and hit the road with itchy pedals and gay hearts.
We cycled a little uphill, a lichen downhill,
but mostly it was flat. On this sunny winter’s day we four mammals on our four inflated tyres passed a number of flattened fauna memorials,
which were by far the most significant things we came across on the rather uneventful road to Howard.
Howard is a proud coal-mining and timber town established at the expense of the Butchulla peoples, just inland from the Great Sandy Biosphere.
We camped near the local skate park, setting up our tents on dark among the wattles, gums and paperbarks, beside the supposed crocodile-free Maria Creek and woke,
to another chilly, though blessed sun-filled day. Woody tried on his old man’s hat for size,
before we departed the town for the dreaded Bruce Highway; a road unavoidable for the short (30 km) ride to Childers. Yes, we now agree with the Queenslanders we have met who have also bemoaned how Queensland motorists have a far lower BQ (Bicycle Intelligence) than drivers in Victoria and NSW. The roads are simply terrifying to all forms of fauna.
This is the carnage we witnessed on our first leg of the Bruce. We could ignore all this machine-derived death but it is so prevalent on these roads, alongside the systemic pollution and excruiating noise. Everything else to a bicycle tourer is washed out, backgrounded. And, while we know that in a car none of this violence really exists (such is the speed and sound-proofed estrangement of motorised travel) you can not disappear it on a bike. We stopped in Childers for supplies, rode on for several kms and arrived at a free camping spot at Apple Tree Creek and found our last memorial for the day.
Before pitching our tents we had to dry off the morning’s dew ahead of nightfall and another wet and cold morning.
Needless to say, being so close to the Bruce Highway didn’t enable much sleep, but miraculously we awoke in good spirits, dried and packed up our tents and before we rode off with bellies full of oat porridge, sultanas, chia seeds, raw ginger and local honey, along came Bernie Creagh,
a teacher from Sydney on his $15 tipshop bike. We enjoyed meeting Bernie, his spirit was a reminder of all the good reasons we cycle. Although we were going to be taking different roads, meeting Bernie harbingered a wonderful day ahead, starting with an early departure from the Bruce and getting onto the quieter Isis Highway to Bundaberg.
Monocultures reign in Queensland, sugarcane being the King Wally of them all. But on the Isis Highway an Indigenous plant, generally found in a diverse forest ecology, formed another monoculture of note.
We were drawn to stop and investigate a little further and soon discovered gleanable gold.
We got to work and were instantly reminded of Agnès Varda’s beautiful film, The Gleaners and I, as we bent and gathered the undesirable wastes of last season’s crop.
We harvested several bags of the macadamia nuts and rode on towards Bundaberg with a song in our pedals. We stopped at a roadside resting place, took out the hatchet and feasted, trying not to spoil the moment and think about what pesticides must be used in such a monoculture,
while also singing the praises, at this rest stop, of non-treated rain water. For travellers this can be a rare thing to come by. We tipped out the foul tasting chemical-treated bore water we were carrying and filled our bottles (trying not to notice the questionable peeling paint on the roof iron – the water tank’s catchment).
We left the rest stop with the promise of an unusually friendly prohibition,
well almost friendly, and legged it to Bundy passing our very first sighting of these generative creatures,
the magestic magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata), as well as more signifiers of extractive technologies working against life as we approached the city of rum and ginger beer.
It was in Bundaberg we stayed with our first couchsurfing family. Meet Ange, baby Sophia, and boys Santiago (left) and Gabriel.
Ange so generously hosted us for two nights, and we enjoyed talking all things parenting, home-educating, community living, permaculture activism and many more positive things. Thanks Ange! Your home was a temporary sanctuary from the intensity of bicycle and tent life.