Two Days, Two Saddles: Riding in Bali

 

 

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Bali Island Horse: 2 hour beach ride 

Tour Summary

Whenever I’m somewhere new, checking out the local ponies is a must and the sunset beach ride offered by Bali Island Horse seemed like a pretty good bet. There was a pickup service from our accommodation in Seminyak, and from there it was an hour or so’s drive to the west, out of the city and through the rice paddies. The view became gradually more rural (a mini-tour in itself) and eventually we ended up at a small stable complex. The ride goes through a village and then onto Yeh Gangga beach. There was black volcanic sand, thumping surf, a clifftop temple, a bat cave, and basically nobody except for the ponies and a few fishermen dotted around. It was absolutely blissful.

 

The day I chose to go, the nearby village was performing part of their cremation ceremony on the foreshore. It’s not part of the tour, but it was definitely a highlight and a really special surprise, because it’s something most tourists don’t get to see and I was so, so lucky to witness it thanks to nothing more than a happy coincidence. The cremation ceremonies are a chain of separate, complex events in which the whole community participates, and the part I accidentally stumbled upon was when they take the ashes and put them into the ocean, which is thought to be a protective force.

 

This stuff seems to just happen to me on trail rides – once in Argentina, I spent an afternoon riding around the Andes foothills and we were joined by a herd of wild criollo ponies!
I guess sometimes you just get lucky.
Either that, or it proves I’m supposed to be around horses all. the. time.

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Positives

1. This experience was totally different from the bike tour. I met two incredible young ladies who were to be joining me: a Singaporean model-life coach-entrepreneur with a sense of adventure, and an air hostess from Hong Kong who broke her collarbone in a fall and started learning traditional Chinese painting in hospital. She then went on to travel to mainland China to learn from a master painter, and aims to make it a full time gig, but wanted to get back on the proverbial and literal horse first. Awesome people make for an awesome experience.

2. The stable is professionally run and the horses are all in very good condition. The staff are obviously very passionate about horses. Helmets and chaps are provided free of charge, and you get a complementary drink and a t-shirt at the end of the ride. All the tack is Wintec (synthetic saddles which are safe and salt-water friendly). The non-horsey folks are given a quick lesson before setting off, and details like correct stirrup length and tightened girths are double-checked. Two thumbs up for this one!

3. The beach itself is stunning. I couldn’t get it to show up in photos, but the black sand literally glitters in the sunset and the whole beach was deserted except for a few local fishermen and one surfer. We’re so lucky with Australian beaches that those anywhere else never seem to impress me too much, but Yeh Gangga is lovely. We even had a short swim in the surf and there wasn’t too much seaweed to scare my mare.

4. At the halfway point, everyone dismounts to give the ponies a break and a (not technically allowed) roll in the sand. You can take a short walk to see a blowhole-like rock formation, a temple overlooking the water, and a bat cave. Cool stuff in itself, but for me absolutely nothing compares to riding. Duh.

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Yep, those are bats.

Negatives

1. I did get the impression that the horses are better looked after than the staff, who were required to walk with us for the entire 2-hour ride instead of having a mount of their own. I feel like a ride one, lead one system would work much better. I also noticed that none of them were wearing boots around the stable, and I would hate to see what would happen if they accidentally got trodden on.

Additional notes

The horses do multiple rides on the sand each day and most of them are ponies/galloways, so there are strict weight regulations for riders – and yes, you get weighed on arrival. Prepare yourself for this one, because even if you close your eyes on the scales, it’s there in black and white on the insurance form. There are options to combine your ride with four-wheel motorbike and bicycle tours as well, or for beginners a one-hour ride is also available. Bali Island Horse website here.

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