Going Coconuts


Back on the road again after a short stint in Australia. A full medical and I’m told by the medicos I can go ahead and ride another 100,000 kms. Now it’s time to focus on the long ride home events through to 2020 at least. I’m in Thailand and it’s an early morning training routine again rain hail or shine during the rainy season through until November.

Some big rides ahead for 2018 but the focus is on retracing the steps of our former POWs by cycling from Singapore to The Three Pagoda Pass Thailand to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Burma-Thailand Death Railway

It was an honour to receive an invitation from the Australian Embassy Thailand to be part of the commemoration of the 75 years since the railway was completed in October 1943 but also to be part of the opening ceremony of the newly upgraded Hellfire Pass Museum. The museum has undergone a multi million dollar overhaul which comes the Australian Government’s Department of Veteran Affairs and the watchful eye of the Australian Embassy in Thailand.

More to follow on the 75th Anniversary Ride as we move closer to the start from Singapore in September 102 days away.

My first training ride back in the saddle takes me 125kms from Hua Hin to Amphawa in the area of the floating markets well known to foreign tourists visiting Thailand .

Riding beside the river one can see the many local tributaries and streams called klongs that run into local village farms, in turn, are supply routes back to the local community direct to homes and floating markets by way of small hand driven boats laden with fresh products.

I’m surrounded by thick jungle and coconuts trees by the thousands as I ride along. The area famous for producing popular coconut crops but an area to watch out for working monkeys picking and tossing down the sought after fruit to their handler below. It’s always hit and miss with the odd coconut thrown onto a passing car or cyclists Oooow !!! But what can you expect from a monkey working for peanuts ?

I’m in the area of Wat Bung Kung an area famous for a former king who was passionate about training his warriors in the art of Muay Thai boxing combined with the art of sword fighting to be used against his Burmese foe during that time.

I walk through the grounds of the temple with only a few local tourists and encounter visiting an Infantry company compliment (100) of full Muay Thai boxer statues in different fighting stances, some and with swords in a striking pose.

Wikipedia: Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is a combat sport of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. This physical and mental discipline which includes combat on shins is known as "the art of eight limbs" because it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins, being associated with a good physical preparation that makes a full-contact fighter very efficient. Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the 20th century when practitioners defeated experts in other martial arts. The professional league is governed by The Professional Boxing Association of Thailand (P.A.T.) sanctioned by The Sport Authority of Thailand (S.A.T.), and World Muaythai Federation (W.M.F.) overseas.

Located in Thailand’s Bang Khonthi district, this area was once set up as a military camp called “Kai Bang Kung” for southern provinces troops fighting the Burmese army. After the fall of the Ayutthaya kingdom, King Taksin restored the camp as a base for Chinese soldiers and renamed it “Kai Chin Bang Kung”. The life-sized statues honour these heroes and are spread out behind a monument of King Taksin the Great.

The temple itself features a ubosot lodged in the roots of large sacred Bodhi and Banyan trees that have helped preserve the structure of the temple. Inside the ubosot is a large Buddha statue and mural paintings, depicting the Lord Buddha’s past life.

Truck Sams On The Long Ride Home Thailand watching out for airborne coconuts.

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Lieutenant Colonel Barry Petersen MC, MID (Rtd)

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SAS Mates meet in the remote outback of Australia



Brian “Ned“ Kelly 1 SAS Squadron Vietnam 1970-71 and Martin Ardley 2 SAS Squadron 1980s met by chance during Anzac Day 2018 in the Great Sandy Desert Australia.

My good olde mate Ned Kelly who was one of my support crew on The Long Ride Home during the across Australia leg in 2016 for PTSD Awareness and who kept me fed with kangaroo tail soup on a daily basis for my ride.

Ned had been working with the Aboriginal tribes since the mid 1970s not long after he returned from his tour of duty in Vietnam. His first involvement was resettlement of the lost tribes of the Sandy Desert during the times of government intervention of the missile testing days in the remote areas of Australia.

Ned was indoctrinated into the tribes as a tribal member and has since returned to the region to what he terms as a dream job being a research & development officer for the Martu country in general, logging of the remote waterholes, burning the country the Martu way which is what he says is the right way, involved in endangered species work, and recording stories of the old ones that are still alive in the Sandy Desert beyond all telecommunications.

Wikipedia; The Martu (Mardu) are a confederation of indigenous Australian peoples, who are part of the Western Desert cultural bloc.

Writing in 1974 Norman Tindale Norman AO an Australian anthropologist, archaeologist, entomologist and ethnologist stated that the term had been applied to several groups in this area, among them to the Kartudjara, had no tribal significance but simply denoted that the people there had undergone full initiation.

The people aggregated under the tribal designation of Martu were speakers of versions of the Wati languages, so-named because the general term among them for 'an initiated adult (man)' was wati, though in the Kalgoorlie and Mount Margaret areas, the term was puntu. Since the 80s the Martu term for person (mardu meaning 'one of us') has prevailed among the peoples at Jigalong, Wiluna, Punmu, Parnngurr and Kunawarritji.

All of these languages belong to the Wati subgroup of the Pama–Nyungan linguistic family. However, the first language for at least of these 12 groups is now Nyangumarta, spoken down to the 1980s by about 700 people from Port Hedland to Marble Bar.

Martu Wangka – a hybrid language predominantly melding Kartujarra and Manyjilyjarra, is also spoken. Some members of the Warnman people may still speak Wanman as a first language rather than Martu Wangka.

Their traditional lands are a large tract in the Great Sandy Desert, within the Pilbara region of Western Australia, including Jigalong, Telfer (Irramindi), the Warla (Percival Lakes), Karlamilyi (Rudall River) and Kumpupirntily (Lake Disappointment) areas.

Another SAS Squadron member (2 Squadron) Martin Ardley has just spent most part of the last month or so on a walkabout, wandering around the Great Sandy, Little Sandy, and Gibson Deserts, retracing some of Len Beadell’s old tracks and survey points.

Leonard (Len) Beadell OAM BEM FIEMS (21 April 1923 – 12 May 1995) was a surveyor, road builder, bushman, artist and author, responsible for constructing over 6000 km of roads and opening up isolated desert areas (some 2.5 million square kilometres) of central Australia from 1947 to 1963. Born in West Pennant Hills, New South Wales, Beadell is sometimes called "the last true Australian explorer".

Marty says; “Back in the day we did numerous army trips to Woomera blowing up things or out of things, and learning something of the background and history of the region, and also walking from Mulga Downs Station East of Wittenoom towards Port Hedland on my SAS Survival Course, may have had some bearing why he’s still wondering the district and now accidentally bumping into veterans like Ned.

Marty explains; “ I felt like a well earned bath one day and headed up to water well Number 33 on the Canning Stock Route, where I knew there was good water, I hadn’t seen anyone in about a week or so, and went about my business, when your old mate Ned turns up with his little helpers, those being his Martu tribal assistants”.

Ned is a volunteer Ranger with the Martu People from the Kunawarritji Community, and promptly asked me for my permit to be on their land. I told him ”The dog ate It!“

Keeping it short, there was a bit of to and fro before we both realised we were tarred with the same brush (Ex SAS soldiers alike) and all of a sudden we were best mates. BLOODY SMALL WORLD !!!!!

He then made me “PROMISE” to send these photos and the story to you Truck to back up his excuse for not attending the recent 2 SAS Squadron’s reunion in Brisbane during this last Anzac Day.

Truck Sams on The Long Ride Home taking a short break in Australia

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Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Petersen MC. MID


The Long Ride Home with The Tiger Man of Vietnam

Following my visit to Hellfire Pass and the Commonwealth War Graves at Kanchanaburi for the Anzac Day Dawn Service I took the opportunity to head to Bangkok to visit a fellow Australian Vietnam veteran, Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Petersen MC. MID, who has lived in Thailand for the past 27 years and who, sadly, couldn"t attend this year"s Anzac Day service due to his cancer-related illness.

Barry was kind enough to make time available for me and some younger veterans who wanted to meet the legendary Tiger Man of Vietnam.

In November 2010, after hearing of Barry's illness, The Sydney Morning herald published this article:

BARRY Petersen, a 75-year-old Australian dying of cancer in Bangkok, has one of those lives that seems untrue. Yet it is not. He is real. "I have undertaken a few endeavours," he says, "but I am nearing the end now."

Petersen was awarded 13 medals for his service in Vietnam, Borneo and Malaysia. He ended up a lieutenant-colonel.

What he did and how he did it, however, makes him the Colonel Kurtz of Australia - Kurtz being the Apocalypse Now anti-hero who led an army of hill tribe rebels against the Vietcong, at first with the blessing of his bosses and then, as his messiah status escalated, in defiance of them. The parallels are striking.

Petersen was an Australian Army captain in 1963. He had already worked with mountain tribes in Malaysia, so when trouble brewed in Vietnam the CIA sent him to lead the Montagnards (the French term for the mountain-dwelling tribes).

At first, the CIA left him to it. But as he got the Montagnards on side - ruining Vietcong supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh trail, and kidnapping, ambushing and killing Vietcong agents - his aura as leader of a unit called the "Tiger Men" grew.

By 1965, he had fostered, according to his CIA bosses, a "personality cult".

The CIA grew suspicious. They thought he was a destabilising influence. This is where his story differs from Kurtz, who wouldn't leave so they had him killed. Petersen did leave, but only after refusing to let his "Tiger Men" become assassins in the notorious CIA Phoenix program, which targeted civilian Vietcong sympathisers (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Program for background information).

He later learned that if he hadn't left he would have been killed himself. Biographer Frank Walker says he has no doubt Petersen "dodged a bullet". All this time the Vietcong had a bounty on his head as well. Petersen survived, thrived even. The 13 medals include a Vietnam War hero with a difference prepares for his last act of gallantry Military Cross awarded for "exemplary gallantry during active operations".

Yet Petersen - born in Mackay, Queensland - is now selling his medals. London auctioneer David Erskine-Hill from Dix Noonan Webb estimates their value at $100,000 - $150,000 but they may go for more. Petersen's Military Cross, Mr Erskine-Hill told The Age, was "fascinating and impressive" with an "extraordinary history of clandestine operations".

Petersen's reasons for selling are his final act of gallantry. He moved from Cairns to Bangkok in 1992 and set up a business consulting company for foreign firms, employing 17 Thais, who he says have become his "de facto family". He never married and has no children. He has two sisters in Brisbane.

"I"m a pragmatic person," he says, "and you can"t take things with you when you drop off the perch. I may have earned them and they are of value and, yes, I could send them back to Australia, but I would prefer to do something for the people who have looked after me here for the last 18 years."

The proceeds from the medals, and also the silver tableware he has collected since the 1960s, will buy the building his company leases. That way he knows the future for the staff is secure.

He says his attitude to them is the same as it was towards the Montagnards; rather than a personality cult he had a "total acceptance of them and their way of life".

He expects to be criticised for not donating the medals to an archive of Australian history. RSL national president Rear Admiral Ken Doolan said last night that while it was a "private and sensitive matter", all veterans should be "encouraged to retain medals with pride".

To Petersen, his choice will see a "tangible" outcome rather than "donating them to some corner in Australia where someone would see them once in a while".

He says he was never one to dwell on the past anyway, preferring to "do my best in whatever I get given to do but once it"s over [to] get on with something else". He says while he was "very fond" of the men he commanded during two Vietnam tours he was never keen on "hanging around at an RSL club to talk about all the exploits and so on".

He has, he says, even at this stage of his extraordinary life, a different outlook. "I don't march to the same drum as others."

It"s been eight years since the article but Barry continues to fight his cancer, hanging on, he says, like a frog clinging to a branch by one claw to avoid the jaws of a snake.

Now 84 and confined to a Bangkok hospital, Barry has a message for the thousands of vets who've suffered PTSD from their service: “Cling onto that branch, keep occupied, and help others as a way of helping yourself”.

Barry Petersen, from all those who respect you my friend, we're all thinking of you and pray you beat the odds.

Truck Sams with the Tiger Man of Vietnam in Thailand on The Long Road Home Team.

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The Long Ride Home Anzac Day Hellfire Pass


The Long Ride Home Anzac Day Hellfire Pass and Kanchanaburi Thailand 2018

An early morning start for the Anzac Day dawn service 2018 at Hellfire Pass in the region of Konyu Kanchanaburi. A special visit from Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, Chief of the Australian Army in attendance.

The new renovations of the Australian Memorial Museum at Hellfire Pass are well and truly underway and promises to provide a newer image for the aging museum.

Preparations for such an event take on a professional approach, not only just to make it another Anzac Day service but for those involved to have the motivation and the willingness to put in the hard yards to make it the best of the best. Today, the Hellfire Museum staff, Australian Embassy personnel on posting, and visiting military personnel from bases afar and ships in port did just that.

Both at the Hellfire Pass and Commonwealth War Graves in Kanchanaburi combined were one of the best Anzac Day services I’d ever attended.

The scene was set for the dawn service with lights along the Pass in position very early for those attending to get a feel for the area where 69 POWs were beaten to death, where many others died from illness, and the countless who survived to later suffer from their time chipping away under appalling conditions to make the pass through the mountain some 75 years ago.

First light appeared through the jungle canopy above, the attending crowd heightened by the sound of awaking insects and local bird life sounding off before the Anzac Day bagpipers hit a single pitch and the army bugler played the first reveille.

I commend Warrant Officer 2 Chris Moc from the Australian Embassy and his staff for the pre-training of the Anzac Day catafalque party for both services. This year the party consisted of a mixture of army
and navy first timers with different basic parade drills already imbedded and that alone making it a very hard task to accomplish in such a short time.

As per normal in Thailand, a later service was held at the Commonwealth War Graves 80 kms away in the township of Kanchanaburi. In attendance approximately 30 Ambassadors from various nations, a large Thai military contingent, British troops on posting Singapore with other guests including the three charities; The Long Ride Home, Warrior Racing Limited & New Zealand’s Fallen Heroes invited to individually lay wreaths at the memorial cross.

A big mention to the two former POWs of the Thai Burma Death Railway Harold Martin 101 years of age and Neil McPherson 98 years of age ex POWs who returned to the areas where they were held in captivity during that time.

On behalf of the three charities I take this opportunity to pass on my many thanks to The Australian Ambassador to Thailand Mr. Paul Robilliard and Embassy staff both military and civilian for a very impressive Anzac Day service and for their outstanding support and sponsorship for the three charities on the day.

A big thank you to volunteers - Stewart Duncan and crew, Ben, Seth, Andy and Ian Coates military artists for contributing so much to the post Anzac Day event and distribution of marketing merchandise in support of the three charities. Your hard work is very much appreciated by all and doesn’t go unnoticed.

If you’ve never attended an Anzac Day service in Thailand I highly recommend that you put it on your future agenda - you won’t be disappointed.

Information provided by the Australian Government Department of Veteran Affairs: The commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Australian work on Hellfire Pass and completion of the Thai-Burma Railway will be one of the key events of DVA’s Century of Service program in 2018.

A national service to mark the anniversary will take place in Ballarat, Victoria Australia on 16 October 2018 and in Thailand pending.

More than 2,800 Australians are believed to have died working on the Railway, some 700 of them at one of its most notorious sites, Hellfire Pass.

Hellfire Pass was named for both the brutal conditions under which prisoners worked and the fact that at night the scene was lit by carbide lights, bamboo fires and hessian wicks in containers full of diesel oil. One former prisoner remarked that it ‘looked like a scene out of Dante’s Inferno’. The work began at Hellfire Pass in late April 1943.

Shifts lasted for 18 hours until the cutting was complete after some six weeks. Work on the railway continued until 16 October 1943 when the two ends of the track were joined after a very short duration between 1942 and 1943 and at the cost of over 12,000 Allied POWs and 120,000 Asian Force Labourers.

More information on Hellfire Pass history and the Australian Memorial Museum located above the Pass administered by veteran affairs through our Australian Embassy in Thailand can be obtained at:



It is hoped that The Long Ride Home for PTSD Awareness can be part of the 75th Anniversary in October to commemorate the completion of the Thai Burma Death Railway construction line.

A 2,500Km ride is planned for the event starting from Changi prison Singapore to Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar (Burma) via the Commonwealth War Graves in Kanchanaburi and later at Hellfire Pass.

May they Rest In Peace. We shall remember them and keep the spirit of the railway alive.

Truck Sams On The Long Ride Home Anzac Day in Thailand

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Songkran Video

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The Long Ride Home during The Thai New Year, “Songkran“

The Thai New Year is almost over in most provinces of Thailand and due to local culture which I call the DAD season (Drunk And Dangerous season) it was time to hang up the bike for a few days and stay off the roads both day and night.

According to newspaper editor: Huaxia. BANGKOK, April 17 (Xinhua) -- A total of 378 people have been killed and more than 3,500 others injured in Thailand's road accidents in a six-day time during Songkran festival, according to an official report released on Tuesday.

But despite all the fatalities and injuries Songkran continues the way it has every year and it is certainly for the hard working people of Thailand to chill out, relax, and practice their Buddhist religious beliefs at this important time of the year regardless of the dangers. Many foreigners come here to join in the fun and games around the country which involves getting wet for days on end.

I’m back in the Suphunburi region and managed to catch the tail end of a very important Buddhist water festival at a Dan Chang temple. The temple provided free food and drinks for the local Moo Ban residents followed by a dowsing of holy water involving the head monks and novice monks (Naan).

The ritual involves blessing of barrels of water laden with flowers followed by the monks in queue pouring a small amount of water over a golden Buddha statue. They being approx 30 to 40 monks then sit on chairs in a L formation in readiness to bless all attending with Buddhist prayers before locals proceed to line up in queue by the hundreds to take turn in pouring the holy water on the golden Buddha then in turn on the seated monks.

The practice involves each individual to pour the holy water on every part of the monk starting with the feet towards the head or in opposite directions head down to the feet.

After a day of festivities I’m out on the road again and business is normal. The summer has arrived and I pass by farmers hard at it out in the sweltering heat. Farmers cutting the last crops of sugar cane and fishermen on the local Krasiao Dam who carry out a unique balancing act on what appeared to be a whole bunch of empty plastic oil bottles strung together. They continued their amazing act looking like wind surfers with their makeshift bamboo poles and lightweight fishing nets attached as they occasionally thrust the poles rapidly skywards in attempt to get their catch for the day.

I’m looking forward to riding in the rainy season to keep cool as temperature can reach 40 degrees during Rue Du Rawn summer season. Uncomfortable as it sounds the rain will keep the body temperature down while riding in the tropical heat of SEast Asia.

Wikipedia describes Songkran as the Thai New Year's national holiday. Songkran is 13 April every year, but the holiday period extends from 14–15 April.

In 2018 the Thai cabinet extended the festival nationwide to five days, 12–16 April, to enable citizens to travel home for the holiday. The word "Songkran" comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti literally "astrological passage", meaning transformation or change. The term was borrowed from Makar Sankranti, the name of a Hindu harvest festival celebrated in India in January to mark the arrival of spring.

Songkran coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart and with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia, in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar. This year Songkran was extended to the 20th April in places like Pataya to fall in place with local tradition.

Truck Sams on the long ride home during Songkran the Thai New Year.


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Ex-Warrant Officer Barrie Turner Interview

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Vietnam Veteran


Old Vietnam Veteran allies get together on the long ride home Thailand.

On most of my training rides in the Suphunburi district I’ve always taken time out to have a brew and chat with my good mate American Vietnam veteran helicopter pilot Warrant Officer Class 2 (retired) Barrie Turner who I’ve known for about 5 years.

I ride past his house occasionally and understand why he lives where he lives in a small farming region that very much resembles the AShau Valley where he flew many a combat mission during his time in Vietnam many years ago.

Just turning 80 years young, Barrie, originally a smoke jumper fighting fires in 1959 served later in Korea in a peacetime role, went onto airborne training to serve in the 101st Airborne Brigade. He later undertook flight school to become a helicopter pilot to eventually serve as a combat pilot in Vietnam in 1965 at An Khe (based in Pleiku) in the central highlands of Vietnam.

With over 450 combat missions and the bronze star to his credit Barrie was involved in the famous battle at the Ia Drang Valley. Wikipedia - The Battle of Ia Drang was the first major battle between the United States Army and the North Vietnamese Army-NVA (People's Army of Vietnam-PAVN), part of the Pleiku Campaign conducted early in the Vietnam War.

For those that have read the book or seen the movie “We Were Soldiers“ with actor Mel Gibson playing the role of Lt Col Hal Moore, Barrie was one of the pilots that flew missions into the battle zone evacuating wounded and dead American soldiers back to Pleiku.

See link Wikipedia - The Battle at La Drang Valley

See link Wikipedia - Lt Col Hal Moore.

Pleiku lays close to 1,000 kms to the East of where we both recently chatted and we have been discussing over a few years, a return trip to where he was based. I’m honoured he has extended an invitation for me to join him.

I’ve also ridden past the area where he was based at An Khe and up the AShau Valley on route to Khe Sahn where he flew missions but continued north over the 17 parallel along the Ho Chi Minh Highway and part of the Ho Chi Minh trail onto Dien Bien Phu many times.

Good on ya Barrie, keep on keeping on mate!!!

Truck Sams, on The Long Ride Home, in the province of Kanchanaburi and Suphunburi

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Back in the Suphunburi region of Thailand this week for more continuation training as the rainy season begins to set in and Thais prepare to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year just, from April 13-15.

Wikipedia: Chakri Day memorialises the institution of the Chakri Dynasty by Rama I, who led the Kingdom of Siam in a fight against the Burmese when they tried to take over the land that is today known as Thailand. This fight lasted for more than a decade and saw the then capital city of Ayutthaya destroyed and looted by Burmese forces. But the Siamese people never stopped fighting back, and under Rama I in 1779 were finally able to reclaim the city from the Burmese.

Overwhelmed with gratitude and respect, the Kingdom of Siam appointed Rama I head of the Kingdom on April 6, 1782, marking the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty.

During the important festive season now happening and mixing with the country folk around Ban Rai it’s time to try a bit of the local tucker in the Karen hilltribe and local Thai villages.

Ant lava soup, dried dead ants, some live bull ants with a dash of salt and sugar goes down well with some locally grown herbs and coffee to boot.

An article by Chelsea Hervey on energy and environment In the Washington Post said: “In general, it’s hard to convince people to eat bugs — but that hasn’t stopped policymakers from trying.”

For years, sustainable food experts in western countries have pushed the insect-eating agenda, touting its nutritional and environmental benefits. Insects are high in protein, relatively inexpensive to raise and have a lower carbon footprint than other food animals like cows or chickens. And in parts of Africa, Asia and Central and South America insects are a regular part of the local cuisine.

Even the United Nations has gotten on board. Its Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has laid out a series of arguments in favor of insectivory — the practice of eating insects — in publications over the past decade, including its most recent 2013 report, “Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security.”

But while a handful of gutsy restaurants and food manufacturers have started serving up creepy crawlies in dishes ranging from grasshopper tacos to cricket-flour cookies, insect eating has yet to really catch on in western countries. And one University of London researcher has a theory about why.

In a commentary published in Nature, researcher Ophelia Deroy argues that making insects seem more appealing, rather than simply making logical arguments about their benefits, is the key to getting consumers to eat them.

“Most of the insects eaten in the world are cooked as part of interesting preparations that make them a genuine competitor to other foods, and often a more attractive option,” writes Deroy, a researcher in the University of London’s Centre for the Study of the Senses.

“These insects are eaten by choice, not necessity. This obvious fact is missed by most of the current research and policies.”

Placing a greater emphasis on recipes and presentation, Deroy argues, may just be the key to swaying more people into giving them a shot.

Personally, I don’t see all the fuss because of huge benefits outweighing horrible thoughts of eating those little critters. Watch this space for more bush tucker eaten by Truck on the long ride home.

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