Gently downhill ...

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April 5th 2010
Published: April 5th 2010
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Taking a break from playing
Today was the day that I had scheduled my “gently downhill” bike tour with Bike-Baik Bali Countryside Tours. I chose this particular company because it came highly recommended by Lonely Planet and through customer reviews but most importantly because it supports an English language education program for a local school. Whenever possible I always try to find tours or hotels that support a local cause ... such an easy way to give back to the country that has so warmly taken you in. So it was only fitting that the tour would start with a quick stopover to the school that is the beneficiary of this support from Bike-Baik to go say hello to the kids. I have always wanted to visit a school so I was thrilled when he announced that it was our first stop. There truly is no better sound in the world than happy kids laughing and playing. We were met with high fives and hearty hellos! Truly a touching experience.

From there we then moved on to the village of Kintamani for breakfast. It definitely was breakfast with a view. The restaurant was perched near a valley and had this long outdoor balcony where you
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Little girl at the school
could sit out and enjoy the buffet breakfast. The view was of Gunung Batur (the word Gunung means volcano) with neighboring Lake Batur and Gunung Abang. I had never seen a volcano before and I have to say that it was quite a sight. There have been major eruptions of Gunung Batur; the most recent one being in 1963 and apparently there are still tremors and such which means that it is still very much an active volcano. The sky was a little cloudy so the view was somewhat obstructed but regardless still quite something to see.

The next stop before the cycling was to start was a stop at a coffee plantation. It was actually more like an enormous garden. Our guide took us through this “forest” having us guess the different trees. Some I recognized like cocoa, coffee and banana but there were some that I had never seen before. It’s funny how there are things that we use in our kitchen everyday but you don’t really have a notion of where it comes from … hence vanilla beans, cinnamon and turmeric. I was quite surprised when our guide scraped a tiny piece of this tree and
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Little girl at the school
had us smell it … cinnamon! And turmeric actually looks like ginger except that it is bright yellow when you cut into it (and it stains EVERYTHING if you must know!!) From there he showed us how they roast coffee beans (the smell was to die for!!) and this is when we came upon the concept of Possum coffee. In Vietnam, it’s weasel coffee and here they use possums apparently. There were two little critters in a cage nearby. The gist is that the little critters eat the beans and then eventually ….ummm …. release them back through … ummmm …natural means. The beans don’t break down in their stomach so they come back out whole. This apparently adds a certain something to the bean which makes the taste quite strong and those beans quite coveted (and expensive!). The guide then gathered us around a long table and a couple of people put five small cups in front of us for us to taste. These were all drinks made from items grown on this plantation. So we had coffee, cocoa, ginger tea, lemongrass tea and something else that I cannot remember for the life of me. For about 30,000 rupiah
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Paying attention in class
(about $3.00) you could have a cup of the Possum coffee (it’s called Luak). It was pretty much unanimous around the table that we had to try it so a couple of people bought a couple of cups for all of us to share. I love my coffee strong but damn that was strong! It was good though … so there I’ve done it … I’ve had coffee spewed out of a small animal!! As we walked out, they also had us try fruits. Two I recognized from having had them in Thailand and Cambodia … rambutan and my personal favorite …. mangosteen. But the other two, I had never heard of … one that looked like a tomatoe (can't remember the name) and then snake skin fruit. Very yummy … I believe that Mr. Oka is taking me to a fruit market tomorrow so I might try to track some down.

We then picked up our bicycles, secured our helmets (safety first!) and began our gentle downhill ride. The ride would be approximately 2 1/2 hours long and stretch out over 25 kilometers. We wound our way through small villages and were so very warmly welcomed by the
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Cinnamon tree
kids that would yell out “hello”, “how are you?” or “where you from?” and they all held out their hands so that you could give them a little high five as you rode by. And when you did, they would just start laughing. Truly a highlight, not just for me but for all the others in the group. Definitely the one thing that stood out for all of us and that we chatted about after the tour was done. We also saw rice field upon rice field. We even stopped at one particular field and walked through this kind of pathway that was cut between to separate the different fields. I definitely have a new appreciation for my 5kg of jasmine rice that’s for sure. So much work!!

Even though a good part of the tour was downhill, we were all pretty much tuckered out by the end (well except our guide who does this six days a week!!). So we pretty much ambushed the guy from the van when he came out with ice cold facecloths, bananas and water bottles. We all hopped in the van and headed back to the family compound of Wayan Sujana, the owner
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Such a little poser!
of Bike-Baik, where we would have a traditional Balinese meal. First of all, what a privilege to be invited into someone’s home like this and this truly was an experience. The family compound is made up of a series of buildings each strategically positioned. There is a family temple and there were offerings dotted around the property. There is a bale for ceremonies and special occasions and then there are a number of other smaller houses each for different members of the family. We met Wayan’s wife and three children as well as his “auntie”. His mother and father also lived on the property but we did not get to meet them. Wayan was actually born on the property itself. He sat with us during our meal and what a meal it was! It included smoked chicken, smoked duck, tempe, gado-gado (vegetables with a spicy peanut sauce), fried noodles, steamed rice, a tofu dish, nasi goreng (fried rice) and a spicy sauce called a sambal. So delicious! It was so lovely to get to talk to him because his story was quite interesting … how he started the company six years ago and promoted himself to the point now that
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Coffee beans
he is mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide (not an easy task I’m sure!) He also explained different things of his culture and we had a lovely conversation about karma. It was important to him to start this company to provide jobs to others in Bali as well as give back to his own community by supporting the school. Just a beautiful soul ...

And so ends another day in Bali ... I have absolutely no idea what day of the week it is so that must mean that I am in full vacation mode and just having the best time! Tomorrow ... my "date" with Mr. Oka as we traipse through Western Bali.

Additional photos below
Photos: 28, Displayed: 27


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Papaya tree
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Pineapple plant ... it can actually grow only one pineapple per year!
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Roasting coffee
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Coffee Beans
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Cloves ... before they are dried. I had no idea!
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Cloves being dried in the sun
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That's how it looks when the coffee beans come out of the possum!
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Breakfast with a view of Gunung Batur
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Scarecrow in the rice field
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Rice Fields
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Another scarecrow
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Hello Miss!!!
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Rice Terraces

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