You often see lively sights on the back roads of north-east Victoria: tractors, horse floats, the occasional fruit seller.
But rarely will you see a young man scooting along gravel tracks, wearing a traditional Japanese kasa and carrying nothing but a backpack.
Uni, who prefers to use his first name only, is an exception. The 23-year-old landed at Melbourne airport eight days ago and – rather than hailing an Uber – hopped straight on his scooter, heading north.
His plan is to complete an epic trip from Melbourne to Cairns, powered only by his legs.
“I’ve accepted this challenge to change myself,” he says. “I plan to use Sydney as a route from Melbourne to reach Cairns. But more than wanting to go to Sydney, I want to take on the challenge of going from the larger distance of south to north … From the southern-most airport to the northern-most airport.”
By car, the drive would take 31 hours – covering roughly 3,000km.
It took Uni just under a week to reach sleepy Violet Town, nestled at the foot of the Strathbogie Ranges, a journey of 185km. Not bad on a scooter without a motor.
By Wednesday evening, on day eight, he’d made it to Chiltern – a gold rush-era town between Wangaratta and Wodonga, population 1,605.
Locals he has met on his journeys are now following his trip on social media.
“How you doing, it’s Wilko from Seymour the bloke with the long beard you met in the park,” one comments.
Another says: “So lucky to have met you Uni! Safe travels.”
Littered throughout Uni’s social media are pictures of Australians who have taken him in or met him out and about – locals wearing his traditional Japanese hat, or Uni giving the thumbs up with a schooner outside a pub.
He recalls people offering him food, showers, a bed for the night. “I even had a person all of a sudden giving me a $50 bill out the window of a moving car,” he says.
“What I appreciate most of all is people who were complete strangers letting me stay at their homes.”
Regional Australia may have welcomed him with open arms but this isn’t Uni’s first rodeo. A year ago he did a lap of Japan, also on a scooter. It wasn’t an easy trek. In one fall he broke his nose and three front teeth.
But he’s not deterred. “I’m surprised at how nice and kind Australians are,” he says.
From Chiltern, Uni is planning to trek up through Wagga Wagga and past Canberra to Sydney.
“From a practical viewpoint, I haven’t decided my route past Sydney,” he says. “Just that from Sydney onwards I’d like to go along the coastline if possible.”
As for the final destination?
“Once I reach Cairns, I’ll got back home to my family in Japan,” he says. “And I’ll tell them about the country and what a wonderful place it is.”