With much regret we abandoned our pilgrimage in this little corner
of the River Vu camping ground,
in the southwest corner of the colonial-corporate state of Victoria, in Gunditjmara peoples’ country.
We had made our last video on the road.
Our friends Nikki and Petrus so generously picked us up in Nikki’s ute and we headed home to Djaara mother country with mixed feelings after four months on the road. Our reason for returning home into the hearth of community were twofold. Woody missing his friends was a growing, gnawing issue. But the main reason for our return is the growing threat we face from corporatised government towards non-compliers who are speaking out. Living in a tent increasingly locked out of places where we could obtain food makes us vulnerable, and we’re beginning to appreciate more acutely how life for Indigenous Australians has been for generations. The permission been given to people to be discriminatory has radically worsened through aggressive media campaigns and editorials like this, and we have lost trust in the rule of law to protect people like us from state and other kinds of harm. In the transition from pilgrimage to home coming we made this video, How do we solve a problem like the unvaccinated?
We have returned to so much community generosity and love. We stayed with Nikki for a few days and with friends Sandipa and Sambodhi on their beautiful farm near Lalgambook. Then we packed up our panniers for the last time and rode to our new home.
We have friends living in our home at Tree Elbow for the year, so we’ve rented this little cottage. Thanks to so many people for rallying to find us a home especially Gordon, Kerry, Per, Connor, Pauli and Deanne. This is home for the next eight months.
First things first, get some spuds and toms in the ground,
head to Melbourne to join 100,000 others protesting the new pandemic bill,
begin to make a home (thanks Annie-Mai for the flowers from your garden),
and continue to produce videos that demonstrates the thinking of independent analysis not bought out by big pharma or silenced by government:
Now we are home we will continue to do what we have always done: ask questions, work towards dismantling unjustness and live our lives alongside others who honour the sacredness of the earth. As our hero Vandana Shiva says, ‘We cannot continue on an ecologically destructive path that deepens extractivism, colonialism, patriarchy and inequality, while allowing for corporate expansion and control.’ We all know in our hearts how we want to live: in ways that are respectful of the earth and one another as sovereign beings in all our wondrous diversity.
There’s an ever present chill from saltwater wind that we’re becoming more hardy and alive to, so too the smell of old fish, which proliferates our hands and our clothes. We are in ever greater degree the great unwashed in an increasingly controlled human world, but life supports us in her abundance, provides shelter when it rains,
a wall to pitch a tent behind when ferocious winds rip through the night,
and calm, magical mornings to set out upon.
The roads have been endless providers too, of such things as road killed ringtail
and hare for Zero meat,
valuable rope to add to our kit as we neglected to bring a washing line,
and pretty good shoulders for cyclists.
We left St Leonards after two weeks of lockdown with a spring in our pedals, camped at Barwon Heads and rode on to Torquay, stopping for regular breaks.
At Torquay Magpie caught up with her office work in a sunny park,
while Blackwood cut some three-cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum) for the dinner pot.
and Blue Wren toasted some almonds on the municipal BBQ as Zero took a nap.
Each day we have been travelling in and out of Magpie, Blackwood and Blue Wren countries, and down here on the coast Willy Wagtail Country is ever present.
In the park in Torquay we happened across Monica, and after a far bit of yarning she invited us to mind her home (including her neighbourhood compost drop off) for the weekend while she was to be away tree planting.
In exchange we got to work repairing doors,
and restoring her bike to roadworthy condition.
While in Torquay it felt good to help out at Monica’s while she was planting trees, but we also rested up, and explored the coastline.
While this town is the gateway to the Great Ocean Road we left Torquay in winter sunshine
and headed back inland. We wanted to volunteer at Common Ground Project, a ‘not-for-profit community farm that promotes food security by creating fair access to locally grown, healthy food.’
which is managed by these two bright sparks, Ivan and Greta.
We were offered beautiful food, shown a goodly camp spot, and had a chance to learn more about how their regenerative farming practices are feeding people in the community. The next day we rode towards Deans Marsh, in the traditional lands of the Gadubanud and Gulidjan peoples, thus leaving Wadawurrung Country for the first time since our first day’s ride back in early July.
The road offered up these wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) before we arrived in Deans Marsh,
where some lovely locals Sian and Ads showed us a beautiful place to camp. Then in the rain we left to climb our biggest hill of the trip so far.
From Deans Marsh (elevation 155m above sea level) we pedalled for more or less 12km up hill, stopping for drink breaks,
and to take layers off.
Then we arrived at the top. Yippee!
The ten kilometres down hill was heaven. We soared and glided, laughed and whooooped out loud. Woody was learning what Zeph learnt on our first adventure – ‘a hill is just a hill.’ At the bottom was lovely Lorne, a place to pitch our tent and, as we discovered, another snap lockdown starting that night.
We headed for the nearby jetty, 2km from our home camp, and fished our way through the lockdown.
Zero had developed gunky eyes, which he nursed by staying quiet on the jetty, letting the sun treat him.
Blackwood pulled up an array of fish including this Australian salmon (Arripis trutta) which we enjoyed for dinner,
Blue Wren caught Port Jackson, Banjo and Draughtboard sharks (Cephaloscyllium laticeps) on his hand line and threw them all back,
and Magpie went after crabs (Ovalipes australiensis), which were delicious out of the billy.
A jetty engenders a special kind of community. It is a place for learning, marvelling and praising what the sea has to offer, and it is a place for connection and for song.
Public amenities are really the great civic remnant of a pre-corporatised world. These colonial structures are so often incorrect in today’s world where colonialism’s new face – paternalistic corporatism – is ashamed of yesterday and seeks utopia in a post-human tomorrow. We’re as happy to wild shit as find solace in public amenities. When you live outside it gets down to practicality – available ecology or architecture, digging tool or flush away your precious nutrients?
Another public amenity built in the pre-corporate colonial era is the Great Ocean Road, built by returned soldiers of the First World War. All the plaques along the road confuse whose Aboriginal country we’re riding on but are clear on the story of the mayor of Geelong’s project to have traumatised men return from France and construct a picturesque coastal road like in mother Europe. This road, emptied of tourist traffic, has been a cyclist’s joy.
Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum L.) grows in abundance where the disturbance of settler road meets oldtimer coastline. This feral, uncorporatised food is a prize to neopeasants and gallantly sings into the trauma of our shared ancestries.
As are these turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). Both weedy brassica and bracket fungus are wild medicines,
and they belong to a very different medical philosophy than corporate health, which is lead foremost by monetisation and control. Charles Eisenstein details this in his latest essay where he writes: “When herbicide-resistant weeds appear, the solution is a new herbicide. When immigrants cross the border, we build a wall. When a school shooter gets into a locked school building, we fortify it further. When germs develop resistance to antibiotics, we develop new and stronger ones. When masks fail to stop the spread of covid, we wear two. When our taboos fail to keep evil at bay, we redouble them. The controlling mind foresees a paradise in which every action and every object is monitored, labeled, and controlled. There will be no room for any bad thing to exist. Nothing and no one will be out of place. Every action will be authorized. Everyone will be safe.” As Charles goes on to argue, the pursuit for ever greater control generates ever greater divisions and social illness.
Human wellbeing is wrapped up in connection to people and place, regularly diving into other worlds for not just food but insight,
to behold our own wildness as contiguous with the living of the world, be predator and prey in the same instance,
to find delight and challenge in the fierce determination of kin,
to experience the full force of the world and only retreat from it for short periods of recuperation,
and to pull on the primal materiality of ancestors.
We rolled into Apollo Bay in Gadubanud (Katubanut) Mother Country and dried out the tent.
Rainbows keep rolling in on this saltwater winter country,
as do the facilities to cook a public meal.
We soon found a hidden coastal camp site protected from wind, tides and rain. A place to call home for a while,
interact with the locals (Arctocephalus pusillus),
fish up some more shark (to throw back),
accept gifts (Seriolella brama) from fellow fishers (thanks Lonnie!),
cook up both gifts from sea and field,
and listen to local crabmongers talk about the elite markets in China for these Tasmanian giants (Pseudocarcinus gigas).
We are common students on this bicycle pilgrimage. All three of us human folk learning to cook in a windy kitchen without walls,
fishing up species we’ve never before encountered (Heterodontus portusjacksoni),
beholding the advance of more-than-human greatness (due to fewer boats on the ocean),
while observing the encroachment of dehumanising politics in subtle and not so subtle forms.
This pilgrimage begs for breathing with the wind, the gales, the gusts, as windbags ourselves. It begs for not holding our breath in the anxieties of corporate-apnea. It begs for not using scientific nomenclature, roads or public toilets without understanding the colonisations of these useful but unnecessary things. It begs for us to find gratitude in every food we eat that comes loaded in story. It begs for us to share our learnings and extend our studenthood with kinfolk we come across on the road like Sian and baby Kai,
and with you, Dear Reader. Thanks for riding along with us. We’ve travelled 177kms since St Leonards and while setting out in winter in a pandemic might have seemed to some a crazy-arse thing to do, we’ve really enjoyed the cold and the reduced noise along the coastal roads.
As we came onto the street fully loaded, our neighbour Bob greeted us and said (quite concerned), “You’re heading north aren’t you?”
A kilometre later at the top roundabout, south meant taking the third exit (right), and as we did so another neighbour, Gordon, took out his phone.
The bikes were laden and our legs not yet in tune.
It was always going to be slow going at first. We stopped for a splash of mineral water at Sailors Falls,
and Irish strawberries (Arbutus unedo) recharged our energy fields,
and then we truly left home, and crossed this threshold into Wadawurrung mother country.
We rode on through the Spargo Creek Road forest, crossed the Western Freeway and dropped into Gordon with these beautiful wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) blinking up at our foraging eyes in a small reserve.
We were keen to get out our instruments for our first play on the road, when Maureen, a local resident, came by and introduced herself.
Maureen invited us home for a cuppa, which quickly developed into a backyard blitz, where we helped weed out the bent grass, trim the poa tussocks,
and plant them in another patch of the garden.
In the gloaming hour, Maureen showed us Kirritt Bareett, the hill where Bunjil resided after he created the first people.
With an invitation to camp over, and the lend of a few more blankets, we spent our first night in the tent at Maureen and Vince’s. It got down to minus 2 degrees celsius.
Vince (DJ icon from PBS radio’s Soul Time) and Maureen really keep a spirited home,
and their neighbour Andrew kept dropping off food packages for us over the fence while we were there. Such generous souls! Our first 24 hours were magical.
Just down the hill, heading towards Mount Egerton on our second morning, we came across John Smith in his front yard. We pulled over for a quick yarn and a laugh and rode on,
finding some lovely saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus) on the road to Lal Lal.
We thought Lal Lal might be a place to lay our heads, but with all the downhill of the morning and still energy to burn, we selected a few books to take from the free roadside library and thought we’d try our luck at reaching Meredith before dark.
The delicious three-cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum) greeted us on the edge of town.
We rode through rough forest tracks and C roads for a few hours until we realised we’d better start looking for a camp at Elaine. Being landlocked and running alongside the A300, Elaine didn’t offer much in terms of a public reserve to pitch a tent. It was looking like an undesirable roadside camp when friendly Dave walked across the road to see if we needed assistance. That came in the offer to pitch our tent beside his woodshed. Thanks Dave!
The mercury fell to minus two again, and the fields over the back of Dave’s fence felt the full exposed force of the frost.
Home is the combination of kindness and fire. Thanks Dave!
In Meredith we swapped over the Lal Lal books,
and had a play in the sun,
before pushing off for Lethbridge to dry out the tent,
and cook up the mushrooms with the sourdough leaven we are carrying and mixing up each day.
The combination of the cold and the riding is keeping us perpetually hungry. We stopped in Bannockburn, played some tunes, received our first coin for our efforts, and cooked up some grub.
On dusk we headed down to the footy ground and on the margins of the reserve set up camp. We crashed early and woke an hour or two later to the sound of spinning wheels and a car zooming past our tent just metres from our heads.
A few hours later we woke again, this time to the thump of lemons being used as grenades at our tent. Despite the burnouts and lemon hurlers we got our first decent sleep of the trip. It was a balmy zero degrees and we had everything we needed, including lemons.
On the way out of Bannockburn we discovered the lemon hurlers had had a busy night. We rode down the noisy A300 without breakfast and found the sleepy Batesford Tennis Club,
where we set up the camp kitchen.
Some late season roadside apples and a few overhanging mandarins filled us up some more,
and we collected wild fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) as take-away spice.
Woody jumped off the bike and harvested some wood sorrel (Oxalis),
munching the golden flowers with gusto.
We’re not sure why we were drawn to easting into Geelong. The feather’s quill was only ever to be a starting point to enable the flow of the journey to set itself free. But it felt right and so we followed our intuition. And soon found ourselves beside a mussel and paella float, and struck up a yarn with another family about the indefatigable learnings when living in the realm of school of the road.
Blackwood quickly tried his luck with the local fish populations,
and we slept, cooked and sang our way across the afternoon.
With more musical pennies in our pocket, though no luck with the fish, we gathered up sea lettuce (Ulva australis) to join the evening’s meal.
Invited to stay in Tom, Clarrie and Lachie’s home garden farm in the burbs, we once more set up camp on dusk.
The next morning we feasted together on backyard rooster that Jenna had despatched the night before, and were treated to the soup of a pumpkin that had spent the summer growing where our pumpkin coloured tent now sat.
Just like our pumpkins back home are powered on humanure, same too here in Norlane,
as is the whole damn fine garden. These guys are living the RetroSuburban dream.
We all jumped on our bikes after a nourishing closed-loop brekky and headed downtown to join Wadawurrung mob celebrate their culture.
Blackwood added another hunting tool to the kit,
and we pedalled down the Bellarine Peninsula,
only to be hi-ho-ed off the highway by gardeners Ivan and Gretta to spend some time with them and the family’s herd.
Brother Zephyr called while back on our bikes, and so we pulled right off the road to hear his news and to share ours, finding lilly pilly (Syzygium smithii) delights alongside our conversation.
This was our biggest day in the saddle yet. Almost 50 kms with just a few big climbs. We were well spent by the time the pelicans witnessed our arrival.
Friends Jo and Tony offered us to stay in their beach shack at St Leonards and thus have given us a chance to get out of the cold and damp over the next few days when a load of rain is expected.
We’ll spend time gathering some saltwater nourishment thanks to Wadawurrung mother country,
resting, and carrying out some modifications and upgrades.
The generosity of people has been overwhelming over this past week, both at home, online and on the road. We are so grateful for your support in leaving home and during this first 180kms.
So the question is, Dear Reader, where to now? Any guesses? We look forward to sharing our next leg with you down the track. Signing off for now, with love, Artist as Family xx
We set out from Orbost with the prospect of travelling almost 100 kms along the East Gippsland Rail Trail, passing over the Snowy River,
and past an incredible hedge of wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa), an early relative of cos that is also called opium lettuce. Yes, it is mildly psychoactive taken in large quantities and is supposed to have a chill pill effect; good for people suffering from high blood pressure.
After about 10 kms on the trail we decided that the rough surface was better suited to mountain bikes and that our heavy bikes on touring frames and tyres were not really suited. We got back on the bitumen and rode with the noisy ones to a wonderful little caravan park in Nowa Nowa that sported this awesome open communal kitchen, and whose owners greeted us with just-picked strawberries and fresh eggs. Thanks Helen and Neil!
With more rain about we stayed a few wet nights, swimming during the sunny days in the creek.
While at Nowa Nowa we received an invitation to join some friends in Traralgon for Christmas. We had just a day to ride 170 kms, not quite manageable for us, so we took off early in the morning passing these roadside walnut trees,
noting the central problem of our culture: paid for food, or as Daniel Quinn puts it:
Making food a commodity to be owned was one of the great innovations of our culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key – and putting it there is the cornerstone of our economy, for if the food wasn’t under lock and key, who would work?
After 50 kms of riding we arrived at Bairnsdale station with a bright blue box to help smuggle Zero onto the train to make up the remaining 120 kms.
We hadn’t been separated from Zero the other times we smuggled him on public transport. He always kept quiet because he knew we were there, beside him. This time he whined for us from the cargo carriage and we were paid a visit from the conductor, who thankfully was delightful and explained that next time we travel we have to have a proper regulation travel box for our dog-kin. Even though this is absurd, we weren’t about to argue with this nice fella. He didn’t kick us off the train and we got to Traralgon, where our friend Ben Grubb met us and led us through the town and out into the outlaying fields to his parents’ home.
We all got to work preparing for the feast. Patrick and Ben killed and dressed a chicken,
Jaala and Shannon Freeman (friends of ours from Daylesford, and who are also Grubb family members) joined the festivities and helped Jim and Jeni (Ben’s parents) and Meg in the food preparation. It was a joyous collective effort using herbs, vegetables and fruits from the garden,
to deliver a delicious lunch. Thanks earth! Thanks chicken. Thanks Grubbs and Freemans.
The following day more food prep continued, turning cherry plums,
into fruit leathers,
until it was time to thank Jim and Jeni for so generously hosting us, and say goodbye, Zeph feeling pretty poorly with a cold. Ben rode with us for several kms showing us the back roads and short cuts, and
he also helped Zero catch a rabbit by blocking one end of a drain with sticks and his feet. It is a technique worth finessing…
Patrick butchered the rabbit, apportioned a share to Zero and we kept the rest for later in the day. Not far on from the rabbit catch we came across Aaron, a solo cycle tourer on his maiden voyage. Go Aaaron!
We farewelled Aaron, and a little later on Ben, and rode into the altered country of dirty coal.
About 70% of water in Australia is used by industry, a remaining 20% is used by government and a tiny percentage, less than 10%, is used in domestic use. As we rode past the old relic of old thinking that is Yalourn power station we listened to the millions of litres of water running through the cooling towers, reflecting on these figures.
We ate our free lunch a little further on, poaching the rabbit for 4 minutes in the billy and separating the soft and tender meat from the bone.
On another invitation, from an old Hepburn Relocalisation Network friend Liz, we visited Entropia eco-village near Moe. Liz is one of a number of residents who are about to live rent free on the 20 acre site for one year and be filmed for a documentary, which sounds a bit like Hippy Big Brother. Watch that space!
Part of the land is bush and we found a few geebungs (Persoonia linearis) growing there. When the fruit is ripe it will yellow and fall to the ground. The skin and the seed was traditionally discarded when eaten.
Certainly Woody found utopia at Entropia.
But the dystopian road called us back, and the prospect of home.
Play fighting has been a fun part of our day to day. It gives the boys an opportunity to push back from we ever steering adults. It builds strength and body control and develops emotions that can cope under physical pressure.
Research is another thing we’ve all been learning: how to find out stuff that interests us and grow our knowledges.
By the time we reached Yarragon, Zeph was on the mend from his cold but Meg and Patrick were starting to fall apart. We’ve all been fit and strong the whole way and now in the final weeks our defences are crumbling. We nestled into this little wetland forest setting up our version of a MASH rehab camp,
but after another short leg we figured some hot water and a place to get out of the strong winds was needed in Warragul.
We were all sporting hacking coughs and rode up to Neerim South in blustery, wet conditions and again took refuge in a motel room. The next day the winds abated and the sun shone and we rode through the prettiest country, passing wild displays of the sweet flower of the coffee substitute chicory (Cichorium intybus),
and later moist valleys filled with giant tree ferns,
along quiet C roads with little traffic.
We rode 66 kms to Warburton in time for New Years eve,
to stay with our friend Maya Ward in her tiny house that she designed and helped build,
and to see in the New Year a festive picnic followed by fireside music and intimate chats.
The first day of 2015 saw Zeph gearing up for high school. Go Zeph!
Maya and her lovely man James treated us to delicious meals and restorative places. Thank you both so much, it has been a gentle few days in beautiful Warburton and now we are ready to begin our final leg towards home.
We wish you, Dear Reader, a peaceful and productive International Year of Soils, filled with great adventure, slow travel, encouraging friends and free, walked-for food.
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,
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,
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.
We left Mackay and travelled the long but quiet route to Calen, witnessing more ill-effects of the sugar industry.
Dispersed beside the monocultural fields we found plants that have no economic or ecological status, such as these health-giving sow thistles (eat the young tender less bitter leaves),
guava (this is the largest fruit we’ve seen so far, measuring 80mm in length, and oh so delicious!),
and public citrus. (If you’re in the air when you pick private fruit does that make it public??)
We got a bike-eye view of sugar processing, which confirmed our resolve to remain a processed-sugar-free family (which means not purchasing the great majority of supermarket items),
as we travelled along the cane fields,
and beside the cane trains that were busily moving Australia’s obesity epidemic around in little carts.
We travelled the Mirani – Mt Ossa Road west of Mackay until we got to Boulder Creek,
where Jeanie and Peppe, our Warm Showers hosts in Mackay, had suggested we camp. We’re glad they did. Thanks J and P! The water was pristine and we refilled our bottles with this dynamic, autonomous mountain brew (there’s not many places left in Australia where the water hasn’t been polluted by conventional agriculture).
We met a bunch of unruly free campers at Boulder Creek, and we shared stories about our respective communities and where we are heading before it was time to take to the road, once again under Queensland’s mid-winter sky.
These quiet roads really are a blessing. Our senses are alive with the absence of motorised transport.
Collecting free citrus in the region is also an absolute treat, and there’s no shortage.
In this little public park at Calen, just before we returned to the Bruce Highway, we helped ourselves to free oranges, bush lemons and grapefruits, as well as free power, recharging our devices behind the public toilet block while we feasted.
Not far north of Calen we spotted for the first time these cluster figs (Ficus racemosa),
a well-known bush food of northern Australia, which also grows in India and South-east Asia. When ripe they turn soft, orange and then red, and have a similar texture to commercially-grown figs, only less sweet to taste. They were lovely to eat but a week or more ripening time would have produced a better result.
After nearly nine months of cycle touring we have seen hundreds of snakes on the road. All of them dead, until now. This lively black snake went to cross the Road of Death just south of Bloomsbury, then decided against it, possibly after sensing the hysterical vibrations of Zero’s barking. Needless to say we quickly tethered Zero, snake bite being a common cause of death for Jack Russells.
Later in the day we passed another couple of road-killed snakes, several birds of prey, a grass owl, countless kangaroos and wallabies and this little quoll.
We took a few side quiet roads into Bloomsbury and discovered this very interesting vine:
the elephant creeper (Argyreia nervosa), aka Hawaiian baby woodrose, Adhoguda, woolly morning glory, elephant climber, elephant ear vine or silver morning glory. This plant may have been introduced by Aborigines on their route from India thousands of years ago, however some botanists believe it is a relative newcomer and an invasive weed. An ancient healing plant, the seeds are said to be psychoactive, producing similar effects as LSD. We just need a baby-sitter for several hours so we can investigate…
We stopped for the night in Bloomsbury, knocking on the principal’s door of the local primary school to ask permisssion to camp the night. Sam, the school’s delightful principal, whole-heartedly agreed and offered us use of the staff’s bathroom and shower. Blessed warm water and a quiet place (after hours) to lay our heads. Thanks Sam!
For all the interrupting death we witnessed the day before on the Bruce, we instead found abundant life living among the sugarcane wastelands the next day, riding towards Proserpine.
Magpie geese eggs are certainly something we’d like to try, but will have to seek permission from local Indigenous elders before we do.
We spotted the magpie geese at Deadman Creek, just south of Proserpine, on the way to Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays,
another painfully beautiful area on the east coast of Australia done over by rampant corporate-bogan tourism,
with absolutely no evidence or recognition of the original culture, the Ngaro people, to be seen anywhere.
It was in Airlie Beach that we met up with community friends from Daylesford, and shared a camping ground site with them. We had four lovely days with Fiona, Tim and their kids Max and Rose, sharing meals, walks into town and along the beach,
and conversations about our respective research. Tim is currently working on the Healing Ground project, a work combining photography and oral history, recording Indigenous massacre sites and stories from around Australia from the descendants of those who suffered. Please support Tim’s project if you have a spare $20 or $50, or whatever you can.