On leaving Rockhampton we discovered this strange scene:
The local council had laid fake grass beside the Bruce Highway, then an alive grass had penetrated the fake grass and remarkably grew until the council then sprayed it with glysophate (a poison Monsanto tells us is safe, as they did with Agent Orange and DDT). Someone then stubbed out their cigarette butt and threw it into the mix. The logic of the city is beyond us. Time to reconnect with the intelligence of autonomous, uncivil things.
Not far north of Rocky on the Ridgelands Road we came across bush cucumbers (Cucumis spp.),
which weren't quite ripe,
although we did find one almost formed and ready.
And not far on again we came across our first Ber fruit (Ziziphus mauritiana), otherwise known as Chinee Apple, Jujube, Indian plum and Masau.
These small trees from south-east Asia have naturalised in northern Australia. We look forward to trying them next time now we know what they are.
We had decided on the Ridgelands - Glenroy Station route to avoid the Road of Death, but our rather paltry map didn't warn us that most of the way to Marlborough would be gravel.
After 70 kms or so of riding we made camp beside the road, bloody exhausted.
Being on gravel certainly slowed us down, which was only a problem of water. We filled up two bottles at the Glenroy Crossing of the Fitzroy River, just in case we needed them. Zero's iron constitution surely wouldn't have a problem drinking this water.
This was cattle station country, and we got a view into this altered ecology firstpedal.
We also got a view of our own vulnerability without water. We banged on this farmer's door to ask for a tap.
No one was home, so we took his water upon ourselves. Thanks unknown farmer!
Relief!! We passed water-savvy emus,
and motorised ones.
Aching, dust-covered and sorely parched we arrived in the little town of Marlborough, pulled up outside the pub and were immediately greeted by Jeff and Linda, who invited us home for an impromptu party.
After a bonfire and rowdy dancing sesh with several locals and a Swede, we passed out in their backyard caravan and awoke rested,
ate a delicious home-cooked breakfast then farewelled our new friends (hi Digs!),
and ventured back onto the Bruce.
Over the 31 kms that we rode that day from Marlborough to Tooloobah Creek we counted 212 individual road-killed animals on the left lane, shoulder and verge alone. Assuming the other side would produce a similar number (it certainly looked like it), we concluded that on this stretch of the Bruce Highway there was one roadkill every 75 metres of bitumen. Staggering!
This number exceeds tenfold the bodies we encounted along a 60km stretch of the Hume Highway last December. We stopped to rest at Tooloobah Creek Roadhouse and after only a few minutes of sitting in the shade witnessed this:
We were only moments from being roadkill ourselves. No one was hurt, the owners were even fairly jokey about it, praising insurance and airbags. We walked away from the amounting spectacle, set up our tents,
and went in search of some tucker.
The next day, as we were packing up to leave Tooloobah we were greeted briefly by a southbound Frenchman, Stephane, who was on a solo mission to cycle around the world.
It was a long hot day in the saddle. Temperatures are again starting to climb in this region known as the dry tropics. But Bruce was fairly good to us, only once, and for just a short time, turning his shoulder away so we had but a few hundred millimetres of safe path to balance on.
We're getting fairly hardy to such travel. Failing a capsizing caravan or some such unavoidable situation coming crashing down on us, riding defensively makes touring dead-safe in Australia, even on the Road of Death. A road that can throw up delightful pastoral vistas,
bush lemons (Citrus limon),
and crazy pandanus sunsets.
We arrived on dusk at delightful Clairview where the Great Dividing Range pushed the Bruce to the Pacific's edge. Apart from the short leg from Marlborough to Tooloobah Creek we had been covering around 70 kms each day and were fairly sore. We pitched our tents at a free camping ground for an extended rest.
We spent the following day drifting along the mangrove shoreline, playing in rock pools,
and learning more about shellfish,
such as these mud whelks (Terebralia sp.), found around the hightide line on mangrove mud in north and eastern Australia.
We collected several, broke into their shells and cooked them on a public BBQ.
Delish! We followed the same procedure with mangrove snails (Nerita spp.),
which were also delicious, just more rubbery in texture.
There were no shops in Clairview, but on most days this little charity store on the beach opened to the public selling all manner of things including home-grown produce. Bless. Thanks ladies!
We bought a pinapple ($2), a dozen eggs ($3) and a whole pumpkin ($3.50) and feasted with our foraged shellfish,
and other bush tucker including panadus leaves,
and a bag of goodies Meg gleaned on a walk around the little town.
After a day of rest we left Clairview recharged with a morning's bowl of oats, chia seeds, ginger, raisins and honey under our lycra,
ready for another morning's ride and day of discovery.
Accessible waterlilies (Nymphaea spp.), and no possibiliy of crocs in this roadside dam about 20 kms north of Clairview!
We'd been wanting to taste the bulbous roots of this plant for some time, and we weren't disappointed.
So many discoveries on this long leg from Rockhampton and I guess we were getting fatigued, a day's rest probably wasn't long enough at Claireview and after eight and a half months on the road we had our first accident. We ran into eachother trying to converse on the noisey Bruce and Woody, sadly, came off worst.
Meg was also brusied and battered and hurt her wrist.
We hobbled into Koumala and set up camp,
treated Zero to a dose of fleabane (Conyza spp.) that we found growing nearby,
and treated ourselves to another early night. We were, alas, repeatedly woken by trucks and cane trains operating all hours.
and even the promise of magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata) eggs,
all mildly interrupted the dominant culture's war on peoples' health and the land as we rode into Sarina the next day,
and on to Mackay,
where the delightful Warm Showers host Jeanie met us and led us back to her home where we will rest and recover before returning once again to our home on the road.
Thank you Jeanie and Peppe for your über hospitality. It was so so lovely to meet you and two of your boys. Thank you for taking in our bedraggled selves and opening your peaceful, loving home to us,
especially when you where also hosting the delightful Igor and Luka, fellow cycle tourists from Switzerland and Italy.
We hope your life is filled with peace, too, dear reader. Much love from us in Mackay until our next update somewhere further north in a week or so.