What a week.
Epic people, epic places, epic tales.
This week has restored my faith in humanity. The generosity and randomn acts of kindness I have been shown is so refreshing and I can safely say that the aussie spirit is alive and well. Almost every time I was struggling or something went wrong, a stranger would step in and lend a hand.
I pedalled almost 600 kms this week dressed as a bright orange vegetable, including about 30km on corrugated and potholed dirt roads which is no fun on a skinny tyred road bike with all my worldly possessions hanging from it. At times my bum was so numb I had to check whether it was still there however my thighs are now about twice the size they used to be.
Before I regale you with tales of the road, first I would like to have a quick rant about why I’m doing all this.
I believe that we should all be taking some interest in reversing the damage already done to the environment. This is not a hippy/greeny/idealist concept any more, we can clearly see that we are having a huge impact, and the time to sit back and argue and debate on what to do is past. We cannot rely on governments or people with lots of money, if we do, all is lost. I searched for a long time for a clear direction on how I could do my part, but it seemed there was just too many problems and not enough time. Finally, after filtering out a lot of the noise and looking at where a lot of the damage was originating, I realised our food system was a key part of the puzzle. Because we eat three times a day, the effect of our food choices are highly amplified in comparison to most other purchases we make. The organic movement has recently taken off and a lot of people are now aware of and often seek out organic food as a way of reducing their environmental footprint. Unfortunately, organic methods are only a part of the picture and we need to use common sense when purchasing. Buying organic doesn’t really matter if you are shipping out of season produce from the other side of the country. The energy used for transport, refrigeration, handling and packaging completely negates the environmental benefits of growing without chemicals. Buying ‘Australian’ products could still mean it is being shipped from thousands of kilometers away, it’s a big country (trust me, I’m riding through it).
If you really care about reducing your environmental footprint, don’t just go organic, go local.
Rant over, now for tales.
Leaving Coffs Harbour last Tuesday morning, I hit the highway hard and put some solid riding in before pulling into Nambucca Heads for a swim and a break. I figured I’d leave a little message on the V-wall, everyone else seemed to be…
Then it was back on the highway again and down to South West Rocks, where I cooked up a huge feast in the park on sunset and promptly feel asleep on the grass like a genuine hobo. Something woke me around 9:30pm and I realised I hadn’t found anywhere to camp for the night, so I set off towards the point, keeping an eye out for promising beach accesses or tracks. One stood out and I got lucky, scoring a creekside private bush retreat all to myself.
Next morning I hightailed it down to Crescent Heads and then headed inland to the Goolawah Land Sharing Cooperative along some dirt roads to meet Mohini and Tarrik and their 5 year old twin boys on their little 2.5 acre piece of the 1600 acre bush reserve. They had been there about 18 months and had been slowly building their property to be self sustainable with a permaculture vege garden, dam, compost everything, a container home and were in the process of building a house. As a WWOOFer, I gave Tarrik a hand to lay some decking and a few other little construction jobs.
I set up on the edge of their dam, which was built into the local white clay and was one of the cleanest and clearest dams I’ve ever seen. The twin boys helped me put the tent up, so it was ready in record time.
One afternoon I took a wander around the community and was blown away by how open and friendly everybody that I passed was. Most had good vege gardens and some were even market gardening, so naturally I asked a lot of questions. Because of the no pet policy at the co-op, there is a huge abundance of wildlife, especially roos and wallabies.
Leaving Goolawah, I made the rookie mistake of trying to take the shortest route possible to Port Macquarie and ended up spending two hours rattling along the most potholed, corrogated, loose gravel road you could imagine, in the process snapping the front bag strut on my bike and ruining my clip in shoe cleats to the stage where they no longer clipped.
I finally made it to Port after lunch and decided to replace my shoes and pedals with SPD, which is far more suitable for what I’m doing and allows me to walk around without sounding like a racehorse. I repaired the bike and then made some brutal decisions about what to send home with my old shoes. The hammock (tough decision), a book, some clothes and some other bits and pieces got the chop and I rolled away about 4kg lighter. As I steered south out of Port Mac, a bloke called Jim waved me down from the side of the road on his motor bike and asked if I needed somewhere to stay the night. I hadn’t even thought that far ahead so I followed him around the corner to his place where he showed me to a spacious private guesthouse and shoved a freezing cold beer in my hand. Turns out Jim used to a bit of cycle tourer himself and one day while touring in England he took a massive spill and some kind stranger took him home and let him rest up for a few days while his wounds healed. He saw me and thought he’d repay the favor. I let him know about warmshowers.org and he said he would look into hosting more weary cyclists (pending his wife’s approval). He sorted me out with a big homemade curry made from veges he’d grown himself in his very impressive permaculture style vege garden and I crawled into the first real bed I’d had for a week. Pure bliss. Cheers Jim!
Next morning I punched out to the highway again and just when I was starting to struggle in the heat and the hills a family stopped me at a rest bay and handed me a cold Corona. They’d seen me riding and figured I needed some amber hydration.
A few hills later I took the Lakes Way turnoff in towards Forster, where I dropped in at a fruit and vege store and was given a whole bag full of veges for free that were a little too discoloured to be sold (people are too fussy).
I made it as far south as Booti Booti national park by sunset and found a great little spot off the beaten track on the edge of a lake to camp. Checking my odometer I saw I had just clocked 1000 kms since leaving Brisbane. Not bad for a carrot.
Leaving the Booti, I was stopped again by a bloke in a van named Dave who said he’d criss crossed me all the way down from Coffs Harbour and just had to know what the deal was with the orange suit. I gave him the low down on the backyard farming project and he ripped out a pineapple and made a cash donation there on the spot. Cheers! A few hills later I ran into Idris and Pete from Switzerland, who have been cycle touring for the best part of three years and are still going strong. Their bikes looked pretty loaded and they told me each one weighs over 50kg! I’m only pushing about 25kg so I have massive respect for them being able to get up and down the hills on those trucks. Stopping for a quick rest in Bulahdelah I met a bloke named Jason who was stoked on my backyard farming idea and went out of his way to send me contact details for newspapers and TV stations so I could get my message or to more people (I’m trying Jase, no luck yet). As night fell I found myself at a little spot near Hawks Nest where I just had to stay for the night…
Next day was a short ferry ride across to Nelson Bay complete with dolphins and a boat full of old people giving me strange looks.
I had a cruise around Newcastle and then headed up to Kedan & Kathy’s place where I’d organised to stay as a guest through warmshowers.org the previous night. They were super inviting and told me all about their home business, Bike Bag Dude, that makes uber high quality ultralight waterproof bike bags for people on cycle tours. I thought my homemade bags were pretty sweet until I saw some of their gear. Next level. A lot of the top competitors in the world’s toughest off road adventure cycle races use their bags and they have never had a negative comment or a return since they began.
A Mexican feast, a few beers, a shower and a real bed later and I was feeling pretty tops.
The next mooring Kedan even helped me make some repairs to my own homemade hack job bags to keep them alive until Hobart.
Cheers K crew!
We are only a little over half way with the crowdfunding campaign, which is great, but we need to hit the 3K mark otherwise we get nothing and all the money is returned. Thank you so much to all the wonderful souls who have donated so far and if you are reading this and can spare a $20 it would be incredibly appreciated and would go a long way.
For details on the project I’m raising money for, please visit my crowdfunding campaign website at: https://startsomegood.com/backyardfarming
What an awesome week, I can’t wait to see what the next one will have in store!