We have been on the road for two weeks now and so far we've had the juiciest of times.
We are gathering so much material on frugal living and travelling that we are expanding the scope of our research to include all things obtainable outside the monetary economy.
It is remarkable how much of life is still not monetised, but it is even more remarkable how these things are not commonly valued.
After Beechworth we stayed a few nights in Yackandandah and met Leanne, one of the facilitators of the forthcoming community garden there.
She gave us half a dozen of her delicious hen's eggs, which were pure permaculture gold.
Yack is a joy-filled little town and Woody started to practice his own form of social warming.
Just as the sweet green hills of spring were beginning to dry out we headed towards the high country,
noting more walnuts, apples, cherry plums, figs, peaches and blackberries forming on the roadside verges.
But before we really started to climb we joined another rail trail at Huon, which took us over Lake Hume.
Before colonisation and before it was dammed, this lake was known as Bungoona (Sandy Creek) by the traditional owners. In 1887 a rail line went in to the area which opened it up for further development which saw the displacement of Indigenous peoples.
Today the rail trail offers a peaceful, ecological traverse through this once traumatised country. Can country heal itself after such interrupting violence?
We rode into Tallangatta with a dust storm, found the town's park and rehydrated,
found a municiple powerpoint to recharge, headed across to the local opshop,
and munched out on free, locally-grown grapefruit.
We have started compiling a list of all the free things we are finding and we are realising that these things aren't just good options for frugal travelling, they are generally the least polluting too.
1. free drinking water – water bubblers in public parks and streetsTired and somewhat on the nose we rode around Tallangatta looking for a place to camp. We pulled over to check the map when a local man, putting up his Christmas lights, asked if we needed help. A few minutes later George and his partner Laura had invited us to camp in their backyard, take a shower and join them for dinner.
2. free food – foraged, fished, hunted, gleaned and gifted
3. free camping sites – creeks and rivers
4. free electricity – council parks and sports grounds
5. free swimming/ bathing – creeks and rivers
6. free laundry – any public sink (take a universal plug with you)
7. free wifi - neighbourhood centres and libraries
8. free shelters – council parks and sports grounds
9. free knowledges – local knowledge is priceless and most people are willing to offer it
10. free BBQ facilities – council parks, sports grounds, community gardens, etc
We happily accepted, bought some accompaniments and helped out where we could.
George gave us a heads-up that we had a big day of riding ahead of us, so we rose early, farewelled our hosts and set off along the rail trail again.
We climbed from Tallangatta (205m above sea level) into Snowy River country,
until we reached the Koetong Pub, where we stopped to recuperate and where we met this bunch of volunteers who have been working on the rail trail since 2002.
They had been working on a new section of the trail that leads all the way to the former Shelley Station, the highest railway station ever built in Victoria (779m above sea level).
At Shelley we found evidence of corporate greenwashing. The same global chemical company responsible for the Bhopal disaster (Dow is Union Carbide as this wonderful piece of satire attests) also aims to become a major controller of the world's food supply. Here Dow is advancing the poisoning of innocuous free food for the sake of peddling its dubious herbicides to Landcare groups. There's no such thing as a good corporate citizen, just clever public relation strategies.
We got a little lost in the pine plantations trying to leave Shelley, but eventually found our way back out onto the Murray Valley Highway for a several kilometre rollercoaster ride down into Berringama where an old hall signalled it was time for a feed,
and a tune or two.
It had already been a huge day and we knew we were pushing it but we had heard of a sweet caravan park at Colac Colac (pronounced Clack Clack), and it seemed to be in reach. About 5km out Patrick's rear wheel axel broke, the first disaster of our trip. Meg and Woody went on to the park and brought back the extremely generous park owner, Phil, who helped us put the bike onto the tray of his ute and brought us all to this incredibly beautiful park.
We now have a handful of days to wait while the wheel is fixed, sent by courier to Albury.
Time to re-stock, rest up after our massive 74km day yesterday, wash clothes, fish, look for wild plants, write up journals and map the next leg of our trail. Do we push north into apple country or do we head southeast into alpine trout country?
We hope you are having a restorative weekend too.