Taking an East Bali Bike Tour is a fantastic way to peer into the nooks and crannies of Bali’s stunning rural life — and it’s (almost!) all downhill. Expect picture-perfect rice paddy, fertile irrigated farmland where peanuts, potatoes, fruits and flowers grow, and the icing on the cake: a paddle and lunch at White Sand Beach.
The tour will pick you up from your guesthouse along the looped black-sand bays of Amed from 07:30 onwards, and ferry you high into the foothills of Gunung Agung. When we did the tour in July, which is high season, there were just three of us. We drove through alarmingly numerous quarries and past trucks taking rocks out to get to the start high in cool mountain air, where our bikes and helmets were waiting.
Ari, our guide, got us to check our bikes for comfort and workability before we jumped straight into it.
Our first stop was at a family-held farm, where we got to see up close all the plants that go into a typical small-hold operation: snakefruit, cacao, coffee, papaya, cloves, pigs — they pack a lot into a little space and if nobody had pointed out the various specific plants to me, it would have all just been a green blur to me.
Ari scaled a tree to pluck a cacao pod for us to try — the soft white flesh surrounding the seeds is slightly sour but edible on its own. The seeds themselves then get dried and pounded into chocolate. You have to wonder how the first person worked out how to do this (and how many people perhaps suffered in the process of trying other plant seeds that… didn’t turn into chocolate).
We spied cacao and rice drying on mats as we pedalled on, passing bucolic scenery that even spending a while in Bali doesn’t make you immune to. Roosters in bamboo cages cock-a-doodle-dood, the occasional dog yapped impotently at our ankles — the bikes are good.
Ari stopped to pluck fresh peanuts for us and point out the leaves of purple potato plants. We rolled past entire fields of colourful flowers — used mostly in canang, or traditional Balinese daily offerings — as well as classic terraces where the occasional farmer was at work.
The route was almost all downhill, and mostly on quiet roads, sometimes asphalt, sometimes rough gravel, sometimes just hard-packed dirt. One section was just narrow enough for a bike to pass along, so these are certainly places you’re not going to be cruising past in a car with a driver. The vibe is rustic and natural — you pass the sorts of places from which kids come rushing outside to shout hello.
Finally, after a few hundred metres along a busy road, we ended up in the car park of Pantai Pasir Putih, or White Sand beach — also known as Virgin beach. We left our bikes and wandered down to be greeted by the soothing sight of rolling waves — and a warung with a menu waiting just for us with basic options like fish and chips and fried noodles. We could have gone off menu to order more if we liked, but the meal on offer was plenty satisfying enough.
White Sand beach is a popular destination these days, and warungs rub shoulders along pretty much its entirety, with plenty of loungers to rest on should you fancy. Although the sand’s not exactly white, it’s certainly not volcanic black — making it a bit of an anomaly as those further north and south are distinctly so.
Ari told us to take our time eating and swimming, and met us when we were done to return to the van where we were whisked back to Amed in under an hour, so we were back at our hotel by around 14:30.
At 500,000 rupiah, the tour isn’t cheap, but it’s certainly reasonably priced for what you get — a genuine off-the-beaten path experience where you won’t run into any other tourists, until of course you reach the popular end. Try to book ahead as a minimum number of people may be required for the ride to go ahead. A longer, more challenging ride is offered for 600,000 rupiah; children are 300,000 rupiah.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 25th July, 2015.