The days here in Queensland have been sunny and warm but the nights very cool. Before we left Bundaberg we went op-shoping for some warmer clothes. Woody scored this great vest.
Outside an opshop we met Clint, a local Kalki man. We got talking about bush food and he noticed Woody’s amber teething necklace. He told us that witchetty grubs (Endoxyla leucomochla) are a natural anaesthetic and that teething babies were traditionally fed the grubs to numb the gums. Clint also told us he is a kind of pastor but that he didn’t need to preach to us because we already knew our path. That path, for now, continues north on some quieter roads.
Building knowledge on the life forms around us that provide food fit for human consumption free of monetary interference and ecological damage is another path we’re simultaneously following. Finding ripe passion fruits fallen onto public land on the outskirts of Bundy may not seem like much,
but first sights can be deceiving.
We had a quiet ride to Avondale passing more of Queensland’s great obesity fields,
but we skipped on the pesticidal cane, picking roadside citrus instead.
When we arrived in the one-pub locality of Avondale we had Zero’s basket half-filled with autonomous medicine,
and we were greeted with the prospect of a free camping spot and shower.
Not only is Avondale generous to travellers, it is also good to itself, recognising that community protection from greed and ecological intransigence is sound, long-term thinking.
We found a kitchen bench and got on with preparing dinner with some store-bought produce.
We woke with the sun after our first night’s sleep in our new tents. After many years of camping, the old ones had become irreparable. We donated them to a Bundy opshop as they would be great as children’s cubbies.
We started the day by collecting onions that had fallen off the back of a truck. No, really! Out of all the conventionally-grown vegies and fruits, according to the US Environmental Working Group, onions are the least contaminated with pesticide residue. For dumpster divers and others who rely on conventionally-grown foods this list is probably as good a guide as any.
Various autonomous species have accompanied us along the roads from central Victoria such as the scavenger ravens and crows. But this mushroom, Pisolithus sp. is one of the hardiest of them all. The preferred medium on which it builds its life is bitumen and its spores are carried by motorists, trucks and more than likely the humble treadlie.
We arrived in Rosedale a few days too early for Friday night bingo,
pitched our tents at the Ivan Sbresni Oval,
and while we brewed a billy, Zero got to work flushing out some local rabbits.
While he continued to hunt we processed his game, these non-industrial gifts of the land, as both food and textile.
We skinned and salted the pelts and poached the meat briefly,
before removing the bones and tossing the tender meat through a pasta dish of raw chopped garlic, olive oil, salt, kale and zucchini.
The next morning Woody had a lesson on herbivore dung recognition, an education in craps, scats and animal fats,
before we hitched up our gear, set a drying rack for the pelts,
and again drank the sun north. Another autonomous species which has become a favourite free food since Kempsey is the cut-and-come-again guava, which never seems to stop fruiting.
Just when we thought the season had ended, along comes another tree laden. This harvest was made just south of the micro town of Lowmead.
In this area the land was no longer flat and caney, but undulating and scrubby.
These country roads have been a pleasure to ride, and even though the townships themselves offer little cultural nourishment,
generosity always sticks its head out. The hotel staff kindly let us recharge our batteries while we had a beer and got talking to some of the locals. Brett, a retired army man, took us across the road to a friend’s house so as we could collect mandarins from her garden, and the pub was giving away grapefruit from another local’s tree.
We were going to camp at Lowmead but Brett told us about a free campsite 17 kms away on the Bruce Highway and we still had the afternoon to play. He warned us that the road to the highway was partly unsealed but not too rough. The complete lack of traffic was wonderful.
We arrived at the highway campsite to this laden orange tree to complete our three-day catch of free and preventative medicines.
But just to be sure we had enough vitamin C we gathered and hoed down a handful of chickweed that was growing at the rest area.
After little sleep (how have we made the same mistake twice to camp beside the Bruce?) we returned to the intense highway,
and rode to Miriam Vale where we discovered a little knowledge regarding some of the bush tuckers we’ll likely see more of as we continue north.
While exploring the public gardens Woody asked for his favourite bush tucker to chew on – the starchy base of lomandra leaves.
A little on the nose we booked a cheap room in the Miriam Vale Hotel, which came with a gorgeous view.
We had a 50 km ride to Tannum Sands, with little on the way to hold our attention, or time,
except of course for the inevitable memorials, which kept coming at phenomenal rates.
We arrived in the late afternoon. Patrick went for a spearfish, returning fishless and blue from the cold ocean. Near where we were to camp at Canoe Point we spotted this fine creature,
the Australian brushturkey (Alectura lathami), which according to another Indigenous man, Barry Miller, who we also met back in Bundaberg, is really good tucker. Woody took his afternoon nap while the rest of us went about our business.
We cooked dinner and waited for dark before we set up camp.
Having earlier seen a council warning sign we went to bed a little nervous about crocodiles, but after some cursory phone research we discovered attacks by crocs in Australia have only occurred in or on the edge of water, never through a tent and never this far south. We awoke to a beautiful, unlawful camp ground,
and conceptually snubbed our noses at all the rip-off caravan park operators in the country wanting to charge us $40 a night for a patch of dead ground near a toilet block surrounded by caravans and motor homes.
From Tannum Sands we looked across the water to the Boyne Smelters, one of the industries that has made the small city of Gladstone momentarily affluent and no doubt permanently toxic.
For the next two nights we stayed with couchsurfing host Mike Koens. Mike lives just outside Gladstone with his housemate Paul, dog Rocko and three cats Girlfriend, Boyfriend and Thor. Mike works for Boyne Smelters as an air-conditioning and refrigeration man.
He told us that Gladstone’s mining boom is well and truly over, the housing market has slumped and he has begun his own transition to a more environmental life, collecting solar radiation and water from his roof, growing his own wood to heat his house and starting to grow his own food.
While we stayed with Mike we helped him turn his soil, removing couch grass from where his crops will soon thrive. We also helped him chop wood and we cooked for him. It’s no accident that synthetic medicine goes hand in hand with industrial food and energy. The pharmaceutical industry thrives on an unwell population that eats empty and lifeless food and uses cars for all travel.
“Is there anything you might do today,” the writer Padgett Powell timely asks of us, “that would distinguish you from being just a vessel of consumption and pollution with a proper presence in the herd?” Yes there is Padgett, thanks for asking.