In a glorious mix of sadness and relief, the trip is finally over. I have hung the carrot suit up on the wall where it shall remind me of the amazing people I met along the way, many who I know will be lifelong friends. This trip has absolutely schooled me on my own personal limits as well as opened my eyes to the huge abundance of generosity and empathy that is laying just under the surface of Australia, often obscured from view by the frenzy of media headlines about violence and crime. I started on this cycle journey in the hope that I would see some more of our beautiful country, connect with a few like minded farmers and raise some capital for my urban farming project but I had no idea the impact the two month journey would end up having on me. I have renewed my faith in people, communities and positive action after beginning to doubt whether individuals could ever make a difference in the vast landscape of our consumerist, prepackaged society. I am more motivated than ever to join the growing tide of enlightened people helping to steer our world in a more sustainable and responsible direction through the gradual reformation of our food systems.
I pedaled into Hobart around 8:00pm on Thursday April 14, after almost 2 months on the road and roughly 3000km. I somehow managed to wear one bright orange lycra one-piece suit and a ridiculous spiky green helmet for the entire duration of the trip, a credit to the suit itself (Morphsuits are tough as!) and my rapid handwashing abilities. It has now been a few weeks since I caught the plane back up to Brisbane (cheating, I know), during which time I have settled into a new apartment and a new job and finally caught my breath enough to write the final post. During the trip, I ran two successful crowdfunding campaigns, raising almost $5000 in total including the cash donations I received along the way. I can’t express enough how grateful I am for all the people that believed in my cause enough to actually commit their hard earned dollars to what is essentially only an idea at this point. That simple act of giving has not only given me a launchpad, but also driven home how ready we all are to start the slow process of cleaning up our mess of a food system and taking some responsibility as stewards of the planet.
Writing this last post feels like a sort of closure so it is with great excitement and also a tinge of sadness that I am documenting my final leg of the trip and sharing some of my stories and photos from the ride into Hobart. Here we go.
I left off in Bicheno in the last blog post, where I explored the Wineglass Bay National Park and stayed with some family friends Barb and Mike. From there I punched out towards Hobart, making it as far as the Mayfield Bay camping area near Rocky Hills where I set up the tent for the night in the sand dunes. The following morning I rolled down the road into Little Swanport where I met Phil, a free range pig farmer who had contacted me and offered a place to stay on the way through. When I arrived, Phil was busy working on his latest invention, a ‘Pigloo’, an ingenious insulated pig house made from recycled refrigerator panels and conveyor belt rubber to keep his pigs happy during the cold winter months. He has a few hundred rare and heritage breed pigs that he farms and sells directly to customers under the ‘Long Name Farm’ banner. We went on a tour of Phil’s farm and he showed me a few of his favourite pigs including Pumba, a gigantic black sow with an insatiable appetite. Although I’m not a huge advocate for raising and eating livestock because of its environmental footprint, I was impressed with how the pigs were looked after and the rotation systems Phil used. I also love the way he markets directly to local customers rather than sell them into the supermarket or restaurant systems. Staying the night at Phil’s sweet farm house and sampling some of his fresh pork was a real experience and has made me reconsider some ideas I had about animal agriculture. Cheers Phil!
After a good sleep, I woke up early and decided to complete the final 130km into Hobart in one last surge. Coming in through Richmond I was stopped by the police at the top of a crest and hailed to the side of the road. Before I had time to be concerned, they gave me huge high fives and asked if they could take a selfie with me as they had heard about the cycling carrot and thought it was hilarious. I joked that if they weren’t too busy maybe they could give me an escort into the city, but turns out they actually had to be cops and do cop stuff. Damn it.
Due to me taking my sweet time and enjoying the last day of riding a little too much, I didn’t make it to Hobart until after 8pm so it was dark as I cycled across the Tasman Bridge and into the city. I stopped and enjoyed the view for a few minutes and gave myself a high five and Bessie a pat for completing the trip in one piece. That feeling as I realised I had reached the endpoint was one of the strangest moments I’ve ever experienced and I still don’t know how to describe it properly. A swirling upsurge of overwhelming joy, sadness, stoicism, relief and a yearning for more is about the best I can do. As I stood and looked at the bridge, I decided my next trip would be a little bigger and bolder. I have set my sights on an Alaska to Argentina trip, riding a fat bike that I plan on making myself out of bamboo and likely dressed as some type of vegetable. As the trip would be roughly two years on the road, I will need a few years to get organised and save up. Watch this space.
Arriving in Hobart in time for dinner, I was greeted with open arms by my awesome cousin Heather, her son Jarrah and her partner Pip who had a delicious home cooked meal ready and waiting when I rolled in. There was no time to rest however, as ABC radio had asked me to come in at 6:00am the following morning to do a live interview with the breakfast presenter. So much for putting the feet up. It was the first time I’d been in a live radio broadcasting studio, pretty exciting but thankfully the host was a chiller so it wasn’t too nerve racking. Next stop was a mid morning interview with a journalist from the Mercury newspaper, who put together a great little article that ran in the Mercury and Tas Country about my ride and my mission. Cheers Roger!
The day was a beauty so I took the opportunity to jump on the boat and head up to MONA for a first hand look at the latest astonishing addition to Hobart’s cultural offerings. MONA is everything an art gallery should be – confronting, bold, surprising and divisive. In the space of a few hours I saw 77 vaginas, a machine that eats and poops, a porsche that was sculpted to look like it had eaten too many cheeseburgers and a crazy disco light head thing that almost gave me a seizure. Not bad MONA, not bad at all.
The next afternoon I had arranged to meet with Erika from Fork to Fork, a new project started by Sprout Tasmania that is aiming to cut out the unnecessary transportation between the growers and the consumers by providing a direct link using a well designed online platform. The idea is that households or restaurants can jump online and order produce directly from the growers and have it delivered when they need it, rather than the current system where the majority of produce is shipped to Melbourne and then back again. Erika was keen to do a little video interview for their social media so I pulled on the trusty carrot suit and headed over. Unfortunately the camera guy never showed up but it was a great chance to get to know about Fork to Fork and the local urban farming movement by having a chat with someone with shared my passion for fixing our food system. Coincidentally, Erika had done a cycle tour from Washington State in the US to Colombia over about 9 months with her brother so we ended up sharing cycle travel adventure stories and topped the night off by heading down to a salsa party that Erika’s salsa school was throwing for a bit of a fiesta!
For the final few days of my time in Tassie, I rode out to my Auntie Linda and Uncle John’s farm in a little rural community called Ellendale about an hours drive north of Hobart. They are both master gardeners and have a stunning 50 acres backing onto the world heritage listed Mount Fields National Park where they grow enough organic food in their vege garden to be almost fully self sufficient. While there, Uncle John took me out on a day trip to the Wild West of Tassie, sharing amazing stories of how they were both involved with the (successful) 6 year long tree sit protest to stop the logging of old growth forest in the Upper Florentine Valley. Walking through some of the incredible old growth forests with John, I felt a tangible energy that I’d only experienced once before deep in the Amazon jungle in the east of Ecuador. How people could consider turning those beautiful giants into worthless woodchips is well beyond my understanding. During the last year or two, Tassie has been in the grip of an extremely dry period, experiencing historically low rainfall leading to the recent wildfires which claimed some large areas of old growth. We went to take a look at the Gordon Dam, which is used to generate a significant amount of Tassie’s hydro power, but had trouble even finding it as it was sitting at about 10% capacity and had exposed about 45m of previously flooded bank. A few enterprising individuals have dived on the chance to recover some of the exposed timber, much of it prized furniture making species which has now been well seasoned after being submerged.
After a few fantastic days in Ellendale replenishing my energy and finally putting the boots up properly, I began the process of disassembling Bessie and getting her ready for a plane ride back to Brisbane in a cardboard box. I can’t imagine she was too happy about being pulled to pieces but at least she was getting a break from being punished on the open road. Saying goodbye to all my family in Tassie, I took the easy way out and flew through the air back to Brisbane where I spent many hours outside the airport unpacking Bessie and reassembling her, complete with all my home made frames and bags. Once back to her former glory, I mounted the old girl and rode into Lutwyche to stay with my brother Mitch and his wife Carolina for the night, plus get some quality time with my 3 month old nephew Sam (who I am secretly grooming to be a farmer…). The following day I wheeled Bessie onto the train and headed for Nambour, where for the very final time I donned the carrot suit and rode the 50km up to my parents place in Tewantin. Riding along the coast up towards Noosa was a really nice way to finish as it was the path I took (in reverse) on the first day of the trip two months ago. It was quite emotional to bring the trip full circle and those last few hours on the bike allowed me to reflect and enjoy the simplicity of just riding.
Since I arrived home a few weeks ago life has steadily been getting more and more complicated and having to adjust to living in the city, starting an office job with a routine and dealing with crowds of people has been tough after almost 18 months floating around on quiet farms without having to worry about making an income. I am so grateful for my best mate Ben, who organised a sweet 3 bedroom apartment in Bulimba for the both of us to move into the week I returned and provided all the furniture and appliances we needed to get going. All I needed to do was park up Bessie in the garage and unstrap my worldly possessions from her spindly frame. Having an extra bedroom means we can start hosting couchsurfers and warmshowers cyclists and begin to repay some of the kindness and generosity shown to me during the trip. After living out of a backpack and mostly sleeping in a tent for the last few years, I am quite conscious of what I do and do not need and even my small bedroom feels like a cavernous space for the extremely minimal amount of things that I own. I have been fortunate enough to learn that ‘things’ are certainly not needed to find happiness and in some ways act as an anchor to the freedom that I crave.
My whole focus now is getting a backyard based urban farming project off the ground as soon as I can. I have started to connect with a number of passionate growers in the Brisbane area and am organising a get together next Sunday the 22nd of May – which just happens to be World Urban Farmers Day and the final day of the Bike Week festival here in Queensland, it was meant to be! If you are one of the people that have contacted me about wanting to be involved in the project or are just curious about urban farming and meeting cool people, I will be posting up details of the event very shortly so stay tuned.
Again, thank you to everyone who came on this journey with me by supporting, donating, reading, liking, commenting, hosting, calling and high fiving me. And a big thanks to Mum, who kept tabs on where I was and gave me loads of encouragement when I needed it most. Without all of you it would have just been a lonely bloke pedalling slowly south in a weird orange suit on a funny looking bike…
(aka. Plants Farmstrong)