We woke early and left Gundagai, the town of long timber bridges, before the sun got too hot.
We made a quick obligatory stop,
before really finding out how the Hume Highway was going to shape us.
We were surprised. Despite the noise and the speed of the traffic, the wide shoulders really helped us ride in relative peace. It was a cruisy ride from Gundagai to Jugiong (helped along by our first tail wind of the trip) where we parked our bikes in the shade beside a green grocers run by the very frinedly Gino. We (dumpster) dived into his compost boxes and produced some lovely stone fruit.
While buying some local veg from Gino he asked if we needed a good camping and swimming spot.
Thanks Gino! A perfect free camping ground. The next morning we harvested some stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) beside the Murrumbidgee River.
Nettle is high in iron and great for relieving painful muscles and joints. Just the thing for weary bike tourers. Lightly blanching the nettles takes away the sting, produces a healthy tonic to treat urinary and prostate complications and leaves a perfect fodder material for making an excellent pesto with almonds.
After our free medicinal hit we cycled up the road to the very bourgeois The Long Track Pantry for a breakfast cup of tea and a loaf of yummy bread,
before easing our way into the heartland of wool country.
Since leaving Daylesford over a month ago our nostrils have flared wildly and our hearts have sunk deeply with the roadkill we have passed.
We counted 81 killed animals between the left verge and left lane of the north bound Hume Highway between Jugiong and Yass, a distance of 60 kms.
This massacre included a myriad of birds, three tortoises, a dozen wallabies, several blue tongues, countless kangaroos, flattened foxes, rabbits, a wild pig, two echidnas and numerous snakes including this young copperhead.
Given there are four lanes and four verges on this dual highway one could surmise as many as 324 roadkilled critters for every 60 kms of highway. That’s a staggering 5.4 deaths per kilometre. The Hume, according to Wikipedia, is 838 kms in length which means, if you average it, there are quite possibly 4,525 corpses along this highway at any one time.
But it wasn’t just the sickening aspects of this road – the senseless massacres, the climate changing and packaging pollution that proliferated – we found worth observing,
the Hume offered up sweet moments of beauty and surprise, especially when we got off it (in this case in Bowning) and found some roadside fruit to forage and help restore our battered senses.
Then when we arrived in Yass we were welcomed by an avenue of not-quite-ripe publicly accessible almonds (Prunus spp.),
some heavenly ripe plumcots (Prunus spp.) overhanging a fence,
and were given some Leeton grown oranges by a God’s Squad bikie. Thanks Glen!
We camped, fished and slept under a balmy summer’s night sky before facing the Hume again.
Imagine this road as a sea of bicycles…
After riding about 40 km we arrived in Gunning, a town that boasts a free caravan-camping ground with hot showers at Barbour Park, and found we were just in time for the monthly Sunday market.
We bought some regional produce,
picked some free herbs (gave them a drink),
took a swim and lunched on some delicious bush tucker at Barbour Park.
The starchy bulb of cumbungi or bullrush (Typha spp.) offers an excellent raw or cooked vegetable at this time of year. Cumbungi is ecologically beneficial for capturing silt, creating habitat for diverse species and stabilising banks. It can also become ‘weedy’ so it makes a great food where we are the biological control or, as Russell Edwards would say, ‘ecological participants‘.
Stay tuned for more free food and other low-impact resources as we inch towards the Christmas lunch table in Moss Vale,
keep safe on the roads and if you’re driving, please think bike and think critter!