Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bicycling Australia: part 1 - Life, Renewal, and Growth.

Aimee and I are stopped along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, and haven't seen a person or vehicle for hours. About ten meters away, a mob of 15 or so kangaroos are grazing, napping, and staring curiously at us. It's silent except for the occasional cockatoo, and the air smells of sweet lemon eucalyptus. Life is so good.

The week began on a different note. We've spent 7 days cycling through Victoria, en route from Melbourne to Mt. Beauty, a lovely little town nestled in the Victorian Alps. Melbourne is an awesome city full of cyclists, art, food, music, & smart and funny people. We had a great time wandering the city, playing a radio show and 2 gigs, and prepping for our trip into the bush. On this trip, I learned a lot about survival.

Victoria has had a brutal summer, very little rain and extremely high temperatures. We nervously checked the fire reports, and set out early each day, trying to beat the 40 degree (104F) heat. Conditions are ideal for bush fires to start and quickly spin out of control. We'd leave shortly after sunrise, already hot, and push hard to get 60k in by noon. By Sunday February 10th, so many fires were burning that locals were comparing it to Black Saturday of 2009. The air was always hazy with smoke, and our path was often of the unbeaten variety on gravel roads through pretty rural bush. The upswing of this was that the riding was peaceful and quiet, and we'd chat for hours as we pedaled along. Downside was the weight of worry, hoping the wind wouldn't change direction or a new fire would start. The scorched landscape and endless stretch of blackened trees served as a constant reminder of what may be. The weather shifting was out of our control though, so we tried not to let the stress get out of hand. Also, we passed a few fire memorials on our way from the Happy Valley to the Kiewa Valley that proclaimed "Life, Renewal, Growth." Focus on the positive, and marvel the tiny shoots of eucalyptus making a comeback.

We cycled through two 40+ degree days without many resources in between point A and Point B. This meant carrying extra liters of water (heavy!), and enough food and snacks for 2 days. We are definitely eating a lot, so food adds significant weight as well!

In addition to fire and dehydration, I've been worried about snake and spider bites. There was a Redback spider outside our door the other day, and all the eucalyptus leaves and bark spread over the trails makes it really hard to spot and avoid a snake. Also, walking through the bush near Wangaretta, I leaned my arm against one of these spiny caterpillar things and got stung. Yikes, what is this thing?!?

Ultimately we just had to begin each day as best prepared as possible, roll with the punches, and try to enjoy the scenery. A good recipe for a fulfilling life, right? I definitely have a renewed sense of gratitude that I live in a place with plenty of access to clean water, and limited exposure to creatures that can kill me. But I now know how to properly apply pressure bandages, to stomp on my shoes before putting them on (thanks Vic!), and have mentally practiced staying calm if bitten by a snake. But I'm not just learning and growing because of that good ol' Fear of Death! Fear really puts a damper on satisfaction, and fun. I've also newly learned how best to spot a platypus (haven't seen any yet though), that there are heaps of kangaroos around golf courses, that peppermint eucalyptus trees smell especially sweet after a rain, that Aimee loves whipped cream and fried haloumi, and that Aussies have many many accents that are hard to imitate.

We had one of the best shows of the tour on Saturday night in Tawonga...played a beautiful room to a rapt audience of locals...cyclists, farmers, adventurers, and just plain beautiful folks. I thought Aimee sounded especially great, I could hear every little nuance she beat out of that drum...and the wooden stage was fantastic for keeping a kick drum going. I admit I didn't practice at all on the long haul from Melbourne, and it felt great to get the guitar back in my hands.

The weather has cooled now, and we've just crossed the border into New South Wales. A new state, and a new leg of the adventure!



  1. Mmm, love what traveling does to ya. Thanks so much for sharing. Miss you both, but looking forward to many more stories.

  2. "Fear really puts a damper on satisfaction, and fun..."

    LOVE you guys! I promise I am there with you. When are you coming to Thailand? I have a guest room with your names on it.

  3. Fantastic experiences....
    Enjoy, be well.