"WITH BAGS AND SWAGS"
Back in the 1940s life was very different. On leaving school, teenagers were expected to get a good, steady job but Melbourne school friends Wendy Law and Shirley Duncan wanted to travel. Already they had made short bike trips around Victoria and even gone as far as Adelaide.
When the war ended they wanted to go to Europe but in 1946 Europe was struggling with refugees, bombed cities and rationing. The girls decided to ride to Queensland for the winter while Europe was settling down. They lived frugally, earning their way, getting lifts over difficult terrain and enjoying wonderful hospitality from Australians everywhere. Gradually their horizons expanded and they travelled on to Darwin, down to Adelaide, then over to the West. The four-footed companion they acquired went with them.
What they didn’t realize was that Australia is almost as big as China and is equivalent in size to twenty European countries! Things which we regard as commonplace now, such as instant coffee and thermal clothing, were not known then but the Girl Cyclists battled their way around the vast continent and three years later returned to tell an amazing story.
"Suart's is an Australia still comfortably looking to England as home, but also one in which nineteen-year-old secretaries on £3 a week could hear the call of Mackellar's "wide brown land" and, despite the apparent novelty of two girls on Malvern Stars, answer it with a tagline fondly thieved from Norman Lindsay, With Bags and Swags."
Excerpt from Sean Scarisbrick's review for Antipodes magazine (December 2010 issue) used with kind permission of Nic Birns.
See this link for more details: http://www.australianliterature.org/index.htm
"Delightfully entertaining, Ms. Suart's 3 year long commitment to diligently keeping a diary of her travels, has resulted in this superb insight into life in Australia in the 1940s. The warm welcoming hospitality of the Australians is prevalent throughout the book, the diversity of the country meticulously highlighted. I have complete admiration for Wendy and Shirley – their spirit of adventure, fearless approach and entrepreneurship – all captivates the reader. It is an inspiration to modern youngsters to see how this dynamic duo coped without cell phones, computers and Facebook. Truly a treat for Australians to read, or for anyone else with an interest in visiting or learning more about Australia."
Lisa Beauchamp, President of the Bermuda Sun, Bermuda.
See their website here: http://bermudasun.bm/
“This is a delightful account of the journey of two young girls who left the safety of their parental home and secure jobs to travel around Australia. They set out with all the zeal of the early explorers but none of their financial backing. Their optimism never wavered, their innocence protected them and the kindness of strangers helped them on their way."
"What an absolute joy to read your book! What an experience! Your prose is superb and I have a constant smile on my face envisaging your journey and your antics. It really lightens my day and I am reading with great enthusiasm."
"...it was a real page turner and kept me very interested despite my never having been to Australia. What an adventure!"
"Compelling, very readable. A testament to youthful enthusiasm and resourcefulness."
"What a great adventure for a couple of young girls such a long time ago. They really had guts and I loved reading the funny and inspiring anecdotes."
"The book gives a wonderful idea of Australia in the 40s and I was astonished at your money-raising efforts, your enterprising side-trips off the main route and your handling of all sorts of difficulties. Courageous is the word for it all."
“It is beautifully written and an absolute delight to read of places I know. At a time of unsealed roads, little traffic to help them through difficulties, their journey was a magnificent achievement and I am proud to own the book."
"...difficult to put down. I was totally absorbed and entertained. Why is this book not compulsory reading for school children?"
"...a timeless tale of a 20th century odyssey."