Your scribe going full tilt downhill

(Published in The West Australian,  21 August 2010)

Cycling down from a volcano in Bali may not be the Tour de France but as a bike ride it must rate as one of the best activities for any amateur on two wheels.

You don’t have to expose your dieting crimes by wearing bulge-hugging lycra, and it’s nearly all downhill, a mix of freewheeling and pedalling along the flat.

Not convinced? How about this: as you go through some of the loveliest scenery in the world you encounter the cutest of kids who smile a big “hello” as their playful older siblings extend a hand for a high five.

We found all this out in stages but to start off some hidden fears had to be expressed.

As we donned the bike helmets and the complimentary cycling gloves ,  a member of our group spoke up, voicing the apprehensions of one or two others. “I might be a bit wobbly because I haven’t ridden a bike for years,” she said.

But as we  set off from Mt Batur towards the pleasant town of Ubud, even those who hadn’t biked for ages found all the old skills came back  with ease.

At the suggestion of our Balinese guide, Made, we dismounted amid  a grove of towering bamboo that was so bushy the temperature dropped a  delightful degree or two.

After  detouring along some earthen tracks to a little roadside farm, Made pointed out papaya, cocoa and orange trees. Then we cycled on to a moss-covered temple and gazed into a courtyard that had been devoted to prayer and meditation for 1000 years.

We left that holy spot in  silent, single file, passing a  giant banyan tree said to be the place of spirits. They must have been kindly souls because we felt blessed by the experiences that were to follow.

As we peddled down little lanes through a sea of  green paddies, there was plenty of time to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of farming life..

“Very agricultural,”  said one city-slicker  experiencing a whiff of cow poo. It was an odour that strangely reinforced our joy at  being away from  busy towns with their petrol fumes.

As if in a dream, we drifted  along village avenues  decorated with yellow ceremonial umbrellas and high, looping bamboo poles. On some parts of the road, women were spreading  rice  on colourful sarongs to dry in the sun.

Just when our bottoms were signaling it was time to dismount for the day, we arrived at our destination near Ubud.

We celebrated the completion of our  Tour de Bali, not with champagne and a victory speech, but with chicken sate, delicious mixed fruit drinks and a feeling of deep satisfaction.


Michael Day was a guest of Sobek but paid for a couple of the peloton.