More security and depravity in war.

A few things I should have added talking about security in my previous post, is always have a charged mobile phone, and with the ‘emergency plus’ app (or similar) installed, it displays your location. When I broke my leg riding locally the emergency number (000 here in Aus) operator asked where I was, and I didn’t know the street names, only the general area. It was late evening, in an industrial area with no one about, a man did appear but he didn’t know either, but luckily a woman out jogging did know the name of street. I must have been lying on the cycle track for at least half an hour with a snapped lower right leg before finally been able to say exactly where I was. Had that happened on a lonely road out bush, I would have been in trouble because you know where you’re heading but often not your exact location. The other thing good to have is a First Aid kit, and the Red Cross app also installed.

Up on the Mid North Coast earlier this year, couldn’t resist a dip, and nearly got caught in a savage rip, should known better given the size of the surf. Later told by a local that a young couple also must have gone for a swim – their campervan was found but no sign of them.
Lake George in NSW. Rest stop and charging the back-up batteries. Green energy.
Heading west out of Singleton in the Hunter Valley, NSW. Tent was good but pity the fibreglass poles split after a few months.

With this next bikepacking adventure, the weather forecast for October isn’t looking good. Rain and low temperatures, but what can you expect with climate change now irreversible. The best we can do is limit the damage if at all still possible because that would require a level of international cooperation previously unheard of in the human species. The war in Ukraine is hugely damaging to that cause, and what looks like sabotage of the gas pipes is an environmental disaster; the leaking gas is CH4, which is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 over a period of 20 years.

Maybe it’s time homo sapiens be exterminated, a CNN report included allegations the Russian ‘soldiers’ in Ukraine have taken to raping children as young as 4 years of age, and of both genders. There have been reports in western media of rapes happening, especially in left-leaning media, but based on their reports you would have to believe the Russians are all hard-core heterosexuals only interested in adult women. Not young girls, and even less boys. A retired US general in that same CNN report pointed to the fact the Soviets in Berlin raped anything female, I doubt it was female victims only, aged between 7 and 70. The figure I heard long ago, so can’t remember where, was 200 thousand German women and girls raped by Soviet soldiers. Whatever – it’s depravity.

Preparations.

Going over the set up based on previous rides and have identified a few things that could be improved. First up, today I went to the bike shop and brought a rear view mirror. An essential piece of kit you would think – the head can’t do that 180 degree trick like the girl in The Exorcist. Next I got a 10 litre water container whereas the one I’d used before was 5 litres. Ten would be on the heavy side when full, but how much you fill it depends on distance between sources of water. If say the distance between towns is 100 kilometres and the ambient temperature is not too hot and the road relatively flat, then 5 litres should be more than enough, and including if you need to fix a flat tyre.

On a stinking hot day and long hills to climb, I found I need to drink as much as a litre every hour, and so you might not want to do more than 50 or 70 kilometres. It’s really important to know how far you can cycle under given conditions, dehydration can be deadly. I’ve found it sometimes pays on hot days to shelter from the heat, if possible because in some places there is no sheltering, and only ride in early morning, late afternoon and evening, the air is denser and so more oxygen in the blood, the temperature cooler, you can knock down more kilometres than you otherwise would.

Food is less of an issue in areas where the maximum distance between shops is one hundred kilometres or less. Even a few hundred would not be a problem, most people have enough body fat to keep going for days with just maybe some high energy snacks, and again, so long as you remain well hydrated. Every few days, I like to get a meal in a country pub, a massive steak, heaps of chips and veggies, the lot washed down with cold beer.

The tent is also something I’ve replaced and will be the third this year. The first was the right size and was military-style camouflage, which is good when you have no option other than to camp near the road. I had to chuck it in a bin after both of its two flexible fibreglass poles split. A third of the way up the coast from Sydney, I had to replace it and in a well-known camping store I found an affordable similar-size tent, but when I set it up also found it was only marginally better than a 20 dollar department store job. The same store sold gas canisters for three times what they cost in a supermarket. Not ‘fun’ at all.

A good campsite, invisible from the road, plenty of room, and soft ground.

Tent number three this year I brought online, it is a mid-grey blue which for security reasons is what you want when forced to camp by the road. If anything, I haven’t set it up yet, it might be a bit big and at just under two and a half kilos, a bit heavier than I’d liked. The reason I chose it is because I might be spending more time in one place than on previous rides, and extra space will make it possible to store everything in the tent should I decide to go for a MTB ride, and/or do some landscape photography. Also given this next trip is open ended in distance and time, the tent will be home sweet home.

My major concern now is weight. More water, what amounts to a mobile media-production set up with cameras and lens, laptop, batteries, chargers, then we have solar panels, food, tent, sleeping bag, tools and spares, etc, etc. I’ll have to load up the bike with all the ‘wants’, ride it around the hood, and see how much must be trimmed back down to ‘needs’.

On the road, a question I often get is about security. People ask where I sleep and when I answer that would be anywhere I can pitch a tent, the next question is whether it’s dangerous? For sure there are idiots out there, that’s just commonsense, and so you have to take a few precautions.

Usually I start looking for a place to stop at around four in the afternoon. The criteria is it must be relatively flat, grass or dead leaves, and shielded from view from the road by bushes or trees. It is important your camp not be visible from the road.

Do not camp in areas where there are signs of bored-local-youth activity, such as broken wine bottles, fast food wrappers, beer cans, burnt cars, and bullet holes in nearby road signs. These locations are usually within a twenty kilometre radius of a town, so be at least that distance away from a town before setting up camp for the night.

Do not light a campfire. It can be seen kilometres away after dark. Do not switch on a bright light inside the tent to continue reading War and Peace. Set up your mid-grey blue, green, or camo tent as late as possible and just before sunset. The probability of idiots driving past, spotting your camp site, and stopping to give you a hard time is minimal if you follow these few precautions. Think like an idiot – it’s not difficult – they are lazy, often drunk or off their faces, and will not do anything that takes a bit of effort such as walking more than to a tree to relieve themselves or puke.

The greatest danger, life endangering, is snakes and spiders. The common brown snake is deadly and aggressive, a red belly (shiny black with a red underbelly) can make you seriously ill but is shy and not deadly, I’m told. Funnel web spiders are deadly and in particular the males which in their breeding season go walkabout looking for females. Red Back spiders are not deadly but can also make you seriously ill. You’ll also find large ants that have a painful bite, have a look around before setting up camp, and don’t leave the tent unzipped, you might get visitors. Other than familiarising yourself with the snakes, insects, etc, in the area you plan to travel, just consider anything that slithers or looks threatening as potentially dangerous.

Otherwise, and as far as wildlife, there are no animals that are going to have you for lunch, but there are some which will be interested in any food they can access. Wombats have been known to sniff out food and use their claws to rip through a tent to get at it, possums can’t but if they can smell food, will search through your rubbish, bags or trailer. Both are nocturnal and so if you hear things being knocked about in the middle of the night, it’s more than likely possums and wombats.

Other security precautions concern stopping in towns to do your shopping. The small towns and villages are generally safe as country people are mostly honest and welcoming. Regional centres and large towns can be a different story, many have high levels of criminality and in some I’ve been through, the petrol pumps are in wire cages and all street level windows are protected with steel bars. Signs of economic decline can signal it is best to not hang around any longer than necessary.

You do need though to access supermarkets, and so I have a grab bag with everything that would make a thief’s day, that being wallet, phone, camera, etc. Always chain up the bike to something solid and best is somewhere where there is high activity. The worst I’ve had so far is the bicycle pump stolen, and a joker messing with the gear-shift adjustment.

Also comes to mind, that if you are LGBTQI+ it is best in the outback to not advertise your identity or cause locals to think you are into gayness. Years ago, and driving from far west New South Wales back to Sydney, I picked up a young British physicist who had hitchhiked from Perth and had visited the Parks radio telescope. His experience of hitchhiking in Australia had not been positive to say the least from what he told me. It been afternoon when I picked him up, I suggested we camp in Hill End, a town that was the biggest outback town in New South Wales during the gold rush of the eighteen seventies, and is now more or less a museum. By the time we got there, having stopped to visit a museum in Yeoval, a storm had erupted and so I said I’d get a room at the local pub, and he was welcome to the second bed. We arrived at the pub at around eight in the evening, and within ten minutes the local cop arrived as well wanting to check my passenger’s identification papers. How he knew I had arrived with a young man in tow is maybe not so much a mystery.

I brought the young Brit dinner, paid for the room, and in the morning we continued on to Sydney where I dropped him off at Central Station. A month later and after returning from a few weeks of street photography in Asia, I was again heading out west and as I often did, stopped at that same pub for a beer, and had the bar door slammed hard in my face.

Undeterred, I entered, all the locals looking at me as though the Lochness monster had entered. The barmaid asked snarling, ‘What do ya want?” “Same as always, I come here often enough”, I calmly replied. She pulled a beer, and slamming it on the bar said, and again with a snarl, “No little mate today…” “Actually”, I replied, “the little mate was twenty-six and has a masters in physics – there wouldn’t be too many of those around here.” Took my beer outside, drank it, and never returned to that shithole.

Shame because the town itself is otherwise worth visiting, just that it is inhabited by a lot of the piss-soaked, and brain-dead.

Burnt out stolen Ford sedan by the side of the highway north of Dubbo in New South Wales, Australia.
To the left was what looked like a good place to stop for the night, but the trashed family sedan and beers cans, meant it a better idea to keep riding.

Brake pads and kerbside philosophy.

A few weeks to go, the bike is nearly ready, now just waiting for the break pads to turn up in the letterbox. At yesterday’s climate protest I caught up with a few familiar faces from Extinction Rebellion, had a great discussion on the subject of love with a 21-year-old lad who was handing out socialist pamphlets, we all marched around the city making a lot of noise, then back at Town Hall I listened to speakers drumming up support for Ukraine. To top off the day, I had a one hour kerbside discussion with a Muslim cleric on the nature of God. We parted laughing and shaking hands, I think we both would have liked more time and a quieter place to talk theology.

Still feeling a bit apprehensive about this next bikepacking adventure; this one does not a have a destination to reach and then return, and there’s no reason why I couldn’t be on the road for months or even a few years. What’s the purpose of it? I could think of a few things such as ‘ride for the planet’, or as a way of proving your life can go to shit and yet you can still be happy and do things, but honestly, deep down I know what I’m looking for is something I experienced when I was walkabout in the bush two years ago – The Void? LOL, that was life changing, I realised what it means to live as though you were already dead. Could I expand on that? I struggled yesterday with that Muslim cleric, trying to explain the Void and Eckhart’s “God beyond God”. Things that as samurai and philosopher Miyamoto Musashi wrote, “are not included in human knowledge”.

Also thinking about adding a few pages to this blog to share pictures, experiences, and thoughts whilst out there on the road.

From top of a hill on a ride through the Hunter Valley earlier this year.

Climate and support Ukraine demo in Sydney.

The XR Red Rebels in Sydney at today’s climate demo.
Great to see Danny is still at it, promoting peace, love, and action on climate.

One way or the other Russia will pay a heavy price and for a very long time. Brave Ukrainians forced to beg for support from those who didn’t even have to suffer a broken fingernail to get the democracy and freedoms they now take for granted as having fallen out of the sky.

Musashi, Eckhart, and Einstein on Love and God.

More preparations – checked the bike’s brake pads given I’ve done over five thousand kilometres so far this year, and immediately jumped online to order a new set. Surprisingly the rear are more worn out than the front pads. The brakes take a hammering on roads such as when descending towards the coast on the Kings Highway, there are several kilometres where I could actually smell burnt brake pads and got off and walked the bike down some of steepest sections. First time I ever had to walk down a hill.

Nearly ready to shove off.

More stuff to think about from the old samurai Miyamoto Musashi. From his “Book of Five Rings” nine principals to try to follow.

1. Do not think dishonestly.
2. The Way is in training.
3. Become acquainted with every art.
4. Know the Ways of all professions.
5. Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
6. Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything.
7. Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
8. Pay attention even to trifles.
9. Do nothing which is of no use.

It would probably surprise Musashi that on the back of Sydney buses he is represented as a sort of fantasy warrior. Prime of life, mean-looking beefcake – “I slice you like a Hungarian salami”. The important section of his book, the fifth titled “Book of the Void” has little to do with cutting off heads and disemboweling opponents. It is Zen, and in the edition I have, is only a page and a half in which he states that the Void is of course nothing, and is not included in human knowledge.

Great…

Why is that so important? Because it indicates that this man claimed to a be a never-defeated samurai, was in agreement with the medieval Christian friar and mystic, Master Eckhart who in his famous sermons spoke of the “God beyond God”, and the “nothingness of God”. I understand that as meaning that ‘God’ as believed to exist outside of ‘creation’, and who is like a king with unlimited power sitting on a throne, is a human construct. Had Musashi and Eckhart ever talked over a few beer in a pub, they would have found they arrived at a similar conclusion. Eckhart had his influences. it has to said, as did Musashi who was, I’d guess, familiar with the teachings of master Dogen. What Musashi called ‘the Void’ and that reality of “God beyond God” is one and the same, and given our human limitations, it is impossible for us to wrap our minds around this reality.

Musashi goes on to say that, “by knowing what exists, we can know what does not exist”. “Not exist” because and again it is beyond human ability to comprehend, and so as far as humans are concerned, “God”, “the Void” cannot exist. There is no slap-on-the-forehead moment and running naked down the street yelling, “Eureka! I found God!”.

We can, if we put pride aside, observe that the Void, God, does exist by simple things such as observing a mother cat care for her kittens just as does a human mother, well at least most mothers. Everywhere you look, you find Love and what Teilhard de Chardin called “Love Energy”. The binding force of the Universe, that God is Love and Love is God, and God, as the Void, is nothing other than Love.

A friend with whom over the years I’ve had long discussions on this subject sent me this recently. It’s a letter Albert Einstein sent to his daughter, Lieserl.

. found this on facebook and it strongly resonated with your theory, so i thought i’d pass it along:

“In the late 1980s, Lieserl, the daughter of the famous genius, donated 1,400 letters, written by Einstein, to the Hebrew University, with orders not to publish their contents until two decades after his death. This is one of them, for Lieserl Einstein.

…”When I proposed the theory of relativity, very few understood me, and what I will reveal now to transmit to mankind will also collide with the misunderstanding and prejudice in the world.

I ask you to guard the letters as long as necessary, years, decades, until society is advanced enough to accept what I will explain below.

There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us.

This universal force is LOVE.

When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force.

Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it.

Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others.

Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness. Love unfolds and reveals.

For love we live and die.

Love is God and God is Love.

This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will.

To give visibility to love, I made a simple substitution in my most famous equation.

If instead of E = mc2, we accept that the energy to heal the world can be obtained through love multiplied by the speed of light squared, we arrive at the conclusion that love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits.

After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces of the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energy…

If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.

Perhaps we are not yet ready to make a bomb of love, a device powerful enough to entirely destroy the hate, selfishness and greed that devastate the planet.

However, each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love whose energy is waiting to be released.

When we learn to give and receive this universal energy, dear Lieserl, we will have affirmed that love conquers all, is able to transcend everything and anything, because love is the quintessence of life.

I deeply regret not having been able to express what is in my heart, which has quietly beaten for you all my life. Maybe it’s too late to apologize, but as time is relative, I need to tell you that I love you and thanks to you I have reached the ultimate answer! “.

Your father Albert Einstein”

To be honest, it is of course not my theory, as my friend writes, but rather arriving at the same conclusion based on lived experience, importantly including time as a street kid, which was a great vantage point from which to observe what exists and deduce what does not as far as humans can know.

Have no fear.

Blessings.