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From Bwgcolman to Djiru country: entering the wet (Cassowary) tropics

We jumped off the ferry from Palm Island late in the afternoon, grabbed some supplies and hightailed it out of Townsville for several kms until we found this little, unofficial, free camp site/ office at Bushland Beach.

We were fairly exhausted after a big learning week on Palm, so we travelled only a handful of kms north the next day too, to Bluewater’s official free camping ground, and where this lovely lady greeted us with tea, cake and a banana for Woody.

Thanks Irene! We set up camp on the sports oval,

and headed across the field to the community hall for the Friday night social to dance with the locals and caravaning nomads. The downside was we ate some really bad tucker that night, and with poor fuel in our tanks we sluggishly rode on to Rollingstone the following day and camped beside the Rollingstone River where turtles,

eels and black bream are in numbers plenty.

It was great to get some decent tucker again, tucker we were actively engaged in procuring,

and rest up for a few days.

Heading north from Rollingstone we came across Pandanus spiralis for the first time. This is why these trees are called screw palms and like pandanus species generally they have edible base leaves and kernels.

We rode back into sugar country as we approached Ingham and found excellent public interest billboards put out by the health ministry of the Artist as Family collective.

We’d heard there was a free camp ground behind the tourist info centre in Ingham, so we stopped in, only to find that bikes carrying small tents weren’t allowed, only RVs with their own toilets. We went inside the centre and politely asked if there was any free camping for non-polluters. Zero, like the rest of us, wasn’t impressed with their answer.

As it happens it was Woody and Patrick’s birthday so we celebrated by having a shower and washing our clothes, booking in for a night’s camp at the town’s carvan park. The next day after a fearless night’s sleep coralled by mobile nursing units and other such caravans we climbed the Hinchinbrook Range,

and entered Cassowary country and the base of the Cape York Pennisula, where these particular fruits grow.

The Beach Calophyllum or ball tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) is called Wiri by the Girramay people, who valued the kernel of the seed for its pain-relieving body oil. Nuts were eaten after a lengthy process of washing and roasting.

We arrived in Cardwell, a town recently rebuilt after Cyclone Yasi, and found another useful species, the Cardwell cabbage (Scaevola taccada).

The Cardwell cabbage, unlike the Camberwell carrot, is a coastal plant and the juice of the ripe fruits were traditionally used to sooth dry or inflamed eyes.

We fished on Cardwell jetty, but the previous days of wind had stirred up the mud in the water making visibility a problem for jagging white bait or silver spinning for trevally.

We free-camped looking out to this little vista, back-dropped by the ancient, mountainous Hinchinbrook Island.

We were nicely tucked in behind the public toilets in a local beach front municipal park, until the floodlights came on and played all night with our circadian rhythms.

We left Cardwell a little tired again, stopping to pick up some supplies from Sue’s Store,

including delicious sun-dried bananas. Sugar, temporarily, had a rival monocrop in this part of Queensland.

Not far out of town we rode into Martin, a cycle tourer from Newcastle in the UK. Hello Martin! Stay safe on the Bruce, our beloved Road of Death.

After another short day we stopped and rested at Bilyana.

This micro-touring is very agreeable, although the Bruce is considerably dull. Next stop Tully, an industrial town framed by the industry that cooks sugar into a more harmful drug than cocaine. We found little to sustain us,

so we headed to the Cassowary Coast where we found immediate sustenence in these Blue Quandongs (Elaeocarpus angustifolius).

They may be reported to have little nutritional value compared with other autonomous foods, but compare them with supermarket fare today and we’re sure they would romp it in. This was the first time we’d come across these beautiful sour, zingy blue fruits and they were pretty good eating. At Mission Beach we also came across scurvy weed (Commelina cyanea) in flower,

blue flax lily (Dianella caerulea),

and this supposed whichetty grub, the larvae of the cossid moth Endoxyla leucomochla. Although according to knowledgeable Matt (see below), it might be the larvae of a rhinoceros beetle (Dynastinae). If you know for certain Dear Reader, we’d love to hear from you. In two minds we decided not to experiment with eating this critter.

We did however have no qualms eating the delicious flowers and flower buds of the Cotton Tree (Hibiscus tilliaceus),

one of us gobbling them up with great gusto.

These beautiful flowers turn into these beautiful fruits and the leaves were traditionally used to make an infusion to treat wounds and ulcers.

We camped at Mission Beach in the council run caravan park, and met this beautiful lady, who bestowed on us gifts of homemade sauerkraut, yoghurt and tumeric she had grown at her local community garden and had ground herself.

Thanks Claire! We left the park topped up on fermented probiotics and headed north a few kms to do some fishing at Clump Point jetty, where we met this awesome couple:

Lavina and Hola. Lavina is an elder on council of the Djiru tribe, a descendant of the Clump Mountain people of Mission Beach. Hola, originally from Tonga, is her man. We fished with these two on the jetty on several afternoons,

and talked about raising children, Indigenous and non-Indigenous sovreignty and the ethics of killing animals, which to all of us concerned is nothing to do with sport. We asked Lavina’s permission to camp on her country, and she warmly agreed. We found a beautiful spot just north of the jetty on Narragon Beach.

We stayed a week, swimming in the fresh water coming into the sea,

washing there (using no soaps or detergents),

and fishing on the jetty where we caught yellow-fin trevally,

queenfish, jewfish and herring.

Each day we cooked fish on a small beach fire.

While in Djiru country we also came across a number of Great Morinda (Morinda citrifolia) trees, some with nearly ripe fruits or cheeses. When ripe the fruits apparently turn almost translucent white, smell like rancid cheese and can be eaten raw or cooked.

And we met many beautiful peeps as we settled in to this paradise where rainforest meets the reef, such as this sweet family:

Meet (from left) Matt, Eli, Jill and Nina. Nina, Jill’s sister, has co-written a local text on Indigenous foods and medicines in the area. We hope to get hold of a copy before we leave. 
And to top off a wonderful stay we reunited with the awesome Tom Dean, our fellow cycle-touring mate originally from cold Melbourne but equally comfortable up a coconut tree. 

This is our third hook-up with Tom and each time our little tribe has loved his company.

We have enjoyed your fine company too, Dear Reader and hope to share the next leg of our journey with you as it comes to pass. 

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.