By Kathy Morrison
5000 kilometers and some 50 plus days after leaving Darwin, in the Northwest Territory, Max Morrison of Fremont, pulled his bicycle to a stop in Perth, Western Australia. He embarked on this solo bike ride back in mid August to raise money for three environmental groups: West Michigan Environmental Action Council, The Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, and the WWF of Australia. In previous editions of this publication, earlier parts of the journey were chronicled. The Australians or “Strayans” as they say, seem to have a relentless tradition of shortening words and peppering their speech with all sorts of marvelous slang and colloquialisms in their version of English called “Strine” (shortened form (of course) for Australian, which is of course, English). I thought it would be fun to add a few “Strine” terms in this article to give a taste of some of the words and phrases Max might have heard as he traversed the “Land Down Under” or the “Lucky Country” as they call their vast, diverse land.
When the last Near North Now article was published, Max had just made it to the far northwest point of the country and turning south, began his way down toward “the big smoke” - the city of Perth. From the dry, dusty red earth of the Kimberley and Pilbara areas, to the fresh new landscape, biking through the wheat-belt of Western Australia, his road was now never far from the Indian Ocean. As he traveled further and further South, he came to more populated areas than in the remote outback or the “GAFA” as they might say (I’ll let you look that one up!). Cycling through numerous small coastal towns with their inns, pastry shops, and restaurants, all signs pointed to greater population density and that he was out of “the bush”. This was both a welcome sight and a sad reminder that the trip was nearing its end and he would no longer be in some of those hauntingly remote and isolated areas he had come to love. Max does love good “tucker” though and in these sprinkling of towns was able to satisfy his appetite for a few delectables that were hard to come by when camping along the outback route - a “choccy biccy” or two and a slice of coconut covered “Lamington” cake, no doubt, washed down with a couple of ice cold “stubbies”
He made several forays away from the main road to visit some of the stunning, pristine beach areas of the Indian Ocean. One particularly fascinating place not far from the ocean is The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park. The Pinnacles are the remains of an ancient limestone bed made up of coral and mollusks, now weathered and eroded, the limestone columns being all that are left. Max caught a few red kangaroos browsing on the local floral in Nambung. Fairly unbothered by humans, “roos” in many areas of Australia graze undaunted in the wild, but tourists are warned not to get too near as they can become defensive, especially a mother with a “joey” in her pouch or a mighty male “Boomer”. If provoked, they can use their powerful arms and legs to throw wholloping punches and one look at their claw-like nails leave no doubt that they were made for defense. Unfortunately, like the white tail deer in Michigan, these wild creatures have run ins with vehicles, causing the death of the animal and damage to many cars. With the frequent sight of dead kangaroos along the roads, is understandable why you see “roo bars” on the front of many vehicles for added protection.
On his 44th day hitting the road, Max dedicated his day’s cycling to our dear friend, Rocky Puska, of Newaygo, who died in a tragic wood cutting accident in September 2017. Rocky was a wonderful family man, area school teacher, and friend to many. Max pushed hard, feeling the encouragement of Rocky, as he pedaled 240 kilometers in a day (a touch over 149 miles). Rocky and Max shared a special bond with their quick wit and dry humor. Rocky would have loved to hear Max’s stories of adventure on the road and would have, no doubt, found just the right funny tee-shirt from his extensive collection or a favorite online site to bestow upon Max. In his Day 44 blog, Max said poignantly, “I thought about Rocky all throughout the ride today: I have no doubt the world would be a better place if we all had a bit more Rocky in us. And, all who knew Rocky do have a bit of his kind, caring, and comical spark alive within them.” For those of us whose who love and miss Rocky, truer words couldn’t have been spoken as the best of him does lives on within each of us.
The Aussies Max encountered along the last third of this trip continued to be “fair dinkum”, very friendly, helpful and down to Earth. In times of trouble, I am sure Max knew with those folks around, he could relax and whisper, “She’ll be apples!” After a posting about his journey on a Facebook message board for the small town of Carnarvon, which fell along his route, an incredibly affable woman named Tammy responded, literally within minutes, inviting him to stay with her family if he was planning on a night in the area. I wonder how many of us would do the same - inviting a perfect stranger in for dinner and a place to sleep? From that same Facebook posting, a Western Australian radio show host made contact to interview him for a piece to promote his fundraiser. Many kind people continued to reach out with well wishes, donations of money and food, random acts of kindness, and companionship along the way. As the locals would say, “Good onya, mates!”
So with a world of Down Under stories and memories from the West of Australia, Max has made his way back to the Eastern side of the continent to find work for a while and then return home to the US before the end of 2018 when his one year work/travel visa expires. Never a huge biking enthusiast before this adventure, he is now sad at the thought of leaving his wheels behind in Sydney. My guess is, that the Christmas/Birthday fund, the car floor change, and the stray fiver here and there will be put to good use when he returns. Makes me wonder where he’ll cycle next. Thanks “heaps” Max, for all your “hard yakka” and the armchair traveling you allowed us on your trip! It was a “corker” of a ride, “you little ripper!”
To date, Max has raised just a hair over $4000 of the $5000 he set his sights on. Some donations are not shown on GoFundMe and have been sent directly to his Fremont address (6128 S Maple Island Rd). The Go Fund Me page is still up and he will continue to have it up for donating for another week or so. Then the money will be distributed accordingly. More about the chosen environmental organizations can be found on the following pages.
The Go Fund Me page can be found here:
and his blog here: