Sunday, 25 May 2014

Micro-touring the Northern Rivers as/with Artist as (extended) Family

It was here, 10 kms out of Mullumbimby on the Myocum Road, riding back to Bentley for the big showdown with police, where we pulled over to check directions and discovered our phone ablaze with messages from loved ones asking us to confirm whether the news was indeed true.

Woody may not quite have understood what was behind the joy of his parents at this moment but nonetheless picked up that it was something significant. OMG! Metgasco's license suspended and police operation cancelled. We've won! We've bloody well won!

Patrick spent some time over the next week writing down the reasons for the success at Bentley while it was fresh in our minds.

We called our friend Brett, who we'd stayed with back in Kempsey, to tell him the news. Brett was riding to meet us at Bentley for the showdown with police. As we were all on bikes fuelling our own transits we decided not to head back there for the celebrations but to meet in Ocean Shores and ride north together.

While we were at Bentley, via the play of our dogs Russell and Zero, we met Eka who lives at Ocean Shores. Eka had previously invited us to stay with her if we passed by. She and her son Olaf hosted us with Alice and her son Satria, who are also travelling the country.

On our second and last night we all joined Eka and Olaf's community on the beach for a full moon fire before Artist as (extended) Family bid the ocean adieu and set off for Burringbar.

It was wonderful to be travelling as five again, and Brett immediately made life easier in a myriad number of ways.

He led us to the home of his friends on a property that matriarch Jan had steward-gardened for thirty-five years, slowly turning it from cleared paddock into forest.

Jan's daughter Jessie Cole, two grandsons Milla and Luca, and pooch Jet, also live on this remarkable property,

which contains this little bungalow where Artist as Family stayed.

While we were there we were inspired to scheme up a small, gravity fed, off-grid home based on the proportions of this little dwelling by the creek.

We had many fruitful discussions while we stayed with Jessie and Jan and the boys, ranging from composting toilets to the woeful ideology of mainstream economics (which we all agreed is in serious need of composting). We were treated to the family's citrus orchard,

and dared to try this fruit,

which is a supposed relative of dragon fruit. It wasn't unpleasant.

It was only a twenty k ride from Ocean Shores to Upper Burringbar and about the same distance on to Uki, where we headed to next, climbing two hills and joyously coming down them:

this was micro-touring on quiet roads – heavenly. Not far out from Uki Brett spotted a banana passionfruit vine that had naturalised.

Wow! What spoils from the verge we have had on this trip.

We rode into Uki on a high and went to the general store to buy some tucker. OMG! The store has organic and biodynamic bulk foods, local bulk honey and home-grown produce. This is the first time we'd seen such a hybrid business. What a model for other small towns.

We set up camp on the banks of the Tweed River and were soon visited by a friendly local, Tim, who invited us over to his place.

The next day we walked there,

passing these lovely creatures on the way.

Tim showed us around the property he grew up on. He, like Jan and Jessie and the boys, had a lovely connection to their land and a deep respect for Indigenous lifeways. Tim showed us his experimental fish trap, which was an exercise in remodelling Indigenous food gathering techniques, not necessarily for catching fish but for better understanding the ways in which people enact low-damaging modes of life.

We invited Tim and his girlfriend Ahliya over for a fireside dinner and asked them to bring their instruments, and while Brett wrapped sweet potato in river soaked Bangalow palm leaves to put on the fire,

TJ Quinton and Ahliya Kite sang us into poetic reverie with their playing. We will try to catch their upcoming gig in Brisbane at Clarence Corner Bookstore.

Needless to say the sweet spuds were also a hit. And we served them with a simple pasta dish while listening to the mullet jumping in the creek.

The next day we breakfasted on the dragon fruit that Tim and Ahliya had brought,

and on the way out of town stopped by the Uki hall, drawn in by a fundraising event that spilled out onto the street where we injected a large hit of industrially farmed evil to burn off on the road to Murwillumbah.

Another little twenty-five km day. Oh, the spoils of micro travel! Pulling over to buy some far more responsibly farmed produce,

we then bee-lined to Murwillumbah's bike shop. Jim and Claire have had the shop for 31 years and they shone in good ol fashioned service.

Jim, a cyclist all his life,

fixed a broken spoke and re-aligned the wheel while we waited. Now we were ready to find our friends Belinda and Cecile's home, which they share with their dog-kin Missy.

This expecting creative couple are working on a book of creative couples, which Meg and Patrick are to be featured in. For a few of days we hung out together,

laughed, went for walks around the town and cooked each other meals,

before Cecile and Belinda waved us off.

We had itchy pedals and were excited, but also uneasy to move into Queensland, where just over there,

politicians have opened up the country yet another notch, to mine, pollute and devastate under the umbrella of an economic model that refuses to grow up. But before we go there we have a few days to relax at Tweed Heads,

and enjoy the company of Meg's parents,

who have come to momentarily abduct their youngest grandson, who just might be in need of some new shoes.


  1. Hey! I've recently begun following your blog as I found you lately through Milkwood's blog and then had the chance to do an essay based around the Bentley Blockade (the essay was about Media representation of public issues) for my Sustainable Development Degree.
    My husband and I with our two children are planning to travel around Australia, but we are doing up a Bedford Bus (which will have solar panels and a composting toilet) - sadly it has an old diesel, clever hubby is hoping to get it going on Bio-Diesel (apparently carbon neutral)...but looking at you guys I think I'd much rather get around by bike!! What a wonderful way to travel.
    I think I'll be following you for a while, you will probably be able to see more of the country than we will in our big old boat of a ride, so I'll get some tips!
    Are you planning to get all of the way around? Maybe if we get up and running soon enough we could catch up to you and give you a lift across the desert?! :)
    Anyhoo. Good luck. Thank you for sharing your adventures with internet land.

  2. Hello Tul, glad to hear from you and hear about your writings on Bentley. How exciting to be planning such a family adventure and how brilliant to have a composting toilet on board. We highly recommend travelling the country by bikes, it is such a wonderful way to experience it. Yes, please catch us up. We plan to head north up the QLD coast for at least a month or so. A bio-fuelled transit across the desert sounds ace! Thanks for getting in touch. AaF

  3. Hi Guys, so lovely to follow you and see you riding these familiar roads. You look very happy to have mum & dad there Meg, enjoy the time with them. And I'll follow you into QLD, all love Eka

    1. Thanks Eka, and what lovely roads they were to ride, Burringbar to Uki was sheer delight. Much love to you and Olaf. AaF

  4. Patrick and Meg, after hearing snippets about your travels I finally managed to catch up with the blog and found myself reading the whole story, watching most of the videos and reading many of the comments. Very inspiring including the great efforts in documentation which I'm sure has been tough at times. My last blog romance was Oliver's Sunken Miles with his spectacular photography but I found your mostly more pedestrian (no pun intended) photos are great journalism; telling the story. Ironically the plain posed photos of all the ordinary Australians you connected with who are growing food, connecting with nature and building more resilient communities gives a great sense of solidarity to balance our sense of alienation from the mainstream. I appreciated the written piece and poem about Bentley and it was great to Steve Hendo passionate about hemp aand lots of others you stayed with. Of course the constant foraging and finding camp sites brings it all together with the ecological shifts as you move north. Perhaps the best was Woody on your back while you collect weed salad interrupting with "more more" like a fledgling in the nest, as you move past each bunch of ripe blackberries.

    Love from Hepburn for the winter solstice in the sub tropics

    1. dear david, you certainly win the prize for most comprehensive and generous comment. thank you. we have been in brisbane and fell in with, by chance via the cycle touring website 'warm showers', a whole bunch of lovely young permies. some had met and befriended ollie. now we are on stradbroke island and are amazed how delicious it is here. midjim berry season! we may stay some time. much solstice-approaching love, aaf