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Bundy (love) on tap

We took a final warm shower at Gunning’s free camping ground and packed up early to once again beat the heat. 

We passed through startling, brutal sheep country and wondered how long the wool industry can last in a climate changing future.

We came across a mirage indicating the grounds for a thoughful utopia where energetic and environmental commonsense prevail.

We passed dozens and dozens of roadside stone fruits, these ones having naturalised along the old Hume Highway near Breadalbane.

It’s been five weeks on the road and we’re finding out that bike touring involves much careful thought about food, as Zero here attests.

As we’ve been climbing towards the Southern Highlands and inching closer to Moss Vale for Christmas lunch we’ve been building enormous appetites.

And as we slogged it out we thought about what we would serve if we were hosting the lunch ourselves. We’re compiling a menu which we look forward to sharing with you later.

We picked up some supplies in Goulburn, free-camped the night in a park in Marualan and were relieved to climb into cooler country and find less and less anthropogenic waste along the roads.

Sights like this disposable water bottle became rarer as we closed in on Bundanoon, and passed by arcadia.

Bundanoon is Australia’s first bottled water free town and as anti-bottled water activists who have a track record of advocating for the humble water bubbler, we where excited to meet Huw Kingston,

who initiated the town’s action to rid Bundanoon of the wasteful product, and who invited us to camp at his family home. Thanks Huw and Wendy!

We spent several days in Bundanoon and found it to be filled with richly warm people, such as Glenn Robinson from the excellent YHA, these touch footballers and their dads who invited us to join their BBQ,

and this lovely family, the Smiths, who we met at the Bundanoon Hotel and who invited us to stay in their guest bedroom, our first real bed in 36 days. Thanks Kylie, Paul, Dane, Charlie, Shannen, Jai and Bonnie!

In Bundanoon we were able to recuperate and sit out some fairly hot days,

pick and eat more cherry plums,

laze around and wait for more roadside free fruit to ripen,

hang out at the wonderful Ye Olde Bicycle Shoppe, a friendly free-internet-cafe-social-hub,

and meet fellow travellers such as German tourist Chris, who is cycling from Sydney to Melbourne and back again. Safe travels Chris!

We also hooked up with veteran American cycle tourer Jeff once more and had time to properly swap notes on all things bike touring. Happy days Jeff!

We were steered (by one of the friendly locals) to the town’s community garden, which we found incredibly well organised,

with excellent signage, so important in a place where many garden but not all at the same time.

We went along to one of their working bees, which like ours at home are always great social events,

and met the convenyor, Tony Coyle,

who with a core group has done an excellent job in just two years, establishing a vibrant productive food and social environment. Missing our own community, it was a joy to pitch in and give a little back to the community who has been so incredibly generous to us.

We hope you have a peaceful solstice and holiday season and we look forward to sharing more with you soon.

Dreaming up a bicycle utopia; eating non-privatised foods

We woke early and left Gundagai, the town of long timber bridges, before the sun got too hot.

We made a quick obligatory stop,

before really finding out how the Hume Highway was going to shape us.

We were surprised. Despite the noise and the speed of the traffic, the wide shoulders really helped us ride in relative peace. It was a cruisy ride from Gundagai to Jugiong (helped along by our first tail wind of the trip) where we parked our bikes in the shade beside a green grocers run by the very frinedly Gino. We (dumpster) dived into his compost boxes and produced some lovely stone fruit.

While buying some local veg from Gino he asked if we needed a good camping and swimming spot.

Thanks Gino! A perfect free camping ground. The next morning we harvested some stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) beside the Murrumbidgee River.

Nettle is high in iron and great for relieving painful muscles and joints. Just the thing for weary bike tourers. Lightly blanching the nettles takes away the sting, produces a healthy tonic to treat urinary and prostate complications and leaves a perfect fodder material for making an excellent pesto with almonds.

After our free medicinal hit we cycled up the road to the very bourgeois The Long Track Pantry for a breakfast cup of tea and a loaf of yummy bread,

before easing our way into the heartland of wool country.

Since leaving Daylesford over a month ago our nostrils have flared wildly and our hearts have sunk deeply with the roadkill we have passed.

We counted 81 killed animals between the left verge and left lane of the north bound Hume Highway between Jugiong and Yass, a distance of 60 kms.

This massacre included a myriad of birds, three tortoises, a dozen wallabies, several blue tongues, countless kangaroos, flattened foxes, rabbits, a wild pig, two echidnas and numerous snakes including this young copperhead.

Given there are four lanes and four verges on this dual highway one could surmise as many as 324 roadkilled critters for every 60 kms of highway. That’s a staggering 5.4 deaths per kilometre. The Hume, according to Wikipedia, is 838 kms in length which means, if you average it, there are quite possibly 4,525 corpses along this highway at any one time.

But it wasn’t just the sickening aspects of this road – the senseless massacres, the climate changing and packaging pollution that proliferated – we found worth observing,

the Hume offered up sweet moments of beauty and surprise, especially when we got off it (in this case in Bowning) and found some roadside fruit to forage and help restore our battered senses.

Then when we arrived in Yass we were welcomed by an avenue of not-quite-ripe publicly accessible almonds (Prunus spp.),

some heavenly ripe plumcots (Prunus spp.) overhanging a fence,

and were given some Leeton grown oranges by a God’s Squad bikie. Thanks Glen!

We camped, fished and slept under a balmy summer’s night sky before facing the Hume again.

Imagine this road as a sea of bicycles…

After riding about 40 km we arrived in Gunning, a town that boasts a free caravan-camping ground with hot showers at Barbour Park, and found we were just in time for the monthly Sunday market.

We bought some regional produce,

picked some free herbs (gave them a drink),

took a swim and lunched on some delicious bush tucker at Barbour Park.

The starchy bulb of cumbungi or bullrush (Typha spp.) offers an excellent raw or cooked vegetable at this time of year. Cumbungi is ecologically beneficial for capturing silt, creating habitat for diverse species and stabilising banks. It can also become ‘weedy’ so it makes a great food where we are the biological control or, as Russell Edwards would say, ‘ecological participants‘.

Stay tuned for more free food and other low-impact resources as we inch towards the Christmas lunch table in Moss Vale,

keep safe on the roads and if you’re driving, please think bike and think critter!

Beneath the sunny sky

When we first started talking about a year of travelling we went through all the ecological modes we might employ to move around. Our humble pushies became the most obvious choice. And so too for Jeff, an American we met briefly on the climb to Batlow, who is on his fourth bike tour of Australia. Jeff is the first bike tourer we’ve met since we pushed off a month ago.

We made the decision to stop flying four years ago and made ourselves carless three years ago, wanting to see if it was possible to live well with such seemingly radical restrictions. These decisions have paid dividends in terms of the money we no longer need to earn and have given us more time to do what we want to do.

Before we left Tumbarumba we met Adam, camped at the caravan park for the next few months picking blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) on a nearby farm. At home in Tumut, Adam grows heirloom vegies organically turning his political energy into rich friable soil, knowing that the way to abstain from participating in corporate damage is to be accountable for one’s own resources. On our last night Adam brought us back a bowl of delicious blueberries he’d picked from the farm and in return we were able to pass on to him a little paperback edition on the uses and benefits of dandelions.

As an antioxidant, blueberries (eaten raw) fight free radicals that are damaging to cells and DNA. They rate low in terms of their glycemic index (GI) and therefore are considered slow-release energy food. They are high in vitamins K and C, and manganese and fibre. Thanks Adam!

Being on the lookout for local produce and exposed to all the elements as we ride may appear a tad utopian, but the reality at times is not so pleasurable. Our two most dreaded things to come across on the road are pesticides and big trucks. Coming into Batlow we copped a mouthful of what tasted like Mortein as an apple farmer was mass spraying on a windy day, and since Tallangatta we’ve had to contend with streams of heavy trucks.

Many of the trucks are carrying wood-chips or logs from the extremely damaging pine plantations that are rapidly destroying soil and water ecologies in this beautiful region of two thousand springs and creeks.

How our culture behaves is truly saddening, but it is land and the people we are meeting that counter much of this negativity. We arrived in Tumut and this lovely family greeted us in the street with the proposal of a warm shower and a place to camp for the night.

This portrait (sans Anthony who’d left for work) was taken just after Valerie had cooked us a delicious pot of breakfast porridge. Rose, Lily, Jasmine and Dom (Zeph would have loved meeting you all) shared their personal stories before they headed off for school and we headed off to the park to meet another colourful local family.

While recharging in the park we spotted what looked like a pretty interesting workshop being conducted. Waradajhi (Wiradjuri) ranger Shane Herrington was holding a ‘men’s honour’ workshop, teaching the art of making traditional hunting tools at the Tumut-Brungle Community Centre.

Shane immediately included Patrick in the workshop and got him helping to heat and layer with wood dust the maleable gum of grass trees (Xanthorrhoea),

which was used traditionally to help bond the spearhead, in this case red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), to the spearshaft. This one was made from native hemp (Gynatrix pulchella).

Shane then demonstrated how to turn various fibres (stringybark, grasses and reeds) into multiply string. No polluting machines necessary, only hands and thighs, a skill used by both men and women but according to Shane was exclusively taught by the women.

After meeting some of the Tumut-Brungle community we were eager to head out to Brungle situated on a relatively truck-free road about halfway between Tumut and Gundagai. This is truly magical country.

As we arrived we were startled by an incredible display of light. Is this what an animistic welcome to country looks like? It certainly seemed to speak of the same warmth and welcome we were offered back in Tumut.

Then after almost a month of travelling and observing unripe cherry plums (Prunus cerasifera) all along the roadsides, we finally cycled into country that offered up this free delicious food, ripe and ready for the picking.

Such gifts of the autonomous gods were true blessings and Woody hoed into the red ones too, fitting several in his mouth at once.

But not everything goes the way one might like it and after Brungle we had an exhaustive climb to Gundagai. Because Patrick’s motor has given up (again) his knees have been giving him grave troubles. Cursing expensive but poorly made Chinese technology he struggled in the afternoon heat, making for a long afternoon’s ride with a heavy load along the track winding back

We arrived in Gundagai in the early evening, crossed this lovely old river on a ricketty old bridge,

set up camp, collapsed into bed and breakfasted on these magnificent figs (Ficus spp.) found in the town.

Time now to rest for a day, plan our next leg along the dreaded Hume (little choice but to ride along this noisy highway for a while) and attend to the fruitful smells emanating from our clothes.

Tumbarumba – a town of dandies

This is the second time we’ve been forced to stop in one place waiting for a bike part to arrive, but as our wise friend John (who we met in Colac Colac) says, “It’s not the problem that’s important, but how you handle it.” Time is expanding out for us in this slow journeying through beautiful hill country and we are appreciating what happens when life is slow and ecologically calibrated.

We saw this incredible Walgalu coolaman at the Tumbarumba museum. A coolaman is typically used for baby cradling and bathing and food storage, gathering and preparation. One tool, many uses – brilliant, appropriate and non-polluting technology! It has made us think about each of the tools we’ve brought along on our ride.

This is our root vegetable tool. It slices down through the soil and uproots deeply buried sources of free and highly nutritious carbohydrate. But we also use it for digging toilet pits, digging for worms to fish with, and Woody uses it as a toy. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) roots are everywhere in temperate Australia and now is a good time to harvest the young tap roots and the tender leaves, especially in the ranges where it is still cool and the roots haven’t become too woody.

While in Tumba we had the chance to rest and laze, throw a line in the creek and do a little gentle foraging.

We caught a 25cm rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and made a delicious meal using local and bicycled ingredients:

Tumbarumba Creek trout, Tumbarumba parkland dandelion root and leaves, our home-grown garlic (bicycled), Tallangatta backyard lemons (bicycled. Thanks George and Laura!), Biodynamic Powlett Hill pasta (bicycled from our local region) and Benalla olive oil (bicycled from Benalla).

We cooked the garlic inside the fish and BBQ’d the dandelion root in the fish juices, adding some olive oil. We cooked the pasta, strained and emptied it onto a bed of washed dandelion leaves. We added more olive oil and squeezed lemon and let the pasta gently steam the leaves. We then added the fish and roots and, well, we can highly recommend this dish…

After a few nights free-camping in the Tumbarumba township we thought it time to do some washing and headed along to the caravan park and pitched our tents beside the Tumbarumba Creek.

With time to drift we closed up the tents, covered the bikes and hopped on a local bus for a wee adventure to Batlow where we knocked on a door to a house with a yard full of chooks and asked whether we could purchase some eggs.

The delightful Eileen welcomed us to her little appley town and we paid $2 (after insisting on paying something) for six just-laid eggs from happy gals such as this proud mama.

In both Tumbarumba and Batlow the towns are filling with a multiplicity of ethnicities to work in the orchards. These particular itinerate workers are using their Sunday to write to loved ones, hotspotting from the town’s library and pulling free spark from the public toilets next door.

Sudanese, French, American, Japanese, Nepalese, Thai and Taiwanese are arriving in the towns to pick blueberries or thin the apples.

Our little caravan park is a hotspot of culture mashing. Amber, a graduate of literature from Taiwan, took a particular liking to Zero and hung out by the creek with Meg and Woody

while Patrick jumped into the outdoor communal kitchen to see what he could rustle up with another large bunch of freshly foraged dandelion. Notice the modern day coolamon.

We thought it time for a medicinal booster using three of the most punchy beneficial foods – cayenne, garlic and dandelion – none of which are store bought but either grown or foraged by us.

Patrick caramelised this awesome threesome in the Benalla olive oil, added the chopped dandelion leaves, cooking them through before adding water and boiling. He then changed the water to lessen the bitterness, simmered towards a soup,

strained off the water, laid the highly medicinal veg on a bed of Tumbarumba sourdough and finished the dish with Eileen’s gorgeous eggs. A simple and delicious preventative to illness and the need for commercial pharmaceuticals.

Our bike part has now arrived (thanks Sam!), we’re feeling nourished, rested and nurtured by a host of local peeps (thanks Peta, Laura, Geoff, Kate, Heather, Adam, Wayne, Peter, Debbie, Graeme and Julie), and we’re ready to face the hills again and the next stage of our journey. Thanks for travelling along with us.