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The sodden leg (Hyams Beach to Sam’s Creek, Cobargo)

Well, this was by far our wettest leg in nearly thirteen months of straying. 
We left Hyams Beach in the afternoon, climbed a short steep ridge and followed the Old Wool Road down to Sanctuary Point where we found a stealthy camp site on the edge of St George’s Basin, and got cooking dinner.

We’re going to miss these moments.

But perhaps not the deluge that came down that night, flooding our campsite and wetting every dry thing we possessed. We packed up between showers the next morning, throwing all and sundry into our panniers and hightailed it out of the bog.

After about an hour’s ride south we stopped at a roadside café for some grub and warm drinks and found this little guy had buried into Meg’s neck.

We human four haven’t had many ticks this trip, but we’ve pulled hundreds from Zero. We check him a dozen times each day, usually when he’s getting a scratch or a tickle, to make sure he is tick free. While warming up with our breakfast we flicked through the local paper and found, well, us:

The article didn’t exactly get our story right but it was nice to see ourselves in drier and warmer times back in Huskisson.

With our steaming panniers of wet bedding and clothes we climbed the narrow and dangerous road to Milton. We rode past a B&B and it was just too tempting. Dot the host was in her garden. ‘How much for a night?’ we inquired hopefully. She replied with a figure that was above our budget. We thanked her and waved goodbye, but as we were heading off she yelled out another figure (sans breakfast) and we immediately backed up, tears of delight streaming down our cheeks and we set about washing and drying our gear and ourselves and settling in to a night of comparative luxury. Thanks so much Dot and Lewis!

The next day was bright and cheerful and we rode a short hilly distance to Mollymook where Patrick spent many childhood holidays in the 70s and 80s. His grandmother had retired there, and a favourite place his family would go to was the Bogie Hole.

We again set up a stealth camp just south of the point from this idyllic place, and stayed for three nights on the dog friendly beach there. Ordinarily we break three council by-laws all at once –  NO camp, dog, fire. But this time it was only two.

We foraged limpets (Cellana tramoserica), otherwise known as sea snails, on the rocks,

which we put straight on the coals. Delish!

Patrick spearfished in the weeds off the rocks and we ate Morwongs aplenty,

which were gutted by Zeph, cooked on the beach fire and devoured until there was nothing left.

Woody cut his finger while on the rocks and Meg brought out the most prized possession in her medical chest.

You don’t get this kind of beam from anything other than two and a quarter years of guzzling boob juice. No industry science is nearly capable of such utter nutritional sophistication.

We moved on towards Lake Tabourie and Zeph showed Woody the basics of spearing a fish.

But it was a little further on where we camped beside the Tabourie Creek that we were sucessful in spearing two small mullet to use as bait fish.

But our luck ran out there and before dinner, which didn’t include fish, the heavens opened and we were again under the influence of a significant storm. We made a crude biscuit and cheese dinner in one of the tents and went to bed early, waking to another session of drying logistics.

We rode on along the Princes Highway coming across more telling signifiers of too much affluence,

and Anthropogene intransigence,

until we were stopped just before Moruya by this happy bunch of seniors who wanted to know our story, and who had done a quick whip around hat collection for our troubles. We have knocked back donations in the past but because this was an insisting collective effort we couldn’t refuse.

Just on from the bus tourers we spotted Pat, Don and Brent and we wanted to hear their stories, which were ones of maiden adventure and big bicycle dreams,

before heading into Moruya with a bag full of gold coins to find a place to have a big feed. Sometimes you just don’t know how ravenous you are until someone drops a wad of money into your palm and shows you a bloody good café serving local organic food. We certainly needed the extra sustenance. We rode fifty-five very hilly kms from Batemens Bay to Tuross that day to hook up with Fraser and Kirsti, their kids Marlin and Pickles, and their co-workers from their Old Mill Road Biofarm, who were holding their end of year party both on and beside the water.

We were promised a mussel feast but again the weather had other ideas. We hurriedly set up camp and everyone else scattered before another great deluge.

The next day we packed up wet again and cycled over to Fraser and Kirsti’s beautiful market garden farm and reestablished our camp under the newly erected hops trellis.

We were so impressed with their planning, plantings and crop rotations, which are meticuluously worked out on this blackboard by Kirsti.

We were again treated to delicious produce and many communal lunches and dinners with this lovely family and their awesome interns Erin and Christina. We were eager to gift in return so we helped out with harvesting, pickling, cooking, cleaning up, hanging out washing, and we took everyone on a weed walk indentifying 25 autonomous edibles happily growing in the beautiful soils on the farm.

Patrick delighted in showing off the wonders of bulrush (Typha) bulbs.

Sadly it was time to push on but not before another 100mm of rain extended our stay another day. We still hadn’t snapped a good family portrait and on the day we actually departed Fraser left very early in the morning for Sydney. Luckily Fraser’s brother Ewan, a student from Melbourne who comes regularly to the farm to help out, stood in his place to snap a family pic.

We left the farm through sodden paddocks,

and pedalled out onto the highway with immediate warning signs flashing the results of the region’s heavy rains.

We stopped for a cup of tea at Blue Earth Café in Bodalla and met Mark and Meret, the green-thumb parents of the café owners,

who grow a considerable proportion of the food for the café onsite.

So inspiring to see Mark and Meret! We rode on to Narooma surf beach for a quick play,

stealth camp,

and a chance meeting with Grace and Dave. Dave told us about his six year walk from Perth to Sydney along the coast, mainly walking along the beaches and headlands, taking footage for a film. We can’t wait to see it.

We then sailed into Mystery Bay and made lunch. This is where we met traditional custodians Uncle Wally Stewart and his son Corey, who are descendants of Walbunga and Yuin men.

Wally not only granted us permission to be on his country but took us to his family’s traditional camping ground where he invited us to stay. He got us up to speed about his beef with NSW fisheries and the very profitable abalone industry. Both he says, work together to stop Aboriginal people accessing their traditional foods. The Facebook page for the NSW Aboriginal fishing rights group gives more details. Wally spoke of the health pathologies of local Aboriginal people which, like common in the rest of the country, comes back to the economic imperatives of the western diet. If governments really wanted to help Aboriginal people they would see fit that large areas of land, river and ocean were made accessible so they could enact their traditional economics of health and well-being as well as custodianship on country. A decent society would put this ahead of any industry.

Wally and Corey left us to set up camp, and while Meg was putting Woody down for his daytime sleep, Zeph, Zero and Patrick went to see what they could find for dinner. They nearly stepped on two snakes trying to squeeze some solar radiation out of the cool rock cliffs and soon found some limpets to collect,

Patrick speared a crab,

and Zeph foraged some Neptune’s necklace (Hormosira banksii),

which we prepared with some of Kirsti and Fraser’s produce at Wally and Corey’s family camp.

Then just after dinner down came the rain once again, so heavy it collapsed part of the shelter. We took it in turns to keep the pooling weight off the canvas roof and just watched in awe as the heavens let loose.

For the first 12 months of this trip we could count the days we’ve had of rain on one hand. It seems like this stretch along the NSW south coast is making up for such a dry year on the road. We are certainly getting tired of the extra work the rain brings with it, although we know that this is what living outside is all about and rain is such an essential part of the function of a healthy biosphere. With the promise of another 20-40mm, we packed up the next morning, rode across country,

to Tilba for a cuppa,

and headed on to stay with an old blogosphere friend, Rhonda Ayliffe and her family just north of Cobargo. It was on this stretch of road that we had our closet call. We looked up the name of the trucking company of the driver concerned and made a call:

It was such a relief to pull off the highway at Ronnie’s farm. So good to meet you in person Alexander, Rhonda, Eliza Jane and Phil. Thank you for the dry and warmth and love of your home.

And thank you Dear Reader for joining us on this sodden leg.

We are going to be giving a talk on permaculture travelling to some good folk at Sweet Home Cobargo this Saturday the 13th at 1pm. If you are nearby, we’d love to see you there.

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!