By Stan Stewart.
For four months of the year he rides a bicycle in Darwin for six hours a day (28K) collecting cans and bottles. Attached to his bike are two panniers. And balanced on the front and back of the bike are four large plastic bags. Mike’s home is an apartment on the Waterways in Whitianga where he spends eight months each year and doesn’t pick up any cans. His name is Mike Savage and according to the staff of the Informer he is in the running for a ‘Sainthood’. Mike Savage and his wife, Liz Sims, have relatives in the city of Darwin (population 150,000) on the top end of Australia. In fact, their relatives also extend more north than that – to Bali. To visit their relatives and to escape Whiti’s winter, they visit Darwin for four months every year. That’s Darwin’s winter - which is warm and sunny – clear skies and balmy nights, just right for lounging on beach chairs and going to outdoor picture theatres. But for Mike there is more than that in his winter sojourn in Darwin. His daily round is picking up cans and other containers with a 10cents return value. This is the government’s recycling reward on these items. Years ago, when Mike was a kid, he used to do this. He was an enthusiastic bottle returner, and he loved that ten cents on each item. That’s when he got the bug. Added to this ‘can’ income, the ‘canny’ Mike made good money trapping and skinning possums - hard work but it paid off. Because of his labours with possums, he was able to buy a dairy farm, when he was just 26. Be assured, he doesn’t skin possums in Australia. There are plenty of possums in Darwin but Mike has left that possum activity well behind. In Australia anyone who kills possums will be hit with huge fines. They are a protected species. Mike enjoys collecting those cans and bottles. This way, he keeps fit and meets people – especially Aboriginal people camped out or sleeping beside the bike paths. His route is well known and some of the Aboriginal people collect cans and bottles in their patch and have a stash for Mike when he arrives. Sometimes they wait to pass them on personally. Other times there is a collection beside the path. Everyone knows, they are there for Mike. For Mike, one of the pleasures of his daily ride is talking with the Aboriginal people he meets on the way. At the first meeting, they often ask for money; but Mike rides without money or a credit card. When Mike explains, “No money,” there is no animosity’. Mike now has many Aboriginal friends. Mike and Liz really like them. “They are very friendly and gentle” they say. Clearly the ‘demon drink’ is an especially fierce dragon for them. But even with this, they are very pleasant. Sometimes Mike finds a collection of cans along the way. Clearly, they are there for him. Other times an Aboriginal is waiting for Mike with an assortment of cans and bottles. Mike, on his bottle collecting round, is a welcome site on the Darwin cycle paths. This year, the payout for Mike’s cans and bottles was over $AU2000. All of this goes into a special account for Bali. For years now Mike and Liz have been supporting distant relatives in a Bali village. In Bali, primary education is free but secondary education is not. Over the years, of the seventeen school aged children in their extended family Mike and Liz have supported 5 teens through high school with two of them now being helped at tertiary level. Most of the children are still in primary school with some due to start high school next year. Keep on doing those happy trails Mike. You inspire us.
Caption: Mike on a mission, collecting cans and bottles as he bikes around Darwin