Wanda Sadowski is an avid bicyclist and together with her husband Mark she trailblazes around the highways, byways and adventurous back-routes of South West Australia. Today she takes us to Pemberton in a guest post which marks the second article in a three part series about this lovely south west town set deep in the heart of the Southern Forests.

Local Knowledge is Key to Enjoying and Surviving

Some cycling trips are destined to be epic adventures.  Our most recent trip was certainly shaping up that way.  Plans were in place for three days of cycling on the Munda Biddi Trail (80 kms a day), combined with two to three nights of accommodation (B & B and forest floor), alongside eight other cyclists.  However, as the start day approached, dire weather dissuaded almost everyone.


Husband Mark and I were determined to salvage something from the plans we had already put in place.  Thus, we set off on a Friday afternoon and drove south in the direction of the Splendid Wren Bed and Breakfast.  We had condensed our adventure into one night of comfortable accommodation and one day of cycling, weather permitting.

Never Disappointing

En route, we stopped as we always do, at Taste of Balingup for a snack and had a wander around the other charming shops in this quaint town.


How easy it is to gravitate to what we know and like, and to lose sight of how rewarding it can be to stray from one’s usual path.

Taste of Balingup, however, never disappoints.  There’s good food, friendly service, an eclectic stock of specialty food items and shelves of books.  There’s not much missing from Taste of Balingup, or from Balingup for that matter.


We then continued our drive south and checked in at the Splendid Wren.  This was where we diverged from our usual path, and sought shelter instead of bedding down on the forest floor.

Scrumptious Sadie’s

Hostess Tracy was chock full of useful information and encouraged us to try the Indian at Sadie’s at The Gloucester Hotel.  We had never heard of either, and in fact we had never eaten anywhere off Pemberton’s main street.  We did take Tracy up on her suggestion, and ventured off the beaten track in search of Sadie’s.  Ellis Street was dark but we spotted the welcoming lights in the distance.  Low and behold, there are folks who really know how to cook Indian food toiling away in the back streets of Pemberton.  Sadie’s was fabulous.

We had the curries recommended by Tracy which were wondrous.  The service and atmosphere were warm and friendly.  When it came time for dessert, I asked the waiter if the cheesecake was baked or not.  He wasn’t sure.  He went off to the kitchen to check, but not with a scowl and a sulk.  He left our table with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.  At that point, I decided that I was going to have the cheesecake no matter what it was!

Plastic Ponchos

Following a peaceful night at the Splendid Wren, and a delicious breakfast served up by Tracy, we spent some time deliberating on whether or not to head out on the Munda Biddi.  It was warm, but reports were that the weather was closing in.  We decided to forge ahead and purchased plastic ponchos from the Pemberton Discovery Shop.  Our ambitious plan – so said the Discovery Shop lady – was to ride the 40-odd kilometers to Northcliffe and back again.

Hitting the Trail

We set off from Pemberton on sections of the Munda Biddi that we had never ridden before.  The rain held off, the temperature was pleasant, but the wind was picking up.  By the time we had cycled about 30 kilometers, we were still keen to make it to Northcliffe.

We had just made that decision when Waldo and Hein (who were part of original but aspiring group of ten cyclists) emerged from the bush on their way back to Pemberton.  They were pushing their bicycles around a massive tree that had just fallen across the trail.


The wind was escalating, and it was all feeling a little ominous.  The four of us were deliberating when a helpful local emerged from his property to offer passage across his land if we wanted to continue.  After some discussion, he made it clear that he wouldn’t be cycling in the current conditions.

Fleeing the Forest

Accepting his advice, we turned around and joined Waldo and Hein to head back to Pemberton.  Our group of four soon split up with Mark and I having a little more speed on our double (tandem).  But, we soon came across massive trees that had blown over in the wind and was blocking the trail.


This necessitated scampering over and around the fallen obstacles.  At one point, we were cycling up a hill when we heard the cracking of bark and saw trees swaying so fiercely that they looked like they were falling toward us.  It was terrifying!  Coming from Canada, I have always had a great fondness for the forest.  This experience was another story entirely.  The two trees never did fall, but we were overcome by an urgency to get out of the forest.  The final few kilometers were spent discussing disaster preparedness, and formulating a plan to avoid being taken out by a falling tree.

Back at the parking lot, we were relieved to find that our vehicle had not been squashed.  Driving out of Pemberton over Pump Hill there were more obstacles, but this time we weren’t encountering them on our bicycle.

Note to Self

After a familiar and comfortable start to our trip at Taste of Balingup, local knowledge led us to wondrous curries of Sadie’s, and probably saved a whole lot of drama by encouraging us to abort our trip at the first fallen tree en route to Northcliffe.

Our trip was a gentle ‘note to self’ to listen closely to the locals.  They often do know what’s best.

Wanda Ariano has three passions in life:  Her husband Mark, riding a collection of tandem bicycles with her husband Mark, and coordinating an inclusive arts mentorship program called Art Partners. You can read more ‘unforgettable stories that will make your heart sing’ on the Art Partners Blog.  Wanda and Mark are the subject of the tinsey winsey ABC Open video It Takes Two to Tandem.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to find out more about Pemberton you might also enjoy:

Pemberton Short Stay Highlights

21 Awesome Things to Do in Pemberton and around the Southern Forests

10 Things to do in Pemberton

Top things to do around Walpole and Pemberton taking roads less travelled

What local advice has saved you from disaster on a road trip or adventure? Why not tell us in the comments?

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  1. Great guest post Wanda and you can ask Johanna…if you mention a delicious restaurant and don’t link it…I’m bolting for Google to find it! 🙂 Wowee, Sadie’s looks great! I will start with the Gnocchi then go with the Scotch Filet please! 🙂 I’m so glad you guys didn’t let the weather deter you and that you had a wonderful time overall despite the trees! Dang, I’ve run into some fallen trees on trails over the years but never anything that huge! I really enjoyed reading this 🙂

  2. Thanks for popping by Mike – and yes, I agree, Wanda’s story was lovely. So glad you enjoyed reading the post and also bolted to Google to find Sadie’s for a bit of food-loving 🙂

  3. Wow Wanda those are certainly big trees that had fallen across the road. I am glad you weren’t under them! Falling trees can certainly be a hazard in our bush in winter. One night when we were camping along the Warren in January we heard a tree crash down in the night. We felt a bit vulnerable in our nylon tent! Happy travels Wanda.

  4. My husband would be so jealous as he is a cyclist. He actually rode on the Munda Biddi trail when we were in the South West. You really have to watch out for changing weather conditions as they can be life threatening, which is very evident in this account. I’m glad that Wanda was smart enough to realize this. Nice post.

  5. Thanks so much Mike. Yes, Sadie’s was a treat, and we’ll definitely be going back for more. As for the cycling, well, I think we’ll be visiting again when the weather is a little calmer.

  6. Thanks Jill for checking out the post. Our adventure was a huge lesson for us. I think we’ll be paying closer attention before venturing into the Pemberton forest! We do pay attention these days to where we’re putting up our tent!

  7. Hello Muza-chan! It’s great to meet you. Well, sort of meet you. Yes, those lovely wrens are definitely cute. They certainly know how to pose for the camera. Thanks for checking out the post.

  8. Hi Kathy. Yes, the Munda Biddi is something very special, and a real reason to travel to the South West. But, you’re right, sensible decisions are paramount. We had another adventure where we went 20 kms in the wrong direction (because I’m the navigator but can’t always see the sign posts from the back of the tandem), lost our maps (they fell out when we crashed, which, by the way, wasn’t my fault) and ran out of water. So, good decisions are critical and certainly can make the difference between success and disaster!

  9. Fabulous post Wanda , such a beautiful place be in all the four seasons and even more special with a bike

  10. Irene Aguzzi

    What a wonderful way to discover Pemberton! Thanks so much, Wanda and Mark for sharing the ride – and the pics make the experience come alive. How I wish to travel with you in person. Until then… keep blogging so I can do so from afar. A great treat!

  11. helenseiver

    I can certainly relate to your adventure with the forest and the weather Wanda. Having lived in Pemberton for several years the last thing I would ever do is go into the forest during high wind. You are right in thinking that locals know best. Karri trees are also known as Widow Makers!!! Your adventure makes for great reading though! I was with you all the way with the creaking, screeching trees and the wind.

  12. Always disappointing when the weather gods aren’t working in your favour. It is scary out in big winds – so I think you were very smart. Otherwise what a glorious sounding bike ride it would be.

  13. I think Wanda was smart too Leigh – I’ve been out in the car in big winds and those trees are pretty scary the way they sway and can topple too 🙂 Thanks for popping by today.

  14. Hi Helen, thanks for commenting on Wanda’s lovely post today. Widow Makers! Oh, I’ve never heard that term – but I get it, having been out in some high wintery winds on forested roads.

  15. Hello Irene, thank you for popping by and commenting on Wanda’s epic adventure! Yes, biking is a wonderful way to discover places like Pemberton in the South West 🙂

  16. I agree about the ideas for budding artists, Ingrid. Especially the season we have just coming up – spring and all the wildflowers 🙂

  17. Totally agree Barb – PEmberton is a place for all four seasons 🙂

  18. Greetings all! This just in from a too-shy-to-comment Pemby enthusiast: We are big Sadie fans! Have been since stumbling on it on our first Bibb adventure down that way six years ago. We discovered Taste of Balingup last year and fell in love with it instantly. When we left Pemby last year, we walked out in big winds. They accompanied us for much of our three days to Northcliffe. Plenty of horizontal tree climbing to do. Fortunately none fell near us, but we did say our goodbyes to each other just in case! And the Pemby Discovery Centre people are legends!

  19. Thanks so much Barb! It’s great to hear from you. It would be super to have you join us on one of our tandem mountain bike adventures. In the meantime, happy cycling!

  20. Greetings Ingrid. Thanks for checking out the post. Yes, the pics are lovely thanks to Mark and there’s one from Waldo too. Great pics guys!

  21. Wow Irene! Thanks for popping in from the other side of the world (well, almost). You would love it here. And, you know what, we don’t even have to go cycling. There are many wondrous walks to do in the South West of WA. There’s a trail called the Bibbulman which is the walkers’ equivalent of the Munda Biddi. Now, when exactly are you coming?

  22. Gosh Helen! How wonderful it must have been to have lived in Pemberton. But, yes, the forest does have an edge to it when conditions are like they were. I think we’ll be paying closer attention the next time around. After all, both of us want to see you again!

  23. Greetings Leigh. Yes, it is always disappointing when the weather gods are not cooperating. However, it is always a challenge to try to rework things so something is gained, and not everything is lost. And, it certainly is glorious!

  24. Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it

    You had me hooked with the description of biking on through what ever was blown in your way. Taste of Balingup and the eclectic specialty foods would have been enough reason for me to wave goodbye to you adventure driven bikers. Wonderful story and photos.

  25. Hello Neva, and yes as much as I enjoy fair weather cycling, I have to agree that the eclectic specialty foods would have had me waving the adventurous bikers on their merry way into the stormy forests too!

  26. Just want to say a big thank you to Wanda for sharing her adventure with ZigaZag readers and also for popping back to reply to all the lovely comments … and also for sharing the post too. Thanks Wanda! Here’s to the next time 🙂

  27. The Pemberton area looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing your adventure. I imagine the final part of your bicycle ride in the wind was tough.

  28. Donna Janke

    What an experience. The Pemberton area looks wonderful. I wouldn’t want to be biking in those strong winds though.

  29. So true about listening to the locals and respecting Mother Nature’s power. We get a lot of visitors who forget that in Kauai. Fun destinations can distract or lull! Pemberton seems lovely.

  30. Ha, Yes, Betsy! Fun destinations can distract or lull one into a false sense of security for sure – even pretty little towns with big trees! I’d love to get to Kauai one day 🙂

  31. Thanks for commenting Donna 🙂 I’m sorry you had problems earlier … but thank you for bringing it to my attention that you had actually commented and it wasn’t showing up. Sometimes the gremlins in the works are a little eager 😉

  32. WOW, what an adventure! It is so nice you can share it with your husband and friends too. Glad you made it home safely!

  33. Great to meet you Neva! Yes, Taste of Balingup is a very good reason to chuck it all in! Actually, Mark and I would sometimes cycle on our single bicycles from Nannup (another great place to check out) to Balingup. This ride (one-way) is about 40 kms. My usual strategy is to ride one-way, and hang out at the Taste of Balingup (merrily eating and drinking coffee, of course) while Mark cycles back to Nannup, picks up the vehicle, and collects me! How’s that for service!

  34. Donna! You’re writing about Manitoba! Now that’s close to my heart. There’s great biking there, that’s for sure. I’ll be checking out ‘Manitoba Lake Life soonest.’ Happy travelling!

  35. Hello Betsy! Great to meet you. I can only imagine that Kauai is the most amazing destination. I’m wondering if there’s great cycling there? I think I’ll talk to Mark about that one. It’s a bit awkward, after all, to go solo on a tandem.

  36. Greetings Marilyn Jones! Yes, it was quite an adventure. Cycling can be a rather challenging sport, so it’s much better with others, but really great on a tandem. Thanks for checking out the post.

  37. Beautiful photos and an interesting tale! My favorite kind of bike trip too: taken from the armchair. . .thanks for letting me tag along.

  38. It’s always good to have a guide or know the terrain whenever you go off the roads or know how to deal with any emergency that might arise. Sounds like a great trip.

  39. Michelle Richmond

    Wow, that was quite an adventure. I wish I had that much energy to do something like that. Thanks so much for sharing the journey with us.

  40. Both Mark and Wanda are amazing, aren’t they Michelle. It’s not just the fitness, it’s the courage to go beyond their comfort zone I think that makes their adventures so compelling 🙂

  41. Hello Jackie Smith. Thanks for stopping by the post and for commenting. Compliments for the pics go to my tandem captain (yes, that’s what the person on the front of the tandem is called). By the way, I like armchairs too, after long rides or not. Thanks for tagging along. PS: the person on the back of the tandem is called the stoker.

  42. Greetings Santa Fe Traveller! It’s great to hear from you. Yes, it’s ideal to have someone local to show you the ropes. Your comment makes me think of my time in Africa where I would have had a ‘fixer’ – someone to negotiate the border crossings, police checkpoints and other such challenges. Here’s to all the fixers of the world! They definitely make life that much smoother.

  43. Dear Michelle, Thanks for stopping by the post. I’m sure you have a lot of energy. You’re just using it differently. After all, a regular stream of Tweets is only for the very energetic. Happy travelling.

  44. Catherine

    Wow! This is a GREAT sales pitch for the picturesque and exciting Munda Biddi Trail! We are cyclists, but we have road bikes, so we haven’t ridden the trail ourselves. A friend was asking recently if we knew anyone who has ridden the trail with a cycle and trailer. Have you done so? This post tempts me to rush out and buy a mountain bike without delay! Thank you for sharing your story.

  45. jane canapini

    One day my husband and I will get to Oz, and when we do, we’ll have to try a tandem bike (and hope we don’t kill each other on it literally or figuratively!)

  46. Hello Catherine. It’s really good to hear from you. Yes, the Munda Biddi is a fabulous asset, that’s for sure. We have never used a trailer. In fact, we don’t own one. We usually organises cars to drop off our stuff at strategic points on the trail. But, I did confer with my tandem captain about this, and he thinks a trailer would work on most sections of the trail. However, there are some switch backs and tight corners where one would have to unhitch. He also thinks we have seen riders with trailers right in the thick of it. So, go for it, and good luck with that shopping spree!

  47. Greetings Gypsynesters! Yes, indeed, the storm was quite something. It was wild to be right in the thick of it. It makes one realise that one can be very vulnerable to mother nature. Thanks for checking out the post.

  48. Sounds like quite an adventure! I’m hard headed so I don’t generally listen to the locals even though they have been right 90 +% of the time. The photo of the bird is stunning!

  49. Love that first photo with the grevillea and Jay, very colorful…we’ve had lots of down trees lately with a huge hurricane hitting Hawaii, but now lives lost, thank god

  50. Thought you might like that photo, Noel 🙂 Ohh, stay safe … the hurricane in Hawaii sounds intense.

  51. Oh Jane, no please don’t! I think a tandem bike must severely test a relationship 😉 Wanda and Mark are incredible!

  52. Thanks for your comment Gypysnesters – loving your blog by the way and the philosophy behind it, which I totally relate to 😉

  53. Hello Jane. You have perhaps hinted at one of the most interesting aspects of riding a tandem. Most people (who would be riding on the back) usually say: “I don’t want to ride a tandem because I don’t want to lose control.” What I’ve discovered, however, is that if one can decide to give up on having control, there are significant benefits to be reaped. When people get together to tandem, they can usually go a little faster, they can go further, and because of that, they get fitter. So, if you ever do decide to give it a try (assuming you’re super confident in the person in front), go forth with an open spirit, and enjoy the ride!

  54. Hello Michelle. Thanks for stopping by. It’s not always easy to listen to the locals. I’m well known for asking for suggestions in restaurants, and then bolting to the opposite end of the menu. The birdie is lovely. I’ll pass on compliments to tandem captain and photographer Mark.

  55. Greetings Noel, and thanks for checking out the post. Yes, that first photo is a stunner. Glad everyone in Hawaii has survived the hurricane. Stay safe!

  56. Ugh. Being killed by a falling tree is one of my nightmares. Once in Barbados, a large branch that would have killed me fell right next to me. A young woman was killed by a falling branch in a city park we frequent and during Hurricane Sandy, a branch fell between my husband and our dog, just missing them both. I would have been petrified in your situation.

  57. Hello Ursula, Yes, it is great to be able to connect with the locals, and have them provide some direction. It really does make the experience much more memorable. Thanks for stopping by.

  58. Greetings Suzanne, Those are terrifying tales you tell! But, I must say, that after our experience in the Pemberton forest, we tend to check campsites much more carefully by looking skyward before setting up camp. Stay safe!

  59. Hello Irene. It’s great to hear from you. And, yes, very big trees are very daunting especially when you think they’re falling towards you! The American Express Centurion Lounge does sound safer than the Pemberton forest when it’s windy!

  60. Lindy loo

    What a fabulous article. It not only encourages one to visit Pemberton. It highlights the fun and adventure that can be enjoyed fleeing the forrest, hitting the trail and putting on ponchos.. Good down to earth fun just like the ‘ old days’ . To round it all off Wanda then gives a great tip on where to eat. Bonus.
    I can’t wait to read Wanda’s next article.

  61. Thanks Lindy Loo. There is nothing like a huff and puff physical adventure followed by some great chow. Pemberton is ideal for that. Super cycling trails, complimented by some yummy stuff to eat. Stay tuned for more from the wild side of life.

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