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The art of free travel (the homecoming leg – Warburton to Daylesford)

We probably should have spent the day at Maya’s swimming hole on the Yarra, 

as the second day of 2015 was a scorcher. But instead we travelled the relatively shady Warburton-Lilydale Rail Trail, coming across these osyter mushrooms (Pleurotus sp) growing on what looked like dead underground conifer wood.

Only we weren’t 100% convinced they were edible oyster mushrooms and as there was a tiny chance they could be the poisonous look-alike, glow-in-the-dark ghost fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis), which also grow on woody material (mostly eucalypts) we abandoned them before finding this great little Yarra swimming hole, near Woori Yallock.

The long hot evenings of summer have proven a little inconvenient for us weary, early-to-bed, early-to-rise campers, and daylight savings certainly plays havoc with our circadian rhythm.

In the past we have spoken about breast milk being one of the most important medicines in our medical kit, but another one we regularly resort to, and is equally free from the imperatives of capitalism, is good sleep. Patrick just couldn’t throw off the cold we all had over the past week and became really sick because of a relentless sore throat, which made swallowing almost impossible, thus cancelling out the possibility of the medicine of sleep for three nights. This was the result.

Not a happy camper! But we still had kms to cover if we were to get home to our chooks and ducks and garden, so wallowing in sickness was not an option. We had to push on, and on we travelled to Seville for another hot night,

followed by rain the next morning, a wet pack up and breakfast under the local footy ground shelter.

Zeph has been booming along during these last three months on the road. He has missed his mum and his mates and is eager to get to high school, but he is also present and bubbly and more than meets the challenges of each day, which are quite intense. Roadkill, aggressive drivers, rain, steep hills, healthy food (something he has an aversion to) and a dad who can be quite hard on him, have all been daily pressures that he has grown from.

Even though Zeph can be quite in awe of a certain motorbike or car that races past and will rib his ‘hippy’ parents about his love of these ‘cool’ motors (can something that goes so fast really be cool?), he will also, off his own bat, articulate his despair at what he/we see as the senseless mass death of animals brought about by an intransigent car culture in Australia.

Even though the endless roadkill has probably become progressively less shocking as our senses have hardened over 9,000 kms of cycled bitumen and gravel, we still have many moments that really choke us up. For the 2,800 kms we drove a rental car (our leg from Cairns back to Sydney), we didn’t produce any flattened fauna and drove with the utmost of care. But for all the 14 months on the road, bar those 11 difficult days in a car, it was really impossible to inflict much damage, even if we tried…

One of the few autonomous fruits we came across on this last leg, between Yarra Glen and Hurstbridge, is a species of passionfruit (Passiflora sp.), a prolific garden escapee that has taken up residence along the fence lines that run beside the roads in that region. Should be good bush tucker for locals in that area in a few weeks from now.

Having made up some kms we took up a stealthy residence in a park reserve in Hurstbridge and rested for two nights.

Zeph found a three-wheeled scooter lying around in the park and when Woody wasn’t on it he honed his mobility skills to the max.

A less significant but nonetheless useful medicine plant we’ve seen all over the country is petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus), otherwise known as radium weed.

It produces a milky latex sap that is good at ridding warts and liver spots. Be careful in applying this free medicine as it can burn the skin, and make sure you keep it away from eyes and internal parts of the body. Dabbed directly on the wart or sunspot over several days will generally get rid of these unwanted skin anomalies. They will form a scab and then disappear.

From Hurstbridge we rode a big day to Wallan, picked up some supplies and headed on towards Romsey. We found a little camp site along the way. The site sorely lacked water and thick shade and the heat of the afternoon prompted a nudist beach free-for-all to compensate.

We got away early the next morning after some bike maintenance where a tree branch and strap were used to make a hoist.

We’re going to miss the camaraderie of bike-camping life, although we will apply the lessons we’ve learnt to help each other in home and community life.

As we approached Romsey the land was tinderbox dry. It recalled for us the relatively recent 10-year drought and the feeling of becoming environmental refugees again as yet another extreme fire season develops.

Not far on from here a siren was heard and then the engine itself roared past and this uneasy feeling rendered itself concrete.

As we approached Woodend a fire raged near Kyneton and a storm brewed on the horizon. The effect was nothing but dramatic.

The rain soothed and cooled and came and went in a hurry, allowing a reprieve for our last night of our long trip.

After so many months, Zeph is a gun at packing up TJ (Tent Junior) and races Patrick when he packs up Big Bad Barry (the adults’ tent, named by three-year old Ruby back in Katoomba).

We stopped off at the Woodend Community Garden for a few breakfast berries,

and set off for our last day’s ride.

Near Tylden the rain was followed by a glorious rainbow.

And at Trentham we stopped in to Redbeard Bakery, where some of the best organic sourdough in Australia is made and where Patrick used to work and learned the art of sourdough. The delightful John Reid shouted us a beautiful breakfast and sent us on our way with five loaves. Thanks John! If all businesses were as green, ethical and generous as yours we wouldn’t be such ardent critics of monetary economics.

The loaves John gave were to share with some of our loved ones who gathered at the community garden (well, next door because of the rain) to cheer and greet us as we rode into our hometown of Daylesford.

We have been blessed by the countless folk who have followed our journey online and sent us well wishes for the entire way. Our dear friend Pete took us on a little tour of our beloved Albert St community garden,

life was brimming there, and the storm clouds were brewing so we hightailed it home with Cam, Tia, Jeremy, Arden and Jasper on their bikes,

to join other mates in our home garden that was lovingly tended by Matt and Yael and their kids while we were away. With such restorative rain, trees full of fruit and our teary, gift-giving friends it was such a smooth landing home.

After everyone left and the heavens opened for another deluge, we decided to set up our beds inside after all instead of setting up our tents in the backyard as we had planned. Then Patrick got to work cutting the legs off our kitchen table.

We’d been talking about doing this for months and it felt like a good first thing to do to bring into our home what we liked about camp life. Pete brought some crates over the next day as we’d mentioned to him we’re going to try to keep sitting on our sit bones and rid our house of the dreaded chair.

Another thing we came home with is a book deal with the Sydney publisher NewSouth Publishing, an imprint of UNSW Press. We are going to be busy beavers for the next several months getting a first draft completed of the book we are calling The art of free travel.

We really can’t thank you enough for your well wishes and positivity these last 14 months. It has been such a highlight and comfort to us to have you along on this journey. Although we are home now, we will still continue to do our work as community food activists and car-free advocates, only now from the one location instead of many.


  1. Soot says:

    Oh wow, what a lovely end to a magnificent journey. I will miss following you, but eagerly await further posts about your life as you settle back home, which I am sure will be as entertaining,and more importantly informative, as ones from the road.

  2. Thanks so much for saying Soot! Yes, we will indeed keep the posts coming. We will be holding permaculture life skills workshops here in Daylesford shortly, and we'll share the narrative fruits of those workshops here on our blog.

  3. Paula says:

    What a wonderful journey. Thank you so much to all five of you for sharing your special perspectives. Can't wait for the book!

  4. thank you so much Paula, we are loving writing it at the moment. we were able to get 3 chapters completed on the road so as to begin the book while still in the 'zone'.

  5. Unknown says:

    Cannot wait for your book to come out! I have been following your journey and will miss your posts, welcome home x

  6. thanks Sandra, we'll probably do a pedal-powered/public transport book tour, so if your community would like us to give a book reading and launch let us know where you are and we'll try to get there.

  7. ronnie says:

    yowza! home! yippitty yay! I'm so pleased to read that you guys pedaled it all the way home safe and sound…. and I feel almost like we were there too (with woody looking all red-riding-hoodish — EJ was chuffed to see that and did her impersonation of woody singing 'mary and brian and the caravan')

    can't wait to see the book – oh and you guys on the book tour eh

    big lurve from the sams creek crew xxxxxxxxxxx (a few extra sloppy kisses from the hounds and kitties of the creek)

  8. Larissa says:

    thanks for sharing your journey with us!

  9. Mel Pickering says:

    I am saddened that my arm chair travels have come to a close but I will look forward to the pedal powered book tour hoping that the far south coast will again be on your map. I smiled at the photo with Zero in the background checking out the compost for a tasty morsel. Community gardens really are for all to share. Thanks for being awesome and inspiring and adventurous and conscience people and for sharing it all with us xxx

  10. Kirsten says:

    ah you gorgeous creatures – glad you're all home safe and sound xxx

  11. hi Ronnie, it was a great relief to come home not as flattened fauna and find very drinkable grape wines we put away a few seasons ago. the elderberry wine however will have to make do as vinegar, but you can't have enough vinegar… much love from Daylesford where it has learned to conjure summer rain like the south coast of NSW.

  12. thanks for coming along Larissa. xx

  13. yes Mel, the far south coast will def be on our map. We spoke to the lovely folk in your excellent bookshop in Bega and they're keen to have a reading there so we'll be coming around the mountain in the next year or so. we have just finished painting new signs for each of the community gardens where part of the text reads: 'a free food gift economy for all', but as if Zero didn't know that. it is only recent humans that have put a lock and key (to quote daniel quinn) on food. that lock needs picking. xx

  14. thanks Kirsten, so good to be home and have beer and kraut and starter all bubbling away. much love, xx

  15. Pippa says:

    *sniff* Reading this over the last year and a bit has been very important to me. I know you're going to keep on writing and exploring but damn I am going to miss the vicarious adventuring! I've learned so much about the continent of my birth and been inspired to look at the Austrian roadsides and semi-wilderness in my everyday life.

    Enjoy the wonderfulness of being back home. Thank you!

  16. hi there Pippa, thanks for your kind words, we're so glad our blog hit a sweet spot for you. we are certainly enjoying being home, getting back into the garden and madly preserving the summer fruits. we'll keep blogging about food, ecology, society and everything else that we get excited about. take care. AaF xx

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