Perhaps like me you grew up with a particular image of Bali – that of grass-skirted dancing girls frolicking in the waves. But after several visits in the past 15 years I have not seen any.
But I did discover a more exciting side of Bali when I visited there in 2010. I was taking a day off from a training workshop, together with my colleagues – and we had a fabulous half-day adventure – on bicycles!
It went like this: we boarded a minibus that took us to the top of the volcanic Mount Agung. After a break at the fabulous restaurant with a magnificent view over the crater lake we mounted our bikes and basically freewheeled most of the way back to our starting point about 15 kms away.
On the way we had three stops. The first was to visit a coffee plantation where many varieties of premium coffee were on sale. Among these exotic varieties was reputedly the world’s most luxurious coffee – kopi luwak – which is among the most expensive in Paris and London. (Drinking a cup of luwak coffee was even on Edward Cole’s (played by Jack Nicholson) list in The Bucket List).
Seeing and hearing how luwak is made was quite educational. What gives it its rich, distinctive flavour is that the beans are eaten by the civet cats – and then excreted. But there is more to it than that because the beans are carefully roasted and then the male and female beans are separated – but I can’t remember which supposedly makes the best coffee…
After drinking a mug of kopi luwak we felt sufficiently energised to continue our downhill trail – our next stop being a village where we were shown around a walled family compound. This small compound contains the houses of the close-knit family together with the shrines of their respective gods. It became
clear that traditional Balinese live out their lives in a strong Hindu culture and enjoying close family relationships bounded by strong traditions and loyalties. We also saw the pigs which they enjoy keeping – and eating. In this regard they are quite distinct from the predominant Muslim culture that dominates much of Indonesia.
Finally we set off on our last leg which took us past the paddy fields. For hundreds of years these Balinese have enjoyed a carefully planned and controlled irrigation system that channels water down the mountain filling and flooding sequential levels of rice paddy.
Further down the mountain the women were out in force reaping and processing the first harvest of the year. It was a brilliant example of a community working together as they tirelessly moved together from field to field reaping and threshing the rice.
They filled sacks with the fresh rice and then divided these bags equally between them – either to keep or to sell as they chose.
A most exhilarating morning that got us back in time for a late lunch. Give it a try!