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Tumbarumba – a town of dandies

This is the second time we’ve been forced to stop in one place waiting for a bike part to arrive, but as our wise friend John (who we met in Colac Colac) says, “It’s not the problem that’s important, but how you handle it.” Time is expanding out for us in this slow journeying through beautiful hill country and we are appreciating what happens when life is slow and ecologically calibrated.

We saw this incredible Walgalu coolaman at the Tumbarumba museum. A coolaman is typically used for baby cradling and bathing and food storage, gathering and preparation. One tool, many uses – brilliant, appropriate and non-polluting technology! It has made us think about each of the tools we’ve brought along on our ride.

This is our root vegetable tool. It slices down through the soil and uproots deeply buried sources of free and highly nutritious carbohydrate. But we also use it for digging toilet pits, digging for worms to fish with, and Woody uses it as a toy. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) roots are everywhere in temperate Australia and now is a good time to harvest the young tap roots and the tender leaves, especially in the ranges where it is still cool and the roots haven’t become too woody.

While in Tumba we had the chance to rest and laze, throw a line in the creek and do a little gentle foraging.

We caught a 25cm rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and made a delicious meal using local and bicycled ingredients:

Tumbarumba Creek trout, Tumbarumba parkland dandelion root and leaves, our home-grown garlic (bicycled), Tallangatta backyard lemons (bicycled. Thanks George and Laura!), Biodynamic Powlett Hill pasta (bicycled from our local region) and Benalla olive oil (bicycled from Benalla).

We cooked the garlic inside the fish and BBQ’d the dandelion root in the fish juices, adding some olive oil. We cooked the pasta, strained and emptied it onto a bed of washed dandelion leaves. We added more olive oil and squeezed lemon and let the pasta gently steam the leaves. We then added the fish and roots and, well, we can highly recommend this dish…

After a few nights free-camping in the Tumbarumba township we thought it time to do some washing and headed along to the caravan park and pitched our tents beside the Tumbarumba Creek.

With time to drift we closed up the tents, covered the bikes and hopped on a local bus for a wee adventure to Batlow where we knocked on a door to a house with a yard full of chooks and asked whether we could purchase some eggs.

The delightful Eileen welcomed us to her little appley town and we paid $2 (after insisting on paying something) for six just-laid eggs from happy gals such as this proud mama.

In both Tumbarumba and Batlow the towns are filling with a multiplicity of ethnicities to work in the orchards. These particular itinerate workers are using their Sunday to write to loved ones, hotspotting from the town’s library and pulling free spark from the public toilets next door.

Sudanese, French, American, Japanese, Nepalese, Thai and Taiwanese are arriving in the towns to pick blueberries or thin the apples.

Our little caravan park is a hotspot of culture mashing. Amber, a graduate of literature from Taiwan, took a particular liking to Zero and hung out by the creek with Meg and Woody

while Patrick jumped into the outdoor communal kitchen to see what he could rustle up with another large bunch of freshly foraged dandelion. Notice the modern day coolamon.

We thought it time for a medicinal booster using three of the most punchy beneficial foods – cayenne, garlic and dandelion – none of which are store bought but either grown or foraged by us.

Patrick caramelised this awesome threesome in the Benalla olive oil, added the chopped dandelion leaves, cooking them through before adding water and boiling. He then changed the water to lessen the bitterness, simmered towards a soup,

strained off the water, laid the highly medicinal veg on a bed of Tumbarumba sourdough and finished the dish with Eileen’s gorgeous eggs. A simple and delicious preventative to illness and the need for commercial pharmaceuticals.

Our bike part has now arrived (thanks Sam!), we’re feeling nourished, rested and nurtured by a host of local peeps (thanks Peta, Laura, Geoff, Kate, Heather, Adam, Wayne, Peter, Debbie, Graeme and Julie), and we’re ready to face the hills again and the next stage of our journey. Thanks for travelling along with us.