The other thing about the child holding the balloon is that his focus inevitably wavers and the balloon slips out of his grasp. But enough about that.
We've signed up to do this eco bike tour around Ubud, which hilariously starts with a two-hour ride on the bus built mostly from NOx fumes and partially held together with bits of steel, rubber, and Fear. I'm rather keen for some exercise, but what I don't yet know is that this is the bike tour for lazy people, wherein they drive you to the top and you coast down.
We start with breakfast (well, everyone else eats and I watch) overlooking Mt. Batur and its namesake lake. From there, we hop on our trusty steeds, take approximately three pedal strokes, and pretty much don't have to touch the pedals again for the rest of the trip.
Murphy, radiant, and with coffee
One of our first stops on the tour is a Kopi Luwak plantation, which, if you're not familiar, is the particular variety of coffee where the beans are roasted after being shat out by a furry little beast. To be more specific, the Asian palm civet eats the coffee berries and passes the beans, which are then collected, (cleaned,) and roasted. It's also known as the world's most expensive coffee, and has a raft of hairy eyeballs cast its way by virtue of animal abuse allegations and all other manner of pitfalls that come along with a supply/demand ratio firmly in a farmer's favor.
Aforementioned palm civet
So anyhow we drink the coffee, and it doesn't taste like poo, which is awesome. It also doesn't taste any better than other great coffee, so I'll have a really hard time paying 10x for a cup of it.
We continue on, taking random stops at rice paddies and whatnot, and eventually, someone notices the massive spiderwebs (and spiders) strung comprehensively between power lines, trees, and pretty much anything else in the air worth attaching to. Our guide stops and eagerly disappears halfway up a tree to collect a smallish example of these gargantuan wood spiders, which he then expects us to play with.
Conor is brave, but not enough to leave his shirtsleeve open
Does not care
After we've all booked appointments with our therapists to shake off the shock of this close arachnid encounter (and after our guide replaces it in the tree from which he fetched it), we coast downhill for another while and make a visit to a traditional Balinese family compound.
Right after this, she spat, and convincingly
This is quite cool, as they're super deliberate about how the space within the compound is laid out, with highlights like ensuring there's room for all the generations of the family and orienting their temple such that it's pointed towards the highest point on the island. This is also a place where The Hustle has been turned off, so it feels like a calm sanctuary amongst the rest of the mayhem.
Scrubbed regularly, I'm sure
Well hello there
We conclude our home visit by wandering around and meeting all the various barnyard animals, then hop on our gravity-enabled cycle-machines once more.
I see you
I suppose it's time to explain the liquor bottles. It's not booze, it's a gas station. An overwhelming preponderance of vehicle traffic is scooter, and scooters have tiny gas tanks. As such, full-blown gas stations would kinda be overkill, would further burden already-scarce land, and would actually impact traffic patterns as people sought them out. So instead, you're never more than a hundred meters away from a roadside stand with a bunch of gas-filled liquor bottles. In less than two minutes and for about a dollar, you're back underway, and the proprietors always have a grimy filter-rag, too.
All the necessities
Up the guts of a banyan tree
After a final snack stop underneath an enormous banyan tree, we coast the rest of the way down the hill and return to the tour's home base in Ubud. The rest of the crew eats a hearty lunch, and I sip, with great hesitance, on a Coke (remember our fable about the kid with the balloon?), and then all we have to endure is another 2-hour trip on the Tetanus and Carcinogen Express back to Seminyak, where we'll be thrust right back into The Hustle.
Livin' the dream.
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