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Riding the coast: Wamberal to Newcastle

Perhaps this ex-hire tandem wasn’t such a great idea. On our last evening in Wamberal, Patrick’s seat post socket snapped. We were so relieved it happened here and not between Tallangatta and Tumbarumba or somewhere really remote, and we were additionally relieved because another sweet family that we’d met in a children’s playground invited us to stay for the night. 

Meet Andrew, Mandy, Krys and Marie. We swam in their pool, admired their chooks and hugelkultur, and were treated to dinner. The central coast certainly shared its love.

Also meet Kevin from Cougar Fabrications in Erina. Kevin and Phil fixed the tandem and had us back on the road in fifteen minutes (for a mere fifteen dollars!). These kind men really brought us much relief with grace and warmth and good cheer. 

And then, after an easy morning’s ride, we stopped in a park for some lunch near The Entrance and were graced by fellow bike tourer Tom.

We invited Tom to camp with us, but warned him we are slow travellers. He was in no rush himself and we set about looking for a camp spot together.

We swapped notes on touring and the art of free camping in an increasingly private world. We pedaled and sniffed and sighted a little laneway that led down to the water’s edge north of The Entrance.

It was a brief co-existence with Tom but he wasted no time immersing himself in family life. We hope to see him again at some point down the track. A truly beautiful dude.

We parted ways the next morning and continued our slow trawl up the coast to Budgewoi where we rode this old bridge onto a little island to camp for the night.

We are getting pretty used to camp life. Every tool and resource we carry must have at least two purposes, as Meg demonstrates here with some local olive oil, used for cooking and for cleaning skin in a post-bathroom reality.

People often ask about Zephyr’s schooling as we travel. Our simple reply is this is school on the road, for all of us. However, a minimum of half an hour of reading a day applies and Zeph has just finished writing an article for NSW youth magazine unleash, which explains our project from his (almost twelve year old) perspective.

On leaving our little Budgewoi island we shouldered the busy Old Pacific Highway and came across telling signs of the times,

signs we didn’t even have to hack or bust or edit. They seemed to already speak for themselves.

While the Abbott government is selling the country off to more global corporate power, gas frackers, big coal and every other colossal polluter he can rustle up from his big black book, we are biking the country, poaching free camping spots, and improving our fishing.

We exchanged fishing knowledges with fellow free campers, Gary, Rob and Maé in Swansea,

and learned from experienced fishing folk such as Abdul,

and these fellow non-Abbott voters.

We also practiced more Artist as Family trash retrieval while teaching our boys about the ecological problems of line fishing, not just large-scale indiscriminate commercial fishing.

For the first time on our trip we came across patches of autonomous Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides), also known as Indigenous, sea or New Zealand spinach.

And we were relieved to jump on another rail trail utopia, the Fernleigh Track, which enabled a cruisey and very social ride into Newcastle,

where we were spontaneously chaperoned by a fellow Fernleigh Track cyclist into the city

where we did a little shopping,

and restocked our local honey stores.

Within the first hour of our arrival in Newcastle we received two invitations to stay. The first from this awesome couple, Fiona and Phil, who we’ll stay with tonight.

The social warming dimension of this trip is truly astonishing. We look forward to a couple of weeks getting to know Newcastle again. Last time we were here, nearly five years ago, we worked on this project. Coming into Newcastle today reminded us of why we love this big town so much.

Utopian glimpses, dystopian blitzes

Some months ago we contacted the Moss Vale Community Garden to request a visit having heard from a friend it is well worth investigating. We spoke to Jill Cockram, the facilitator, who invited us to meet up when we came to town.

Jill gave us a tour of this wonderful garden based on permaculture principles and social-ecology,

she told us even daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) are edible, all parts,

and pointed out hundreds of other edible roots, bulbs, fruits, herbs, leaf veggies and nuts, such as these hazels coming into fruit.

We picked and dug and munched and shared our knowledges,

before Jill put together an enormous bag of goodies for us to take. Thanks Jill and thanks MVCG!

Moss Vale has been good to us. We’ve caught up with family and old friends, we chatted on local radio and problem solved our bike situation…

We decided to take the bikes to Sydney by bus as we felt it was too dangerous to ride into the city. We wanted to have the electrics looked at to see whether they could be repaired. We also had a number of other things to do, such as visit our old friend the Surry Hills Food Forest.

In just three and a half years since we planted out this flat church lawn, incredible things have happened involving free access to the sun, rain and soil; tended by a loving community.

While in Sydney we also stopped in at the Art Gallery of NSW to witness our small part in the earth-sensible show The Yeomans Project, which was produced by artists Ian Millis and Lucas Ihlein.

We visited a small group of gentle folk held in limbo by Dickensian ASIO bureaucracy at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.

We staged our own feed-in outside a restaurant where a few days earlier a mother had been asked to finish breastfeeding her child in the toilets as she was offending customers (our intention was to feed inside but it was closed when we arrived). We took this photo as part of an online campaign.

And, as a novel tourist caper, we rode across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to family digs in the northern burbs.

Near Artarmon we found naturalised bananas growing in a public reserve,

and in Willoughby we killed two unwanted backyard roosters,

which we roasted gratefully, stuffed with homegrown lemons.

We have had a full plate of a time in Sydney, and we are looking forward to returning to the bush where we will have more opportunities to forage, hunt and glean, pedal and camp in air that is clean and practice, once again, a logic that is lean.

Preserving fruit, extending kin

We made it to Moss Vale! 929 kms from our home in Daylesford, Victoria to the Southern Highlands of NSW, averaging a leisurely 24 kms per day.

We joined kin from far and wide to become artist as extended family for a lovely, warm but nonetheless strange little timezone between Christmas and New Year.

We caught up with some old friends and reunited with Zeph so that finally all our bike seats are full.

It feels good to have onboard again what Zeph brings to the gang.

We have yabbied and swam in the Wingecarribee River,

and foraged for wild cherry plums to turn into fruit leather.

Although not all reached the bag…

The ones brought home we squashed and mashed with our hands,

and then pushed the pulp through a sieve

leaving all the pips and skin.

We spread out the pulp over grease-proof paper on a large-sized pizza tray

and dried in a low oven for about 8 hours. Alternatively you can dry the paste in the sun over several days.

The result is a delicious, sweet and nutritious fruit leather which is preserved for many moons with no additives or added sugar.

From we five here, we wish you a happy and health-filled year ahead.

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!

Gift economy

We said goodbye to the Goulburn River and the Murchison caravan park, home to a community of colourful permanent residents – Desley, Brian, Keith and Di – and headed east.

It was an unexpectedly difficult ride due to the lack of shade and a headwind for much of the forty-three kilometres to Violet Town. The sun baked us on this flat and straight stretch of road where annual grasses and fences dominated. Little stood out apart from the occassional creek and composition of wild flowers.

We arrived in Violet Town hot and exhausted, we found some shade to recuperate under and some free municiple power to recharge.

According to Sam from Ballarat e-bikes, “each lithium ion battery holds 0.333 kilowatt hours. Assuming someone is paying 27 cents per kilowatt hour, and the charger is 90% efficient, it’s about ten cents per charge per battery.” While the bikes recharge we have been collecting litter in the parks, reserves and sports grounds that we poach the power from.

We figure that the 20 cents of free energy we take from each town to assist our movement equates to about one bag of collected rubbish. When people ask us about our art practice we say we’re quite well-known for waste collecting. We also pick up rubbish and pull up weeds in exchange for a free camping ground.

This morning we woke to a rich chorus of birdsong at our camp along the Honeysuckle Creek. A morning’s walk enabled a feast of free food, including these deliciously sweet Nagami kumquats (Citrus japonica spp.)

and these luciously ripe loquats (Eriobotrya japonica).

Zero had earlier just missed out on hunting down a buck hare along the creek, so when we stopped for a cup of tea in the main drag we asked the cafe if they had any meat scraps for him. Success!

We’ve discovered three other things while being in friendly Violet Town. The first is the potential food supply in the gardens of abandoned houses, something to note as we move from town to town.

The second is walnut shell mulch. The region is a walnut growing climate, at least for now, and what a great way to use the waste product of this food.

The third is that Violet town has a range of publicly-accessible, intentionally-planted fruit trees and herbs, including figs, plums, rosemary, lemongrass, sage and olives,

which compliment the spontaneous roadside fruit growing here including cherry plums, pears, apples and walnuts.

Mapping our first leg

This is a rough map of our first leg. If you live somewhere along this route and would like to host us, barter with us, organise a meet and greet, put us up in your backyard or any other form of exchange we’d love to hear from you. We can garden, cook, fix things, teach foraging and a do range of other things in exchange for a camping spot, an occasional hot shower or recharging our bike batteries. Please contact us by email, Facebook, Twitter or leave a comment on our blog.