When I was diving in Tulamben, one of the other divers recommended the Halo Bike Tour when I mentioned I was looking into doing a cycling tour at some point. Due to Nyepi and Olli and Jo wanting to join in, I ended up booking this tour for my last day in Bali.
In the morning, Jo had unfortunately bowed out, so Ollie and I boarded the transfer bus with the 2 other guests and headed out towards Mt. Batur. Ollie hadn’t had a good night after being woken up at 3am by some very loud, drunken roommates, so ended up spending most of the trip up collapsed along a row of seats napping – and would in fact sleep every spare moment he had that we were not moving for the rest of the day. I’m half ready to join him – not entirely sure if its lack of sleep or something I ate, but I am not feeling 100% this morning. A feeling that thankfully fades throughout the day.
The tour provides breakfast and lunch, but before we ate, there was a quick stop at a Lowak Coffee plantation, which seems to be common for every tour in Bali. Lowak coffee is unique in that it uses an animal for harvest. The Lowak eats the coffee cherry fruit, and the beans are collected from their dung. It’s rather expensive, but Bali is famous for it. The plantation also had several other teas available, and we were given taste samples to try. I ended up buying a mangoose tea and some orange chocolate (which I swear is the nicest orange chocolate I’ve ever tasted).
Our next stop was breakfast and even Ollie was jerked from his slumber when we started approaching our first stop, which could be reached going over a bridge and up a hill that overlooked an incredible view of Mt Batur.
The views from this restaurant were incredible – it blew the rice terraces out of the water, and Ollie was desperate to go down and explore the black lava fields. I would love to have spent more time here, but it was just a quick breakfast stop (with breakfast consisting of pancakes and fruit) before driving on to pick up the bikes.
The tour is led by one guide in front, with the bus and the bike truck following some distance behind in case of incident. We only get a few 100 metres before our first stop – there’s a chicken coop behind a fence, and the trees on this side are teeming with giant spiders. One large shudder later, off we go.
This tour is 70% downhill, 25% flat and maybe 5% uphill. As such, it requires next to no effort to keep up with the group even in the sheer heat of the day. The tour begins by gliding through a small town, with traditional Balinese houses on each side. The guide (so much better than our car guide from yesterday) explains that these homes can never be sold or bought. The ones in this village are at least 250 years old and have seen 5 generations of the same family.
We stop outside the village when we come across women harvesting rice in a paddy, and we navigate into the field to see them in action. Men will normally plant the rice, but women will be the ones who harvest it. The cooperation of the village is actually incredible here – the rice paddies require water from Lake Batur, but it’s so expensive one family can’t really afford it. Instead, several families who share the same land group together to afford the water, and in exchange share their fields. Even the woman who harvest are essentially village volunteers – instead of money, they will get rice from the fields they harvest. First the plants are hacked down with sickles, then beaten against a wooden board so the rice will land on plastic sheets. Here they will be dried (and you often see sheets with rice being dried outside homes in this manner) before being gathered into large bags that are carried out of the field balanced on the women’s heads (and as someone who tried to lift one of those bags, the sheer upper body strength of these women must be spectacular). The plants are then gathered and given to cattle – nothing goes to waste.
For the next 90 minutes, we essentially glide through rice paddies, hill roads (with incredible views of even more incredible rice terraces and rivers), more small villages filled with ancestral homes or smaller more ‘modern’ buildings and several chicken coops. This isn’t somewhere that caters for the tourists, and you can finally get a grasp of what it’s like to live in actual Bali compared to the crazy and insane Kuta.
The end of the tour however, was one of oddity. After cycling through dozens of rice paddies, we turn a corner and find a giant red octopus plastered on a building. In the middle of Balinese countryside, we’ve found a waterpark, quite literally in the middle of nowhere. It’s very amusing, if a little weird.
Our final stop on the tour is a trip to the owner’s home. Halo Bike Tours is a family owned company, and lunch is hosted in their own home, cooked by his wife. The home compound itself is beautiful, consisting of several buildings and a small temple. They’re also in the process of converting one room into a homestay for travellers (something Ollie is immediately interested in).
Lunch was, by a mile, one of the nicest meals I’ve had in Bali. Served buffet style, it consisted of several traditional Indonesian foods, including rice, satay, smoked chicken, vegetable croquettes, noodles and various sauces. I usually avoid chicken while abroad, but this was too good to pass up – everyone was down for seconds and don’t think we left a bowl empty.
After this, we were given some time to just relax and enjoy the quiet atmosphere. Ollie immediately went to sleep in the shade, while the rest of us played with the owners new kittens (quite literally taken off the street at a few days old) and chatted with the owner who was happy to heard feedback and talk about the cultures of home compared to Bali (had a great conversation regarding the difference between weddings).
It was a fantastic day, and by far the best way I could have ended my trip in Bali. I only wish I’d done it earlier and really been able to appreciate the country outside of Kuta.