I decided to make my way north to the volcano, Kintamani, maybe 40-50 km away. The drive goes through Tegallalang, the site of some gorgeous terraced rice farming. From there the climb is a long, straight and slow, passing through small villages, a few galleries, villas, farms and local housing.
About 20 km from the top, I was overtaken by a local guy on his scooter who waved me to the side. He started telling me that I was about to meet military traffic control who were going to charge me (extort) $50 to pass. He said they prey on tourists along this road, primarily those traveling alone or on scooters rather than tour vans. He said my license would make no difference. They were looking for money. I asked what would happen if I did not pay. He said they would confiscate my scooter. He said wait 20 minutes and they will be gone.
We just happened to be in the parking area of an organic coffee grower who advertised flavoured coffees and teas. We walked through a densely forested buffer area bisected by narrow brick walkways to an area of tables overlooking a ravine with their coffee plantation beyond. There was a coffee counter and a gift shop.
Before we had sat for more than a minute, I was visited by a server who placed seven demo-cups before me, each with a different liquid. I was invited to taste.
Every one of these was distinctive. The lemon grass was especially good. I was told that it was good for repelling mosquitos. Sure enough, it smells faintly of a common ingredient found in insect repellant, citronella, and the flavor was superb.
The mangosteen tea was surprisingly sweet with a wonderful flavor like nothing I had ever tasted. Mangosteen is very hard to find in the US and the price is pretty steep. That’s because it’s a pretty special fruit—one of my all-time favorites in Southeast Asia along with rambutan. Mangosteen, a hard shell-like outer covering with white, sweet sections inside, is not in season now, nor is rambutan (Indonesian for “jungle hair”), and won’t be until January and February.
Naturally, after sipping all the samples, I had to check out the gift shop where I was plied with all manner of packaged versions of what I had just tasted. I did end up buying two small packages of tea. I don’t have room for more than that. Twenty minutes now having elapsed, I moved on.
I proceeded all the way up to the volcano with no further incident whatsoever.
I’m really glad I happened to find that coffee grower. It’s soothing to imagine that being open to the unexpected led me there. I certainly would have driven right by if I had not been stopped. Thing is, though, I wonder now whether I was the one being cleverly hustled.