Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Eco-Cycle Tour, Bali and the Chocolate Factory

Ornate doors signal entry to homes... what lies beyond such sumptuous gateways??
I couldn't resist the proverbial "flogging of the dead horse"; Bali Memories.  It is such a Land of Beauty and Contrast!  A little like India.  I think I could easily have taken 20 photos a day - 10 days in Bali = 200 images!  
We wanted to try something a little different on our holiday, less shopping-craze, less resort-laze, so we opted for an eco-cycle tour.  Nothing too untoward there for the average tourist, but wait.............. I haven't sat on a bicycle in 15 years??  And then, only brief flirtation with 2 wheels quickly discarded as a bad idea.  I did try to once cycle to work - all 4 blocks.  It nearly killed me - and that's mostly flat ground!  After that, my legs were like jelly and I could barely get off the darn contraption and walk the 5m to our kindy gate!!  So what was I doing putting my hand up for a 3 hour eco-cycle tour in Bali???
A Bali bicycle parked up at the beach.
I should probably rather have put my hand up for scooting around where you don't have to exert much effort in such a hot climate, but no, I had a trick up my sleeve!
Litte fella is showing me how cool it is to ride a scooter!!

Or perhaps I could have asked this local for lessons riding a paddle board sitting down,
 with a salad bowl helmet on for safety
When I told my friends about the cycle tour, they looked at me with wide eyes and questioning grins - how did I ever expect to succeed, as exercise is just not my thang!  Everyone knows that!
But ha! I had read that the cycle tour was 3 hours downhill!  I reckoned if I could just steer the thing, the bike would do all the work free-wheeling down the mountain!!

Our tour started with a buffet breakfast on top of Mount Kintamani,
overlooking the crater lake below.
We were picked up from our resort and driven 1 1/2 hrs to our breakfast stop, before being taken to the waiting bikes.  There were 8 of us, and a tour guide, a young buck from a local village (the tour is a village initiative).  I must admit to being a little nervous when I realised that the bikes were big, and I suddenly doubted my ability to not tumble off on a corner or when applying brakes!  With heart pounding, I made sure I was one of the last to leave so no-one would see my ineptitude (my gallant man offering to cycle behind me and ensure I didn't get left behind)!
The proof we did it!!

Rice paddies
The saying, that "it's like bike-riding, you never forget", well, it's true.  It took me 10 mins and I felt like the king of the downhill road!  My confidence picked up with each passing village!  After about an hour, we stopped at one village and were guided through a typical home compound.  We were shown the family shrine, the typical layout and learned a little about Balinese life and culture.

The pavillion building where families gather for feasts, for death and birth ceremonies (bodies are kept on ice on the raised platform for 3 - 30 days!!) and on this same platform, women give birth!
Drying cloves in the sunshine.
Balinese woman making baskets
Ingenious children's eco-swing made from bamboo
Old lady watching festival parade
Festival procession
The women's procession
We stopped to view an awesome, spiritual-Avatar-like 500yr old Banyan tree, where we were given water and a banana to replenish our energy.  Then we walked into a rice paddy and were given a agri-lesson on rice growing, and finally, we stopped at a coffee and spice plantation for a tour and taste testing all the different types of coffee beans.  Truly a broad spectrum view of rural Bali for off-the-beaten-track tourists.  I made the cycle tour, (just - there were 3 small hills - the first I managed, the second winded me and the third nearly killed me with the effort required in the tropical heat, and in fact I nearly caused a 3 cycle pile-up when I hopped off!)  Afterwards, we were taken for a sumptuous lunch - vegetarians generously catered for!  And then we were driven the 1 1/2 hours back to our resort - a full day's entertainment all for less than $50!
I felt such an immense sense of achievement!  Yay, I made it!  Lil' ol' lazy me!!

Charlie's Chocolate Factory
After seeing how raw cacao grows, we were keen to discover another unusual little attraction; Charlie's Chocolate Factory in Jasri Beach.  What an amazing discovery!!  Charlie, an ex-Aussie lives in a basic little shack on prime real estate beach-front paradise!  He builds his empire with bamboo and has created some fantastical Hobbit-like shacks to house his chocolate-making factory.  We bought some chocolate and goji berry drops, and had the BEST-EVER hot chocolate drink whilst his mournful honking goose followed Mike around like a faithful love-sick dog!

The chocolate factory office
Hand-crafted to perfection, Bilbo Baggins would have LOVED this!
The Chocolate Shop
The beauty of the inside, with sky-lights for natural lighting

Charlie's Goose
This is where Charlie lives.
Of Charlie, we caught but a glimpse!  I guess he is not used to too many guests, and he scarpered a quick getaway dash as we arrived, leaving us in the capable hands of his beautiful Balinese right hand lady.  In a rustic bamboo factory, he produces chocolate, soap and candles to fund his love of surfing.  Gotta love a guy who follows his dreams!!
Charlie's view - a popular surf spot
Charlie is busy building a bamboo shipwreck restaurant to serve his chocolate treats in.
The factory
A swing suspended between the coconut palms - Charlie calls it the Chair of Enlightenment!
So if your'e headed down Karangasem way, Charlie's is a definite must-see!  Inspirational!  Check out the video link above for a 15 min interview with Charlie.

Back in Sanur, we took a walk along the beach and discovered these gems:
Some eco-art, bottle caps hammered into drift wood demarcates a beach-side restaurant,  I loved the sign!!  "Sorry.  No wifi.  Talk to each other."
A beautiful re-purposed pallet table.
A Yoga Retreat with shop below, with Hammock Therapy.
Sign says it all...
I think I need Hammock Therapy.  Everyday.

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