Day 81: Rest Day, Cobargo

Scrabble. Mum in the garden. Picking, prepping and dehydrating strawberries (omg – yum!). we also went for a paddle and had some lunch in Bermagui, the nearest coastal town. I’d like to post a million pics from my time with mum and T, but wordpress is full, and I have two days to go til I’m home, so one will have to do:IMG_4382.PNG

Mum and her partner T are part of the Transition Town movement – committed to resilience in the face of climate change, and independence from fossil fuels. They grow just about everything, buy half a home killed animal of some description from time to time, are shareholders in the local food co-op and actively try to keep everything local and sustainable. What they can’t get local and sustainable, they buy (whenever possible) in ways that contribute to other communities or countries’ attempts in the same direction. In a way they live very simply. Once they built their home and set themselves up they don’t need much. They both enjoy working out how to make this way of life work, and supporting their friends and other members of the community to do the same. They’re not hippies, by any stretch of the imagination, and that’s what I find interesting. If you look at how they live from the outside, you don’t see anything really very different from other folks who are cultivated and comfortable, but there’s an energy about it that feels fantastic, and an integrity that shines through.

I’ve found country towns in Australia, for the most part, quite interesting. They increasingly have a combination of people who have been farming for generations, and tree- or sea-changers like Mum and T, who retire to the land. Even outback towns are transforming – except maybe mining towns, which are all pretty horrible.

Mum and T live amongst farmland, surrounded by state forest, 18km inland from one of the most beautiful coastal areas in the country. They have a way of life I greatly admire. In many ways they are more rich than us. I’m hoping Bertie and I can move in this direction more strongly too, once we’re in Denmark, where produce is expensive but rent is not (ie grow your own is possible and sensible). Let’s see how we go.

Bertie did a round Australia motorbike trip 2 years ago, and warned me that in the more remote regions, the closest I’ll come to a fruit or vegetable outside of a supermarket will be potato fries (and Potatoes don’t agree with me, so aside from getting fat I’d also feel dreadful). Well, it hasn’t been true. It suggests that Australia is transforming pretty quickly. Some roadhouses are still horrible with what they have on offer, but I found as many as 80% are providing healthier options. 80% is a big number. Salads. Sometimes not very exciting salads, but more exciting than if I had a traditional hamburger with the lot, without the chips or the bun (the bread might as well just be sugar, and too much of it makes me sick, so I avoid that too). Also grass-fed beef of extraordinary quality, farmed locally. Home made dips with cheese, crackers and carrot sticks – not processed (well, aside from the cheese), but put together in the kitchen by people who care. In Standley Chasm, near Alice Springs, we had fresh frozen mango cheeks, eaten straight from the zip-lock freezer bag – creamy and delicious, just like ice-cream but without the sugar (or wheat or other crap they put in commercially produced ice-creams). These options aren’t extensive, but they are there. It’s a reflection of changing attitudes, a growing commitment to food that tastes good and is good, made using animals and fruits and vegetables that are grown locally, healthily and sustainably. Even if this is only occurring because the taste is different, it supports what people on the transition town movement are doing. it helps us be healthier and in tune with the planet, and maybe have a planet we can thrive with as we move forward (despite what many governments and corporations have been doing).

I know I ride a motorbike, and it’s maybe hard to reconcile riding for joy with responsible, diminishing use of fossil fuels, including petrol. But it’s a hell of a lot better than driving a car. It brings me in touch with people with different lifestyles, outlooks and values. It allows me to connect, and I think this is important. I was speaking with Bertie and our good friend Theo about what my trip has been like, now that I’m near the end, and Theo remarked how motorbike adventure riding places the rider in a direct and beautiful collision with the reality of how generous people can be. So many people have said that I’m brave doing this trip. And we often live in fear of the unknown, imagining rape and murder, theft, robbery, pillage. and while these things do happen they are the exceptions, not the rule. Under it all, people really want the same things – food in their stomach, a roof over their heads in some form, a safe and loving environment, and the opportunity to be happy / feel gratitude / enjoy laughter, music, maybe dancing / to connect…

I’ve written before that the emergent theme for this trip has been generosity. Theo remarked that in all the motorbike adventure stories he reads on Horizons Unlimited and elsewhere, generosity is what shines through – in Africa, Asia, Russia, China, Europe, North, Central and South America, even here in Australia… This trip has been an adventure and a half, but it has enabled me to connect and experience that generosity. There isn’t a single experience I regret – not even not finding a way across the crocodile infested river to go to the arts festival and party that day in Arnhem Land, because even that experience led me to reflect and find greater understanding of how I can be in the world.

The Harley rider I ran into in Armidale, who is thinking of changing from his Harley to a Beemer, asked me if my trip was a life-changing experience. He asked from a place that expected me to say yes, but didn’t really connect with what that might mean, and when I spoke about it – things like understanding my place with the world, rather than in the world, and the nuances of how profound it has really been, we connected, he had a better understanding than if I’d simply, enthusiastically replied yes, but not tried to unpack it for him. My clumsy attempts at articulation allowed him to understand what perhaps can never have words. I think my cousin connected to this too – ticking off the boxes? she asked, when I listed off the family I was seeing. no, not at all, I’m trying to connect with the people who have been important in my life. and while, I still have a long way to go, and probably always will, this trip has allowed me a greater vulnerability with people, so I can be in touch with, and say things like that. It’s not always easy and I don’t always get it right, but having been vulnerable almost continually, while I’ve ridden around this extraordinary land alone (from the moment Bertie left me until now) I think has made me a better person.

and will it last?
well, I’ll keep riding :)
so yes. I do believe it will.

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