Riding down the volcano

Thursday 3 July – Kintimani, Bali, Indonesia

I rose early for one of the best experiences I’ve had in Bali. Our tour bus drove us to Kintimani on the shores of Lake Batur and its eponymous and still active volcano (link) for breakfast with a spectacular view.

We then visited an agricultural centre to see various crops (bamboo, bananas, cloves, coffee, mango, cocoa and myriad other crops) being grown. We tasted locally grown ginseng coffee – delicious, tasting a bit like an Irish coffee) and wonderful drinking chocolate. I purchased some cocoa and saffron and a block of dark chocolate.

We then collected mountain bikes for the long downhill ride back to Ubud, around 30km away.

Setting off on our bikes
Setting off on our bikes

We went via back roads and laneways, without much of the traffic on the only marginally wider main roads. We passed through small villages and stopped at a family compound so our guide could explain daily household and village life.

Guide Gede
Guide Gede

Children (and their parents) smiled and waved as we passed. They seemed less jaded about western tourists than those working in the towns. In this particular home, they earned money by weaving the characteristic mats and wall linings so familiar in many Balinese buildings, from split bamboo.

We stopped at a rice field – one of many that we passed – to be shown the process of harvesting and winnowing the husks.

Our group was a cosmopolitan one – two Aussies, a German couple, a young Swiss couple, Carla from Milan and also staying at Bali Spirit, and a precocious Dutch girl who had just spent three months in India and was returning home to study medicine.

Our cosmopolitan group
Our cosmopolitan group

We paused under an heroic Banyan next to a temple so our guide Gede could discuss the role of the temple in daily village life and the Balinese version of Hindu cosmology, in which three aspects of God are united under one Hindu deity.

Many of the villages were helping to prepare for the forthcoming cremation ceremony in Ubud, creating effigies of animals and deities that will be added to the funeral pyre.

We were offered the option of a 30 minute small climb on the bikes, or to ride to lunch on the minibus. I chose the latter as several hours in the saddle were making themselves felt!

Germany, Switzerland and the Dutch chose to ride. Lunch was a very fine buffet at a restaurant owned by the tour company (Bali Eco) for the exclusive use of its tour groups. Good Balinese food, including smoked chicken and duck, and the best tofu and tempeh dishes (and for me to say that shows they must be good, not being generally a big fan of either!)

On the way to the restaurant, while waiting for a flat tyre on the bus to be repaired, by a river under another Banyan tree, a man digging sludge in the river struck up a conversation with me. He said he was an artist – Van Gogh – with a gallery in Ubud.

A quick swim back at the hotel before shuttle-bussing into Ubud for dinner at a pretty ordinary Warung, Lotus Lane. The Thai papaya salad was nothing of the sort – oily, for goodness sake. The main attraction of this establishment is wifi! During the night I awoke with ‘runny tummy’ again, thinking ‘here we go again. But fortunately by morning the problem had passed.

During the night, while the plumbing in my open-air bathroom was under some pressure, a frog found its way into the toilet bowl. It would not budge, and I could not wait, so it copped a load. Needless to say, I wasn’t tempted to kiss it after that, handsome prince or not!

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