Friday, 28 November 2014

Moss Vale to Hyams Beach (with a video recipe for eating garden snails)

We left Moss Vale with full bellies and much family cheer, but an aching to be on the open road again. The Illawarra Highway welcomed us with mostly broad shoulders.

Just before the little potato town of Robertson, Zero jumped bike and chased lunch down a hole. But he really needed some more skilful help – another Jacky, a feret or Andrew Ucles perhaps.

It will have to be spuds for lunch, then.

Just out of town we spotted some naturalised elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) growing among the bracken fern (Pteridium sp.) – another edible, but only in a survival situation – and roadside weeds.

Great! Something to take to the Milkwood crew, now of Kiama.

We flew down Jamberoo Pass with our newly replaced brake pads smokin',

and arrived in Kiama mid-afternoon. Patrick thought he'd try to spear some fish to also bring to the Milkwood table, but he only speared this estuary cobbler or catfish (Cnidoglanis) thinking it was an eel. These fish have large venomous dorsal and pectoral-fin spines that are capable of inflicting very painful wounds. He put this ugly but divine critter back in the ocean and watched it swim away.

We did collect a turban shell (Turbo undulata),

that we hammered open to cook at Nick, Kirsten and Ashar's place. Hello Milkwood family! So good to meet you again after all these years.

The turban shell was, well, typically shellfish-like with a strong scent of pork as we cooked it in strained pig fat. We were blessed with an extended piggy feast that night: the pork was served up with bone broth noodles and our elephant garlic. A few days later we were to become intimate with the origin of that very local pork,

which we'll get to shortly. The next day we walked around to the Boneyard, a famous surfing haven when conditions are right, and went in search of lunch. Before long Patrick speared what we think is a wrasse of some kind,

and Zeph took us on a short fish gutting demo. Thanks Zeph!

While at the Boneyard we munched on some Warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides),

noted (not quite ripe) cape gooseberries (Physalis peruviana),

and saw loads of the edible weed cobbler's peg, otherwise known as farmer's friend (Bidens pilosa).

We picked some wild brassica leaves and flowers,

and some pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens) fruit,

and with foraged sow thistle, wild fennel and some leaf vegeatables and herbs growing in Nick and Kirsten's new garden we made a salad,

to accompany the fish for lunch. It was a delicious and very local meal.

Milkwood had organised for us to speak at the Little Blowhole Café that night, where we shared our year's story with about 40 peeps. There was so much to say, and so little time, and so many great questions!

Thanks Nick and Kirsten for hosting us! It has been wonderful to get to know you both and Ashar better. Two of the people who came along to our talk were the very farmers of the delicious pork we'd had the previous night and they invited us to camp at their organic farm in Gerringong. This is the view we cycled across, looking south to Gerringong. Pretty horrid, hey??

We arrived at Buena Vista Farm and Woody jumped straight into the strawberry patch. It was serious work.

And in that same patch were hundreds of snails (Helix aspersa) that Maarten, a dutch WWOOFer working at the farm with his partner Marlies, collected up and demonstrated how to turn into a valuable source of meat. Brilliant Maarten, we love experimental permies!

We had two precious days of exchanging knowledges with the Buena Vista crew. We learnt more about cell grazing chickens and cows and market gardening, and Patrick took a foraging tour over the farm, identifying a dozen or so common weed species including plantain, hawksbeard, dandelion, black nightshade, dock, chickweed, stinging nettle, fat hen, fleabane, spear thistle, sow thistle, clover, cobbler's peg and amaranth.

After lunch we walked across a neighbour's farm to the coast to go for a spear,

and brought back two fishy offerings for the dinner table feast on our last night.

The feast included locally farmed trout, which Buena Vista had traded for some of their meat birds, and roasted parsnips pulled straight out of the rich organic market garden soil. Like at Milkwood we were treated to the region's finest fare. Thank you Fi, Adam, Henry, Tilly, Ivy, Holly the dog and the delightful (and knowledgeable) interns, Maarten and Marlies! Our stay at Buena Vista Farm was a true treat!

Before leaving the farm we realised we had a bit of a problem.

The seat post we had welded on the way up north in Gosford was showing signs of stress after about 6000 kms. Fi was going to Nowra on the morning we were leaving, so she kindly offered to load up her car with our panniers and we put the bikes on the train for the 18 km joy ride,

to Bomaderry station. Fi, who also took Zeph and Zero, met us there, where we bid farewell to this amazing woman, and rode across town to south Nowra where the alumimium welder Jason was waiting for us.

Only $20! Thanks Jason! We love not having a car! By the time we left the workshop it was 38 degrees in the shade. Zeph wished we did have a car. The heat surprised us, and so did this sign:

Wow, we're that close to home. We struggled on the short and dangerous ride to Huskisson but were rewarded for our efforts at Shark Net Beach on Jervis Bay. Where else would you want to be on such a baking afternoon?

This south coast really is remarkable. We got the free-camping low-down from some friendly locals who set our course on a 15 minute bike ride south to Plantation Point, which from our tents looked like this:

The boys made themselves at home,

and the dawns pretty much emmulated this one:

Pure dawn porn! We settled in for four nights in our quiet haven. One of the joys of cycle-camping is being able to get away from cars and vans and into areas where their various pollutions can't follow us. It was quiet at Plantation Point, the sleepy surf rocked us to sleep and created a perfect white noise to sleep past the little night sighs of our toddler and the sleep talk of Zero and Zeph. Ah bliss...

While at Plantation Point we spearfished and fished off the rocks with the remains of a bull shark some local fishermen had left behind. 

Zeph wrote a synopsis of Lord of the Flies and answered the question: Put yourself on the island: what would you do differently?

We ate native violets (Viola hederacea), the flowers and leaves,

and rock oysters (Saccostrea glomerata),

and we started to document seaweeds,

before we moved on just 10 kms south to Hyams Beach where we continued our research on these common Australian algaes we really know nothing about.

We're sure there is good tucker in at least some of these species.

If you know anything about edible seaweeds in Australia, Dear Reader, we'd love to hear from you.

Zero conducted his own research – chance canine encounters and coastal bird chasing.

We walked south along the white sand beach towards the navy college, musing, not on the education of young people in the business of man-made mass death, but on all the wondrous finds of regenerative life we came across along the way including this jellyfish,

American sea rocket, (Cakile edentula), which has thick succulent edible leaves.

beautiful marine jewellery,

and even more varieties of kelp.

Our walk was cathartic. Boys on a beach is a joy to behold; it doesn't get any more uncomplicated.

That night we again snuck the bikes into the beachside bush, picked up a bag of rubbish in exchange for our camping fees,

waited for dusk and the departure of the daily beachfolk before we set up our tents, cooked dinner, put Woody and Zero to bed and lit a little evening fire to help us reflect on the past few weeks.

That's about all from us this post. We'll see you again shortly, Dear Reader. We hope you too have comfort and warmth from the love of kin and healthy ecologies.


  1. Go Zeph, that was a great little demo, got my son asking if he can try :-)

    1. Thanks Tara, I'd like to do one on skinning a rabbit soon. How old is your son?


    2. We'd like to see your rabbit demo when you get to it, my son is 6 and learning lots about food and where it should come from.

      Also we all hope the artist as family are staying safe (and hopefully dry) with all the severe storms happening.


  2. I tried to post earlier and it didn't go through so I'll give it another shot. its Gwendolyne here I met ou and woody at the market today at our French bread stall. it was so lovely to meet you!! your adventures and journey is amazing and inspirational ! best of luck with the final leg of the journey. peace, Gwen xx