Blog

A selection of our writings from 2009 to the present. If you'd like to keep up to date with our latest posts, please subscribe below.

From Bwgcolman to Djiru country: entering the wet (Cassowary) tropics

We jumped off the ferry from Palm Island late in the afternoon, grabbed some supplies and hightailed it out of Townsville for several kms until we found this little, unofficial, free camp site/ office at Bushland Beach.

We were fairly exhausted after a big learning week on Palm, so we travelled only a handful of kms north the next day too, to Bluewater’s official free camping ground, and where this lovely lady greeted us with tea, cake and a banana for Woody.

Thanks Irene! We set up camp on the sports oval,

and headed across the field to the community hall for the Friday night social to dance with the locals and caravaning nomads. The downside was we ate some really bad tucker that night, and with poor fuel in our tanks we sluggishly rode on to Rollingstone the following day and camped beside the Rollingstone River where turtles,

eels and black bream are in numbers plenty.

It was great to get some decent tucker again, tucker we were actively engaged in procuring,

and rest up for a few days.

Heading north from Rollingstone we came across Pandanus spiralis for the first time. This is why these trees are called screw palms and like pandanus species generally they have edible base leaves and kernels.

We rode back into sugar country as we approached Ingham and found excellent public interest billboards put out by the health ministry of the Artist as Family collective.

We’d heard there was a free camp ground behind the tourist info centre in Ingham, so we stopped in, only to find that bikes carrying small tents weren’t allowed, only RVs with their own toilets. We went inside the centre and politely asked if there was any free camping for non-polluters. Zero, like the rest of us, wasn’t impressed with their answer.

As it happens it was Woody and Patrick’s birthday so we celebrated by having a shower and washing our clothes, booking in for a night’s camp at the town’s carvan park. The next day after a fearless night’s sleep coralled by mobile nursing units and other such caravans we climbed the Hinchinbrook Range,

and entered Cassowary country and the base of the Cape York Pennisula, where these particular fruits grow.

The Beach Calophyllum or ball tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) is called Wiri by the Girramay people, who valued the kernel of the seed for its pain-relieving body oil. Nuts were eaten after a lengthy process of washing and roasting.

We arrived in Cardwell, a town recently rebuilt after Cyclone Yasi, and found another useful species, the Cardwell cabbage (Scaevola taccada).

The Cardwell cabbage, unlike the Camberwell carrot, is a coastal plant and the juice of the ripe fruits were traditionally used to sooth dry or inflamed eyes.

We fished on Cardwell jetty, but the previous days of wind had stirred up the mud in the water making visibility a problem for jagging white bait or silver spinning for trevally.

We free-camped looking out to this little vista, back-dropped by the ancient, mountainous Hinchinbrook Island.

We were nicely tucked in behind the public toilets in a local beach front municipal park, until the floodlights came on and played all night with our circadian rhythms.

We left Cardwell a little tired again, stopping to pick up some supplies from Sue’s Store,

including delicious sun-dried bananas. Sugar, temporarily, had a rival monocrop in this part of Queensland.

Not far out of town we rode into Martin, a cycle tourer from Newcastle in the UK. Hello Martin! Stay safe on the Bruce, our beloved Road of Death.

After another short day we stopped and rested at Bilyana.

This micro-touring is very agreeable, although the Bruce is considerably dull. Next stop Tully, an industrial town framed by the industry that cooks sugar into a more harmful drug than cocaine. We found little to sustain us,

so we headed to the Cassowary Coast where we found immediate sustenence in these Blue Quandongs (Elaeocarpus angustifolius).

They may be reported to have little nutritional value compared with other autonomous foods, but compare them with supermarket fare today and we’re sure they would romp it in. This was the first time we’d come across these beautiful sour, zingy blue fruits and they were pretty good eating. At Mission Beach we also came across scurvy weed (Commelina cyanea) in flower,

blue flax lily (Dianella caerulea),

and this supposed whichetty grub, the larvae of the cossid moth Endoxyla leucomochla. Although according to knowledgeable Matt (see below), it might be the larvae of a rhinoceros beetle (Dynastinae). If you know for certain Dear Reader, we’d love to hear from you. In two minds we decided not to experiment with eating this critter.

We did however have no qualms eating the delicious flowers and flower buds of the Cotton Tree (Hibiscus tilliaceus),

one of us gobbling them up with great gusto.

These beautiful flowers turn into these beautiful fruits and the leaves were traditionally used to make an infusion to treat wounds and ulcers.

We camped at Mission Beach in the council run caravan park, and met this beautiful lady, who bestowed on us gifts of homemade sauerkraut, yoghurt and tumeric she had grown at her local community garden and had ground herself.

Thanks Claire! We left the park topped up on fermented probiotics and headed north a few kms to do some fishing at Clump Point jetty, where we met this awesome couple:

Lavina and Hola. Lavina is an elder on council of the Djiru tribe, a descendant of the Clump Mountain people of Mission Beach. Hola, originally from Tonga, is her man. We fished with these two on the jetty on several afternoons,

and talked about raising children, Indigenous and non-Indigenous sovreignty and the ethics of killing animals, which to all of us concerned is nothing to do with sport. We asked Lavina’s permission to camp on her country, and she warmly agreed. We found a beautiful spot just north of the jetty on Narragon Beach.

We stayed a week, swimming in the fresh water coming into the sea,

washing there (using no soaps or detergents),

and fishing on the jetty where we caught yellow-fin trevally,

queenfish, jewfish and herring.

Each day we cooked fish on a small beach fire.

While in Djiru country we also came across a number of Great Morinda (Morinda citrifolia) trees, some with nearly ripe fruits or cheeses. When ripe the fruits apparently turn almost translucent white, smell like rancid cheese and can be eaten raw or cooked.

And we met many beautiful peeps as we settled in to this paradise where rainforest meets the reef, such as this sweet family:

Meet (from left) Matt, Eli, Jill and Nina. Nina, Jill’s sister, has co-written a local text on Indigenous foods and medicines in the area. We hope to get hold of a copy before we leave. 
And to top off a wonderful stay we reunited with the awesome Tom Dean, our fellow cycle-touring mate originally from cold Melbourne but equally comfortable up a coconut tree. 

This is our third hook-up with Tom and each time our little tribe has loved his company.

We have enjoyed your fine company too, Dear Reader and hope to share the next leg of our journey with you as it comes to pass. 

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

Entering the southern reaches of crocodile country (our week in Hervey Bay)

For the past week we have made a home in Hervey Bay, mostly living here,

in this abandoned caravan park. No services, no reception, no rules – just forest reclaiming bitumenous civility. We nestled in among the legume suckers, hidden, protected by their simple lifeways.

A public park with a toilet and a free BBQ was situated across the road where only three weeks earlier a four meter long crocodile was sighted, marking our entry into the next significant creature zone. We saw no evidence of crocodiles in this park, although we did find it very social.

The park spilled onto a small beach where we observed many tidal transitions.

For we southern inlanders, becoming calibrated to the tides has been critical when it comes to procuring what we call accountable food. Catching, killing, eating and praising fish consumes a considerable part of our day.