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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.

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.