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Crashes, kills, stacks and new edibles (Rockhampton to Mackay)

On leaving Rockhampton we discovered this strange scene:

The local council had laid fake grass beside the Bruce Highway, then an alive grass had penetrated the fake grass and remarkably grew until the council then sprayed it with glysophate (a poison Monsanto tells us is safe, as they did with Agent Orange and DDT). Someone then stubbed out their cigarette butt and threw it into the mix. The logic of the city is beyond us. Time to reconnect with the intelligence of autonomous, uncivil things.

Not far north of Rocky on the Ridgelands Road we came across bush cucumbers (Cucumis spp.),

which weren’t quite ripe,

although we did find one almost formed and ready.

And not far on again we came across our first Ber fruit (Ziziphus mauritiana), otherwise known as Chinee Apple, Jujube, Indian plum and Masau.

These small trees from south-east Asia have naturalised in northern Australia. We look forward to trying them next time now we know what they are.

We had decided on the Ridgelands – Glenroy Station route to avoid the Road of Death, but our rather paltry map didn’t warn us that most of the way to Marlborough would be gravel.

After 70 kms or so of riding we made camp beside the road, bloody exhausted.

Being on gravel certainly slowed us down, which was only a problem of water. We filled up two bottles at the Glenroy Crossing of the Fitzroy River, just in case we needed them. Zero’s iron constitution surely wouldn’t have a problem drinking this water.

This was cattle station country, and we got a view into this altered ecology firstpedal.

We also got a view of our own vulnerability without water. We banged on this farmer’s door to ask for a tap.

No one was home, so we took his water upon ourselves. Thanks unknown farmer!

Relief!! We passed water-savvy emus,

and motorised ones.

Aching, dust-covered and sorely parched we arrived in the little town of Marlborough, pulled up outside the pub and were immediately greeted by Jeff and Linda, who invited us home for an impromptu party.

After a bonfire and rowdy dancing sesh with several locals and a Swede, we passed out in their backyard caravan and awoke rested,

ate a delicious home-cooked breakfast then farewelled our new friends (hi Digs!),

and ventured back onto the Bruce.

Over the 31 kms that we rode that day from Marlborough to Tooloobah Creek we counted 212 individual road-killed animals on the left lane, shoulder and verge alone. Assuming the other side would produce a similar number (it certainly looked like it), we concluded that on this stretch of the Bruce Highway there was one roadkill every 75 metres of bitumen. Staggering!

This number exceeds tenfold the bodies we encounted along a 60km stretch of the Hume Highway last December. We stopped to rest at Tooloobah Creek Roadhouse and after only a few minutes of sitting in the shade witnessed this:

We were only moments from being roadkill ourselves. No one was hurt, the owners were even fairly jokey about it, praising insurance and airbags. We walked away from the amounting spectacle, set up our tents,

and went in search of some tucker.

The next day, as we were packing up to leave Tooloobah we were greeted briefly by a southbound Frenchman, Stephane, who was on a solo mission to cycle around the world.

It was a long hot day in the saddle. Temperatures are again starting to climb in this region known as the dry tropics. But Bruce was fairly good to us, only once, and for just a short time, turning his shoulder away so we had but a few hundred millimetres of safe path to balance on.

We’re getting fairly hardy to such travel. Failing a capsizing caravan or some such unavoidable situation coming crashing down on us, riding defensively makes touring dead-safe in Australia, even on the Road of Death. A road that can throw up delightful pastoral vistas,

bush lemons (Citrus limon),

and crazy pandanus sunsets.

We arrived on dusk at delightful Clairview where the Great Dividing Range pushed the Bruce to the Pacific’s edge. Apart from the short leg from Marlborough to Tooloobah Creek we had been covering around 70 kms each day and were fairly sore. We pitched our tents at a free camping ground for an extended rest.

We spent the following day drifting along the mangrove shoreline, playing in rock pools,

and learning more about shellfish,

such as these mud whelks (Terebralia sp.), found around the hightide line on mangrove mud in north and eastern Australia.

We collected several, broke into their shells and cooked them on a public BBQ.

Delish! We followed the same procedure with mangrove snails (Nerita spp.),

which were also delicious, just more rubbery in texture.

There were no shops in Clairview, but on most days this little charity store on the beach opened to the public selling all manner of things including home-grown produce. Bless. Thanks ladies!

We bought a pinapple ($2), a dozen eggs ($3) and a whole pumpkin ($3.50) and feasted with our foraged shellfish,

and other bush tucker including panadus leaves,

and a bag of goodies Meg gleaned on a walk around the little town.

After a day of rest we left Clairview recharged with a morning’s bowl of oats, chia seeds, ginger, raisins and honey under our lycra,

ready for another morning’s ride and day of discovery.

Accessible waterlilies (Nymphaea spp.), and no possibiliy of crocs in this roadside dam about 20 kms north of Clairview!

We’d been wanting to taste the bulbous roots of this plant for some time, and we weren’t disappointed.

So many discoveries on this long leg from Rockhampton and I guess we were getting fatigued, a day’s rest probably wasn’t long enough at Claireview and after eight and a half months on the road we had our first accident. We ran into eachother trying to converse on the noisey Bruce and Woody, sadly, came off worst.

Meg was also brusied and battered and hurt her wrist.

We hobbled into Koumala and set up camp,

treated Zero to a dose of fleabane (Conyza spp.) that we found growing nearby,

and treated ourselves to another early night. We were, alas, repeatedly woken by trucks and cane trains operating all hours.

Macadamia nuts,

coconuts,

and even the promise of magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata) eggs,

all mildly interrupted the dominant culture’s war on peoples’ health and the land as we rode into Sarina the next day,

and on to Mackay,

where the delightful Warm Showers host Jeanie met us and led us back to her home where we will rest and recover before returning once again to our home on the road.

Thank you Jeanie and Peppe for your über hospitality. It was so so lovely to meet you and two of your boys. Thank you for taking in our bedraggled selves and opening your peaceful, loving home to us,

especially when you where also hosting the delightful Igor and Luka, fellow cycle tourists from Switzerland and Italy.
We hope your life is filled with peace, too, dear reader. Much love from us in Mackay until our next update somewhere further north in a week or so. 
Aaf xx

On generative life and interrupting death (the prosaic roads from Hervey Bay to Bundaberg)

Well, as some of you may have guessed, our decision has been to keep riding north and follow the sun, even if this means catching a train south for part of the journey to be home by January. On our last morning in Hervey Bay we left our camping site in the grounds of the local youth hostel,

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.