This is a guest blog from Nick Soukek, Doer of the Month in March 2012 and winner of the ‘Most Committed Doer‘ award 2012. Here is Part Two of his account of his incredible cycle ride from Perth to Adelaide.
You can find Part One here.
It seems like a long time ago that I had made those first tentative peddle-strokes out from Perth. Writing this now back in the UK, several months on from returning and six months since starting off, it all has a strange feeling of being both vivid in my mind and at the same time as though it is but a distant memory. Whilst I could have, I theory, undertaken a similar cycle anywhere in the world, I chose Australia because it was where I was born and brought up. Having left at the age of eleven, however, I’ve never really lived as an adult in Australia. It is a country, and culture, that I am simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar with. I am familiar with the feel of the place. But I don’t know what it is to engage with the more banal aspects of an adult’s day-to-day life. Therefore it was important that my cycle across Australia was a means to encounter both the land and the people who live there in their everyday. An additional challenge, as a vegetarian, was to get the calories and protein that I needed to fuel me along. I can report that whilst the food was at times not especially inspiring, it turned out to be no hardship.
In addition to cycling, my main means towards re-encountering Australia was volunteering on organic farms along the way – at which in total I would spend three of my nine weeks. I’d previously volunteered on organic farms and similar projects back in the UK, and as such the WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) network was already on my radar. Reflecting a diversity of ideas and their execution, at their core they each encircle values of environmental and social sustainability.
At these different projects, and they were each very different, I found myself building animal rescue cages, casting mud bricks, picking and pressing wine grapes, designing wine labels, making chutney, teaching how to brew cider, general cooking and cleaning, and designing and painting signs, amongst many other varied tasks. Whilst it was great to meet people doing interesting and worthwhile things, most important was the forum for engaging directly with people through learning from and at times them learning from me. It was also in this space that I came to learn of others lives, hopes and dreams. Not to mention that with all those I met I had great fun. As I said goodbye to each successive host, re-saddled and rolled back onto the road, I knew that during some of the quieter solitary days of cycling ahead, not to mention throughout the rest of my life, I would be buoyed when recalling these encounters and memories.
I find it more difficult to express my experience of cycling. There was certainly more to it than the routine of waking up, eating breakfast, making lunch, packing up, saddling up, cycling for 4-10 hours, setting up camp, eating dinner before dusk, and then falling asleep. At the same time this routine was definitely a consistent part of my cycling days. But after the first week or so you get used to that bit and you just allow yourself to be free on the road. The repetitive mechanical action is meditative in a way, and whilst at times I did extraordinarily miss my partner who I’d left back in the UK, for the most part I was content to stare across the horizon wild-eyed at such an un-ending landscape.
Cycling across Australia was a genuinely beautiful experience. But what I want to convey more than anything else is that cycling doesn’t have to be just about cycling. In the same spirit as WWOOFing, there is something about the accessibility of cycling that really does mean that it is open to all. It is a democratic practice that allows anyone to move across and through the world. Furthermore cycling is particularly powerful because it operates ‘in addition’ to one’s life, rather than at the expense of other things. It is that addition that only helps to further open up possibilities. So long as you have a bike, your relative health, and the commitment to keep going, then the world and its people open up to you in a big way. Motorised vehicles may have their uses, but in their convenience something gets lost along the way.
You can see Nick’s Do Page, it’s never too late to sponsor him!