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Picking up and setting down new and old friends (from Violet Town to Jingellic)

Leaving David Arnold’s highly productive Murrnong Farm was difficult. We worked for a few days within a (micro) global village where kid goat feeding, beer bottling, pancake and sourdough making, elder flower champagne producing, last season’s chestnuts into hummus creating, mulberry picking and orchard netting activies flowed between stories and laughter and shared meals. Thanks Dave, Nils, Benny, Shyeni and Coufong.

Not wanting to burn ourselves out early on this 20 event book tour in 90 days, we rode to the Violet Town train station and made use of the bike and dog friendly train services again before they dry up in NSW. NSW Rail don’t allow non-human kin on their trains (with the exception of assistance dogs, and bikes, annoyingly, have to be flat packed meaning that’s it’s a ridiculously big job to undertake as bike parts have to be taken off and specialty tools and excessively large cardboard boxes have to be carried.) We arrived in Wangaratta and headed onto the Wang to Beechworth rail trail. We visited the same abundant Mulberry tree as we did in 2013,

and hunted the same (possibly) Charlie carp in one of the creeks. He outcarped us again.

Taking off again in spring has many advantages. New possibilities for life are everywhere and we are lead by a general atmosphere of renewal.

We made camp at the disused community tennis courts at Everton Station,

and landed at our guest digs in Beechworth,

at Pete and Anni’s place. They’d heard of our travels and got in touch. Thanks so much kind hosts and kind dogs!

Meg and Woody helped out in their veggie patch,

while Patrick helped Pete sort out the felled radiator pine into useable parts,

before we all had a wash, Woody in his typical fashion.

Our book event in Beechworth comprised of a lovely crowd, hosted by Diane at her excellent independant bookshop.

On the way out of Beechworth an invitation to stay in Wodonga was shouted from a passing car, and although we quickley exchanged social media handles, we were headed for Yackandandah to stay with Warm Showers hosts Matt, Michelle and Tarn. Sadly Matt had left for work before we took this photo:

We were a perfect match with this family. Woody and Tarn soon became good mates,

and so did we with a portion of the town folk. What a darn friendly village Yack is!

We had a second night down by the Yackandandah Creek,

before pushing off the next day and copping our first puncture.

Woody wants to know everything and asks his parents a thousand questions every day. Not quite a thousand answers, his parents have much to learn too, such as, what is this fruit? Is it a parasite, a geebung or wattle nut?

With air back in all four tyres we treadlied to Albury where a dude Patrick used to play football with at university lives and invited us to stay. Patrick hadn’t seen Mick for over 20 years and hadn’t been in contact and what’s more we didn’t even get to meet him as he was away for work. We stayed with his gorgeous wife Bernie and tenacious teen Paris and they embraced us like long lost kin. Thanks Bernie, home from a morning’s run!

And thanks Mick, who hooked us up with the Border Mail to do a story. He also insisted we get in touch with pollinator guru and local permaculturalist Karen Retra and her man Ralph,

and we were given a tour of their pollinator-friendly, south-facing 1/4 acre that is either all under food production, under habitat creation or both in the same breath.

Karen in turn hooked us up with ABC Goulburn Murray and we were interviewed at length about our adventuring before we collided with Roy, a cycle tourer from Japan.

Roy accompanied us to our 5th book event where we met a lively cross-section of local sustainability activists, permies and ecologists. What an awesome crew!

Our community friend Mara met us in Albury and we rode with her and Roy along the majestic Murray River Road crossing back into Victoria.

What a joy it was to ride with these happy bike-campers along such a quiet, almost carless road,

and to wake to such mornings.

To top it off our book was ‘Pick of the week’ in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

We farewelled Mara at Kennedy’s Reserve and Roy at Jingellic where he videoed an Artist as Family jam sesh,

before we settled in to one of the prettiest free camp sites in Australia, cooking up plantain, sow thistle and flatweed to add to the evening pasta, breakfasting on carp and dandelion coffee,

and generally hanging out, getting to know the virtues of the Upper Murray River.

We have much gratitute for those we meet along the way. Those who come to ride with us. Those who put us up for the night. Those that nourish us as food. The roads we travel. The fellow campers. The community of the living that fuels all this possibility.

Gift economy

We said goodbye to the Goulburn River and the Murchison caravan park, home to a community of colourful permanent residents – Desley, Brian, Keith and Di – and headed east.

It was an unexpectedly difficult ride due to the lack of shade and a headwind for much of the forty-three kilometres to Violet Town. The sun baked us on this flat and straight stretch of road where annual grasses and fences dominated. Little stood out apart from the occassional creek and composition of wild flowers.

We arrived in Violet Town hot and exhausted, we found some shade to recuperate under and some free municiple power to recharge.

According to Sam from Ballarat e-bikes, “each lithium ion battery holds 0.333 kilowatt hours. Assuming someone is paying 27 cents per kilowatt hour, and the charger is 90% efficient, it’s about ten cents per charge per battery.” While the bikes recharge we have been collecting litter in the parks, reserves and sports grounds that we poach the power from.

We figure that the 20 cents of free energy we take from each town to assist our movement equates to about one bag of collected rubbish. When people ask us about our art practice we say we’re quite well-known for waste collecting. We also pick up rubbish and pull up weeds in exchange for a free camping ground.

This morning we woke to a rich chorus of birdsong at our camp along the Honeysuckle Creek. A morning’s walk enabled a feast of free food, including these deliciously sweet Nagami kumquats (Citrus japonica spp.)

and these luciously ripe loquats (Eriobotrya japonica).

Zero had earlier just missed out on hunting down a buck hare along the creek, so when we stopped for a cup of tea in the main drag we asked the cafe if they had any meat scraps for him. Success!

We’ve discovered three other things while being in friendly Violet Town. The first is the potential food supply in the gardens of abandoned houses, something to note as we move from town to town.

The second is walnut shell mulch. The region is a walnut growing climate, at least for now, and what a great way to use the waste product of this food.

The third is that Violet town has a range of publicly-accessible, intentionally-planted fruit trees and herbs, including figs, plums, rosemary, lemongrass, sage and olives,

which compliment the spontaneous roadside fruit growing here including cherry plums, pears, apples and walnuts.