Riding for the Great Forest - Bunyip 14.10.17
I’m going to start this piece of writing with this photograph to remind me of what a stunningly beautiful day it was when I rode in Bunyip State Forest, Gembrook.
On a personal level I was full of anticipation and nerves, having only recently recovered from having split my knee open requiring 10 stitches and I had only been back on my bike for three weeks. I knew my fitness level wasn’t brilliant and the group that I was riding with were all new faces to me. I had been corresponding with Aidan for some months after seeing some of his #ridingforthegreatforest posts on Facebook, trying to find a day when I could join in with his group and ride in the great forests. That day was finally here.
On 14 October 2017, I picked Aiden up from Richmond station and we set off for Gembrook. Aidan is passionate about the forests, the ecology of the forests and of the connectedness of all life within the forests. That’s not just a ‘woofley’ hippy-treehugger, saying thing. There is a growing body of science that is able to describe & demonstrate to us the ways in which plants and soil activity interrelate and the way in which plants communicate with each other as well as with other beings in the environment. In my early career I was a horticulturalist, growing plants in commercial organisations and then teaching horticulture in the TAFE system. During those years I began to hear more and more about fungal relationships in soil with plant roots and the ways in which these microbes within the soil could affect plant health. Since those days there is more evidence that this association of fungi and roots and microbial activity is a two_way process not just a one way activity. We have known fora long time that there is true symbiosis between plants and other life, however beyond that, plants also have distinct relationships with their own kind and with other plants.
On 14 October as we entered the forest trail and rode under those huge tree canopies, I was thinking of all of these things, breathing in the soft forest air and feeling the softness of the soil under my bike tyres.
After some hard work (for me), climbing a gradual rise we made it to the Four Brothers picnic spot. A massive outcrop of four granite rocks with a spectacular view. Even with all the other riders there and other forest day-trippers, you could still sense the special aura of this place. Four Brothers is a place sacred to the first people and even we interlopers can sense that. Happily, we all parked our bikes and moved out of the rock outcrop, taking in the forest and the surrounding view.
After lunch, we moved off and to my great joy I found we had a downhill section. Unfortunately for me this is where my story came to an abrupt end. Going a little faster than I should, when I touched the brakes to slow and avoid hitting a rock in the road, my front wheel got the shudders and I was unable to steer. I subsequently hit the rock and performed a rather spectacular crash, breaking my shoulder.
As in all things of darkness there is always light, and in this case the light is the friendships that became forged at that point in time. Not only did the whole group stop to see what could be done for me, but once it was ascertained that I did need an ambulance, and the ambulance was called, four of the riders stayed with me and supported me in the most gentle and empathic way, whilst the others completed the day trip.
So, there I was on the floor of the forest surrounded by beautiful floral smells, soft warm air and good company. It could have been way worse. Those four also organised for my bike and my car to be taken to Dandenong hospital and came in to see that I was okay.
I’m six weeks post operation now and have a new shoulder that will set all the scanners off when I go to the airport. I also have a burning desire to get back into those forest tracks with Aidan and the crew and do it all again, although a little more cautiously.
I hope you enjoy the photos of the forest and the flowers and those wonderful boulders and I hope you feel inspired to join us on future rides to appreciate and save the Great Forest of Victoria.