Breadth, budgies and bicycles

With restrictions lifting and borders re-opening, the last six or so weeks have felt like a camera re-focusing. A shift that’s been defined by the injection of great distance and new adventures with special company.

Last weekend, I returned from an epic bike ride with my friend David. Over two days we cycled a smidge over 280km from Swan Hill to Mildura. In many ways, the trip felt like a toy model version of last year’s trip around Australia – starting off with the incredible contrast of the Mallee. 

Arriving in Swan Hill, the contrast of the warm desert climate compared to the city was profound. Getting off the train after four and half hour felt like arriving in another country. To my great delight, a change in birdlife also followed, with the arid parrots cheering us on during the first few hours of cycling. Budgies, ringnecks, mulga parrots and cockatiels were all early companions. 

I never think of the coloured desert sparklers as only being a train-ride away. Let alone being in my home state. That possibility of wild change creates a rush that fuels my every ounce of adventure. 

From the Mallee, we travelled in 25-50km chunks. We saw landscapes change, a patchwork of different towns, and all sorts of different characters not found in the big cities. Sound familiar? In two days, we experienced a lot. 

Over two weeks with my girlfriend Kath, we saw even more. On an epic journey, we drove right up to the still locked Queensland/NSW border. After trekking through the stirring Warrumbungles and a pitstop at the Dubbo zoo, we made it to the tropics in the amazing Border Ranges National Park. 

As a Melburnian it’s always reassuring to know that it’s only a three-day drive to the heart of Australia, and even more comforting that I can reach the tropics in just two. Its rejuvenating being in a place with rolling humidity, tropical fruit doves, all-encompassing mist and days when the vertical rain and sunshine rotate like a pantomime show. It’s another world.

From there, we drove through the heart of Gondwana Land through the New England National Park to land on the coast near Nambucca Heads. Very happily, Kath cajoled me out of relaxation mode for a few hours of kayaking on the Nambucca River. From a year defined again by five-kilometer radii and curfews, we were suddenly kayaking amongst a pod of dolphins and incredible sea eagles catching sharks from the river. 

These trips have been the perfect tonic for the end of another topsy-turvy year. When life returned to a small scale, this country and contrast have felt very distant. But distance also leads itself to depth. 

When it was impossible to look afar, I had the thrill of really getting to know an incredible part of Australia, just on the door-step of Melbourne. Amongst the most challenging months of the years, came the greatest degree of satisfaction of discovering the Central Highlands and their beautiful Mountain Ash Forests. 

I won’t write too much about it – as it’s all here: http://allthebestradio.com/featured/480-flowering-giants/

With life re-open to exploration and a desire to roam firmly rebooted – the perpetual challenge to find that balance between immersion and exploration continues. 

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