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.

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.

On and off the Island: Minjerribah to Maleny

Our last post featured the bounty of autonomous food on Minjerribah in early winter. This post begins with the array of social warming we encountered there. 

While on Stradbroke Island we hooked up again with fellow cycle tourer Tom, who once more became uncle Tom,

his portable cabin a hammock tent.

We spear fished and foraged with Tom and went along to the community jam at Point Lookout where Woody was handed around among the local tribe.

Along with Tom we free-camped with Tim, who we met back in Uki and then again in Brissy, and his mate Luke. Both had a passion for free food and simple ways of procuring it. We shared knowledges and food together.

We snapped this image at the North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum, it shows Indigenous folk on the NSW midcoast collecting eugaries (pipis). The image for us represents the ecological intelligence and social inclusivity that our little mutable tribe was perhaps attempting to emulate – the utter sophistication of non-damaging simplicity.

On our return to Dunwich from Point Lookout we stayed a night with Shelley and Milla again, and this time got to meet Milla’s dad/ Shelley’s man, the musically talented Chris.

We harvested macadamia nuts from their produce garden,

and learnt to crack them open with this simple tool.

Our sense of an ecotopia was drowned when it was time to leave the island, our reliance on damaging industry to barge back to the mainland was all too painfully obvious.

But this life is about generational transition, and learning to maintain our bikes (after the sand and salt of the island) is certainly a part of that movement.

On our first night off Straddie we made camp in a hidey spot in a large public park off a bike track in a north-eastern suburb of Brisbane.

The next day we crossed the Brisbane River by climbing a monumental achievement of industrialised culture,

before coming down the other side of that story:

As cyclists we are painfully aware of what motorised transport is capable of committing. Everyday we face the reality of death in a much more direct way and feel the pain of those who have suffered as we pass by at a speed slow enough to acknowledge it. We are flesh and bones on wheels and bitumen and the violence of cars and trucks is forever present, deafening and exact. Then occasionally, we find a motor-free track,

or road,

like here between Woodford and Maleny, and somewhere quiet to stop for lunch.

And even if such remoteness brings its hurdles,

crossing creeks and slipping around on gravel can be more preferable than the constant noise and sometimes terror of more populated routes. And after such a physically difficult but relatively peaceful day on and off the saddle we arrived on top of the range to treats of naturalised citrus,

and views of the Glass House Mountains.

We arrived in Maleny on dusk, caught a pub meal and a beer and pitched our tents on the lawn behind the hotel on the banks of the Obi Obi Creek.

In Maleny we bumped into two locals prone to bouts of cycle touring. The first is Hamish who, for want of a better description, is a bee health scientist and knows firsthand what Monsanto and co are doing to the biosphere.

The second is Garry, a retired English teacher who dons great t-shirts and excellent facial hair. Garry met us by chance at the community garden after he had finished his shift as a volunteer at the UpFront Club, a co-operatively owned venue.

Garry invited us back to his home where he lives with his partner Susan in their hectare permaculture garden on the outskirts of town. The garden features a mature copse of bunya pines, an extensive chook area, raised beds packed with produce, diverse insect-attracting flower beds, food forestry and indigenous revegetation. Needless to say we were well impressed with this model garden for the future.

We had two gentle nights with Garry (Susan was away). We walked into town picking a pharmacopeia of health-packed edibles from the roadside, including the super herb Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), which according to the Maple Street Co-op newsletter, has been used to aid “fatigue, anxiety, depression, poor memory, senility, epilepsy, bacterial viral or parasitic infections, trauma and tissue repair, leprosy, circulation problems, tuberculosis, arthritis, rheumatism and skin conditions such as psoriasis.”

We noted loquats coming into fruit,

and chewed on the white base stalks of lomandra leaves that Woody generically calls oosh ucker (bush tucker).

Maleny is the first place we’ve been to that is so ideal for citrus, that trees have naturalised along the roadside,

and we sampled various varieties of lilly pilly (Syzygium spp.), these being the most desirable.

When we arrived in town we bee-lined for the co-op, which has been going since 1979, and brought bulk foods to restock our panniers for the next leg of the trip.

Thanks Tom, Tim, Luke, Shelley, Chris, Milla, Hamish and Garry. We’ve so enjoyed our time together.

From extractive to generative lifeways: Tweed Heads to Stradbroke Island

Seven – Artist as (extended) Family – split into five after Meg’s parents departed Tweed Heads and we, the remaining, took to the border.

We rode a mere 10 kms into Queensland to the Gold Coast suburb of Tugun, where we stayed with the former sustainability officer from our hometown, and her man.

Meet Jill and Trent, soon to become parents, and their dog-kin Hippo. Jill was very much part of the success of getting our community food network up and running. She played a pivotal role as an insider becalming the council and encouraging them to work with us when we took over two council sites for the purposes of community food production.

You may well be asking how are we going to segue from community food production to the schmaltzy imperatives of Surfers Paradise? Well, we’re not even going to try, although we will say Jupiter’s Casino hasn’t dated a day. Oh boy, what a cultural wasteland! But we can see, or rather feel, why Surfers became such a destination of leisure. The swim was wondrous.

We have to confess we had a little fear coming into Queensland, especially concerning state politics and the police, some likening today with the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era. The guy from the Tugun bike shop added to our fears when he told us Queensland drivers don’t see or care about bikes. Needless to say we made ourselves as bright as possible.

We’ve been documenting roadside memorials as we travel and are constantly amazed at the regularity of them on Australian roads. This one was by far the most extensive we’ve come across and we contemplated the young lives lost and the taboo subject of car violence.

We later came across our first cyclist memorial, and were starting to think that maybe the guy in the bike shop was right and that this state isn’t such a good idea for a family on bikes.

However, after arriving on dusk in the little town of Pimpama, it felt extraordinarily safe to openly pitch our tents and cook dinner in the local park. This was just intuition, but one we nonetheless trusted. All was well in the world on that night and, as the saying goes, nothing beats fear like knowledge.

Since arriving in Queensland people have been extremely friendly and many more people have tooted us encouragingly with our Lock the Gate sign on the back of Patrick’s bike. We guess the reality of the fracking industry is more concrete here and people are therefore more worked up about it. In any case, after just a few days we found ourselves acclimatising to this sunny state.

Sadly, Pimpama was to be where we said goodbye to Brett. We so loved travelling with this delightful international-aid-nurse-poet-man. We will miss him dearly and all that he brings to such an expedition. Thanks Brett, we love you heaps!

Because Brisbane is a large centre and we assumed therefore more difficult a place to free camp we surfed Warm Showers and found Chris on the southern outskirts of the city. What a delight! Chris got off work early (a truck driver by profession) and did a full workout on our bikes (a cyclist by passion).

He cooked us a beautiful meal and we stayed the night in his awesome caravan, our first for the adventure. Thanks Chris!

Our ride into Brisbane city was intense. Bike paths appeared here and there and certainly made it easier, but the immensity of industrialised culture bore down on us little ecological beings with simple ecological needs.

Once in the city we bee-lined to a little book and music venue where Tim and Ahliya, who we met back in Uki, were playing that evening.

It was a special gig and we got to meet a small posse of Brisbane folk all doing great things. Meet another Tim, who works both as a water specialist for Brisbane City Council and as a permaculture consultant for his own business.

We also found Tim through Warm Showers, saw his collective interests on his profile (permaculture et al) and contacted him enthusiastically. We had three lovely days staying with Tim. He took us to the Northey Street City Farm on a day that coincided with the weekly market. Tim gave us a tour of the twenty-year-old site, which included a market garden, private garden plots, a food forest and an example of urban mirco-forestry. Tim showed us Soursop (Annona muricata), which is indigenous to Central America and a relative of the fruits cherimoya and pawpaw.

The market had an excellent range of stores from food to massage to textiles. We bought Woody a pair of soft leather shoes from this happy lady, who makes all her hats and footwear herself, based on traditional designs.

While we were at Tim’s, Artist as Family held a chicken killing workshop for a small group of budding locavores. There are many different ways to kill and dress a chook,

and we demonstrated our version in Tim’s backyard permaculture garden. For those interested in the discourse of butchering an animal, Patrick’s essay on accountable killing can be read on his blog.

While we were in Brisbane, with the help of the locals, we were able to finish our support video for the activists, local community and Jonathan Moylan, who are all bravely and tirelessly protecting the Leard State Forest from the imperatives of extractors.

Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) was calling us and after farewelling our wondrous new friends in Brisbane we hightailed it to Cleveland to catch a barge across to the island, joined by Ko, another cycling-permie-ecologist working his good intellectual toolkit towards systemic change.

The afternoon got away and by the time we arrived on Minjerribah it was dark. We thought we’d find a park and bunker down for the night, but Ko called a work colleague, Shelley, who with great cheer invited us to stay in her family’s Dunwich home. Shelley, with her daughter Milla, shared a hearty porridge with us and passed on some local knowledges.

Shelley told us that the extractive sand mining industry on the island was being challenged by many in the community who were attempting to transition the local economy to regenerative industries such as Indigenous education programmes for Brisbane school students and ecological tourism on the island.

Minjerribah is the second largest sand island in the world. But we didn’t come to make homage to small-minded men and their moneying ways:

We originally came because of Oodgeroo Noonuccal, the Indigenous poet and activist who was born on the island in 1920, and who became the first Indigenous poet to be published in Australia.

It is her spirit that we have immediately found here on this island, and feasting on midjim berries (Austromyrtus dulcis) has given form to this spirit.

Woody is becoming our most committed forager.

We think we’ll get truly swallowed by this place.

Novel fruits, roadside memorials, tiredness and general life making (from Coffs to Lawrence)

We left Coffs Harbour and headed north along the Pacific Highway, passing banana and blueberry plantations and,

sadly, more visions of life interrupted.

We met a family from Woolgoolga at Steve Hill’s skydiving centre and they invited us to stay with them.