Sunday, September 19, 2010

Its not over until the fat lady sings......

A night in our own beds.....a wonderful thing, although Jo probably wondered if she would have been better off on a church floor.....everywhere we have been for the last 16 days at least had toilet paper....not so the case at Carolyn's house (which had been left in a rush 3 and a half weeks earlier with not even a tissue in sight). But all became well when PJ made an emergency drop of toilet paper.....Thank God for a support team!!

Jo, PJ and I picked up Genevieve and headed over to Oakwood Park in Dandenong to start our last leg of the ride....the weather didn't look too promising as we headed down the Eastlink...but everything brightened up when we arrived at the starting point and cars started rolling up with bicycles attached and many girls decked out in matching lycra bearing the Star of the Sea School insignia emerged. The Star of the Sea is a wonderful school who has a long history of supporting the anti-trafficking cause and was also helping us with a volunteer corps of girls at the Concert.

After a few photos with the students and a few individuals who had come to support us on the last leg and Chris Hanson who was resplendant in the lycra of Stratton Finance (who helped sponsor some of the ride) - we were off. It felt quite different this time ..... firstly we we were on a bike track and secondly this was such familiar ground.... having ridden it frequently over the months leading up to the ride. I did allow myself a bit of inner pride when we came to a hill on the side streets near Jells Park. During the months of training, this hill although very short is a bit of a killer and had often made me think that if I found this dfficult, what was I thinking trying to ride from Sydney to Melbourne and always required me to make 2 stops before I reached the end. I had often contemplated on the hill section of the Tour, whether that little horrible hill would still be a problem on the last day.....and it wasn't (Thank God!) ...... I was also very impressed with those students who bravely kept peddling with me and gained the benefit of a five minute rest while we waited for everyone to catch up....

As we weaved our way along the side streets and tracks towards the city, there was also some extra pleasures along the route that made the last day special. Firstly, it was the fun of chatting with the students who stuck with me (we had to break into several groups after one student had a mechanical problem) - I still don't know who was in that group with me (except Kai with the very squeaky breaks), but the girl who cycled on my back wheel had a good sense of humour and it was great to hear some of the comments, groans and tunnel cheers of the whole lead group. Thanks for the company Girls!! The second thing that made a big difference was that along with the marshalls that had been organised for the various spots where the trail crossed roads (Thanks Simon, Kaye, Pam, Merv and Graeme for organising), there was also little gatherings of supporters from Doncaster Church of Christ who clapped and cheered us on our way.....the girls probably thought that this had happened for the whole 16 days....but I knew better - apart from the encouragement of the support team (considerable) at pit stops and magpies hitting me in the head along the way (not so encouraging) during the tour hadn't been played out to cheering crowds (as some would have you believe!), so to see familiar faces encouraging us on was very special.

We picked up a few people at each pre-arranged meeting point along the route.....although, it actually turned out to be tricky to work out who was actually waiting to join us and who were just saturday cyclists taking a rest (and who did not appreciate being marshalled into our pack and issued with instructions for the next leg).....definitely need clearer ways to identify participants next year other than people with a bike loitering at a park!!!

Then the lead group finally saw the familiar faces of the support crew, PJ and Jo - joined by other familiar faces (for Carolyn at any rate) Peter Falconer and Pam Joseph.....all awaiting our arrival under Princess Bridge as promised. It all had a professional air to it as people were carrying walkie talkies, video cameras and we were issued with our last instructions for our entry into Queensbridge Square. From there we were ushered professionally by a group of volunteers from NMIT and Star of the Sea along Southbank and into a cheer at Queensbridge was done!!!!

To be honest the rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur for me......consisting of a lot of hugs and congratulations from extraordinary interest in the state of my behind (which as I keep pointing out is the line in the sand of privacy)......listening to some great music as a backdrop to many conversations with those that had supported the Tour from Melbourne and wanted to hear more.......and catching up with many friends (special thanks to Jane, Chris, James and Sarah, who came all the way in when James has been pretty sick and should have been sitting inside next to a heater), who had braved the cold, windy Melbourne day (but thankfully dry) to come and join their voices against slavery.

Some things did stand out.....finally being able to introduce PJ and Jo to a queen of accommodation (and encouragement) - Denise. We had often talked about her on the road....and over time she had become almost a myth-like person who had secured accommodation where no one else had been able ....and with actual beds to boot...we had suspected at times that Denise had given us a bigger profile than we deserved (judging from some of the comments of those hosting us) but we tried not to disappoint....and we certainly gave thanks as we snuggled into those beds that had been generously provided to strangers. Thanks Denise!

Despite my dazed and probably "its finished High", I was also able to appreciate how smoothly and successfully the afternoon went......and I must take some time to say a huge thank you to Liz Falconer (a good friend of many years) who coordinated the whole event, filled in the innumerable forms that seem to be required with anything like this and talked the talk of project management with the Melbourne City Council who permitted us to have the event in such a great venue (Thanks Adrian)..... and carried off  the whole event with her usual aplomb (as I knew she would) and also to Geoff Knight who very, very early in the peace generously offered his time, equipment and expertise to run all the tech aspects of the concert...we certainly couldn't have done it without you, but more than that I was touched by your support.

Special mention also to Tim who MC'd with his usual flair, Chris and Ben who looked after all the organisation of the musical aspects (as well as composing and recording our Freedom Song) and Mel who publicised the event so well. Thanks Guys (and girl)...There was a lot of good feedback on the great range and quality of the music played - thanks to all the bands and the "Men in Suits" Choir. It was also great to see our supporting organisations - ACRATH, Etiko, Stop The Traffik, World Vision, Salvation Army with their stalls and Jennie and her volunteers on the kids activities table. Things went smoothly although there was a collision between two young girls while flying kites made at the children's area which ended with a sore tummy for one and a blood nose for the other......the St. Johns Ambulance Team was quickly on the spot and all was ok.....Thanks to Tim and Dom for their paramedical presence over the event. And as always, Jo was manning (personning) the banner/t-shirts/CD table as she has done everywhere for the past 16 days.....huge thanks to Jo who came all the way from England to help out and has done such a superb job on the support crew and sorry it didn't work out in Sale.........

It was a wonderful way to end what for me has been a great Tour......despite some extreme weather conditions along the road everyone arrived back in Melbourne safely and between our presentations, numerous newspaper articles and radio programs and WIN regional news....I think we have not done badly our first year with raising awareness of human trafficking (and hopefully linking people up with ongoing campaigns to put an end to it).....yes, I did say first year.....we have learned so much, that we have already talked a lot on the road about how we can improve things for next year (for starters it definitely needs to be at a warmer time of year!!). So keep your eyes out for how to get involved then.

This Tour has meant a great deal to me - like all journeys it has had multiple layers of purpose and meaning. It has allowed me to speak out about an issue that has troubled me for a long time.....and it has also been a totally humbling experience to see how many people have been willing to put themselves out to help see it to its fruition. I don't particularly like being in any spotlight (despite the jokes to the contrary) but I am very happy it has served a purpose to raise the issue of human trafficking to more people. I know that it has taken a lot of people to pull this Tour and Concert off and to you all, I doff my cycle helmet.....

And so as my blog title would suggest....someone foolishly allowed me a microphone to sing the Freedom Song along with the band for the last time of Tour was a moment of pure indulgence (Thanks Ben)....but the crowds had thinned to the hard core friends and family by then (maybe others had heard what was coming??), who had heard me many times before.....Fittingly I shared the mic with PJ, who apart from actually having considerable musical talent, the height to reach the mic, and a volume that happily overshadowed mine....was also the person without whom I wouldn't have been able to do this Tour. I had no idea when I proposed this adventure if I would be able to ride to Melbourne and at the same time talk each day about a topic as emotionally charged as human trafficking but when PJ said he would drive the support vehicle, I knew all would be ok..... implicit trust is a rare thing for me.....but in PJ it is well placed......Thanks Mate.

And so we sang.....and so it is over......we have been grateful for many things on this tour - health, safety, new friends, many opportunities to raise awareness about human trafficking.....the Tour has done its job....Thank God......but the bigger task is still there... 27 million people are still we will be back - in the meantime please keep up the fight.....

(PS - more photos will be put on the blog over the next keep looking.......especially if you want to see the Fat Lady sing.....although I have in fact lost a few kilos despite the many generous souls who kept feeding me so well over the past 16 days) ......Cheers Carolyn.

0 kms to go.....

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Home Stretch......

We awoke today in our cosy room at the Traralgon Uniting Church with the knowledge that today we would ride to would be the longest day of riding on the tour (129 kms).....and that the last thing we needed was the headwind of the past two days. As we all contemplated these thoughts silently on our own, we packed up for the last time, ate the breakfast PJ prepared for us, and took a few photosof the team with Susan and Michael (Uniting Church Minister) who had both come to see us off.

Then we were on the road the first stop everyone was smiling - no headwind today, just rain....fantastic(not sarcastic- just appreciative)! Then the day fell into a type of rhythmn - 15 or 20kms then a pit stop, then on the road again...the pit stops are generally as much about breaking up the ride psychologically, but today with the rain and cold, even Cam and Simon appreciated the small replenishments of fruit, muesli bars, OJ and the occasional piece of chocolate to keep energy levels up. The only thing to break the routine was a stop at the tea rooms in Yarragon, which not only provided a very tasty lunch but also an open fireplace for the four riders to warm up.....As we were leaving all were surprised to find a member of Simon's, Carolyn's and PJ's Church (Catherine Mortimer) also popping in to the bakery....something was mentioned about a school camp for her kids nearby, but we chose to believe that this was just a cover story for her wanting to cheer us on our way....?!

Over the past 15 days we have encountered many odd items along the road side (as well as an amazing amount of road kill....sorry Jo - sleeping kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, rabbits, and magpies) usually in the middle of nowhere, such as microwave ovens, but we think the prize for most bizarre goes to the metallic gargoyle that sat on the roadside yesterday appearing to be as bemused by our presence as we were by its....

Eventually, the wet and cold and tired riders (and equally wet, cold and tired support team) were able to turn off the freeway near Dandenong and head off towards the home of Roberto and Tomasa Morales.....wonderful people who opened their front door to some very wet, bedraggles and hungry people who seemed to descend on their dining table and spend the next few hours devouring food, soft drink and telling anyone who would listen (Poor Roberto, Tomasa, Liz and Pam) many stories from the road....or was that just Carolyn??? Special Thanks to Tomasa who did all this on her Birthday....a big hug of appreciation from us!!

Eventually we had consumed all the food and even Carolyn seemed to run out of puff as the cold of her wet clothes made her feel the pull of home and a shower (Simon and Cam had already high tailed it back to their own homes..). Only Genevieve out of the riders seemed unflustered by the previous 7 hours of rain and seemed warm and properly attired....they breed them tough in the Netherlands!!

With a stop at Pam and Pjs on the way home, to unpack the now unnecessary items from the trailer, some lovely warm welcomes from the dogs and cat, a hot shower for Carolyn and a celebratory drink, Jo and Carolyn delivered back home, where Jo also was finally able to get a hot shower (funny how the hardships of the support crew always seem to be left to last?!)

What a day......but we did it.... a little wet.....a little tired.....but in pretty good condition and spirits.....Not bad!

We are all in our own beds tonight....Yeah!

Just 45 kms to go......... And the Freedom Celebration Concert in Queensbridge Square at 12md.... Hope to see you there..

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wind, rain and hail.......

After a wonderful night's sleep on an extremely comfortable couch at Sale Baptist Church, I was woken to a beautiful sunrise peering through the front windows into the foyer where I lay. Unfortunately the blue sky and peaceful outlook was soon replaced by blowing trees and ominous clouds while we had breakfast and packed up the car.

By the time Genevieve and I were on the road and had picked up Simon at his motel and Jo and PJ went off to buy more supplies at the supermarket - it seemed like the headwind that we had left yesterday was well and truly back, and with added strength.....never let up the whole day. At times it felt like all you could do was peddle to stop from going backwards and in what seemed like an eternity we reached the first pit stop where the support crew provided blankets to keep us warm and muesli bars and OJ to revive us. Then we were off again into the headwind, this time with the added joy of some driving rain stinging our faces.

We had arranged the previous day that WIN news would dispatch a film crew to cover our entrance into Traralgon but given the conditions, it was decided that a camera man (Peter) would meet us in Rosedale (halfway point between Sale and Traralgon) and take some footage and we would do the interview with the reporter in Traralgon. The support crew sympathised with Peter as he had to make frequent stops over about 20 kms as he braved the terrible conditions (wind, rain and cold) to take footage of us riding.....the riders weren't so sympathetic with Peter's plight...... Genevieve again did an amazing job riding through such miserable conditions, especially after she took a spill off her bike and was a fair bit sore. Simon soldiered on with a mechanical problem on his bike....and Carolyn made the fatal mistake of putting looks before safety and actually removed the tie clips (aka magpie protectors) from her helmet before the filming started in an effort to not look totally moronic (putting her hope in the premise that surely any self-respecting mapgpie would be sheltering themselves from such conditions and would not be on the look out for passing cyclists to attack) - as with so many things, she was wrong..... and so to add to the joy of the headwind and rain, she was hit in the head several times by attacking mapgpies before arriving in Traralgon (fortunately not captured on TV footage).

Once in Traralgon, everybody headed to Win News except Simon who headed off to get his bike repaired. Carolyn was interviewed by a reporter who was well rugged up in jacket and hood and then we were treated to a delicious lunch and hot drinks by our wonderful Susan Grout (happy birthday for yesterday, Susan!), who has met us everywhere in Gippsland and organised everything for are a wonder!! There was some disparaging comments directed towards Carolyn after her shouts of surprise and joy at how quickly the riders had completed the 49km considering the conditions, until it was discovered that her watch had stopped over 2 hours previously! Then with a quick change into dry shirts in the car, we were off to Lavalla College, where we made a presentation to 175 Year 8 students, who were great and helped fill up our second banner of signatures as well as many postcards.

While we were being warmly welcomed at the College, poor Simon had finished at the bike shop and was riding over to join us, when caught in a hail storm...just to complete his day of riding on a high note!!

After the presentation at Lavalla was over, everybody headed over to Susan and Alan's home for much needed showers and then an hour or so rest .....which PJ spent playing the piano, Genevieve napped, Jo enjoyed playing with Tess (very cute and active cat), and Carolyn replied to pending emails and phone calls. Then we were all treated to a wonderful home cooked meal, courtesy of Susan and Alan.....while Susan and PJ discussed what appears to be many mutual relatives and Alan tortured Genevieve and Carolyn with tomorrows weather forecast.....

Tonight we held our last film night at Traralgon Uniting Church, where we are also staying overnight. Lots of good discussions followed the film and quite a few purchases of t-shirts and CDs were made.....We were also joined by our last rider for the Tour, Cameron McCormack, who will join us for the last long ride to Dandenong tomorrow. After several hours of our warped humour and tales from the road, Cameron is probably wondering what he has signed up to but we are very glad to have him on board....

Before heading off to bed we got to see the WIN News spot on the Tour.....which we were very pleased with - as it nicely got across some good points on human trafficking. We also think that the ABC radio interview must have been aired today, as we were tooted (in a friendly manner) by quite a few passing cars today as we neared Traralgon....all helping to raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking to a much wider audience than we could have hoped for.

We are now so close to Melbourne......and our own beds.......864 kms cycled.....129 kms tomorrow to Dandenong....and 174 kms in total to the Freedom Celebration Concert and the end of the Tour.....

We really hope tomorrow will be a little kinder to us in terms of wind conditions....but regardless, I guess we will get there one way or another!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More Photos from the Road.....

Supporters in Narooma....

After a hill like this - I wasn't impressed to have a slow sign pointed at me!!

Traffic lights??

Some of the students at Sapphire Coast Anglican College queuing to sign the banner.

The Fantastic Support Team....PJ and Jo

The Border at last......
Another hill....

Another hill..and the always amusing sign in case I was thinking of overtaking!

An interview with ABC radio in Sale.

Carolyn and Simon at a pit you can see perfect conditions!
Carolyn no longer riding alone - Yeah, Simon....

Anti-Trafficking and Fairtrade stalls run by students during lunch at Nagle College.

Genevieve and Carolyn....and a head wind!!

Putting on sunscreen is a complex business!!?

Simon, Carolyn and Genevieve set off into the head wind...again.

Be careful what you wish for.....

After countless hours of hills on the bike and wishing desperately for flat was the day Carolyn's wishes came true. Bairnsdale to Sale....69 km of dead flat road.....and what did we get? A horrible head wind! At speeds reminiscent of the hill sections, Genevieve, Carolyn and Simon fought the desire to be going in the other direction and valiantly kept peddling through the winds that buffetted us backwards....and then became a sidewind blowing us around, making it difficult at times to control the bike and keep steady. We were all impressed with how well Genevieve performed on her first day, especially given the windy conditions.

With the help of the support team doling out encouragement and nourishing snacks at the stopping points, the riders finally made it into Sale and went straight to the ABC radio station were Carolyn was interviewed about the ride and the issue of human trafficking. Then it was a quick lunch and on to Sale Catholic College to make a presentation to a group of students. They were an impressive group with some thoughtful questions, ideas and enthusiasm to do something to put an end to human was a great way to forget about the difficulties of the morning ride.

After a cuppa with a few of the staff from the college, who had made us feel very welcome - we headed over to Sale Baptist Church who were hosting both our film night and us overnight. They have a fantastic purpose built church that can be used for a variety of community purposes and we were made to feel quickly at home by Fay and Rob.

Tonight we opted for the easy option of take-away pizza.....a welcome arrival before we started our film night. It was a small group of mainly young adults that attended and it was great to speak with them afterwards and hear their plans and passion for social justice issues.

It is a strange feeling to be so close to the end of the Tour. In some ways it seems like PJ, Jo and I have been on the road for ages but in other ways it has gone so quickly and it seems unbelievable that tomorrow we will make our final presentations in Traralgon and then be heading to Melbourne. There is a sense of tiredness now but also a great appreciation of all the great times on the road and of the wonderful people we have met along the way.....but enough of the nostalgia.....stilll more adventures to come tomorrow and the day after...

810 kms down - 228 kms to go.....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shortest day of the tour....on the bike at least!

After a wonderful sleep in proper beds, we headed into Lakes Entrance and met up with Simon, Bindy and Baby Alison (who was all smiles for the strangely clad riders) at their motel and then it was on our bikes and up the hill that leads out of the town.....Simon led the way but Carolyn well primed by previous hills wasn't far behind and both scaled the climb without trouble. In fact there was some discussion as the day progressed on the email we had received from a friend (Russ) who had written to warn us that the road between Lakes and Bairnsdale wasn't the flat nirvana we had often spoken about......our conclusion is that although we appreciate his concern, the last 7 days of riding from Ulladulla to Lakes Entrance has given us a different perspective on hills....and the short 90 minutes we spent on the bikes today on fairly flat terrain, in sunshine and not a magpie in sight was as close to riding nirvana as we are probably going to get on this Tour.

While Simon and Carolyn were enjoying the riding conditions, PJ and Jo were busy listening to Margaret (who hosted us overnight), who DJ's a show on the radio and spent a good proportion of her show today talking about human trafficking and the cycling tour. They particularly appreciated her shout out to Pete and Jo. In fact it was a great day with the media overall - as well as Margaret, we were interviewed and photographed by the Bairnsdale Advertiser, rung by the Snowy River News and arranged an interview with ABC radio in Sale tomorrow.

After our visit with the Bairnsdale Advertiser, we headed over to Nagle College on a beautiful campus on the outskirts of Bairnsdale, where we were warmly welcomed. We made a couple of presentations over the afternoon to 160 Year 9 student who were great and then to a group of teachers and adults from various churches. Carolyn also received a wonderful surprise when her ex-principal (Sr Barbara) actually turned out to be in the audience of the last session.....!

In between the sessions the staff of the college had made a wonderful effort and provided us with a lovely afternoon tea and then had a variety of home cooked meals for our stay overnight at the is going to be very difficult to return to normal life again after all this wonderful hospitality and care!!

As an added bonus this evening, the team numbers swelled again with several of Carolyn's friends from the Box Hill Hospital Emergency Dept (Bernie, Alison, Charlotte, and Genevieve) arriving in Bairnsdale to join us on the road was wonderful to share the stories of last 12 days with them over a fine meal and discuss the plans for the next few days. Great to have them with us...

So even though the ride itself was so short today - it was actually a great day for awareness raising with a lot of talking done by much so that even she can't muster up up a song tonight (some would say that this is actually a perfect end to the day.....)

746 km down.....292 km's to go!!