Bali Eco Cycling Tour
There’s only so much window shopping and cafe-hopping I can handle, and by the second week of our stay in Bali I had well and truly reached my limit. I needed to get out, move around, get some fresh air and do something different. Enter the cycling tour, recommended to me by a friend and widely reviewed on travel blogs. I wanted to see the volcano at Mt Batur, and this was an easy way to do it. The tour picks you up from your accommodation and drives right up to the volcano, where you are ushered into a cafe with some pretty serious views of the lava spill and the lake to accompany breakfast. I wanted space: I sure got space! Then, it’s onto a coffee plantation visit and another short drive later, it’s out of the van and onto the bikes.
This really is a downhill ride, just as it’s marketed. There are one or two little hills, and that’s it. You just roll your way along – it’s definitely a tour that just about anyone can try. You ride through what are some seriously idyllic back streets, and make three further stops. A visit to a traditional Balinese compound provides a direct look at the lifestyle and beliefs of the Balinese, as does the visit to a holy Banyan tree and the section of the ride which takes you directly through a rice plantation. Following another short ride through the back roads, you meet up with the van again and are taken for a delicious (no, really, really good) buffet lunch before the shuttle back home again. For fitness junkies, there’s also the option to take a more challenging route before lunch.
1. This really is the best option for seeing the ‘real’ Bali, as if that’s even possible on an organised tour. The stops are all very interesting, but it was especially lovely to peddle around through the quiet, narrow back streets, just taking it all in. Temples were in the process of being decorated for various cultural occasions. Little kids called out and ran along next to the bikes, some asking for high-fives. You can see people wrestling with low-tech cropping implements and the whole thing is super picturesque, with rivers and palm trees and winding country roads. This component of the tour was definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip for me.
2. The tour is genuinely informative. I have to admit I didn’t get a lot out of the plantation tour, but then again I’m a tea addict and I received a pretty good food education as a kid. If you’ve never seen raw coffee beans or cacao pods, it’s probably quite an eye-opener. The free samples of tea and coffee go down nicely, and there was a cute bat and a gigantic moth to have a look at too. The tour of the compound is especially interesting, and I really did get some insight into the traditional Balinese way of life. The families who live there receive a stipend for allowing visitors as part of the tour, and they just continued about their business as if we weren’t there. It was a little strange, I have to admit, but not uncomfortable.
3. It’s very well organized. Breakfast and lunch were both ready for us immediately upon arrival, the van was there to meet us at the end of the ride with damp towels to wash our faces, and when it started to rain the guides had a bag of plastic ponchos at the ready.
4. The food (included in the tour) is absolutely delicious. Black rice pudding and chocolate & banana crepes for breakfast? Yes. Gorgeous buffet lunch with some of the best noodles and satay skewers I’ve ever had? Yes, again.
1. It’s a popular tour, and it draws customers from all kinds of backgrounds. Be prepared to be stuck on a bus with a group of mildly xenophobic girls who just can’t even and grey nomads in lycra. There’s a flipside though – you’re pretty much guaranteed to meet someone really interesting too! At the plantation, an Iranian couple offered to read everyone’s coffee grounds which resulted in hysterical laughter all round.
2. The bikes were well-maintained and perfectly safe, but they were all men’s bikes. I find it much harder to balance when crouching forward in the position that men’s bikes demand, and would have felt more comfortable on a cruiser bike, especially given that it’s all downhill. Annoying, but not a huge problem.
3. The luwaks – little ferret-like critters – at the coffee plantation were very clearly distressed. One was “crib weaving” (constantly swaying from side to side) and another was obsessively running around in circles. Given that this is an ‘eco’ tour, just about every customer expressed their concern about the animals’ treatment. The guide explained that they keep them because tourists pay to see them – and I really wonder about that, because most of us had chosen the tour based on the bike riding component and recommendations from others, not because of the opportunity to see a caged animal. I do understand that the “cat poo chinos” (kopi luwak – coffee made from digested beans) are sold for a premium, but in that case, why not a bigger enclosure?
All in all, the tour was well worth the price ($40ish) and I too would recommend it to friends. I just really wish the luwaks had bigger cages.
Find out more about the cycling tour here.