Biofarms, renegade markets, honorbread, rat bikes, covert border crossings, arctic surfing and running into my nemesis, the lanky German guy. Just another week on the road for a fully grown man dressed as a bright orange vegetable.
Since last week I have made it down to a little town called Marlo, near Orbost on the south coast of Victoria. I have now pedalled over 2000 kilometers since leaving Brisbane around 5 weeks ago. Thankfully, the heat of the north has given way to the cool freshness of the southern states and I am finally riding in a westerly direction towards Melbourne. My crowdfunding campaign is drawing to a close with less than a week to go and I am dangerously close to raising my tipping point target so I am overjoyed at that and would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have contributed so far.
Now to the tales.
Arriving at Old Mill Road Biofarm just outside Moruya on Monday night last week meant that I was able to help with the market harvest on Tuesday morning, my favourite part of farming. Kirsti and Fraser of Old Mill Road sell their produce at the SAGE farmers markets in Moruya along with a bunch of other local producers on Tuesday afternoons between 3 and 5pm. The SAGE farmers markets were formed in reponse to the local growers being concerned that the weekend farmers market didn’t really promote local food well enough and had no measures in place to stop vendors onselling produce shipped in from afar. A handful of growers went renegade and started their own markets on a Tuesday afternoon, with the rule that all produce had to be produced within 160km and you had to be the primary producer of EVERYTHING you sold. Because the quality of the organic vegetables, meats and dairy was so impressive in the area, locals quickly cottoned onto the idea and Tuesday afternoons became grocery day for many. This has led to SAGE farmers market winning awards for best farmers market in Australia for two years running and being highly praised by some big names in the movement such as Costa Georgiadis.
I ended up spending 4 days on the farm with Kirsti and Fraser, their two kids Marlo and Pickles and the two farm interns, Alex and Nadia. I was blown away by how productive and healthy the biofarm was and asked a million questions about their techniques and tricks. It all started about 12 years ago when Kirsti and Fraser moved onto the ex grazing land in the hills south of Moruya and began playing around with vege gardens. They realised they were growing more than they could eat and eventually began to sell their excess at the local markets, slowly growing their operation to what it is today, with about 1 acre under cultivation. They use a biofarming approach, where the highest priority is given to maintaining good soil health and a thriving ecosystem, which in turn supports high yields and reduces pests and diseases. By using a combination of no-till farming, the stale seedbed technique, flame weeding, cover cropping and plastic row covers to accelerate decomposition, they have been able to massively minimise weeding labour (a huge factor in organic farming) and be far more productive on the small area they have. I had seen a few of these techniques being used elsewhere but this was the first time I’d seen them all being used together effectively and I was floored by the results. Fraser has also just started farming a small patch of land in town and I spent a day with him there where he took me through his farm management master plan and crop scheduling, that guy runs a tight operation! Many ideas were discussed and I feel loads more confident about kicking off my backyard based urban farming project back in Brisbane.
During my stay I also took an afternoon to hike a section of the Bingie dreaming track, finishing up in Tuross Heads. Nadia offered to drop me off at the trailhead and as we pulled up the ocean exploded with huge pods of dolphins jumping, flipping, surfing in the waves and chasing fish. We sat up on the headland and watched them go nuts as they slowly moved north along the coast. Very, very cool.
On Saturday morning I finally packed up the tent and tore myself away from the farm to continue the journey south. Kirsti and the kids escorted me out through a paddock to meet the highway and waved me off, I think they’ve been the biggest carrot fans I’ve met so far!
After a hilly ride, I made it to Bermagui and dropped in at a sourdough bakery called Honorbread which I had been told had amazing bread and even more amazing owners. Tim immediately offered to let me stay in the empty apartment above the bakery for the night and pushed some loaves of delicious sourdough into my arms. Tim and Honor also run the local Italian restaurant il Passaggio, so I went down for a look and couldn’t resist trying a roast pumpkin and pine nut pizza, without a doubt the best pizza I’ve had in years. They use almost exclusively local ingredients in their meals and also sell their bread from a little stall at the SAGE farmers markets. As I returned, I noticed that there was a bread bin in front of the bakery full of the days leftover bread with a note explaining that it was an ‘Honor’ system and you could take it and pay tomorrow. What an awesome idea to combat food waste!
I woke up to the smell of fresh baked bread and took a wander down the road to the Blue Pool, a tidal swimming pool that has been concreted into the rocks on the point, to catch the sunrise. I wasn’t disappointed.
Then it was back on the bike and off to Tathra, where I was forced to stop after having serious gear slippage issues which no amount of adjusting could remedy. Aaron at the local bike shop Tathra Beach and Bikes took pity on me and threw ol’ Bessie up on the bike stand to take a look. While straightening out my hanger and realigning everything he told me of a network of incredible mountain bike trails in the hills behind the town and after seeing me salivate he offered me a fat bike to explore them on.
I finally rolled back into town after an hour or two completely hooked on fat biking, especially on single tracks. Those things are so nimble yet they roll over anything and everything in their path. Maybe next bikepacking trip?
That night I stayed with Justin in Pambula through the warmshowers network and he regaled me with stories of past bike tourers, notably one young Japanese lady who cycled from Melbourne and who he had to rescue at 10pm after she failed to show up. When he found her, she was inching her way along the edge of the highway dressed fully in black, with no lights or reflective anything. Justin said he almost missed her and he was scouring the road for cyclists.
He also showed me his ‘Rat Bike’ which was an expensive carbon race bike he had covered in iron oxide paint to look super old and rusty. Apparently it turns some heads when he takes it racing and goes flying past the bike snobs.
The next morning I went for some sightseeing around the area and left my assault on the Victorian border a little late, ending up crossing over in the darkness around 8pm after an afternoon of chilly riding temperatures, huge hills and unpredictable rain storms.
Luckily there was a great free campsite another hour or so down the highway in Genoa so I rolled up and went in search of a tent site amongst the throngs of grey nomads in their giant campervans. I stumbled upon another bike and it turned out to be my nemesis, the lanky German guy from last week! We got chatting and it turns out Josh is a super nice guy cycling from Sydney to Melbourne so we traded road stories and cups of tea.
After a filling breakfast of oats and bananas, I shot off towards Cann River, where I stopped to rest my legs for a while and scored a loaf of free bread from the bakery. As I was leaving, Josh pulled up so I split the bread and wished him well. After piling on 130kms that day I cycled into the small coastal town of Marlo, where I had organised to stay with friends Tim and Jamee. Riding into the glow of the western sky on sunset with the coast to my left was spectacular and I stopped a few times just to soak it in. I was greeted with a delicious pasta, beers and a comfy bed upon arriving at the Royce’s residence, I could not have been more grateful. The next morning Tim threw me in the van and we went to check the surf at a few local surf spots. The Entrance just out front was decent, so we squeezed into wetsuits and paddled out in the freezing 16 degree water. The Entrance is actually the river mouth for the Snowy River, which may have helped explain why I got brain freeze duck diving under the waves and after a hour or two my toes got so numb they curled up and I couldn’t stand up on the board. Got a few good rides in and then went to thaw out.
That pretty much brings me up to date and this next week coming I should be arriving in Melbourne, which I am excited about.
Again, thanks for the support and keep an eye out for the crazy carrot!