The Spoked Traveller | Seeking culture, adventure and a good story
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The Spoked Traveller

It never occurred to me to leave my bike at home on my first overseas trip. Twenty years later, nothing has changed. Whether at home, or in a foreign country, riding makes me feel closer to people and places.

I created this site as a hub for all things cycling; it’s a celebration of bike culture. Where to travel next, how to travel, where to get advice, see some cool practical bike fashion, what to eat. I’ll share what I know; and I invite you to do the same.

Over the next few months keep checking in as I’ll be adding some new menu items.

See you on the trails. Melanie

After three weeks, I have a routine in Bali. After breakfast, I walk through my neighbourhood of Nyuh Kuning. Stepping over the daily Hindu offerings and incense, offeringsrefusing the local taxi operators, and watching the kids in uniforms hop on the back of motorbikes heading to school. I often stop for a coffee at Copper Cafe while ensuring monkeys don't land on my head from the nearby sanctuary. Sometimes for a treat I have the sweet black rice in palm sugar and yogurt. The nutty rice is soaked for a day then boiled for four hours. Then after a few hours of marking assignments, a girl's gotta work, I mosie into the centre of Ubud to people-watch and have a $10 massage. Here are a few highlights from my past few weeks. Cooking class: chicken with Balinese lemongrass sauce. Many local family-owned restaurants, called warungs, offer classes ($25 for about four or five hours!) Think fresh spices like turmeric, aromatic ginger, fresh bay leaf, lemongrass. (I had no idea how to cook with lemongrass before: smash it and then stick it in the water to boil with the chicken!) The chef kept telling us (my friend Virginia and daughter Angie visited): "thinner, chop thinner!" Virginia's hand was aching from chopping! The result is a paste rather than 'chopped' veggies. IMG_3033         "Indonesian food is simple, but the process is not simple," says Kadek Suwartini who owns d'waroeng www.d_waroeng.com.

North of Kuta, where Aussie spring breakers vomit pink drinks and make regrettable decisions, is Ubud—a slightly less busy Balinese town. Driving in late at night, flowers and jasmine overtake the air. A few snaps of the town vibe...downtown and the rice field burbs. IMG_2580 IMG_9737               My room, in a villa called Loka Pala, is one of a few rooms around a courtyard pool, a hammock with candlelight and ricefields in the backyard. Opening the glass doors, a wee kitty saunters in at my ankles and purrs. Mom: send my stuff please. IMG_9747 IMG_9746 IMG_2545

I want more time in Hobart, Tasmania's main city in the south. For a few days, I drank world-class whisky, mountain biked the north south trail that skirts along Mount Wellington, walked through a Saturday food and craft market and met some amazing people... Trying on a vintage dress. Good idea for a Tassie winter. Lots of rain and fog. Reminds me of Vancouver in the winter. IMG_2424              

Tasmania is slow, and bucolic. It says 277 kms to Hobart (main city) from Devonport (where the ferry The Spirit of Tasmania lands), but it takes days to reach with all the cool distractions along the way. Roads curve and turn like mad; solitary beaches, craft breweries, wineries, and sunsets. Here are a few major stops en route to Hobart taking the east coast route. The dew was lifting off the grass as I saw this guy. It's almost winter here so the mornings are quite chilly-- frost on the ground. IMG_2116           IMG_2131          

Plan of attack driving a 4.6 meter long camper van into downtown Melbourne: park in the burbs then bus it into the city. Makes sense, right? But, do I know where I am going? No idea. When I’m somewhat central, I pull into a large parking lot (Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre). Coming around the front of a hotel, the valet comes out and I ask about parking. “Well, it’s normally $40 a day, but I can give you a voucher and you can park for $20.” Pays to be a female sometimes. I know this. IMG_2046 IMG_9466IMG_2037 The lot is located on the edge of the city in an area called South Wharf and is a five minute walk to the centre of the city. Say what? Horseshoe up my butt sometimes. I know this. The city is divided by the Yarra River and the walk along the river into downtown is littered with gorgeous chef-named restaurants such as Rockpool, Aussie chef Neil Perry’s baby, and beautiful big and bold public art.

Camper van life is simple (campah van in Aussie). It's what they call motorhomes. But, navigating the camper van campsites in Australia is a bit complicated, at first. I arrived half an hour late to my reserved site in Port MacQuarie. Lights off; no one home. Parking in a random lot made me feel a bit uneasy so I drove across the street and asked a motel owner if I could stay. Not only did they let me stay, free, they let me use their WIFI and washrooms. vam Warning: don't even THINK of speeding in Australia. Undercover cops and unmarked cars are everywhere! They even have random alcohol and roadside drug tests (not that I was going to pull a Rob Ford or anything). So much for laid back, eh?

MEL: "What is a traditional Aussie meal?" PETER: "A meat pie and a six pack." Sigh. Peter is a relative of a friend and I am starting to believe him. Asking Aussies about traditional meals is much like asking Canadians the same question. Maybe because we're both relatively new countries? But, south of Brisbane, west of Byron Bay, the touristy hippie beach, is an area called the Northern Rivers where tiny roads weave precariously through the eucalyptus trees; so much rainfall means flooding is common, and the red soil produces some yummy things. IMG_1573 Row upon row of macadamia nut trees, lemon myrtle bushes (used for soaps and food flavourings) and coffee beans! Yes, Aussie coffee.     IMG_1630IMG_1645