Getting around towns in Bali is pretty self explanatory, buses go frequently. But when you want to go somewhere rather unusual or experience the things in the middle, and you are not rich enough to rent a car or pay for a driver, things tend to get a bit more complicated. Renting a scooter is very cheap – five dollars per day or so. But driving scooter for a first time in your life and doing this attempt in Asia, well… that can be a near-death experience. At least for me it was.
And here is why – everyone drive scooters. I mean, everybody. You can see a family of four packed on a motorbike heading for market, somehow managing to carry all the stuff with them. You can spot a twelve year old girl with cute braids, dropping off her little brother by primary school. Almost every street is like swirling with these in a chaos that I guess only locals can make sense out of. And if a twelve year old girl in a school uniform can drive a scooter you’d think it should be easy. I guess not for me, as after few rounds on the empty street I started to freak out on the thought that with this machine that I am unsure of I should dive into this bustling chaos. And carrying Dani as passenger, trying not to kill us both, or at least her.
So, bikes it is.
The idea was to go from Ubud in the center of Bali up north to Kintamani from where it is possible to climb a volcano (Mount Batur, 1717). As one of my few certain goals for Indonesia was to climb a volcano and I’ve missed Mount Merapi and Mount Bromo by then, that was sort of a last chance to do that. So, not discouraged by the articles about Kintamani tour guide mafia, we’ve set off with bikes to the north. 20 kilometers ride – should be fairly easy even for unexperienced bikers…
… couldn’t be more wrong. As the distance was bearable, elevation was not. Nearly one kilometer in vertical change of altitude killed me faster than I’d expected, and the road took us far too long. But first things first, few kilometers north from Ubud we’ve stopped at rice terraces (Teras Padi Cafe) to wait through the afternoon rain and get some delicious tea & coffee. Just as we’ve been locking the bikes we’ve met a guy from Kintamani offering us something in broken English… understanding that he offers some highly paid attractions we refused and insisted on staying for now on the terraces.
The view on ricefields was really breathtaking, this is exactly why you go to Asia! Especially when watching them hidden from rain in a kind of a private hut, covering only one table. Sipping on hot beverages and observing the drops sliding down a palm-straw roof.
After this beautiful rest we went further, just to be caught by the falling dusk. And falling rain. To be precise – pouring rain. And we’re in the middle of nowhere, I tried to ask some people in a shop if we can camp in their garden/field, but they didn’t really follow the idea or my Indonesian was not good enough… Anyway the fun of the excursion has been washed down with liters of monsoon rain and solution had to be found quite quickly.
Here I have to skip next few hours, as the solution of this problem deserves a separate text, otherwise this article will become too huge for even my family to go through it. Soon to come!
But I want to squeeze in a story about the next morning, when we’ve met again the guy from Kintamani, same from the rice terraces. Tired enough after the previous day and seeing the road getting steeper and steeper we’ve decided to take his offer for bringing us and the bikes to Kintamani with a minibus and staying in his father’s guest house. Going straight into the mouth of Kintamani tour guide mafia, by the way, but apparently there is very little choice.
On the way we’ve stopped in a coffee plantation for tasting one of the most expensive coffees in the world – Kopi Luwak. Claimed to have magical properties on health, fixing everything, giving you energy, repairing internal organs and whatever else you can imagine. Good sales pitch. But the plantation itself has been really wonderful, with cinnamon trees and all kinds of other spices growing around.
The key point was of course Kopi Luwak, made from undigested coffee beans retrieved from feces of Asian palm civets. The animals locked in cages are fed with coffee beans which then fermentate in their stomachs, enriching the flavour and changing the chemical structure of the processed beans. Retrieved from the feces, beans can be roasted or dried in the sun. We got tea tasting for free – small cups of lemongrass, ginger teas and some other kinds I cannot recall now. And for five bucks we got a cup of Kopi Luwak, that is said to reach prices between 550-700 dollars per kilo in US. I’d never pay such money (even if I had it), but I have to admit that coffee tasted really great, with rich flavour and smoothness. Surrounding of the plantation and view on a tropical forest with ants making their way through the table had also for sure something to do with it. Worth it.
Just on the dark side of the Kopi Luwak we have civets locked in the cages. Everything has always two sides, I guess – something to remember.