Wednesday, August 4, 2010

First month on the road

I'm planning to write up a summary of 'learnings' or a summary or whatever you might call it from the tour on a monthly basis, and this is the very first one!

I'm breaking it up into sections: water, food, shelter, power, bike maintenance, and amusement but other sections might creep in and out.


No issues with running out of, or finding water so far. I carry two litres at a time but usually only touch one of the 1 litre bottles while riding during the day. It is only winter. I tend to use a three or four litres for cooking and washing up during a day.


Breakfast tends to be rolled oats cooked into a porriage with sugar sprinkled on top and milk and sultanas when I can.

Snacks tend to be mixed nuts, sultanas, fruit, out of date packets of fig rolls from cheap shops, and junk like chocolate and biscuits.

Meals tend to polenta or bread with boiled sweet potato or pumpkin for lunch, and for dinner simple carb + protein meals such as lentil dhal with rice or free greens (weeds) cooked with rice with herb seasonings, cheese sauce packet mixed with cooked pasta with nettles, or similar with cous cous. But sometimes I buy a few different vegetables and boil it all with rice just in case I'm lacking in something.

I tend to carry small packets of rice or cous cous and whatever the smallest pasta I can find is (e.g. macaroni or small shells), sometimes also polenta when I can find it, also stock cubes, mixed seasoning packets, and garlic salt.

The most common free food I have found this month is (in order of most common first):
  • Oxalis - this is everywhere at the moment! It looks a bit like 'tall clover' and has yellow bell flowers. You can eat this raw in sandwiches and salads but I tend it sprinkle the leaves / flowers over any cooked food as a garnish when it needs something to make it a bit more interesting - it has a tangy bitterness which can disguise a bland dish.
  • Mallow - this is also everywhere, albeit often chewed and holey or with insects attached. You can however find plenty of leaves that haven't been attached to or attacked by insects, especially new growth. This can be eaten raw but I tend to wash it, bunch it up and slice it into strips and add it as a green to whatever I'm cooking.
  • Wild Brassicas - various species but all have the distinctive yellow flowers and seed pods. Cook leaves like spinach.
  • Wild or Prickly Lettuce - this is just like cos lettuce but the leaves stand tall more individually rather than into a tight cup, are more bitter and can have prickles. If you manage to find young plants/leaves you can use in salads, sandwiches, burritos; otherwise chop it up and throw it into boiling water with the rice or pasta.
  • Dandelion - raw or cooked, the leaves are a good green for your dishes.
  • Sowthistle - frying up the unopened buds with a little garlic or garlic salt is very very nice. Otherwise, the leaves are good blanched and cut up like a spinach for addition to your pasta, rice, polenta or cous cous.
  • Chickweed - this is good for salads, sandwiches or as a garnish raw on whatever meal.
  • Cleavers - I have yet to try but I have seen them around a bit. They are weird sticky leaves but apparently quite nutritious.
  • Nettle - the stinging leaves of this plant mean you have to pick it with gloves on but its taste and nutrition means it is worth it. However, most of the time I have only found this in peoples yards and behind fences so it is hard to get to without trespassing. I have managed so far to find small amounts of it on the footpath side of fences so are yet to be convicted of any weeding crimes. Nettle tea is also very good for you. I tend to put the leaves in a pot of boiling water to blanch it (this gets rid of the sting) and then remove it, cook rice or pasta in the 'tea' and then mix it back in with the cooked carb with half a packet of cheese sauce mix.
  • Pigface - this can be found in more swampy or wet areas around creeks if you're not near the coast. I was suprised to see this is the Wimmera and Mallee area! You can eat this raw but I prefer to boil the fleshy leaves like a green and eat it with a salty cous cous.
I found that I go through a lot of fuel when it is windy, despite trying my best to form wind breaks out of whatever I have around - bricks, branches, wood.

Shelter and coping with the elements

In Bendigo I found that my tend does not tend to handle 10mm dumps of rain on it without the fly over the top, nor flooding from below when a creek decides to spring up in the middle of a camp ground. Since I have always put the fly over the top when any amount of rain is possible. I use my towel to mop out tent if it does get some rain in through the seams. In Horsham I managed to find a camping store that sold spray on waterproofer so I have put a coat of that on my shoes and my tent.

In terms of the cold, I have always managed to keep warm in the night. I have a -5 rated down 'mummy' shaped sleeping bag (meaning it tapers at the feet) and a thermal liner. I also use a waterproof sack over the bag (due to condensation inside the tent making my down bag damp) which also helps trap my heat. Some nights I wear two pairs of socks, a neck gaiter and a beanie.

In Bendigo I bought four plastic sand pegs which are also easier to get into hard ground, a dome tent pole (9mm) which came in 4 sections. I cut each section down to half length so it now fits in the rolled up tent. I connect three sections together to form a pole, and make up two of these to use with the fly and sand pegs on less windy days as it means the tent is easier to get in and out of.

Lighting and Power

I'm using a solar powered led light which I can run for several hours a night with the little sunlight its getting during the day to charge.

I also have a 1 watt battery torch I use on the bike or as a torch when walking around. I've only use the 7 watt torch a couple of times for spotlighting animals in trees or when I'm somewhere that is really dark and muddy where a bit more light comes in handy.

I'm charging my phone from PV mostly and the PDA I can charge when I'm using the internet at libraries, cafes and occassionally from my backup li-on battery. The PDA is mostly used for looking at e-books on plants or composing blog entries before I forget everything.

Probably once a week I find a laundry or library and top up batteries from AC.

Bike maintenance

Bike maintenance requried so far has been:
  • brake recentering on the front rim
  • brake adjustment on rear
  • tyre liner put in
  • tyre liner destroyed rear tyre and tube (it was old stock so had gone hard) so it was removed and thrown out with great annoyance.
  • a few punctures
  • conti contact on rear replaced with my spare tyre as I kept getting punctures
  • spare tyre isn't very wide so have bought a cheap 700x43 tyre for off-road use ($20)
  • Will get a decent rear tyre with puncture protection in Mildura

Keeping amused
  • Reading David Malouf
  • Reading The Thorn Birds which I picked up at an OP shop.
  • A lot of Radio National listening.
  • "Hippy rants" with fellow travellers.

Things I haven't used
  • Water filter and 10 litre water bag - just haven't had the need yet.
  • I have used everything else in my panniers at least once so unfortunately can't 'send home' anything!
Other notes

Most common questions I get asked include how far do I ride in a day. At the moment, 30 - 70 km, which is pretty easy going.

I often get asked 'Don't you get lonely?'. Well, not so far. There are always interesting people to talk to (or argue politics with), or a good book to read, animals to watch, or trees to wander around looking at. I'm very much enjoying the freedom of being in charge of my own direction and speed. If I was travelling with someone else I'm sure I would be riding a lot further and faster and not finding all the hidden gems - the people and the places - that I am finding now. People go out of their way to track me down and talk to me in some places because they assume (wrongly) I must be interesting and worth talking to because I'm travelling on a bike, so sometimes I almost wish I was lonely!


Superbike said...

Hi Maree! Sorry to read about the problem with your Conti rear and the tyre liners. Are you enjoying yourself? Hey I made it to Alice Springs! And my permits came through to ride direct to Perth.

dougau said...

Maree... fascinating reading. I must go out and stew some nettles!