Since we went out on our tour of rural Bali a week or two ago we have been really eager to get back out and see some more of the countryside, so today we headed out on a cycle tour of Bali's volcanoes and rice paddies. Cycling tours seem really popular here in Ubud and we opted for one which drove us uphill to one of Bali's biggest volcanoes (which is still active and erupts here every 30 years or so, luckily it isn't due to erupt for quite a while though) and then all we had to do was cycle downhill all the way back to Ubud. Altogether we would cycle over 45 kilometers (28 miles) in about 3 and a half hours but we were assured by our guide that 85% of this would be downhill and we wouldn't need to peddle that much. We got picked up and met the other couple who we would be cycling with, a really nice couple here on holiday from New Delhi in India, and we were driven up to our starting point. However before we started cycling we were taken for a tour around a coffee plantation and given loads of free tasters of tea, coffee and tropical fruits
. Obviously they expected you to buy a load of coffee but we were quite happy to just scrounge all the freebies we could and by the time we left we were both bouncing off the walls having drunk quite a lot of coffee and eaten a chunk of pure coconut sugar to boot. Next we were taken to our starting point for the day, which was a restaurant on the side of the volcano, and given some breakfast. The views out over the valley and towards the other volcanoes were amazing and we got some great photos. Breakfast was a food which Tom and I still haven't quite got our heads around yet... gelatinous rice cakes. These are little cakes made out of the starchy goo which comes out of rice when you boil it and is dyed all sorts of bright colours, more mushy rice is added and it is then shaped into weird and wonderful shapes. They don't really have much flavour so you eat them with syrup and shaved coconut, but the texture is really bizarre; they feel like a cross between hard jelly and play-doe and are a bit of an acquired taste. I have come round to them a lot more than Tom has and quite enjoyed my plate of illuminous rice cakes, although at one point I stuck my fork into one of them and syrup exploded out of it and sprayed all over the table, carpet and chairs... which was pretty embarrassing and I tried to pretend like nothing had happened while secretly wiping it up with my napkin.
After breakfast we were taken outside and kitted out with our mountain bikes and helmets
. And then we hit the road! We cycled along the main road for a few minutes before we turned off and started our downhill roll through the mountains. The scenery was simply incredible and we felt really lucky to cycle through lots of little towns along the way. We got to see regular Balinese people going about their daily lives working in the rice terraces and homes. Without a doubt though the best part of the day was seeing all the Balinese children. They would hang out of windows and doors to wave at us, they would stop a game of football to come and say hello as we cycled past, toddlers would wave while they sat on their mums knees in doorways. All we heard during our time cycling was a chorus of children shouting "Hello, hello, hello" everywhere we went. We even passed a couple of schools as the kids were coming out for their lunch break and the children would line the streets and try to hi-5 us as we passed them. Some would run and cycle alongside us and at one school we literally had a line of about 30 kids waiting for us and they cheered so loudly when we managed to hi-5 each of them. It was a brilliant experience, made even more special by the reception we got off the local children. The ride was really easy for pretty much the whole journey, although the few sections of uphill cycling where incredibly steep and I ended up pushing my bike up them. Tom absolutely loved being back on a mountain bike and he managed to cycle up all the steep parts, which I was really impressed with because even the guide had to get off his bike and push it at times. Towards the end of our trip we went through a section of bumpy terrain and we our legs were caked in mud by the time we arrived back in Ubud. We got back into town just in time for lunch at a nice restaurant on the road where the Hindu ceremony had been the night before. Back at our room later we were exhausted and very achey, so we were quite happy to laze the rest of the day away and then go for some nice food at our favourite cafe later in the evening. Ahhh... another great day in Bali!