Australia’s only charity hitchhiking race has passed through Eden, with the 12 competitors raising funds for the advocacy organisation, Friends of the Earth Australia.
And with their big smiles and love heart Eden sign, they had no trouble reaching their latest destination.
Divided into six teams, the travellers set off from Melbourne on Saturday, with Eden marking their second stopover point en route to Sydney.
Dubbed ‘The Big Green Hitch’, proceeds from this year’s event will go towards Friends of the Earth’s campaign against the spread of coal seam gas in Australia.
“It’s about promoting a sustainable way of travel,” Sam Cossar-Gilbert, a Friends of the Earth volunteer, said.
“We do a lot of work throughout Australia, against coal seam gas.
“Whenever we meet someone, we try to talk to them about the issue, get them to sign our petition if they’re interested, and tell them about the race.
“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also for a really good cause, which is supporting our natural environment.
“Last year, we raised $4000 for Friends of the Earth’s campaigns, and we hope to raise a similar amount this year.”
While many might be wary of picking up a hitchhiker on the side of the road, Sam says his team, ‘Rainbow Laksa’, has so far waited no longer than 20 minutes for a ride.
Fellow hitchhiker Audrey Arjoune was the brains behind the initiative after participating in a similar event in Europe, and says the group also hopes to show hitchhiking in a positive light.
“Most people think hitchhiking is dangerous and it shouldn’t be practised, and they don’t want their children doing it, but we think it should be more explored,” Audrey said.
“We want people to know that there are programs like this, and not all hitchhikers are dangerous.
“It’s a great way to make friends, discover a country and meet locals you would never otherwise meet.
“I’ve had conversations with dairy farmers, steel workers and security guards; you get to meet all kinds of people.”
While it started out as a group of friends and activists, the Big Green Hitch has picked up new members along the way.
Sabine Million was travelling up the coast when she came upon members of the group in Bairnsdale.
“They had this little cardboard sign with the word ‘Eden’ on it, and they had these big smiles so I couldn’t say no,” Sabine said.
“I’ve decided to hang out with them for a while.”
The Big Green Hitch will conclude in Sydney this Saturday.
For more information or to donate, visit thebiggreenhitch.org.