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A mixed bag of fruit – some edible, some toxic (Maleny to Hervey Bay)

We left the lovely Gary in Maleny and headed west with the promise of some downhill cruising. 

But before we descended the high country we found some familiar friends, Slippery Jacks (Suillus luteus) in a typical spot, underneath a copse of pines.

These mycorrhizal (symbiotic relationship with plant roots) mushrooms have pores instead of gills, as you can see in this picture. As far as we are aware there are no poisonous pore mushrooms in Australia. At the bottom of the hill we found a free BBQ and while Patrick cooked our haul of slipperys with herbs and eggs from Gary’s, Meg checked Zero and Woody for ticks.

We were making our way to Kenilworth when we came across this lovely park. Wow! Imagine how Australia could be transformed if this was the norm rather than the exception.

The further inland we rode the more we had the road to ourselves and the more we didn’t have to listen out for cars and could engage instead with our creaturely intuitions.

We arrived in Kenilworth mid-afternoon and found the local artisan cheese shop we had heard so much about. We bought 500 gms for $3 and set about devouring it in record speed.

We have become big eaters on this trip. Food is our major fuel and we burn it off at a rate of knots. Getting the right kind of fuel sometimes proves difficult so seeking out forageable foods, organic farms and gardens, small growers and producers and community grown goodies has become a significant part of our daily performances.

By the time we left Kenilworth we didn’t have much light left to find a camp, and not long afterwards Patrick’s right gear cable snapped. We pulled over at a little park just out of town to see whether it was suitable for an emergency camping spot when David, who lives across the road, appeared, inviting us to spend the night at his house. David and Patrick quickly got to work to make the bike rideable for the next day’s ride. Thanks David!

A number of people live at David’s in varying forms of permanency. This is Carl, who cooked us all dinner on the wood fuelled fire. Carl is a descendent of the Bigambul people and a survivor of the stolen generation.

Carl’s indigenous name is Purri, which means spiritual hunter and he told us a little about his time out bush living on bush tucker, hunting feral animals and employing bush medicines to heal himself, specifically talking up the power of the Bangalow palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) to strengthen bones, although he didn’t divulge the specifics of how to use it. He told us his family, who live on country, are very sick, which he puts down to fracking in the area as their illnesses followed the development of nearby CSG drilling. Carl is also an artist. While at David’s we met another talented man, Keith, who shines in making traditional long bows out of bamboo. Keith kindly oiled our bow with Tung oil and gave us a cover to protect it from the weather. Thanks Keith!

The following day, after farewelling our new friends, we faced a 60 km ride to Gympie, to the nearest bike shop. Despite David and Patrick’s hard work on the bike, the tandem had just three working gears. It wasn’t going to be an easy ride, but it was a beautiful day and beautiful country,

and again not much traffic to worry us.

We arrived in Gympie for a late lunch. Patrick was especially exhausted, sorely missing the other 24 gears on the hilly entry into this large regional town, large enough to support two bike shops. Dave, at Pedal Power, is a fellow tandem rider and his shop was the obvious choice to look for extra long gear cables. Thanks Dave!

Fellow cycle tourer and writer Greg Foyster told us we must avoid the Bruce Highway at all costs, so from Gympie we mapped our route to do just that,

and headed west to Widgee, stopping at a mid-week garage sale where the owners were moving to a wetter region because they couldn’t afford to keep buying in their water.

It was at this sale we bought Woody his first bow and arrow for 50 cents.

Later on, after arriving in Widgee, Patrick gave Woody a lesson,

We toured around the town on dusk looking for a place to camp,

and when we found it, the afternoon’s warm sun wasn’t the only gold we discovered.

Early season loquats (Eriobotrya japonica), one of our favourite autonomous fruits. Loquats are a rare species that has adapted to many climates, and like the Australian Ravin (Corvus coronoides) has followed us from home all the way into Queensland. The Widgee community centre made for a great overnight stay and the next morning we used the cricket pavillion to string up a line for our dew sodden tents.

As we have moved away from the (politically) green belts of southeastern Queensland, the roads are getting more dangerous. Sure, there’s less traffic, especially the ones we’re carefully choosing, but drivers seem more oblivious to cyclists than anywhere we’ve been so far in Australia. We decided to start documenting this phenomenon, riding with our camera ready – this truck literally drove us off the road and lucky for us there was something to ride onto.

We stopped for lunch in Woolooga, a town that boasts a pub, an Indian resturant and a town hall. Two whopping floods in the past decade have submerged the town.

We tried all three local establishments and the public toilet block, finishing at the pub to ask for directions and road advice.

On the way out of town we came across these two future community-scaled coolamons,

and we picked up some vegies for the evening meal.

We arrived in Gundiah at beer o’clock,

and Zero got to work charming the locals.

We pitched our tents at the back of the hotel, took a warm shower, and hit the hay.

In the morning we were gifted some organic home-grown kale by the lovely Alison. Alison’s five year old son Banjo had grown the kale in his own garden on the family’s farm. Thanks Banjo! Alison has recently returned to the cattle farm she grew up on and is looking into the ways she can work with her father to transition the farm to a more sustainable way of operating, reminding us of the great film, A Farm For The Future.

We rode on to Maryborough, making yet another crossing of the Mary River west of Tiaro,

and came across our first sighting of a pineapple farm.

In Maryborough we found a garden stall selling these tropical delights and used a $2 coin we had earlier found on the road to procure one of them.

We eagerly found a park in which to devour it. It was the best tasting pineapple we’d ever had.

On dark that park became home for the night.

We woke early, packed up the tents wet and rode east towards Hervey Bay. We would have to wait for the fog to lift to dry out our wet things.

We were completely exhausted when we arrived. We have travelled 260 kms in the past six days, having not really found a place to properly rest, and quite troubled about the mental state of some drivers on the road. What’s more, we arrived in Hervey Bay to find these kinds of attitudes:

World damaging vehicles in; low impact bikes and dogs out! And, is that bumper sticker the Iron Cross cradling an Aussie flag?? Woah!

The churches in this part of Queensland seem to be getting bigger and bigger and the architectual aesthetic appears to celebrate not critique industrialisation.

We’ve also found a general compliance to rules here in Queensland, which we haven’t seen elsewhere. If we ask someone in the street for a good place to free camp we get moralistic responses, as if rules are there to be obeyed regardless of their idiocy or oppressive nature. This sort of compliant culture really plays into the hands of manipulative authority. We took to the beach to find some solace.

We think we’re getting close to turning south. This is a big decision for us as it has been seven and a half months of slowly moving north. Weatherwise it makes sense to keep heading north for a while longer, but we may have to don some winter woollies and start our descent. We hear it’s all down hill on the way home south.

The Newcastle moment

Newcastle would have to be one of the most likeable Australian cities. ‘Keep Newcastle Weird’ was a slogan we admired on the streets. It is a great place to find your own sub-culture and it has a climate that sings to be lightly dressed and loosely behaved. The scale of Newcastle is probably the key to its liveability, and the coastline, which is highly accessible, is transformative.

We had made a few local friends from our previous adventure in 2009, but never fathomed making so many others this time around. Some of whom invited us to stay with them, like Fiona and Phil that featured at the end of the last post, and Michelle and Tom and their boys Sonny and Max, who put on a bonza BBQ on our first night with them.

This artist as family clan playfully call themselves Boghemians. Of an evening and in dream states, Zeph and Zero became part of the art of this vibrant home.

Riding through the streets we met stay-at-home dad Billy and his kids Charlie and Isabelle. They were riding around on a cargo bike Billy had brilliantly fashioned from mostly reclaimed parts.

Billy invited us back to his home where we were able to put Woody down for a long sleep. Billy and his partner Amy, briefly home from work, hosted us for lunch, while Charlie also had a snooze.

We stayed and shared meals with Suzie, Dom and Bowie,

a gorgeous family Fiona and Phil had introduced us to and who live near the Sandhills community garden. Suzie, Dom, Bowie and Fiona all help out in the garden, which has been growing steadily for eight years under the direction of this remarkable person, Christine.

After a week of couch surfing and rich social life we decided to hang out for several days in Awabakal country. We headed south, climbed some hills and set up camp in Glenrock Reserve,

a two kilometre beach walk to the Glenrock Lagoon, where there was fish to catch,

and coastal greens to gather and cook.

Pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens), we have found, is not always palatable. Sometimes the leaves are very astringent and leave an unpleasant film on your teeth. The best we’ve tasted them is when we’ve gathered young leaves and cooked them well on a fast heat with fish. We are realising we could live well on just fish, coastal leafies (Warrigal greens, Bower spinach and Pigface) and one or two other things. But there is still so much to learn.

The key is camping close to these food sources, something not always possible when the population is large. After three nights at Glenrock we again, by chance, met another lovely family who invited us to stay with them. Meet Gavin and Beck and their kids Barney and Lottie.

Gav and Beck had cycle-toured throughout Europe pre-kids and were intrigued we were doing it in Australia with children. We traded notes around saftey and the improvements local governments need to make for cycling to become a more dominant mode of transport. When car lanes become exclusively bike lanes we will start to see more and more people on the roads commuting, touring or just pollutionless having fun. Afterall, we may as well adapt now, the end of oil is on its way as our friend Charlie McGee will happily tell you.

While exploring Newcastle we came across this sand filter just off Nobby’s Beach. It is designed to process the pollution from cars and stop it from entering the water catchment and the beach.

The sand filter’s storyboard lists the lethal ‘cocktail’ of chemicals that cars produce (including lead, nickel, chromium, copper, P.C.Bs, Manganese, Zinc, Cadmium, P.A.Bs, Oil and Grease, Dioxine, Sulphates and Detergents) that end up in our streets and in our environments. With this list alone how are cars legal?

Is it possible to work towards industrialism’s end, not just through scholarly texts but actually lived? We say Yes!

But love miles (or love kilometres) are sometimes difficult to reconcile, as we too are finding. Because of the power of fossil fuels people have spread out around the globe. Meet Zeph’s lovely mum, Mel, who is Woody’s guide-mother and who lives in our home community over 1000 km from Newcastle as the ravin flies (there are no crows in Australia).

Throughout our year of supposedly low-carbon travel, Zeph will return home to see and stay with his mum on a number of occasions, and this will generally mean a number of highly polluting transits. AaF gave up air travel the year before we became carless in 2010, and even though the overall trend for us is a slow movement away from fossil fuel dependancy we can’t help but compromise at times, especially for love. Marrying values of care for the earth with care for each other does at times create contradictions. This is typical of transition, but it doesn’t undermine our household’s challenge of moving to a low-carbon existence, and teaching our children the skills and ethics to do so. Imagine if the norm in our society was to walk, ride and catch public transport, and cars were the exception?

The last time we were in Newcastle we flew here to take up an artist-in-residence project at the Lock-up Cultural Centre. We loaned bikes from the Newcastle Bike Ecology Library and became friends with Gerry Bobsien, the then director, now chair of the Lock-up. It was Gerry and her family that we had originally come to visit in Newcastle this time, but it took us a few weeks to hook up as we were inundated with chance invitations to stay with generous others.

Gerry (far head of the table) and her youngest child Polly (close head of the table) introduced us to their friends Rhiannon and Steele (either side of Polly). Rhiannon is one of the art teachers at Polly’s school, the Newcastle Waldorf School, a school that actually allows children to climb trees, hug calfs, get muddy, learn about growing food and making great things, like canoes. Zeph and Polly really hit it off,

and Zeph was keen to go to her school the next day. Rhiannon and Gerry arranged it, and after a day of immercing himself in probably the happiest school he’d experienced, the rest of the AaF were then invited to spend the following day talking to students about our trip and our practice. We spoke with Rhiannon’s awesome art class about making performative ecological and activist art.

We spoke to the year 10 students about renewable energies, the history of oil, and why we’re travelling around the country on our bikes. And, for Polly and Zeph’s class, we took a foraging walk, identifying dandelion, chickweed, flatweed, wild strawberry and spear thistle.

Polly’s dad Jeremy (above) is also a teacher at the school and responsible for teaching children to make all manners of things from wooden spoons to functional canoes. The AaF don’t usually endorse schools as places of learning fit for the future, but this school is definitely an exception. The students are happy, relaxed, fulfilled and are allowed to be children. The staff are also treated well and that seems to reflect how they then teach. We were invited to one of the staff’s delicious and life-affirming lunches,

which was concluded with some delicious, in-season baked fruit. This is when gift economies are at their best; when both parties are generous and both recieve beneficial gifts.

Because Zeph’s twelfth birthday is almost upon us and we’re away from his mates from home, he and Polly got to work to throw an impromtu (no gifts) beach party,

inviting all the kids in Polly’s class. The weather, however, had other plans and not everyone braved the cold.

Some of us hung back from the water and got into the serious business of eating.

We’ll be very sad to leave Newcastle and all our old and new friends, but our time in this lovely centre is coming to a close. We have once again what we call itchy pedals, and feel the call to part company with settled life and get on our freedom machines and sail north.

What ever you are doing and however you are travelling we hope you have gentle winds in your sail.

Riding the coast: Wamberal to Newcastle

Perhaps this ex-hire tandem wasn’t such a great idea. On our last evening in Wamberal, Patrick’s seat post socket snapped. We were so relieved it happened here and not between Tallangatta and Tumbarumba or somewhere really remote, and we were additionally relieved because another sweet family that we’d met in a children’s playground invited us to stay for the night. 

Meet Andrew, Mandy, Krys and Marie. We swam in their pool, admired their chooks and hugelkultur, and were treated to dinner. The central coast certainly shared its love.

Also meet Kevin from Cougar Fabrications in Erina. Kevin and Phil fixed the tandem and had us back on the road in fifteen minutes (for a mere fifteen dollars!). These kind men really brought us much relief with grace and warmth and good cheer. 

And then, after an easy morning’s ride, we stopped in a park for some lunch near The Entrance and were graced by fellow bike tourer Tom.

We invited Tom to camp with us, but warned him we are slow travellers. He was in no rush himself and we set about looking for a camp spot together.

We swapped notes on touring and the art of free camping in an increasingly private world. We pedaled and sniffed and sighted a little laneway that led down to the water’s edge north of The Entrance.

It was a brief co-existence with Tom but he wasted no time immersing himself in family life. We hope to see him again at some point down the track. A truly beautiful dude.

We parted ways the next morning and continued our slow trawl up the coast to Budgewoi where we rode this old bridge onto a little island to camp for the night.

We are getting pretty used to camp life. Every tool and resource we carry must have at least two purposes, as Meg demonstrates here with some local olive oil, used for cooking and for cleaning skin in a post-bathroom reality.

People often ask about Zephyr’s schooling as we travel. Our simple reply is this is school on the road, for all of us. However, a minimum of half an hour of reading a day applies and Zeph has just finished writing an article for NSW youth magazine unleash, which explains our project from his (almost twelve year old) perspective.

On leaving our little Budgewoi island we shouldered the busy Old Pacific Highway and came across telling signs of the times,

signs we didn’t even have to hack or bust or edit. They seemed to already speak for themselves.

While the Abbott government is selling the country off to more global corporate power, gas frackers, big coal and every other colossal polluter he can rustle up from his big black book, we are biking the country, poaching free camping spots, and improving our fishing.

We exchanged fishing knowledges with fellow free campers, Gary, Rob and Maé in Swansea,

and learned from experienced fishing folk such as Abdul,

and these fellow non-Abbott voters.

We also practiced more Artist as Family trash retrieval while teaching our boys about the ecological problems of line fishing, not just large-scale indiscriminate commercial fishing.

For the first time on our trip we came across patches of autonomous Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides), also known as Indigenous, sea or New Zealand spinach.

And we were relieved to jump on another rail trail utopia, the Fernleigh Track, which enabled a cruisey and very social ride into Newcastle,

where we were spontaneously chaperoned by a fellow Fernleigh Track cyclist into the city

where we did a little shopping,

and restocked our local honey stores.

Within the first hour of our arrival in Newcastle we received two invitations to stay. The first from this awesome couple, Fiona and Phil, who we’ll stay with tonight.

The social warming dimension of this trip is truly astonishing. We look forward to a couple of weeks getting to know Newcastle again. Last time we were here, nearly five years ago, we worked on this project. Coming into Newcastle today reminded us of why we love this big town so much.