Beyond Bananas – Introduction

I could see that he was curious. He was looking over at me with one eyebrow raised and the opposite eye all squinty. It was as if he had picked up an odd insect to study that he’d never seen before in his garden. Hmmm… is it poisonous? Is it eating my plants?

I was filling my water bottles from the tap outside of the public toilet block. He was standing nearby. As I moved back toward my bike… there he came, standard six questions in tow.

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The Waiting – Strenuous Activity – Day 6

Day 6 – 86 kms (54 miles)

“It’s time to go home, when you start to smell the donuts.”

It is my favourite quote from two of my favourite friends’ adventure stories. It was Day 13 of a 14-day backpacking trip. Dan was trudging along, pretty hungry and not all that excited about the food rations left in his pack that late in the trip. As he hiked further along, he thought he started to smell donuts. He didn’t eat them on a normal basis so he wondered why all of a sudden he’d be smelling and craving donuts.

He hiked further. He then came to the realization that it was his long hair next to his face that smelled like donuts. He stopped and put a strand of hair to his nose. Yeah, his hair smelled like donut fryer oil. He called out to his friend. “Smell my hair. Does it smell like donuts to you?”

His friend sniffed. He replied, “Yeah, you smell a bit like an apple fritter.”

Back around Day 7, Dan had washed his hair with a travel-size bottle of shampoo left over from a motel visit. He looked through the rubbish he was carrying in his pack. Yep, the shampoo had an apple fragrance. So the remnants of the apple shampoo combined with all of his built-up hair oil had made his hair smell like an apple fritter.

To this day, Evan jokingly still refers to Dan as ‘my little apple fritter’.

Since then, those guys always say that it’s time to hit town, clean up and resupply or go home when your hair starts to smell like donuts.

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The Waiting – Strenuous Activity – Days 3-5

Sometimes there are voices in the night. They sound like human voices sometimes. But they are not. They are forest voices. The murmurs are rocks shifting in the creek. The groans are distant trees rubbing branches. Or sometimes the click and squeak is an echo-locating bat flying nearby. Sometimes the sound plays out as the gentle clack of a twig submitting to gravity as it falls to earth on top of another stick that fell some time before.

You can lie in your tent and listen to the conversation. Nocturnal dialogue is often quieter but carries further. Diurnal dither is more constant and punctuated by bird call and the buzz of flies, bees and other insects.

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The Waiting – Strenuous Activity – Day 2

Day 2 – 44 kms (27 miles)

The humans are in a hurry, scurrying about like ants and gathering holiday goods like squirrels ahead of winter. The traffic went late into the night last night and starts early again today. It’s like there’s a frenzy of activity to finish up projects and tasks before everyone goes on Christmas break.

I hear the traffic noise in my sleep but do not stir. The hill blocks the sun’s rays as it rises, so it’s shady and cool here. I ashamedly do not rise until 6.47am.

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The Waiting – Strenuous Activity – Day 1

20 – 25 December

179 kms  (111 miles)

Day 1 – 42 kms (26 miles)

We’re rolling down the asphalt, the packed gravel and the loose gravel. We’re rolling over the river and up the valley. We’re rolling through the long shadows of trees at sunset. We’re rolling along the reservoir whose waves lap high up the shoreline in a La Nina year.

What’s most important is that we’re rolling again.

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The Waiting – November – The holey path

Are the most annoying roads the ones that have corrugations stretching from edge to edge? Or is the most annoying road the one riddled with potholes that requires significant weaving around to avoid clunking into each hole?

Holes are definitely to be avoided on the road, unless you like truing wheels and replacing rims. And, of course, avoiding extra holes in your body is a healthy path to follow, also. In April 2020, a dog gave me two pretty deep holes in my calf muscle when he attacked me. In November 2021, it was a surgeon and associated medical staff that put eight holes in me.

But that was just a few days ago. What else did we get up to in October and November?

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The Waiting – All about the gear

“You’re going to carry liquid fuel?”

The 20-year-old shop assistant appears incredulous, as if carrying liquid fuel was sacrilegious in camping and hiking circles.

When I entered the store, he was very excited to help me. Give him 5 stars for initial customer service. I tell him I have a list of items to look for. That makes him very excited.

But once I tell him my first item is a 500ml Trangia fuel bottle (to safely transport methylated spirits in my pannier), I get the above response.

I reply, “Well, yes. I’ve got a Trangia and don’t want to carry the fuel in a coke bottle or anything.”

“Oh, I’m a Jet Boil man myself.”

And so he should be. The store has a huge Jet Boil display. But I did heaps and heaps of research on backpacking stoves before deciding to go with an ethanol stove. And I’m pretty certain in that decision. The only reason I’m here is because they’ve got the fuel bottle for 40 percent off.

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The Waiting – September Ride 2 – A bit more (reckless)

24-27 September 2021

190 kms (118 miles)

It’s the white noise of tyre tread crunching over gravel. It’s the sound of the occasional ping when gravel flicks up to contact the frame. It’s the pull of the brakes against forward acceleration as the trail crosses a road. It’s the first breath of wind that pushes in a gentle quartering tail position. It’s the sun rising steadily on a trajectory mid-way between winter and summer. And it’s the consistent drumming of my heart in a steady, increasing rhythm that matches the gentle incline.

It’s the little things that add up to the joy of being out on the bike. And here we are again.

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The Waiting – September Ride 1 – A bitta Mitta, a bitta Murray

14-17 September 2021

180 kms (112 miles)

Are you one of those people that have good timing? Do things just fall into place more often than not? Do you just beat the rain showers? Does the perfect job come open just as you are ready to quit your current job?

Or do you have rotten timing? Does your planned holiday coincide with record-breaking rains? Does the perfect job come available just weeks after you’ve committed to something else?

I’ve personally never had particularly good or bad timing – I tend to find a bit of both. But I’ve known people who somehow just sail through life and doors always seem to open at the right time. I’ve also known people who bump into every obstacle out there and are always the one who gets caught in the rain.

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The Waiting – September Challenge Peaks – Happy Spring

1-2 September 2021

30 kms (on foot)

What is the scent of spring? Is it freshly mown grass? Is it flowers blooming? Is it the scent of sheets hung on the line instead of coming from a dryer? Or is it, like in the town where I went to uni, the smell of moist cow, horse, geese and dog shit as the ground starts to thaw?

For me, it is none of those. The ground never freezes here, and we mow our lawns more in winter than in summer, so mown grass is not a new scent in spring. The same goes for flowers – they bloom more in winter than summer here, so the scent is not novel in spring-time August. And I hang my sheets out year-round.

No, the scent of spring for me is… sunscreen. There is only about 2.5 months of the year when the UV index is such that sunscreen is not recommended where I live. And so, after that brief pause over winter, the slightly acrid, slightly bitter smell of SPF 50 jolts me into the realization that we are, once again, on our way to the insanely hot temperatures of summer.

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