Let’s take it from the top

After the coffee plantation, we continued driving uphill to the start point of our tour.

The group was just five… me on the left, then Camilla and Thomas from Sweden, Ronald from the Netherlands, and Chuck from my old neighborhood in Vermont. It was a very convivial group… I would happily travel with all these people, and it makes appreciate one value of a group tour… if you have any luck at all you’ll meet some nice people. Chuck and Ronald, for example, were thrilled to speak Dutch to each other.

Anyway, that’s Mt. Batur in the distance, an impressively big volcano. One popular tourist attraction is to get up at 2AM (for some I suppose it’s stay up till 2AM) and ascend Mt. Batur in time for sunrise. Too energetic for us.

We adjusted the seats on our rattletrap mountain bikes, so they were less too short, checked the brakes (1out of 2 ain’t bad) and took off.

True to the brochure, the tour was entirely downhill. I think I pedaled about 10 revolutions in total, coming off stop signs, and on a bike with less friction wouldn’t have had to do even that.

There wasn’t as much explanation as I would have liked, but I guess the land we were on was formed by a big slow volcanic flow, so it made a very long and gentle slope. Really fun to cruise down.

We stopped at a little school and looked around.

The faded Say No To Drugs sign was somehow sad… if ‘man-splaining’ is a problem, this English-language message felt like its global cousin ‘America-splaining.’

Next stop, a Hindu temple we couldn’t go in. Then on to a ‘real’ family compound to see how the country people live. It was uncomfortable for me, being paraded into these people’s home while they basically ignored us and we basically ignored them. The children were cute, but their artificial smiles enlisted to sell us crocheted bags made me squirm.

But it was interesting to peek in the house compound. Several separate buildings, two for sleeping, separate kitchen, separate bathroom. One just for ceremonies and rituals. There is electricity and running water, but not much of either. They don’t have a flush toilet, but they do have cell phones.

Our guide Ago.

Then we veered off the road and into the terraced rice paddies. We wound our way along a concrete wall with the flowing water channels snaking in and out along the contour lines of the hillside. It’s an impressive feat of engineering… from above it must look like a printed circuit board.

From there we cruised through some more villages, traffic increasing steadily as we got closer to town. We finished up with lunch of fried rice and Bintang beer at a little cafe.

I wouldn’t have minded a better bike and maybe a little more of a workout, but it was a really fun tour and we met nice people.

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