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Bali: Cycling around rice paddies

Image of Bali rice paddyImage: iStockphoto

Rose Dykins explores Ubud on two wheels

My left hand is getting a good workout. In fact, it’s doing all the work — no pedal power is needed at this point, only a constant tight squeeze on the trusty backwheel break to prevent me from bombing it down this continuous slope.

I shuffle in my saddle and avert my eyes from the tarmac below me, which has more holes in it than Swiss cheese, to focus instead on the lush greenery of Kintamani village on either side of me.

I frequently pass friendly local children who holler “hallo!” from the roadside, and people crafting penjor — tall curved structures fashioned from bamboo and colourful leaves that will be placed outside homes during Galungan, a 10-day Hindu celebration of good triumphing over evil. Many are already in place, lining the road like beautiful tassled lampposts.

Soon, the luminous green rice paddies come into view.  I dismount to walk the narrow grassy paths that circle family plots, and crouch to touch the feathery tips of the crop, which will be slashed off by farmers once they’ve transformed into grains.

My guide tells me it will take three months to produce 1,000kg of rice from this family’s plot — food for thought for next time I accidentally make too much and throw away the remains stuck to the bottom of the pan.

After several stops, including a visit to the tranquil Gunung Kawi Temple, we suddenly turn off the village path and onto a dusty, bumpy track that bisects some more rice paddies, which makes the tarmac earlier on seem as flat as a pancake.

We are now completely surrounded by nothing but an expanse of tawny-coloured rice crop (which means it’s already been cut) and an ominous sky of gathering clouds. All that can be heard is the whirring of wheels and the clunk as the bikes thud to the ground after overcoming an obstacle.

We witness a couple of farmers squatting in the fields, slashing and gathering the grains, and share the path with some women balancing impossible amounts in baskets on their heads, but who still somehow manage to nod in greeting.

Then, there’s a gentle rumble of thunder before raindrops start to tease my back and shoulders, covering them completely. By this point, the uneven terrain beneath my wheels now feels like a challenge rather than a threat, and the undulating earth below is sending me on my way.

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