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.
With much love, Artist as Family