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bali by bike

Bali by Bike

For most families, a visit to the Island of the Gods is an opportunity to embrace sun, sand and beachfront pools, perhaps venturing out to visit the Bali Zoo, a market or one of its many temples. For mine, however, there are only two things on our mind: food and bicycles.


The first we tackle with a delicious afternoon with Executive Chef Dean Nor at The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, Ubud, following him through his garden as he shares samples of ginger and exotic citrus that end up in our traditional Balinese cooking lesson. The second sees us leaving the fly-and-flop tourist trail behind on a scenic bike ride from the edge of a volcano into Ubud.



bali by bike

Bike Tours in Bali

There are probably close to a hundred tour companies offering family-friendly downhill bike rides in Bali. Most of these offer a similar itinerary: hotel pick-up, stop at a luwak coffee plantation, breakfast overlooking the volcanic crater of Mount Batur, then a three-hour-or-so cycle down through villages and rice paddies to the tour company ownerís family compound for lunch.

Many will arrange kidsí bikes for little ones, even tandem or bikes with baby seats for those too young to go solo.

Our experience with Bali Bintang Tour begins at 7am in Nusa Dua, kitted out in yoga pants and T-shirts that look out of place in the marble lobby of our beachside resort. Pick-up for accommodation in Ubud is a more leisurely 8.30am, but weíre on the express route this morning with only one other family to collect.

We meet our guide when we pull into a kopi luwak plantation overlooking a palm-filled valley, just out of Ubud and on the way up to the village of Kintamani. He explains, for the uninitiated, that the exotic (and expensive) luwak coffee is derived from coffee cherries fed to the Asian palm civet (a possum-like cat) that are then passed through its digestive system, the beans retrieved on the other side and then roasted like normal coffee.

Naturally the kids find this process a delightful blend of fascinating and gross, and warily watch one of the nocturnal creatures dozing.



balibybike

With our fill of morning coffee, itís time to continue on to our meeting point in Kintamani, perched on the edge of Mount Batur. Breakfast is waiting inside a restaurant just off the side of the road, with views spreading over the lava field and crater lake of the active volcano. We donít linger over our meal; just outside, the guides are preparing our bikes, pumping up tyres and testing brakes. Thereís a big group ahead of us leaving first, with several guides in their midst. We follow along after, a cosy group of seven, with both the support truck and the air-conditioned van trailing right behind.



The Village of Pejeng

From Kintamani, itís nearly all downhill (or at least flat) into the village of Pejeng outside Ubud. The ride itself is easy, but very heavy on the brakes.

Make sure your kids know how to work both front and rear brakes on their assigned bikes, and how to back-pedal (as someone who has previously disagreed with a brick wall about this, I assure you this knowledge is vital). Load up on water (we were given bottles throughout the day) and douse yourselves in sunscreen regularly.

Within the first few minutes of freewheeling down the road, past tiny shops and talls, weíve all got the hang of this bike thing again and we already love it. The rushing morning breeze is a soothing balm against the perpetual tropical heat of Bali and there are a few whoops of joy as we course down the mountain.

After the paved freedom of the main road, the first time we take a back road comes as a bit of a surprise. Pitted with potholes and gashes in the bitumen, we all slow down and start to look around. On our right is a stream of palms and jungle; on our left are lines local homes.

As our guide will later tell us, the Balinese donít have houses but rather these compounds, with separate sections for elders, parents and children, cooking and eating, and a small family temple. Family life threads through everyday existence. Out on this pitted road, itís easy to see this fact for the first time since our arrival in Bali.

bali by bike


Children wave as we bump on by, waving enthusiastically and calling out in English and Bahasa Indonesia indiscriminately. Rice is laid out by the roadside to dry; chickens occasionally serve as a moving obstacle to dodge.

The pace is easy-going enough for little legs. Once theyíve got their confidence up, the kids are soon showing off and marvelling at the sights. Theyíre most impressed by the local school children, piled onto the family motorbike with a 10-year-old at the controls and singing songs. Iím rather more terrified.

Our bumpy back road left behind, we are now on a smooth path through villages, rice paddies and jungle interludes. We stop in rice field, learning about the terraces, irrigation and how to tell when the grain is ready to harvest. Further down the road we stop before a temple, its pillars intricately carved and festooned with fabric, waiting for the next festival that will bring every soul in the village to its gates.

Itís while weíre freewheeling once more through a hillside hamlet that we realise this is what made Bali a must for travellers all those years ago. Like us, they were enthralled with the beauty of the landscape, the friendliness of the people and the fascination of their ceremonies. While its international appeal has changed with the times, this slice of rural Bali remains and itís this aspect that should make an Ubud bike tour the top of your family travel wish list.


bali by bike



This article featured in volume 48 of Holidays with kids. Enjoyed it? Subscribe to see more!

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