Anglo-Australian Philanthrope Selflessly Breaks In Saddle For Us On Tour Of Outback.
Late in 2011, Nick Soucek contacted us in regard to a holiday trip he was planning for spring-summer 2012. It involved putting down several thousand miles by bike across Western Australia, punctuated by stops for voluntary farm work along the way. While perhaps not everybody’s immediate notion of relaxation, we certainly couldn’t fault Nick’s sincerity, his intentions or his enthusiasm.
He has made it back to England, and dropped us a line recently to let us know how he got on…
Re-Encountering Australia: Cycling and Volunteering from Perth to Adelaide
Earlier this year my bicycle and I negotiated a 3,313 kilometre route from Perth (Western Australia) to Adelaide (South Australia). Whilst I now live in the UK, I was brought up in Perth until we moved abroad when I was eleven. As such I’ve never lived in Australia as an adult, and this journey was, for me, an opportunity to spend time there on my own terms.
Why cycle? Cycling is important to me as a political statement, a means of social mobility and tool for geographical emancipation. In Australia, for various reasons, practices of cycling are less common. By cycling there my hope was to overlap my two worlds of Australia and the UK, and in doing so re-encounter my childhood home in a thoughtful way. It was also important that I was not seeking just to negotiate the country’s (vast) geographical expanse, but to spend time with the people that have made their lives there.
In order to work toward achieving this latter ambition I’d arranged to volunteer with various organic farms along the way through the WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) network.
At these different projects, which included small holdings, a vineyard and a nature park, I found myself contributing to a variety of activities including: building animal rescue cages, casting mud bricks, picking and pressing wine grapes, designing wine labels, making chutney, teaching cider-making (west-country style), and designing and painting signs, amongst many other varied tasks. Not only were these each great fun, but I’ve been both student and teacher in the process.
Most important, I think, has been the opportunity to learn about different lives, hopes, challenges and ideas – for which there is not enough space here to do justice. As I moved on from each host, and I was always sad to leave, I knew that not only during some of the quieter solitary days of cycling ahead but also well beyond I’d always be buoyed by these memories. For those that don’t mind a little bit of hard work, I can’t recommend it enough.
Whilst I spent three weeks WWOOFing, I spent six cycling. Similarly there is far too much to tell here, but with fondness I recall one of my favourite days during which I found comradeship and solidarity with an Irishman named Simon. He was in the midst of a race around the world (Simon Hutchinson, third placed finisher in this year’s WCR Grand Tour – Ed.) and I was fortunate one morning to bump into him.
I was just getting ready to leave from Madura Roadhouse. Simon, having already been cycling for several hours, had just popped in to get some food. This might have been a very difficult and trying day of cycling simply for the strong headwind from which on a relatively straight road there is no recess. Instead, for both of us it was both a challenging and joyous day during which we took huge comfort in a shared undertaking.
When the wind was particularly unyielding we took turns up front. Much of the time, however, we cycled side-by-side and shared stories, experiences, hopes and dreams, not just about cycling but about the life, and partners, we’d left at home. At the end of the day, as I set up camp, I was sad to say good-bye as he set off again into the darkness. Whilst he was in a race, I was not.