different, and over dinner, we eagerly exchanged stories and compared notes. While Andy and I tried to pack in as many stops in our three months, she chose fewer places and longer stays – a much better way to really experience a place, and interact with the locals and expats alike. Mmm, perhaps next time!