Bali Eco-Cycling- Ubud

Temple in Ubud
After a restful night’s sleep, we were up early the next morning to go on a cycling tour of Ubud. Ubud is the arts and culture center of Bali, and is situated inland from the beach up in the highlands nestled in between volcanoes. They grow a lot of rice up there, utilizing Lake Batur, the largest lake on Bali, to irrigate the fields using a complicated irrigation system as well as terraced fields.
Gamelan performance hall
Austin and the rice fields
We were picked up right on time by the Bali Eco-cycling driver. He drove us up to Ubud city, and picked up our guide. He was a 25-year-old guy whose given name was Nano. He spoke English very well and was wearing red skinny jeans and converse for our bike ride. Austin and I were in more athletic clothes. We were supposed to meet up with another couple and their two children. After waiting around in Ubud (and snapping some pictures of the nearby temple and gamelan performance pavilion) we were on our way to breakfast.  The couple never showed so we got a private tour! Ubud is featured in the movie and book Eat, Pray, Love and so it has become more popular since the popularity of the book and movie. As we drove through town, we passed so many artisan’s shops with paintings, carvings, sculptures, all things that I want to fill my home with someday, but at this time we aren’t in a position to try to lug around artwork and copious amounts of toddler stuff.
Rice fields on the way

Lake Batur and a little chunk of the monster volcano
Smaller, active volcano
Anyway, we drove 45 minutes out of Ubud up into the mountains, until we were on top of this peak overlooking Lake Batur. On our right was a big mountain, and on the left was a smaller, active volcano. Nano explained that this used to be a huge volcano and that it erupted a very long time ago and created the crater lake, and the peak on the right is just one small part of it. The volcano on the left is like a volcano within a volcano because it was formed from the eruption. It erupts every so often and there was a lava flow coming down from it. The restaurant where we ate was open air and we opted to eat out on the deck to more fully enjoy the view. Breakfast was yummy with crepes, fried rice, little fried tuna packets, and black rice pudding, which I thought tasted a little like sweet dirt.
Family pic on the mountain
Ready to go!
After breakfast, we headed back down the hill to the start of the cycling. We were given the option of going to a coffee plantation, and we decided not to, although later I realized that on the website it said that it also had spices and fruits that would have been interesting to see. Oh well, maybe next time! We were outfitted with bikes and helmets and there were several helpful people to make sure everything fit correctly. Then we started biking. Since we had driven so far up a volcano, it was mostly downhill with just a few lengths of flat or uphill riding thrown in. Landon loved the biking and did not have any trouble sitting for that long- even after a long van ride!
Northeast corner= family temple compound

Sleeping room
Kitchen door
Kitchen fire
Nano teaches us about bamboo
Our first stop on our tour was a traditional family compound. I had seen these gate looking things all over the sides of the road on our car rides, but thought that they were the entrances to temples because there were always temple looking sculptures in the compounds. Not so! This is how families live in Bali. There are different buildings in the compound. The biggest, highest house belongs to the oldest people in the family. In the north east corner of the compound, they have their family temple. They also face their beds either towards the north or east because that is a holy direction for them. There is another building of sleeping rooms for other members of the family. Usually it is a whole family unit that lives there including grandparents, parents, kids, etc. Couples that get married get to sleep separate in the oldest couples’ quarters for one night for privacy before going back to sleeping with everyone else in the sleeping quarters. At another part of the compound is the kitchen. They cook over fires and women only cook once per day in the morning. So they eat hot food in the morning, and then they have food ready so that whenever people get hungry they can go eat the other food in the kitchen. They wrap rice and other foods in banana leaves and that seems to keep them relatively insulated so that they stay warm for longer. They don’t eat together for meals every day, just for feast days and other life celebrations.  The kitchen ceiling was very black, and there is a kitchen in the compound for each wife, so they don’t have to share. There is also a bigger open air pavilion on which they have their big gatherings and family events, and if someone dies the body is placed there for a few days.
The oldest family member’s house is higher than the rest
Special events pavilion
Landon feeds the tiny cows

After lying in the family compound for a viewing, the dead people are buried, to await a mass cremation. About every five years a community does a mass cremation where they dig up the bones of their loved ones and burn them, then take the ashes and put them in a young coconut and throw them in the ocean, “back to nature” as Nano said. Also, when a baby is born, the placenta is placed in a young coconut and buried on the left side of the old people’s big house for a boy, and on the right side for a girl. They mark the spot and put flowers and offerings there sometimes. Balinese celebrate birthdays and other events every 6 months because that is how long the Balinese calendar is. Nano tricked us by saying that he was 50 years old, and he aged well because he drank the special coffee from Bali. Yeah, we did not think so either. The Balinese also call their first born Wayan, and second born Kadek and so on, so every first born child has Wayan in common with everyone else. They do this for four kids, and then name the fifth one Wayan again if there is one. They also give them other names that they more commonly go by so that people are not confused when someone says “Wayan!” and everyone turns around. 
Bamboo processing, which they did by hand, these poor ladies
The compound we visited was processing bamboo to make different things. The outer part of the bamboo is used for making roof material, so they sat that part aside. The middle part is used for something else, and the inner part is useful as kindling for the fire. There were two ladies stripping bamboo when we visited. They used a little pick to separate the layers and then used their hands to pry apart the layers. Ouch. Landon spent the whole time Nano was talking feeding the cows in the back with our other helper, who followed along behind to make sure everyone was ok. I was really impressed with this company as they also had a car following with extra bikes in case of flats or injury, as well as our follower who helped corral Landon at times.
Baby rice in the rice field
Next stop after the family compound was a rice field. It was fun to learn about the compound and then see examples of the exact same thing we just saw all along the road. It helped me to see that perhaps this tour wasn’t just canned for us, but a good glimpse of what life is like for the Balinese. Anyway, the rice fields were fun. We clambered out into the field, which was still pretty muddy after being drained. They wait until the rice turns yellow, at which time it is ready for harvest. They drain the field, and then use a sickle to cut down a bunch of rice plants at a time. The rice grows on top kind of like wheat, in a hull. They harvest the rice by whacking the grain against a board propped up against a bucket, so when the grain hits the board falls down into the bucket. The rice we helped harvest was white rice, it is a different plant that makes brown rice. The planting of the rice is done by the men. They take rice seeds and plant them, covering them with water and plastic until they are seedlings. Once big enough, the men slog through the fields and throw the seedlings into the watered field at intervals and then let them grow. 
Rice field getting ready for harvest
The sifters
The women are typically in charge of harvesting. We noticed that it was mostly older people working in the rice field, which surprised us since it was such demanding work. Nano said that all the young people wanted to have white skin like us, and didn’t want to work in a rice field. Also, they are getting jobs in different industries. We don’t blame them! It looked like hard work. At least the weather in Ubud is a little cooler because it is higher up in elevation. The women in the group that we saw took the grains that had been beaten off the stalks, and sifted them to get all the excess sticks or leaves off. Then they went into a bucket, which then was put in a big 35 kilo bag when full. These workers were not even paid in money, they were paid in rice. They got one bag for every 5 bags that they help produce. Landon loved helping the ladies sifting. At first, he was using his little bowl to put the grains directly into the sifted bucket, which the ladies were not happy about. Once we explained the process and he started putting the grains in the sifters, though, he was a man on a mission. We had to pull him away because he was not done with his job yet! They also gave us a delicious mixture of rice, sweet potato and corn that they were eating for lunch. It was pretty sweet and tasted delicious!
Nano helping Landon
Austin trying it out

Even Landon tried but he did not have the strength to get any rice off
My turn!


Landon helping sift

More sifting

Sifting seems like a harder job…

Getting ready for lunch

The rice field was fun!- and there is our rice and sweet potatoes in the paper

After the rice field we stopped at the sacred Banyan tree. This tree was the biggest Banyan tree I have ever seen! It was next door to a temple complex and Nano said that the tree used to be in the middle of the temple complex, but its roots came to rest over where it is now and got so big that it killed the mother tree. I guess this how Banyans roll, they put down all sorts of roots and move around the neighborhood over hundreds of years. Since they want the Banyan tree to stay where it is, they cut the roots that are further out from the tree so that it won’t move anymore. He said this tree was over 500 years old

Inside the tree

Inside the tree with people

Branches and roots

Family banyan pic

Nano was quite the photographer!

Also at the banyan tree stop, they provided bananas for “energy.” At this point, we had not expended much energy, but the boys enjoyed their bananas. An ancient man was hanging out by the tree and asked Nano for the banana peels. He wanted them to feed his cows. Come to think of it, the rice field workers took the rice stalks home for their cows too.

Landon content after his bananas

Temple next door to banyan


Small temple that signaled the end of the downhill portion

After the banyan tree we rode down through side streets into more of the populated part of Ubud. The ride ended with us crossing a small stream and coming to a stop by this small temple. Austin and I decided we wanted to do the uphill portion. I took off the camera because this part was just a workout, but Austin unfortunately could not take off his extra weight of Landon. So we rode through some more streets of Ubud and up a gradual slope for a long way. We were pretty tired when we got to the stopping place, which was a beautiful open air restaurant situated in a rice field.

Ducks in the rice field outside the restaurant
The rice field that was right outside had just been harvested. There was a big group of ducks going through the field eating whatever was left over from the harvest. After the ducks come through, they burn the field before they plant more rice, or a different crop to revitalize the soil. They are able to grow three crops of rice per year.

At the restaurant

Good example of the fabric they put on their temples and figures. 

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