January 13th: In Bali
13th January 2002 |
When I was looking for a room I noticed a sign advertising an Eco-Tour, on bicycles, “almost all downhill”. I never go on tours, but cycling downhill is my kind of cycling, and the Eco label punched my tree-hugging button. I asked a bit more about it (like “How do we get back up hill?” “In a van.” Very satisfactory) and signed up for the next day. The tour guide, an engaging young man called Made, pronounced Maday (all young men are called Made, just as all parts managers are called Kevin) came to get me at 7.30. I was put in a van with two mature ladies from Hamburg, and a young British archeologist, and we drove to look at some picturesquely terraced rice paddies.
On the way Made drenched us with information about Balinese culture – a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Animism, the latter very strong. Mountains, trees, lakes, etc all have spirits (well, I knew that already). On the other hand, as Hindus they have only one God (no monkeys, elephants, and so on). Balinese spend a third of their income on religious practices and offerings, and building shrines to their ancestors. There are lots, really lots of rules about how to behave and dress and eat. And the communities tend to police themselves.
We went up a mountain to breakfast and look at volcanoes and the lake. Then to look at lava beds. And finally we got on bicycles. Madé was true to his word. It was almost, and endlessly downhill, and a lot of fun, visiting a family harvesting rice, a workshop for splitting bamboo and weaving it, a plantation, and a household.
The bicycle ride finished at the bottom of the hill in a river. Literally. The water had risen. The van that was supposed to carry us on got stuck in the sandy stream bed and the small truck that followed it wasn’t strong enough to pull it out and all our various schemes for extricating it failed. So we waded across, and another van on the other side took us to a lunch of delicious smoked duck. I recommend it.