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Ups and downs

From 34 degrees celsius in the shade at Colac Colac (note the bike rider’s stockings),

to an overnight low of 6 degrees at Paddys River Flats free camping ground, just shy of Tumbarumba,

it has been a short leg of ups and downs, but mainly ups.

We left Colac Colac refreshed and recharged ready for what we knew would be a few big days in the saddle, regardless of which route we took.

We wanted to go through the Snowy Mountains (Khancoban, Thredbo, Cooma etc), but we have Zero with us and (the long and the short of it is) dogs are only permited to pass through National Parks in climate changing cars. Say it like it is Zero!

So we headed north, crossing the Murray into New South Wales at Towong,

and climbed and climbed and strained and at times got off and pushed our heavy loads

right up into the clouds

so we could look out across to Tidbillaga, one of the many Indigenous names for the Snowy Mountains,

and like true ecological mammals, return some precious nutrients to the soil before tackling the afternoon’s ascent.

It was an extrutiating 64 kms to Paddys River Flats where the weather turned cold and wet and Woody experienced rain on a tent for the first time. Things got a little wet overnight so we packed up and cooked breakfast in the camp ground amenities,

before we realised Patrick’s bike had more issues, this time electrical. With the climb up such ascents as Clarkes Hill (742m above sea level) we’ve been relying on some electrical assistance. Now we’re in NSW the stretches between towns is greater and the chance to recharge the bikes reduced.

Out of the half dozen or so campers at Paddys River Flats was Graeme, a fully licensed electrician. We couldn’t believe our luck.

Graeme scrutinised the root cause of the problem while his partner Julie brought us all cups of tea. He ascertained that moisture had got into the controller, something not fixable in the bush, so he offered to take Patrick’s panniers into Tumbarumba when he went in to do some shopping and we set off to climb another 18 km into town and find a camp spot here,

hidden behind the melaleucas in the town’s park, nestled among the leaf litter

where we can fish for trout, use the municipal BBQs, toilets, power, playground, drinking water, wake with the birds, wait for a new controller to arrive, and

generally practice our particular form of creative frugality.

Practice runs

We headed to Trentham this afternoon (sans Zeph) with some of our panniers stuffed full of camping equipment for the first of a series of practice runs. Thanks to Sophie and Greg who visited last friday (spruiking, or should we say spoking, their brilliant book Changing Gears at our local bookshop), we are feeling better prepared for the mid-November departure. Sophie and Greg are peddling their wares to 30 bookshops in just 60 days, between Melbourne and Sydney.

It was a pleasant 22 km to Trentham, which is precisely the distance we need to average each day in order to arrive in Moss Vale for the summer solstice. It was a sweet, slow ride after some early gear problems. Avoiding sticks and loose gravel in places were minor challenges, which nevertheless were helping us to get calibrated to the ins and outs of bike touring again.

We arrived at our favourite bakery, RedBeard to refuel with a late lunch. We joked, if only there was a RedBeard at the end of every 22 km stint. Their food uses the best regional ingredients and their breads are baked in a wonderful old scotch oven. Al Reid, one of the two brothers who set up the business, quizzed us about our bikes, the electric kits we’ve had installed and the scope of our coming trip. As we ate, chatted and rested we recharged our bike batteries. Thanks John and Al.

But the purpose of our trip is to find free food, and as we’ll not have many RedBeards to call in on we’ll need to find our own source of good food along the way. On the return leg we pulled over to photograph some lovely roadside clumps of new season cranesbill. The leaves make a good steamed vegetable. This mostly medicinal plant, used for the treatment of diarrhoea, gives new meaning to our current preoccupation with practice runs. The notes we have written so far for this particular cranesbill follow.

Cranesbill (Geranium dissectum) purple flowered native of Europe; naturalised in Australia; roots are rich in tannin; used for the treatment of diarrhoea, gastro-enteritis, cholera and internal bleeding; externally, used for the treatment of cuts, haemorrhoids, vaginal discharges, thrush, inflammations of the mouth. It is best to harvest the roots as the plant comes into flower since they are then at their most active medicinally; leaves can be cooked as a vegetable; roots and leaves can be dried for future use; seeds roasted. 

We also made this little video during the week, which speaks our notes on wild salsify. Now is a good time for many autonomous root vegetables such as spear thistles, dandelions, hawksbeard and salsify.