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Diurnal dreamings and cold mornings (from Gladstone to Rockhampton)

We left Mike’s on the outskirts of Gladstone and rode to Calliope where we lunched near this Georg Baselitz inspired nudist colony.

We were approached at this raucus place by a local journalist and our story was scribbled down beneath the utter screeching. We republished it in our last post. From there we had just enough daylight to ride to a free camp site on the Calliope River.

The gradual emergence of crocodile warning signs is certainly imprinting as we move north, but the locals don’t seem that bothered.

The Bruce Highway was just far enough away from our camp that it wouldn’t disturb our sleep, the ice however did.

So, on the coldest night in Queensland for 100 years, we camped beside this very minor crocodile haven and shivered like all good mammals to generate enough heat in our down to 0 degrees sleeping bags.

For the first time in his life Woody experienced the pain of cold fingers.

We stayed a few days at this beautiful spot. Collecting firewood and keeping the home fire burning was a serious preoccupation of the evenings and mornings. Woody practiced new skills. As the old saying goes – chopping wood keeps you warm twice.

Our second morning was just as cool and we wore our entire wardrobes to keep warm around the morning’s porridge.

While his parents packed up camp and dried out the tents, Woody fished for bream and catfish, which are apparently in the river.

Needless to say we went away fishless from this spot, possibly due to the sudden dive in temperature. We left with other catches though. One significant fortune was a morning of quietness on the Bruce, sadly at others’ expense. The highway had produced yet another stunning truck and car accident just south of us, and as a consequence we had the shoulder and the northbound lane completely to ourselves while the road was closed for several hours. It was enjoyable riding,

and we got dreaming again about an achievable utopia,

that is until a coal train ran paralell and more roadkill woke us from our fantasy.

Another useful edible that we have followed along the roads through many climate regions is prickly pear (Opuntia stricta), and although not currently in fruit it is worth noting the places it keeps cropping up.

Just north of Raglan, after passing four car-struck grass owls (Tyto capensis) within 15 kms,

this striking survivalist,

this overgrown side lane,

and this intriguing weed (does anyone know what it is?) [Thanks for the answer Diane Warman, see comments]

we stopped under the Bruce, which we have started to call the Road of Death. We thought it lacked some structural and spiritual integrity so we performed a little healing ceremony,

and went to investigate the water lillies (Nymphaea gigantea) that we had initially stopped for. According to Lenore Lindsay, ‘Water lilies yield edible pods, seeds, celery-like stalks and tubers‘. We weren’t about to taste these particular ones growing in the toxic runoff from the Road of Death, but these autonomous edibles are just beginning to become common south of Rockhampton, and so we begin to build our knowledge of these age-old popular foods of the Darumbal people.

Rockhampton, more or less, is situated on the latitudinal circle-line of the Tropic of Capricorn, a line that is supposed to signal our departure from temperate to tropical climates.

But life is more nuanced than a line, even if this line is supposedly moving north at a rate of 15m per year. We have been passing through many subtle climate changes over the past eight months, each triggering transformations in the biosphere. A little exhuasted and in need of an extended rest from the road (and our performances upon and beside it) we have stopped here, in this motel on a weekly rate, to recharge and take a look around Rockhampton.

See you in a week!

Entering the southern reaches of crocodile country (our week in Hervey Bay)

For the past week we have made a home in Hervey Bay, mostly living here,

in this abandoned caravan park. No services, no reception, no rules – just forest reclaiming bitumenous civility. We nestled in among the legume suckers, hidden, protected by their simple lifeways.

A public park with a toilet and a free BBQ was situated across the road where only three weeks earlier a four meter long crocodile was sighted, marking our entry into the next significant creature zone. We saw no evidence of crocodiles in this park, although we did find it very social.

The park spilled onto a small beach where we observed many tidal transitions.

For we southern inlanders, becoming calibrated to the tides has been critical when it comes to procuring what we call accountable food. Catching, killing, eating and praising fish consumes a considerable part of our day.

We began by first catching bait fish such as these herring,

or garfish,

which we willingly ate, but also used as bait to catch larger fish.

Then on other occasions we caught nothing but quiet,

reflection,

and the chance to learn from others.

During the week we heard from Rore who posted a great comment on our Autonomous foods of Minjerribah post concerning the uses of Pandanus. When we came across a juvenile of this common coast dweller we got to work.

Rore told us that the base of the Pandanus heart leaves are also edible, so we broke in and discovered hidden starchy treasure.

Although delicious, and like eating the fruit raw, we experienced a mild scratchiness in our throats. This is because Pandanus spp contain oxalates, easily treated by cooking.

Earlier in the week we met Kelly and Wendy, who told us about the free camp site, invited us home for a warm shower, introduced us to their kin dog Bell and cats Leo and Mishka, and on our last night cooked us a beautiful dinner. Thanks Kelly and Wendy!

We also met local bike advocates Michelle and Luke from the Little Blue Tandem – a cafe and bike hire business. Here they are after trying out their shop’s new beach bikes.

They told us of a cycle tourist travelling up the east coast avoiding roads and keeping mostly to the beaches. Wow! What a great concept. Before leaving Hervey Bay Michelle and Luke gave us a beautiful care package of homegrown treats and a hand-knitted scarf. Thanks so much Michelle and Luke!

On our last night we booked into a youth hostel to camp, wash and recharge our electricals. Here we met two Dutch cycle tourers, Michel and Marion, who started their adventure in Melbourne about three months ago. Among other things we exchanged notes on the pleasure of cycle speed and living simply.

Once again we have itchy pedals and are ready for our next leg. But, have we made a decision to keep heading north or begin our descent south? For that answer you’ll have to wait and see.

Mixing it with the northerners (from Lawrence to Iluka)

We had three wet, windy but nonetheless restful days in Lawrence.

Our tents took a battering from two large storms but we remained fairly dry and warm. We fished catching only undersized bream (Abramis) from the Clarence,

and we learnt about these relative newcomers, cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis), which are the smallest species of egret that live in this region.

This country is blessed with a diversity of bird life no longer seen in most parts of the world, and every morning we wake in some bird-rich neighbourhood singing their praises. But this region around Lawrence is even more exceptional for its bird life. Hundreds of feathered species live here as permanents or seasonal migrants, and all day their activity is pronounced in this quiet little town.

We made long leisurely walks and picked a belly full of guavas,

from this guy’s paddock,

which we woofed down with grunting rigour.

We tried some local cumbungi (Typha), from a roadside bourgie café, but found it was a little stringy at this time of year.

While in Lawrence pecans and guavas were our greatest finds,

and with local bananas and farm gate cucumber they made a fine start to the day.

After breakfast and after drying out the tents we departed Lawrence by catching the ferry punt across the Clarence.

We passed a barn that seemed to be in hiding, or was it just shy?

We passed houses that were being retrofitted for the aggregating effects of climate change – people are preparing even though their governments, who could greatly help mitigate the effects, are not.

We spotted a Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) that, like the beginnings of the sugar cane monocultures just south of Lawrence, signifies we are entering the north of Australia.

We arrived in Maclean to a spot of op-shopping (undies for Woody and some local pickles),

and looked for a place to camp. But none availed in Maclean so we rode on to Yamba, found a site on Hickey Island and moved in.
Looks magical doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled by the frame you’re peering through, this image doesn’t reveal the millions of tiny predators that all vied for our blood from the moment we arrived. This is more the reality:

If you’re not used to them, like us, sandfly bites are extremely itchy. Mozzies are definately preferred. We tried to forget both despite their large numbers in Yamba and headed along to the mid-weekly farmer’s market where we bought garlic, corn, zucchini, capsicum and a few of these old variety cucumbers.

In the public park where the markets were held we discovered pandanus fruit (Pandanus tectorius), parts of which are edible when roasted and parts can be eaten raw. A fruit we’re eager to try once we come across a ripe one.

Yamba also boasts edible community gardens throughout its streets, encouraging people to pick the herbs, fruits and vegetables growing there.

We like Yamba but felt we couldn’t camp another night because of the insect life, and so we decided to catch the ferry over to Iluka and ride 15 kms north to Woombah, where Deanne, the sister of the delightful Sonia who we met back in Avoca, was offering us hospitality. We had a few hours before the next ferry, so we set up a Woody nap tent in a local park (to say the mozzies swarmed here is no exaggeration),

while Patrick visited the local bike shop, as the tandem was having problems again. Bill from Xtreme Cycle and Skate took the rear wheel axle apart but didn’t have the right size cassette pawls to replace the ones he discovered were damaged. The tandem was still rideable though and we thought it could make it to a bike shop in Ballina. Despite his time and effort, and giving us a place to charge our phone, Bill refused payment. Thanks so much Bill!

We rolled onto the ferry and were greeted by the effervescent Linda, who accommodated a family on extra long bikes with great enthusiasm.

By the end of the ferry trip Linda had offered us her granny flat in Iluka. We were extremely grateful because the tandem didn’t last the short ride to Linda’s before it became unrideable. We were grateful too for a warm shower, something we hadn’t had for a week. Thanks for ferrying us to your sanctuary, Linda!

So, we were in Iluka, being hosted by a lovely lady and her son, Nicholas, with everything we required

except a particular bike part for a particularly uncommon bike. It was then that we sensed again our significant dependance on industrialised travel: the need for a specific bike part and a car, loaned to us by the lovely Deanne, to head into Lismore to obtain it. While driving there we passed a cycle tourer and were mortified that we were not, for this moment of the trip, part of his community. We discovered in Lismore that our bike problem was bigger than we thought, and we were going to have to wait several days, so we set about looking for some good food to stock up on,

with minimal packaging. Linda kindly offered us the flat until the bike was sorted. These forced stoppages certainly do work for us. We are able to rest now in beautiful Iluka, joining Woody for midday sleeps and taking walks through the Bundjalung rainforest that is home to these incredible public composting toilets,

(talk about biomimicry!), and walk across the rocks at low tide at Iluka Bluff in Yaegl country.

Without these forced stops we have the tendency to keep moving because there is nothing quite like having all that you need attached to your bike and taking off into the unknown again and again.

This life is becoming very addictive.

Home on the road (goodly relations from Taree to Coffs Harbour)

We stayed in Taree for a night at a fairly forgettable caravan park (our first in months), legged it to Queens Lake and free camped by the water’s edge for a brief dusk-to-dawn stay.

Zeph did the maths and calculated the sum we would pay if we stayed in caravan parks every night for our year on the road. It was $14,600, averaging $40 a night, just for a patch of ground to pitch our tents. Australia really is one continuous rip off if you follow the rules. We faced an 80 km ride to Kempsey to visit our dear friend Brett – our longest day in the saddle so far. Brett is temporarily back from doing volunteer work in Lebanon with Médecins Sans Frontières Australia, and as luck would have it, our timing aligned.

When Brett lived in Daylesford we did loads of great stuff together, including getting Daylesford Community Food Gardens and Critical Mass Daylesford up and cycling.

Brett’s family home sits just above the Macleay River,

and we were able to go out fishing for bass,

or just for pleasure.

While staying with Brett and his brother Kurt, we borrowed their scales to weigh our bikes, gear and ourselves.

One of the many common questions we get asked on the road is how heavy are the bikes?, so using Brett and Kurt’s scales we thought we’d find out.

We had three gentle, restorative days with Brett and Kurt before reloading the bikes for more northerly drifting. Thanks so much brothers love!

We meandered back to the coast through beautiful country following the Macleay River. Where we stopped to buy some farm gate produce we caught on camera Zeph losing control of Meg’s bike, which with Woody (12 kg) and without Meg (50 kg) weighs nearly 80 kg, demonstrating that our so-called drift requires quite some effort.

We rode into South West Rocks and arrived on dusk,

foraged dinner at the local fish and chippery, munched on our fresh farm gate goodies to top us up, set up camp down a bush track by torchlight and woke up early to move on before being discovered by the local ranger.

We had a morning’s scratch around the town and along the coast before following the Macleay River on its north bank back towards the Pacific highway. Along this road we stopped for a break and got talking to Peter, a local man-of-many-useful-trades. Peter and his partner Sonya, with whom we swapped notes about the political agency of growing your own food, later met us up the road with some of their home grown produce. Thanks sweet couple!

With our food pannier full to the brim we were back on the Pacific and soon cursing the way the shoulders kept disappearing, sighing with relief when they would reappear. It was along this section of road that we bumped into southbound American David, only the fifth cycle tourist we’ve seen in four and a half months.

Remarkably (and unrelated to David) a few minutes later came Phil, our sixth. We held a brief cycle touring conference. Phil was travelling with his suitcase and a folding bike, a novel approach to touring although, he said, it was a bit limiting because of the drag.

We parted ways with these solo southbounders and a little further on stopped for lunch, hard boiling Peter and Sonya’s organic duck eggs and devouring their delicious cucumbers.

It was only after lunch that we noticed the tandem had what was to be our first puncture, over 2100 kms into the trip.

We fitted the spare tube and headed to Nambucca heads, only to get another puncture in the same tyre on arrival. With our late entrance into the town and with threatening storm clouds brewing we booked into our first budget-breaking motel, for the sake of a bath.

The heavens opened overnight, while we attended to fixing the tubes, making dinner, washing clothes and bodies and indulging in a spot of bedroom TV. But after this brief sojourn into civility we were keen to get back to what we love doing best,

riding to the beautiful Valla Beach,

where we were again treated to some very heavy rain overnight and were thankful for the community shelter, in yet another non-camping reserve, to dry out our drenched tents the next morning.

After all these months of thinking about where we might land on this trip, Bellingen was always going to be a place of special interest. We let our bikes glide us into the town and guide us intuitively to a little public place where we could make lunch. Meg went into nearby Kombu, a wholefoods shop that would be included in anyone’s vision of an ecoutopia, to get a few more supplies. Meg soon came back with the proprietor, Kevin Doye, who to our pleasant surprise is one half of the awesome Bike 2 Oz couple, who Artist as Family had been inspired by years before.

Kevin and Lowanna (the over half of this wonderful duo) invited us to meet their family, shouting us an early dinner at one of the local cafés that supports local growers. It was fantastic to meet this family and share our cycle touring stories.

There is something very unique about Bellingen. Whereas there are similarities with our hometown Daylesford, things are less touristy in this mid north NSW town. Even though we have our share of wonderful things going on, Bello seems far less a tourist-pleasing spectacle, on its trajectory to environmental sustainability. Check out the town’s main vegie shop, for example. Notice the absence of packaging. Local people here don’t mind the inconvenience of lean logic, whereas at home the linage of twentieth century ‘indulgence tourism’ still poisons our community.

And then there is the twice-monthly farmers’ market, where again the emphasis is on bringing your own containers and eating locally.

There are the forageable public fruit trees, such as the avenue of orange trees planted very intentionally at the soccer fields as half time sweeteners, as well as autonomous fruit trees such as guavas, which have naturalised in the district.

Like home there are town notice boards demonstrating a rich social life.

And like home there is much needed environmental experimentation, such as the trial crop of a post crude oil fiber, fodder, fuel, food, medicine and building material plant.

We met the grower, Steve Henderson, who has close family ties with Daylesford and Hepburn, and we met the gorgeous Jay who just a few weeks before had photographed the joyous community harvest of Steve’s first crop. By chance we were lucky enough to capture Steve’s passion for industrial hemp on our little vid camera. (It’s not quite ready yet, we’ll let you know when this inspiring little snapshot becomes available).

Like home there are excellent community gardens in Bellingen,

and experienced volunteers, like these two chaps, Steve and Mark.

And like home there are many generous people, who engaged with our story. For three days we stayed with the delightful Gull, his boys Sol and Reuben, and his partner Linda, sharing food, parenting and narratives of transition.

When we left proto-utopian Bellingen we rode the back roads near promised land country,

and pitched our tents at Coffs Harbour airport

with a friend of Gull’s, Steve Hill, who runs Coffs City Skydivers and an awesome communal living environment.

With this destination we sadly farewelled Zeph, who after three months of being on the road headed home to be with his mum and his friends. We made family wrist bands using the fibre from Steve Henderson’s hemp, the method was taught to us back in Tumut by Wiradjuri ranger Shane Herrington,

and shedded tears for this growing boy’s independent departure into the skies that we older ones no longer travel.

Farewell Zeph! We’ll see you for the last three months of the trip. Thanks for everything you have brought to this adventure. We love you so sososososososososo much. And miss you already.

Our home on the road won’t be quite the same without you…

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.

Highland hopping; blackberries and carp

Having set up the tents and locked up the bikes we have walked into town to see what purchasable foods are on offer. Towns like Wallacia, we’re discovering, generally sell all kinds of the wrong sort of things. It is another hot day and the traffic tries to outcompete the male cicadas, whose shrill cacophony reaches fever pitch in the heat of the day. We walk back to our river hideaway with unloved bread, oats, juice and some tinned corn to help tempt fish onto the end of our line. We dwell on the magic of free camping, little or no amenities, just tree shade and river water and a nearby tap for drinking. We swim in the lovely cool water and some who come down to fish tell us they are horrified we are swimming in that dirty muck.

As we travel from state to state we’re finding many Australians are frightened by unsterilised environments and approach such autonomous places with contempt and dread. If we reply to such a phobia at all it is with something along the lines of: fish guts and duck poo are prefered friends over a cocktail of municiple-sanctioned corporate chemicals, or maybe something a little less wordy. We rarely if ever get sick. In fact it seems that the rougher we live the healthier we feel, provided we are eating well. Up in town we saw visions and heard stories of unwellness and hospitalisation, my father’s gone back in for treatment, the cancer has come back, said one obese woman. What sort of society allows foods that make people so unwell? While we’ll occasionally indulge in hot chips and industrial bread if there is nothing else, there is no better antidote to such impoverishment than the autonomous foods we are finding along the way. Foods such as blackberries (Rubus),

which, like plums, apples, spinach and grapes don’t need ad men to persuade us to eat them and are unparalelled sources of bioflavonoids and rich in Vitamin C. Like raspberry leaves, blackberry leaves make a great bush tea and are high in iron, magnesium, potassium and B-vitamins. Of course, we have to be careful with these generous autonomous foods because they too are often treated by councils on ideological grounds, which big chemical companies profit from. We always check the leaves and surrounding vegetation first to ensure they haven’t been sprayed. Straight off the plant there is nothing quite like this free, sweet medicinal treat. Well, perhaps except for this gorgeous plant.

Echinacea (Asteraceae), according to Medical News Today, is used to treat acid indigestion, chronic fatigue syndrome, diphtheria, dizziness, genital herpes, gum disease, malaria, migraines, pain, snake bites, rheumatism, septicemia and bloodstream infections, streptococcus infections, syphilis, the flu, tonsillitis, typhoid, urinary tract infections and vaginal yeast infections. We simply dry the flower heads and make a restorative tea with them. Although various university conducted studies have found varying results regarding the benefits of Echinacea, most likely none of them observe what other foods are being used in combination. If you try to throw in a delicate plant medicine on top of a diet of industrialised food the results will most likely be poor. Similarly, finding the right place to camp means getting proper rest from the intensity of bike touring, which is another type of medicine based on our wits not our wallets. On leaving Moss Vale, following the awesome bike track along the Wingecarribee River to Burradoo where the autonomous roadside apples were almost ripe to pluck,

we joined a continuous stream of bike-unfriendly traffic from Bowral to Mittagong before we were able to relax in apple orchard country at Yerrinbool and join the Old Hume Highway. This was the first bike touring leg of our trip that included Zeph, who came to join us in Moss Vale at Xmas. So with our full tribe of five beings on two bikes, we set off for Thirlmere Lakes National Park, 52 km away.

In order to have the freedom to live well and experience the profound fullness of this country we are having to write our own laws, which we believe are closer to Aboriginal sensibilities than European legalities. There are notices and rules everywhere, no doubt made for a growing number of dickheads that refuse to respect the land and its diverse critters and ecologies. Thirlmere Lakes does not accept dogs, camping, people after dark and in some places even the innocent bicycle is banned. With only our bikes to hide from rangers in the bracken understory we set up camp as the mozzies descended.

While in the park we kept Zero on a lead, not because his poo is polluting (he doesn’t eat canned or commercial dog biscuits and we bury all his organic wastes, and ours for that matter), but because there are signs around the park telling us 1080 poison bait has been put about. Zero may chase away but never catches birds such as this swamp hen perching out of harm’s way,

Rabbits are Zero’s preferred game, although he’s not much good at hunting them. So, in such a location, we devise that his potential to negatively impact the ecology is extremely low. Three thoughts emerged while we were at Thirlmere Lakes. Firstly, there should be exemptions for walkers and cyclists who wish to camp in all National Parks. There must be rewards for those who travel lightly in this day and age. Secondly, the use of 1080 is the very opposite of an environmental solution because the entire food chain is affected, not just the feral predators at the top. Once again governments are giving damaging chemical companies power by buying these non-solutions. Thirdly, it is not littering, we reflected as we picked up other peoples’ rubbish in the park or came across dumped waste,

that is the problem. All species litter. It is only now what humans leave behind that is damaging. To mitigate toxicity in our environments, business should be taxed heavily on all products they produce deemed to cause a negative effect by what is left of independent science. These would include such things as fast food and supermarket packaging, pesticides, plastics, petroleum products and poisonous baits, etc. When we emerged from our lake hideaway in the morning we were greeted by a happy group who go by the name of the Picton Puffers,

who offered us hot drinks, apple strudel and home-grown peaches. One enlightened soul from this gang of walkers and runners sang the praises of Sweden, who have laws that state that land owners must give one night’s access of a patch of ground on which travellers can camp. After a little research we discovered that this universal ethic is called Freedom to roam, and in Sweden is specifically called allemansrätten (the everyman’s right). Despite our increasingly privatised country, Australia is large enough geographically and still small enough in population to devise and implement our own rules for respectful, non-damaging and frugal travel. But alas, there are forces about that are against this ancient will-to-roam, as recently articulated by fellow camper, Bill Garner in The Age. We left the Puffers at Thirlemere Lakes, travelled on to Picton and camped beside a small creek that ran beside the town’s botanic gardens. We were told by the friendly council gardeners (who knew we were camping illegally and who encouraged our adventures) that the creek was inhabited by giant eels.

We didn’t come across any eels though there were plenty of ducks, prompting us to explain to the younger amongst us that semi-domesticated birds in a park are not fair game for food. We have never caught eels in Australia, although Meg caught and ate some in New Zealand many moons ago. They are something on our long list of autonomous meats we wish to hunt.

Another free meat that none of us have caught or consumed is carp, which is considered an environmental menace. So when we put up camp near the banks of the Nepean River near Wallacia

and set about fishing for Bass with surface lures, we very unexpectedly and unconventionally landed a good sized bottom-feeding carp. The young local boy who actually caught the fish was about to throw it back (after having his photo taken holding it) when Zeph asked whether we could have it. We knew carp would be good eating, despite the bad press it has in Australia, and after a little online research found that carp need to be eaten straight away or put on ice because as its body temperature rises it releases histamines that give the meat a muddy flavour. We did neither of these things, instead hanging the meat in night shade while we slept

and cooking it for breakfast the following day in olive oil we’d bought in Sutton Forest, organic garden-grown garlic we’d bought in Tumut and roadside toms we bought in Warregamba.

The result was delicious and we honoured this life by devouring every skerick of its wonderfully edible self as participants of the web of ecological life.

In order to move towards an ecological culture we need to become the biological controls, participatory ecologists (as our sensible friend Russell Edwards would say) and ecological playmakers (as we would say) that industrial culture has all but perverted in its short life. We need to reinstate a non-waste, non polluting sensibility in everything we do. It is not possible to do this if we go along with mainstream modes of living and ideologies, especially concerning travel and food consumption. All the prejudices surrounding the edibility of this now common fish dissolved with each mouthful. No muddiness was detected despite the Nepean being a heavily disturbed river with motor boats and storm water damage. People just aren’t hungry enough, proclaimed Meg.

Carp now joins our growing list of desirable autonomous foods that need to be eaten on the long march from economic to ecological rationalism.

After a few days on the Nepean we left our blissful river camp of muddy swimming and fish treats and headed towards Penrith in near heatwave conditions. We decided to stow Zero in a box and jump a train from Penrith up to the Blue Mountains to escape the scorching heat that was daily progressing in the foothills.

We spent a hot afternoon in Katoomba looking for a place we could secretly settle for a while and nearing dusk we met Shane, an awesome local who completely read our needs. He gave us a tour of some hidden locations,

from which we chose our quiet little camp spot,

a ten minute walk to the heart of town, and only a two minute amble to this hidden away billabong.

Shane, you are the embodiment of the universal spirit of the freedom to roam. Thank you! We will rest now and wash,

and bring you shortly, dear blog reader, a post or two of our Blue Mountains’ adventure.

Signing off with love and lessons learned for the future,

AaF.