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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.

Tagging, birthing and ploughing radical identities

As artists, homeschoolers, public transportees, community witnesses, friends and as family we travelled to Melbourne today. We arrived early because (by chance) Woody woke us in time to catch the first bus. We walked the drizzly city streets and Zeph bodytagged the laneways, not with toxic paint but with biophysical exuberance.

We lost ourselves in the dreary dreamy morning and only after asking a passer-by for the time did we then run to the County Court to meet our community friends and persecuted midwife, Sally. Sally is another independent midwife hunted by a nanny-state that foregrounds institutional hysteria over feminine intuition, ethics and rights. One of the central arguments against her was that the public needs protection from such risk, yet outside the court the state was ratifying cars, Coke and climate change. Ideologies of mass toxicity and pollution reign in an abuser’s paradise while loving independent midwives are deemed a threat to ‘the public’.

Today, Sally’s verdict was basically the final nail in the coffin of her long practice as an independent midwife and marks a further erosion of rights for women. The legal costs and the rulings handed down from the so-called expert panel have made it impossible for her to appeal and keep practicing. A number of us, as representatives of all who love and respect Sally, rose early to travel for a few hours to support her. This is a person who was awarded the highest acknowledgement in our community at the International Women’s Day Honour Roll celebrations two years ago.

Sally’s great mistake was that she spent more time adorning, caressing, heartening and massaging the mothers she cared for and not enough time filling out forms and following a patriarchal-Cartesian regime of risk assessment and legal accountability. All the letters from the mothers of the births under investigation were ignored, and so too the fact that the overwhelming majority of mothers Sally tended were able to birth in the manner that respected their wishes, free from the panic of obstetrics, clock-time and legal risk assessors that shape all decisions a birthing ward makes. If any mothers had written criticism of Sally we’re sure this would have been used against her, but instead all our letters of support relating to her case were blatantly ignored.

We left the court teary-eyed and Artist as Family walked soberly to the State Library where we saw an exhibition of another state-made outlaw, Ned Kelly. Homeschooling Zeph has enabled so much more flexibility in our family life, so that learning has become more applied, less abstract and much more relational. We marvelled at Ned Kelly’s armour made from parts of an old plough. This was engineered by a blacksmith evidently sympathetic to the politics of the Kelly gang who were in turn abhorred by the smug ruling elite who had brought class war to what had always been a classless country. In another exhibition we observed an early painting of our home town’s main street, intrigued by the inaccuracy of the painter, and more than aware of the terror Jaara people must have experienced at this time, so picturesquely absent from this civil street scene.

Today we thought about those who are persecuted; the likes of Julian Assange, Ned and Sally. All three are bound by a staunch belief in peoples’ basic rights for self-determination. All three share various experiences of homeschooling and all three have been cowardly persecuted by those who wish to control us.