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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.

From Yack to Clack Clack

We have been on the road for two weeks now and so far we’ve had the juiciest of times.

We are gathering so much material on frugal living and travelling that we are expanding the scope of our research to include all things obtainable outside the monetary economy.

It is remarkable how much of life is still not monetised, but it is even more remarkable how these things are not commonly valued.

After Beechworth we stayed a few nights in Yackandandah and met Leanne, one of the facilitators of the forthcoming community garden there.

She gave us half a dozen of her delicious hen’s eggs, which were pure permaculture gold.

Yack is a joy-filled little town and Woody started to practice his own form of social warming.

Just as the sweet green hills of spring were beginning to dry out we headed towards the high country,

noting more walnuts, apples, cherry plums, figs, peaches and blackberries forming on the roadside verges.

But before we really started to climb we joined another rail trail at Huon, which took us over Lake Hume.

Before colonisation and before it was dammed, this lake was known as Bungoona (Sandy Creek) by the traditional owners. In 1887 a rail line went in to the area which opened it up for further development which saw the displacement of Indigenous peoples.

Today the rail trail offers a peaceful, ecological traverse through this once traumatised country. Can country heal itself after such interrupting violence?

We rode into Tallangatta with a dust storm, found the town’s park and rehydrated,

found a municiple powerpoint to recharge, headed across to the local opshop,

and munched out on free, locally-grown grapefruit.

We have started compiling a list of all the free things we are finding and we are realising that these things aren’t just good options for frugal travelling, they are generally the least polluting too.

1. free drinking water – water bubblers in public parks and streets
2. free food – foraged, fished, hunted, gleaned and gifted
3. free camping sites – creeks and rivers
4. free electricity – council parks and sports grounds
5. free swimming/ bathing – creeks and rivers
6. free laundry – any public sink (take a universal plug with you)
7. free wifi – neighbourhood centres and libraries
8. free shelters – council parks and sports grounds
9. free knowledges – local knowledge is priceless and most people are willing to offer it
10. free BBQ facilities – council parks, sports grounds, community gardens, etc

Tired and somewhat on the nose we rode around Tallangatta looking for a place to camp. We pulled over to check the map when a local man, putting up his Christmas lights, asked if we needed help. A few minutes later George and his partner Laura had invited us to camp in their backyard, take a shower and join them for dinner.

We happily accepted, bought some accompaniments and helped out where we could.

George gave us a heads-up that we had a big day of riding ahead of us, so we rose early, farewelled our hosts and set off along the rail trail again.

We climbed from Tallangatta (205m above sea level) into Snowy River country,

until we reached the Koetong Pub, where we stopped to recuperate and where we met this bunch of volunteers who have been working on the rail trail since 2002.

They had been working on a new section of the trail that leads all the way to the former Shelley Station, the highest railway station ever built in Victoria (779m above sea level).

At Shelley we found evidence of corporate greenwashing. The same global chemical company responsible for the Bhopal disaster (Dow is Union Carbide as this wonderful piece of satire attests) also aims to become a major controller of the world’s food supply. Here Dow is advancing the poisoning of innocuous free food for the sake of peddling its dubious herbicides to Landcare groups. There’s no such thing as a good corporate citizen, just clever public relation strategies. 

We got a little lost in the pine plantations trying to leave Shelley, but eventually found our way back out onto the Murray Valley Highway for a several kilometre rollercoaster ride down into Berringama where an old hall signalled it was time for a feed,

and a tune or two.

It had already been a huge day and we knew we were pushing it but we had heard of a sweet caravan park at Colac Colac (pronounced Clack Clack), and it seemed to be in reach. About 5km out Patrick’s rear wheel axel broke, the first disaster of our trip. Meg and Woody went on to the park and brought back the extremely generous park owner, Phil, who helped us put the bike onto the tray of his ute and brought us all to this incredibly beautiful park.

We now have a handful of days to wait while the wheel is fixed, sent by courier to Albury.

Time to re-stock, rest up after our massive 74km day yesterday, wash clothes, fish, look for wild plants, write up journals and map the next leg of our trail. Do we push north into apple country or do we head southeast into alpine trout country?

We hope you are having a restorative weekend too.