Cycling for Solidarity: Brisbane to Byron Bay for Palestine
On a sunny winter weekend in August 2018, around 40 committed activists gathered to cycle from Brisbane to Byron Bay on the Big Ride for Palestine Australia. Cycling for solidarity with Palestine were unionists, members of the Palestinian community, teachers, retirees, students, travellers and politician, Peter Russo MP (Member for Toohey). Also taking part, APHEDA members and two staff from our Sydney office – Jarred (National Organiser) and Katie (Communications). This was the second year the Big Ride has taken place in Australia, raising funds for the Hebron Children’s Education Project. The Ride came to Australia after Manal Monsour taking part in the Big Ride in the UK in 2015, Manal brought the ride ‘down under’. Together with her sister, Rosa, they have organised two incredibly successful Rides in solidarity with Palestine. The Ride is an initiative of supporters of the Palestinian people and takes place at a number of locations around the world including in Gaza.
Brisbane’s Tiny Ride for Palestine – Friday 10 August (9km)
The weekend started with a Tiny Ride through Brisbane on a Friday afternoon. As the shadows grew longer and the sun began to descend, around 20 cyclists of all ages rode 9km from Queens Park through Brisbane City and onto Bunyapa Park in West End. The post-ride event saw cyclists fed a hearty meal of falafel, hot mint tea and knafeh. After a heartfelt speech by Indigenous activist Bo Spearim who spoke about the parallels between Palestine and Indigenous Australia, singer, songwriter and activist, Phil Monsour performed a few songs he wrote whilst in Palestine on a Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA study tour. Local Greens MP Jonathan Sri also spoke about the importance of Palestine and how colonisation, capitalism and racism are linked. Lastly, the local community gathered alongside cyclists as they settled down on blankets and picnic rugs to watch a Palestinian film. To round off a truly wonderful community event, a session of Dabkeh dancing led by a local dance group got the blood flowing again.
Brisbane to Gold Coast – Saturday 11 August (75km)
Arriving in Longanlea in the south eastern suburbs of Brisbane, around 38 cyclists began the day excitedly throwing their gear into the support crew van and tinkering with their bicycles. They gathered for a briefing by Ride Organisers before officially getting underway just after 9am. As the riders got into the rhythm of the ride, they pedalled over the Logan River and through the back roads towards Yatala, the first rest stop. It was then onto Viney Park, near Dreamworld in Coomera for lunch. With full stomachs and heavy legs, it was back on the bikes and onto Labrador. This 18km stretch saw not one but two tyre casualties! Jarred and Hussein were forced to retire their bikes early for the day as the group took to the saddles for the last leg through Surfers Paradise, the Gold Coast and onto Tallebudgera. Arriving in the carpark of the Tallebudgera Recreation Centre, the riders dismounted and there were hugs, slaps on the back and some loud cheers for the 75km effort. It was time for a well-earned rest and a hearty meal put on by the community at the Gold Coast Mosque.
Gold Coast to Byron Bay – Sunday 12 August (91km)
The last day of the Big Ride was the biggest day in terms of both distance and levels of exhaustion and excitement. The first leg was a whopping 31km as the riders crossed the border into NSW and rode onto Kingscliff. It was then onto Pottsville and Brunswick Heads before taking on a monster hill and easing their way into the outskirts of Byron after a short and hairy stint on the M1 motorway (in the cycling lane!).
You couldn’t but notice the feeling of joy and triumph as the riders made their way to the finish line near the Surf Club. Palestinian flags fluttered in the breeze as the sun was setting over a very excited welcome party made up of the local community and Friends of Palestine Byron Bay.
With the ride ending on Arakwal Country, it was only fitting to have Arakwal custodian Delta Kay perform a Welcome to Country. There was more live music from Phil Monsour and some very enthusiastic Dabka dancing as sore cycling muscles were momentarily forgotten in the spirit of celebration and solidarity.
When the pedals finally stopped spinning, riders had completed 175km in total. They could not have done it without the help of the incredible support crew who was there for them at every rest stop with food, water, tea and sweets. And of course, they could not have done it without the passion and drive of Manal and Rosa and their family and friends who were there every step (pedal stroke!) of the way.