Traveling through Southeast Asia, Andrew and I have discovered the staggering number of tours and excursions that are offered. Unlike in Europe, it’s extremely difficult to see the best sights by ourselves due to lack of public transportation, and a guide can often be necessary. In Bali especially, there are literally hundreds of tours to choose from- we are constantly reminded of this fact by overzealous companies waving brochures in our faces as we walk down the street. One excursion we were extremely interested to take was a 25-kilometer downhill cycling tour through the Balinese countryside. We were picked up promptly at 7:00am and began the 90-minute drive through winding roads, side streets coughing out hundreds of motorbikes and cars at every turn- inescapable traffic at any hour in Bali- to the start of our adventure at Mount Batur in Kintimani, a still-active volcano in the center of the island. We had a light breakfast overlooking this natural creation, mystical in the foggy distance, thick swirls of steam blurring its peak.
Then it was time to ride. Just as our group finished gearing up with bicycles and helmets, started to torrentially downpour. Bright blue ponchos were quickly added to complete our serious biker look, and we began biking through increasingly thick showers. If you don’t know about my sweet bike riding skills, then you’d know this is a trick statement- I have absolutely none. Within minutes, I had skidded over to the side of the road, desperately trying to clean my foggy glasses windshield wiper-style. My efforts were futile, and I had to ride in the van behind our group until the rain cleared. Soon enough, I was back in action, and finally enjoying a relaxing ride through mind-blowingly beautiful vistas- sprawling rice fields, sheltered forest paths, and rural neighborhoods where adorable Balinese children played in the streets among sauntering dogs and roosters. As our group cycled past, adorned in our matching ponchos, kids ran into the street to high-five us, and excitedly called out “hello hello!” to us from windows and doorways. It seemed that there was no shortage of local people who wanted to greet us along our journey (and laugh a little bit at us too).
One of our final stops was among the rice fields where old Balinese women were harvesting the crops by picking stalks and beating them with a unyielding vigor in order to get the grains. A few people from our tour took part in the rice-thrashing process, which made the locals giggle- even the guys couldn’t seem to perform this labor with the same strength as the women, who have been working out in the fields their entire lives. Surrounded by the endless rice fields, this is one of the times I’ve felt furthest from home on our trip. Before we continued on, I took an extra minute to truly memorize where we were, in the rustic but very “real” Bali.