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Picking up and setting down new and old friends (from Violet Town to Jingellic)

Leaving David Arnold’s highly productive Murrnong Farm was difficult. We worked for a few days within a (micro) global village where kid goat feeding, beer bottling, pancake and sourdough making, elder flower champagne producing, last season’s chestnuts into hummus creating, mulberry picking and orchard netting activies flowed between stories and laughter and shared meals. Thanks Dave, Nils, Benny, Shyeni and Coufong.

Not wanting to burn ourselves out early on this 20 event book tour in 90 days, we rode to the Violet Town train station and made use of the bike and dog friendly train services again before they dry up in NSW. NSW Rail don’t allow non-human kin on their trains (with the exception of assistance dogs, and bikes, annoyingly, have to be flat packed meaning that’s it’s a ridiculously big job to undertake as bike parts have to be taken off and specialty tools and excessively large cardboard boxes have to be carried.) We arrived in Wangaratta and headed onto the Wang to Beechworth rail trail. We visited the same abundant Mulberry tree as we did in 2013,

and hunted the same (possibly) Charlie carp in one of the creeks. He outcarped us again.

Taking off again in spring has many advantages. New possibilities for life are everywhere and we are lead by a general atmosphere of renewal.

We made camp at the disused community tennis courts at Everton Station,

and landed at our guest digs in Beechworth,

at Pete and Anni’s place. They’d heard of our travels and got in touch. Thanks so much kind hosts and kind dogs!

Meg and Woody helped out in their veggie patch,

while Patrick helped Pete sort out the felled radiator pine into useable parts,

before we all had a wash, Woody in his typical fashion.

Our book event in Beechworth comprised of a lovely crowd, hosted by Diane at her excellent independant bookshop.

On the way out of Beechworth an invitation to stay in Wodonga was shouted from a passing car, and although we quickley exchanged social media handles, we were headed for Yackandandah to stay with Warm Showers hosts Matt, Michelle and Tarn. Sadly Matt had left for work before we took this photo:

We were a perfect match with this family. Woody and Tarn soon became good mates,

and so did we with a portion of the town folk. What a darn friendly village Yack is!

We had a second night down by the Yackandandah Creek,

before pushing off the next day and copping our first puncture.

Woody wants to know everything and asks his parents a thousand questions every day. Not quite a thousand answers, his parents have much to learn too, such as, what is this fruit? Is it a parasite, a geebung or wattle nut?

With air back in all four tyres we treadlied to Albury where a dude Patrick used to play football with at university lives and invited us to stay. Patrick hadn’t seen Mick for over 20 years and hadn’t been in contact and what’s more we didn’t even get to meet him as he was away for work. We stayed with his gorgeous wife Bernie and tenacious teen Paris and they embraced us like long lost kin. Thanks Bernie, home from a morning’s run!

And thanks Mick, who hooked us up with the Border Mail to do a story. He also insisted we get in touch with pollinator guru and local permaculturalist Karen Retra and her man Ralph,

and we were given a tour of their pollinator-friendly, south-facing 1/4 acre that is either all under food production, under habitat creation or both in the same breath.

Karen in turn hooked us up with ABC Goulburn Murray and we were interviewed at length about our adventuring before we collided with Roy, a cycle tourer from Japan.

Roy accompanied us to our 5th book event where we met a lively cross-section of local sustainability activists, permies and ecologists. What an awesome crew!

Our community friend Mara met us in Albury and we rode with her and Roy along the majestic Murray River Road crossing back into Victoria.

What a joy it was to ride with these happy bike-campers along such a quiet, almost carless road,

and to wake to such mornings.

To top it off our book was ‘Pick of the week’ in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

We farewelled Mara at Kennedy’s Reserve and Roy at Jingellic where he videoed an Artist as Family jam sesh,

before we settled in to one of the prettiest free camp sites in Australia, cooking up plantain, sow thistle and flatweed to add to the evening pasta, breakfasting on carp and dandelion coffee,

and generally hanging out, getting to know the virtues of the Upper Murray River.

We have much gratitute for those we meet along the way. Those who come to ride with us. Those who put us up for the night. Those that nourish us as food. The roads we travel. The fellow campers. The community of the living that fuels all this possibility.

Ups and downs

From 34 degrees celsius in the shade at Colac Colac (note the bike rider’s stockings),

to an overnight low of 6 degrees at Paddys River Flats free camping ground, just shy of Tumbarumba,

it has been a short leg of ups and downs, but mainly ups.

We left Colac Colac refreshed and recharged ready for what we knew would be a few big days in the saddle, regardless of which route we took.

We wanted to go through the Snowy Mountains (Khancoban, Thredbo, Cooma etc), but we have Zero with us and (the long and the short of it is) dogs are only permited to pass through National Parks in climate changing cars. Say it like it is Zero!

So we headed north, crossing the Murray into New South Wales at Towong,

and climbed and climbed and strained and at times got off and pushed our heavy loads

right up into the clouds

so we could look out across to Tidbillaga, one of the many Indigenous names for the Snowy Mountains,

and like true ecological mammals, return some precious nutrients to the soil before tackling the afternoon’s ascent.

It was an extrutiating 64 kms to Paddys River Flats where the weather turned cold and wet and Woody experienced rain on a tent for the first time. Things got a little wet overnight so we packed up and cooked breakfast in the camp ground amenities,

before we realised Patrick’s bike had more issues, this time electrical. With the climb up such ascents as Clarkes Hill (742m above sea level) we’ve been relying on some electrical assistance. Now we’re in NSW the stretches between towns is greater and the chance to recharge the bikes reduced.

Out of the half dozen or so campers at Paddys River Flats was Graeme, a fully licensed electrician. We couldn’t believe our luck.

Graeme scrutinised the root cause of the problem while his partner Julie brought us all cups of tea. He ascertained that moisture had got into the controller, something not fixable in the bush, so he offered to take Patrick’s panniers into Tumbarumba when he went in to do some shopping and we set off to climb another 18 km into town and find a camp spot here,

hidden behind the melaleucas in the town’s park, nestled among the leaf litter

where we can fish for trout, use the municipal BBQs, toilets, power, playground, drinking water, wake with the birds, wait for a new controller to arrive, and

generally practice our particular form of creative frugality.