PAUSE THE RACE – it’s time for a detour. There’s so much more to cycling than men with plucked drumstick calves pedalling up French hillsides, their backsides bobbing for the cameras. The bicycle is a technological marvel that completely transformed human societies in the past, and is now an essential tool for a cleaner and healthier future. Let’s take a look.
From March 2012 to November 2012, my partner and I cycled 6500 kilometres up Australia researching the simple living movement for a book titled Changing Gears: A Pedal-Powered Detour from the Rat Race, to be published spring 2013 (through Affirm Press). You can read about our adventure in this Age profile or at our website www.simplelives.com.au.
From the blurb:
Greg Foyster quits his job in advertising and decides to live more simply. Looking for inspiration, he and his partner Sophie cycle from Melbourne to Far North Queensland (via Tasmania, naturally) scouting out ideas.
Preposterously underprepared, they are propelled by the inspiring and eccentric characters they meet along the way – from a forest activist living up a tree to an 18th-century woodsman and a monk walking barefoot through Queensland.
Featuring eye-opening encounters with DIY downshifters and leading figures in sustainability, Changing Gears is a jaunty adventure that explores an important question for the future: can we be happier with less?
THE Spirit of Tasmania isn’t a ship. It’s a floating civilisation. The giant ferry has a disco, a food court and even a movie theatre. The cabins come with all the usual conveniences – clean sheets, thick blankets, and mints on starched pillows. Outside it’s near freezing and the gales are upending gulls, but in here it’s a comfy 25˚C and the only breeze is steam billowing from the shower.
The first Europeans to make this trip braved Bass Strait without heaters or hot water to keep them warm and cosy. But that’s not to say their boats were without technology. On board were the most advanced tools and weapons ever seen in these waters, technology the Europeans used to overpower the inhabitants of the island and change its ecosystem forever. The landing was an alien invasion, unexpected and irrevocable.
As I leave the boat and board a waiting bus, I’m acutely aware of my place in this, the story of Tasmania. I am a descendant of those aliens. I have come to visit a world my ancestors conquered, to drive along the paths they cleared through the bush, to camp in the forests they claimed as their own. Most tourists travel to see a foreign culture; but here, on this island at ‘world’s end’, I have come to see how my own culture is faring in a foreign land.
UNTIL I visited Linfen, a coalmining town in central China, I never considered black to be a colour. But in Linfen, where the sky is bluish black, the trees are greenish black, and the dirt is brownish black, black is more than just a colour. It’s an entire palette.