The MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage



 

 

 

 

An Australian pilgrimage trail in honour of St Mary MacKillop and her co-founder Fr Julian Tenison Woods.

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Eight (23 April) – Bodalla to Moruya via the Princes Highway

Today we did something that we have not done in all the previous 34 days of walking, and we did it only because we had no choice.

The Way from Bodalla to Moruya is wide, open countryside, with many lakes and creeks and rivers. The rural landscape is green, dotted with sheep and cows. The bellbirds sing in the trees. Here and there is a country church on a hill. In the distance is the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. We even had lunch in a pine glade on the shore of an inlet near an oyster farm. The only problem with this whole idyllic picture is that all day we were walking with our elbows less than a metre from constant traffic going 100km/hr in both directions on Australia’s Highway No. 1, the Princes Highway.

There is no way we would have walked this if we had had any other choice. In fact, we did have other choices. We had a forest route all worked out that was about 32kms long. This route would have taken Bumbo Road to the left of the Highway about six kilometres down the Highway, and then up Western Boundary Road, Little Sugarloaf Road and Wamban Road into Moruya. But the problem with this was, aside from the distance, the burning off going on in the forest at the moment. We could have taken a route that Daniel recommended on Saturday night after about 14km along the Highway towards the coast on Bingie and Congo Road, but this would also have added about 7kms to the route. So in the end, we stayed on the Highway all the way until we came to Noads Drive, and then, with great relief, we took the back way into Moruya. The effect of stepping off the Highway and onto the country road was almost like yesterday when we finally stepped off the beach onto the bushland track. The constant roar of the traffic was akin to the constant roar of the ocean, and walking through weeds on the side of the road like trying to find a path through soft sand. Some of the weeds, by the way, are a real pain, especially a little daisy-like plant that has small spear-like seeds which stick to your socks and trousers. And, of course, there was the constant worry about snakes, especially after having seen a baby snake on the side of the road soon after we left Bodalla.

I woke quite early this morning, and began work on the blog. My iPad case external keyboard wasn’t working for some reason (a little hissy fit in which the s key was totally non functional and the delete key made /// marks – it is back to normal now) so I had to type the whole thing on the iPad internal keyboard which, given I am using an iPad mini on this trip and I have very large hands, was a pain in the digits. So it ended up that the others were off exploring the town and having breakfast in the bakery before I joined 9am. The bakery is very good by the way – they don’t actually serve breakfast, but they have nice pies and quiches and sausage rolls and, of course, coffee. We also bought sandwiches for lunch from there in presealed containers so they were fresh when we had them later on.

The Bodalla Dairy is an attraction for visitors. This time we didn’t buy any cheese to take with us (I didn’t need more weight in my pack) but we did taste the samples that were put out.

The REAL attraction for the ecclesiastically minded in Bodalla is the Anglican Parish Church of All Saints. This 1881 church is a real architectural gem. It was built at the cost of 13,000 pounds at the time (nb. by Moruya builder Ziegler, the same as the stone mason who made the tombstones in the Central Tilba historical cemetery that we visited – I was interested in this because my step-Grandmother was a Ziegler) under the patronage of the Mort family. There is an historical story here, because one of the Morts married a Catholic and they funded the building of the less grand, but still interesting, St Edmund’s Catholic Church. (Nb. We didn’t return the 1km down the road to look at St Edmund’s in the daylight – it was too far and the church was closed anyway).

There was a “mini” labyrinth in the garden of the Church, and Josh is a bit of a devotee of this form of meditation. Given that the labyrinth is itself a kind of micro-pilgrimage, it seemed appropriate that we walk it. So I followed him as we chanted the Regina Coeli and Lord’s prayer, which he followed up with a Latin hymn and some more versicles, which took just long enough to take us to the centre and out again. We then looked at the meditation garden and the memorial garden before going inside the church itself.

Which is a marvel. Just look at the pictures. They say it all. If ever we can achieve an ecumenical accord with our Anglican brethren and sistern, this is one bit of their patrimony which would fit perfectly in the Catholic tradition. If we are practicing Receptive Ecumenism, I want to receive this from the Anglicans. (Or am I breaking the 10th Commandment – Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house of worship…?). For good measure, we sang “Who would true valour see” and then, since we were indeed supposed to be being pilgrims, set of down the highway finally at 10:15am.

The first thing of interest that we saw along the road was a little black baby snake curled up on the edge of the bitumen. We kept a good distance, because I have been warned that these little buggers can be as venomous as their elders. But he was, to quote a joke I told Josh and Sean the other day about a sick mouse, “very small”.

One reason we were coming this way around South Eastern Australia on the pilgrimage instead of on the “deadly Hume” was precisely to avoid the “deadly” bit. But I encountered three road-side shrines to people who had died on this stretch of the Princes Highway today. The youngest was for a little girl – Madeleine – who was born in 1997 and died in 2002.

Another surprise along the road that I was not expecting was the Coila Creek Service Centre, marked by a large “crashed” pink airplane. You can miss it driving let alone walking, but I had missed its existence on the map – possibly because I was not planning on coming this way. It would have been an excellent place to get lunch, but instead we had lunched by the oyster farm just down the road in Turlinjah on our bakery sandwiches. The Service Station sold prawns in 1kg bags for $25, and that would have made a very nice lunch for three – although Josh says “I don’t eat bottom feeders”. It also sells cold drinks, which would have saved us carrying a bit of water too.

After Turlinjah, you pass the turn off to Tuross Heads, which appeared very popular indeed, with many vehicles going in and out of the road in that direction. Interestingly, many of them were tradies, which seemed to indicate a growing population down the road. On a hill nearby is an old Church, very picturesque in its setting, but it seems to be disused. There is no sign, but at the same time no indication that it is being used as a residence either.

After that it was just a slog until we finally got off the HIghway at Noads Drive, which took us around the back onto the Congo Road and into Moruya from the East along South Head Road. At around Keightley Street, just as you pass the first homes on the edge of town, a really good bike path begins that takes you all the way into town. Just as we were thanking God for this treat, an even greater joy appeared: an abandoned Woolworths shopping trolley! Josh joked that we could put our backpacks in it an push it back into Moruya, and was a little scandalised when I did exactly this. Josh didn’t want to look silly so he pushed on, but Sean accepted my offer to push his pack for him too. It must have been a miraculous trolley, because it travelled smooth and straight. I dropped it off in town when we passed Woolworths, so we made a better impression upon walking up Queen Street to the Church.

The Church and Presbytery are truly substantial buildings. Rachel, the parish secretary, met us and gave us “kind admittance” (as it says in the third Eucharistic Prayer) to the presbytery) and showed us our large upstairs bedrooms. I put a whole load of washing on for the three of us, and then had a very long hot bath. My shoulders are beginning to chafe from the backpack. I might look into getting something like wool covers for the straps next year. I did find some pieces of firm foam on the road today which I used to give some relief (again, “the Camino provides”). We went out to dinner at the Adelaide Hotel (it seemed appropriate for a South Australian), but although the food was good and well priced (I had salt and pepper prawns for $17) the menu was meagre and the meal was not large enough. Sean wanted to buy some stuff for breakfast so we went around to Woolies and got some porridge and milk and such, and also bought a pack of pasta and a container of carbonara sauce which we cooked up when we got home for “hobbits second dinner”. As the beer choice at the Adelaide was also very disappointing, we also bought too large bottles of Guinness stout which we drank with our pasta (yes, a somewhat odd combination, but the others did not feel like red wine).

I did a bit of work on my blog and then Cathy called and we talked for a while and I ended up going to bed by about 9:30am.

Click here for the Google Photos album for today, and here is the map (the orange line is the route we took).

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Seven (22 April) – Narooma to Bodalla via Potato Point

I woke early before dawn on Sunday morning having slept like a log in the big comfortable bed at Marg Latimer’s home. The good food and wine and company (and, to be honest, probably the hot bath) worked wonders on my body and I felt totally refreshed. But as couldn’t get back to sleep I went out to the main living room and wrote up my journal for the day before. As I was doing so the sun rose over Lake Mummuga, and I could see what appealed to Marg so strongly when she bought this block of land. In her living room, the lounge chairs do not face the TV – they face the view. Later in the morning, when everyone was up and preparing for Mass, I sat in one of these chairs just to take in the peacefulness of it all – and promptly fell asleep again.

Mass was at 9:30am in Narooma. We picked up Lippy (I hope I have her name right), a Samoan woman who leads the choir. At the church, we met up with our dinner companions from last night, and met Fr Steve Astill, a Jesuit priest in his seventies who was filling in for the parish priest, Fr Joseph Tran, who is on Sabbatical. He welcomed us at the beginning of the service. The music for the mass was Paul Taylor’s St Francis Mass and hymns were Love Divine, The Lord’s My Shepherd (Crimond), and Christ is made the Sure Foundation, so we had a good sing. The choir also sung with great gusto. Quite a few people at mass including many young families. The homily was, as we had been told to expect, excellent. The one take away from it was Fr Astill’s opening line: we have an instinct for self preservation, but our vocation is self-sacrifice. He was drawing upon the gospel text for the day, which was “ the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Josh, Sean and I were asked to take up the offertory gifts.

After mass they had a morning tea out in the sunshine where we were able to meet other members of the congregation. We had our pilgrim passes stamped with the parish seal, and Fr Astill gave us his blessing. After a photo with everyone, we set off at 11am. Marg had kindly agreed to take our backpacks around to the Lawlers Creek car park in Dalmeny, about ten kilometres down the track, and to purchase our lunches from the local Vietnamese bakery. So we are entirely unencumbered with only our stocks in our hands. It was a wonderful feeling to be so free! We headed down the Main Street to the foreshore where there was a Sunday market in progress and across the bridge to the board walk over the waters edge. Marg told us that it was not unusual to see plenty of marine life from this path, including stingrays, but today the tide was a fair way out so nothing was on display except the excellent views.

The sun was shining and the sea breeze blowing as we headed onto one of the nicest stretches of our walk so far, a 6.6km stretch of shared bike way from Narooma to Dalmeny built entirely by volunteer labour and donations of the locals. A great initiative – which makes one wonder why the local council didn’t do it themselves. I guess as the old saying goes, if you want something done… As we had been on our way to Mass, Marg had pointed out the Park that the Lions Club had built and funded, including a toilet block with a large Lion painted on it by a local school group. Knowing this toilet block was there, I was particularly planning on a visit, so you can imagine how pleased I was to find a sign saying that the facilities were temporarily closed and apologising “for the inconvenience”! We made good time along this path, covering the ten kilometres from the church in two hours, arriving just on 1pm.

At the car park at the end of the trail, we found not only Marg, but Lippy and Pauline (Fr Luke Verrell’s mother) and her grandson Luke (named, as he proudly informed me, after his uncle). After we had eaten our excellent ham salad rolls – followed by cream filled chocolate eclairs that Marg thought would give us added energy (a challenge to eat gracefully in company with my moustache!) all four joined us for the first kilometre of walking along the beach in the Eurobodalla National Park. We were headed, on Daniel’s advice from last night, for Potato Point, a further six kilometres down the road. We set off at 1:30pm, and enjoyed pleasant conversation along the way. It reminded me of being on the Aussie Camino, with the beach walking and the changing groups chatting as we went along. Young Luke was fascinated at what we were attempting to do. I told him that he was now a pilgrim himself, having completed one kilometre of the MacKillop-Woods Way – when he was older he could come back and do the other 1249!

We had chosen this route for two reasons, firstly to avoid the Princes Highway, and secondly because there appeared to be a good amount of burning off going on in the forests. The local rural fire service was taking every opportunity of the calm weather for “waste reduction”. But with our heavy backpacks, the beach walking was hard going. Sand that would normally have supported our weight crunched under foot and our feet sank deeper in than normal. Sean and I were walking in bare feet as this felt a lot better and gave our feet a chance of being dipped in the breaking surf, but Josh kept his boots on and stuck to the edge of the shore. Nevertheless, it was exhausting either way, and what time we had made up on the a earlier in the day was lost in this exercise. The next five kilometres after farewelling our hosts took us n hour and a half, so that it was 3:30pm by the time we got to Jemisons Point, just south of Potato Point. Along the way we had passed the closed mouths of both Whittakers Creek and Lake Tarourga. The tide was out as we were walking, but in a few places, it looked as if the beach might be impassable at very high tide.

At Jemisons Point, we took the track leading west through the forest instead of going into Potato Point – a very pretty stretch of bushland, marred only by three young kids on their mini trail bikes and a smoking pile of rubbish that looked to have recently burned. We were a little worried by the latter, given recent events. The fire was practically out but the coals were still hot. I tried looking up the fire service on my phone to find a number to call, but could only see 000, and wasn’t sure if this was really an emergency. In any case, I was saved from the trouble by a couple of guys driving up behind me in the Potato Point fire ute – they had already been informed of it. I asked whether dialling 000 would have been appropriate in the conditions, and they assured me that it would have been the correct course of action.

We were now on the open sealed road between Potato Point and Bodalla, and were again concerned as it was getting late. It is 9.5km from Jemisons Point to the centre of Bodalla, and it was now 4:20pm. Thankfully there was no chance of getting lost on such a major road. It was an awkward time though for Josh’s vertigo anxiety to hit again – which seems to be exacerbated by the combination of bushland and rising paths, and we were going through just this sort of terrain now, even though the highest point on the road is just over 100 metres. He felt better when we took a detour along the power line where he could see clearly around him for some distance and there were no steep slopes on the side of the path.

As is usual for me, the combination of anxiety about our accommodation for the night (I had had no confirmation of our booking from the pub nor had I been able to raise them on the phone) and the drawing near of the end of another long day led me to speed ahead of my brethren. I put some music on to lift my drooping spirit, and was soon fairly dancing down the road. It was dark by the time I arrive at St Edmund’s Catholic Church on the corner of Potato Point Road and the Princes Highway at 5:50pm and I sat and waited for the others to catch up (saying a few prayers to the sainted martyr for strength for our journey). According to my calculations, we had walked 27km today.

The Bodalla Arms was another kilometre or so down the road from the Church, and I was glad to see the light on. We walked in and greeted the four or five locals in the bar, which was unattended. One rang the bell for the publican. As we waited for a response, we noted that they had beer on tap from the PACT brewery in Canberra and planned our first drinks. When Nick arrived, he said “Are you the Mary MacKillop fellas?”, and I knew all was okay. He showed us around to our rooms out the back. The hotel is quite large, but not all the rooms seem to be functional for accomodating guests. Josh had a room far down the passageway and around a few bends near the bathroom, while Sean and I had a room each at the other end towards the front of the pub – mine with a window directly onto the highway. I helped Nick put a sheet and a doona on the double bed in my room, and then we all went back to the bar for a drink or two and some food. Michelle, Nick’s partner, was in the kitchen cooking when we ordered our meals. They were very reasonably priced – I ordered the Lamb Shank for $20. Josh was still buying drinks for us (according to his promise that Sean and I would each receive the first $60 drinks on him as our birthday gifts), so we had a glass of the PACT Lager and one of the Brown Ale. Our meals arrived – big plates well filled with very tasty food. My lamb shank was in a nice gravy with a huge serving of potato mash and veggies. Michelle came out to say hi, and that she had been doing some research into her family tree and discovered a connection with St Mary on the MacDonald side of her family. She happily signed our pilgrim passes in lieu of a stamp.

We had been warned by the Narooma locals that the Bodalla pub would be rough, and it is that, but it is also comfortable and cheap, just $40 a room. And again, added luxury, a bath to soak in after dinner and before bed. What more could a pilgrim ask for? After getting into bed at 8:30pm and putting in my ear plugs, I began to work on the photos of the day, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and soon fell fast asleep.

Pictures for today are here, and here are the maps.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day Six (Saturday 21 April) – Central Tilba to Narooma on the Old Highway

By avoiding the Princes Highway between Bermagui and Narooma, the pilgrim on the MacKillop-Woods Way is rewarded with a tiny slice of heaven. After four quite gruelling days of walking, this was the “rest day” without being a rest day.

Staying at the Two Story B&B (no, that isn’t a spelling mistake – my guess is that it means the building has had “two stories” as well as being “two storeys”, first as a post office, and today as accommodation) was a little treat. Ken and Lynn have had the place on the market for about two years, after operating the B&B, shop and Post Office for around three decades. Ken said it was time to retire, and since neither of their children were intereted in taking on the job, they needed to sell. I can say that they were great hosts, the best that you could expect from local tourist accommodation.

Sean and I were up at about 6am, packed and writing up our blog/journal when Lynn called us for breakfast at 8am. Ken served us the eggs, bacon, tomato and toast, and coffee and tea, as we enjoyed the antics of Bridie, the English Springer Spaniel (and yes, she was “springy”), who stayed obediently outside the French windows leading onto the little decking from the dining room while we ate breakfast although she clearly wanted to be inside and part of the action.

After breakfast, I continued work on my blog for a bit. Lynn stamped our pilgrim passes with a very decorative postal stamp featuring the B&B on it. Cathy rang and I caught up on what was happening at home. Josh and Sean headed out to see the town, and I followed as soon as I had everything completed online.

It was market day in the big old shed across road, where we bought calzone and pizza rolls for lunch. A walk up to the top of the hill brought us to the old Methodist Church, no longer used for worship. We wandered around the shops in the rest of the town down to the ABC Cheese Factory where we sampled the cheese and bought some blue and vintage for Marg’s dinner tonight. I dropped into a leather goods shop which also had a wide range of hats, mainly akubras. I ended up bying a new hat – not a leather one, but a polyester weave with a wide brim to keep off the sun. Apart from the fact that it doesn’t have a sting to keep it from blowing away or to tie it to the backpack, it should be an excellent walking hat. It certainly looks a lot more stylish than my two dollar op shop cloth cap that I have worn all the way thus far (which, to be fair, has done me very well).

At 11am we shouldered our packs once again, took up our stocks and headed off through the town along Bate Street. I stopped in at the Dromedary Hotel which was just opening to say hullo to the proprietoress. We had been intending to stay there, but they decided to stop doing accommodation and so had rebooked at the B&B, but I wanted to say hullo anyway. She said she had seen us on the road yesterday coming from Bermagui.

We took the Punkalla Tilba Road out of town, which was fairly quiet, although it was Saturday/Market Day. Most of the traffic into Tilba came from the Highway, not this back route. Our journey today was only 20kms, but it was slowish going due a a signifcant amount of up-and-downness. Every turn was astonishingly beautiful. We walked past the building used in the TV series “River Cottage Australia”. The humidity this morning was what could be described as 100%: soft misty drizzle accompanied us for the first hour or so. Not enough to get us wet, but just enough to dampen our clothes, which, truth be told, were getting wetter from perspiration than from precipitation. The temperature was very mild and even, and the weather overcast all day, such that it was a surprise around 4pm when the sun briefly came out enough for us to see our shadows.

About five kilometres down (actually, mainly up) the road, we came to a T-junction where the Punkalla Tilba Road actually went off to the left, and the road we were on became the Ridge Road. To this point the road had been sealed all the way, but along this next section it alternated between bitumen and gravel. We sat and ate our lunch at about the 8km mark, and then pushed on until Ridge Road met the Old Highway. At about this point, I was in a conversation with my mother who rang to find out where I was.

The Old Highway went down to sea-level to an inlet of Corunna Lake, and then immediately began climbing back up again to give some excellent final views of Mount Dromedary, still shrouded in clouds. We stopped briefly to look at an historical cemetary on the left. At the intersection of the Old Highway and Wonga Road, we needed to make a decision about which one to take. The distances were about the same with each, but the Old Higway was (at this point) becoming a little busier and we saw no cars at all taking the Wonga Road route. The only drawback of Wonga Road was that, according to the topographical maps, it went down to sea level and then there was a bit of a hill to climb up into town, whereas the Old Highway rather more gently sloped its way into town. Nevertheless, we took Wonga Road, which turned out to be the right choice. It was very quiet – only four vehicles came along – and has recently been sealed for most of the way. Along the way, I tried calling the Bodalla Arms Hotel once again to confirm our booking for tomorrow night, but once again just got their answering machine. I looked up and called the Bodalla Bakery just to make sure that the hotel was still open, and the woman there assured me that it was, so we will just have to trust that everything is okay.

We arrived on the outskirts of Narooma just on 4:15. Marg had instructed me to call her as soon as we entered town so that she could come and pick us up, but Josh said that we should stop at the first pub we saw and have a beer first. As it was, the first and only pub we saw was right opposite the Church, so we went in and had a glass of Tooheys Old (the beers on tap were all good standard commercial), before calling our hostess. We then went across the road to the Church, which was locked, but said our prayers of thanksgiving for another day’s journey completed. Marg arrived soon after. It was good to meet her after talking on the phone so often. It was clear as soon as we met that our evening would be a very enjoyable one.

Marg lives in Dalmeny, about eight kilometres north of Narooma. As she drove us to her home, she described the walk we would take tomorrow along the foreshore. She told us thtat the best thing to do would be for us to leave our packs with her, and to walk from Mass to the Dalmeny Foreshore where she will meet us and walk with us for a bit up the shoreline past Lake Brou. As this would save us carrying our packs for about one third the distance, we gratefully accepted.

Arriving at her home, she showed us each to our separate rooms, to the bathroom and to the laundry. I asked when the guests would be arriving for dinner; the answer was “in about twenty minutes”, so we didn’t have much time to mess about. We got straight on with the business of “freshening up”. We piled all our dirty washing into the washing machine and took turns in the bathroom. I took the more decadant choice of using the bathtub – the hot water was like an all-round heat bag on weary feet and shoulders.

Marg had invited an additional six guests for dinner: Pauline and John (Fr Luke Verrell’s parents), Kay, Virginia, another John, and Daniel. Daniel especially has had a lot of experience with walking up and down this coastline, and was a mine of information for us on the routes for at least the next two days – but I think he will be a great source of information for us to plan even the next leg of the journey for the rest of the way into Sydney. Already we have re-written tomorrow’s route, now to have us going through Potato Point (which I personally think ought to have been called Potato Head…). The route will take no longer than the way I had planned, and will even be much nicer, avoiding the Princes Highway altogether. Another complication is that there is currently burning off going on in the forests, and so our planned route from Bodalla to Moruya needs to be rethought, probably with a little more walking along the Highway and a detour in towards the coast. However, the benefit again is that it will be less hilly and shorter than our currenlty planned route.

The evening with Marg’s friends was absolutely delightful. We held hands at the beginning of the meal as Marg prayed a blessing on us and our time together. It was good to get to know Fr Luke’s parents, who are both English. The other John is a lawyer who became a Catholic about eight years ago, coming from an Irish/English Presbyterian background – and a fellow motorcyclist. Marg had cooked a lamb roast, and there was plenty of red wine to wash it down with. The result of the entire congenial evening was that by 10pm I was very relaxed and very ready for bed. The guests understood this instinctively and so we said goodnight and looked forward to seeing each other again at mass in the morning. Several of the other guests said they intended to walk with us a short distance on our journey and Daniel said he might come with us all the way to Potato Head and perhaps to Bodalla as well.

Today’s pictures are all here, and here are is the map.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day Five (Friday 20 April) – Murrah Hall to Central Tilba, via Bermagui

It is 7am on Saturday morning, and I am writing up the blog today because I was simply to tired to do so last night. Breakfast at the Two Story B&B is at 8am, and then we will go out to have a look around Central Tilba, since today is Market Day, before heading off to Narooma for tonight.

We are covering good distance quite quickly – perhaps too quickly. Yesterday, I walked 34kms according to my various doodads. That isn’t the distance from Murrah Hall to Central Tilba, of course but these recording devices record your every step. The actual distance was probably something closer to 32kms, but that is still a long walk by any standard. From Tathra to Murrah Hall was about 29km, Merimbula to Tathra somewhere around 26km, and Eden to Merimbula about 31km (I’m rounding my recorded distances down). So that makes it 118km so far and a bit further in real distance on my feet. By the end of today, it will be closer to 140km. Not bad going for five days walking when you consider that on the Aussie Camino they do about 140kms over 8 days without carrying a full backpack.

That pace is obviously more sensible though, because at this rate, I’m not only pushing myself to my limit, but I am pushing Josh and Sean past their limits also. So yesterday morning, I walked the distance from Murrah Hall back to our hosts at Cuttagee Beach (about 8kms) on my own. After a cup of coffee and a banana and a Berocca, John drove me down to start from the Hall at 7:30am. I didn’t take my backpack or any water for the short stroll and finished it in about an hour and a half. It was so delightful to be free of the burdon on my back. At one point I was bouncing along under the sun in the sea air listening to Katherine Jenkins, swinging my stocks and pirouetting in the middle of the empty road (because I could) when I saw a car coming ahead – they must have wondered who this crazy man was! I settled down a bit after that. There was only one big hill immediately after crossing the Murrah River – it was 55m high – but I felt like I floated up it without 12.5kgs on my back.

I arrived back at the farm and had breakfast while the others finished packing up. When we were ready to go again, it felt like I was just starting out afresh. We took photos of one another on the front porch – at which point, as I was putting on my backpack, I noticed a strap missing from my pack. We searched for it, but in the end concluded that I must have left it in the hall at Murrah. I asked John whether he thought there would be anywhere in Bermagui to buy a new one, but he said no, I would probably have to wait to Narooma or probably Batemans Bay.

We set off with a wave of the stocks and Buen Camino! and literally strolled into Bermagui. The walk is quite pleasant, and the road was not too busy, some beautiful views along the way. One view that had been with me since I came down the hill from the Murrah forest at Cuttagee was Mount Dromedary in the distance. This is a 806m mountain visible for miles around that was named by Captain Cook as he sailed up the coast. The indigenous name for it is Gulaga, and along with Little Dromedary Mountain to the side (native name Najanuga) is a place of great cultural significance to the local people. The neat thing is that on this leg of the journey, these two peaks tell you visually where you are going to end up for the night – Central Tilba is lodged almost directly between the two of them.

In Bermagui we were disappointed to find that the Church was shut, so, our spiritual hunger unsatisfied, we headed off to find something to satisfy our physical hunger. Not at all difficulty in Bermagui, as it turns out. The first port of call was a “hole-in-the-wall” bakery which made a strange little Swedish croissant style bun (a “bulla”) flavoured with cardomon seeds – in plural called Kardemummabullar. Delicious! The next port of call was the local patisserie where we had a proper lunch – chicken schnitzel rolls and ham and salad rolls and fresh cannelons straight from the oven. I was also very happy to find that the local Mitre10 sold strapping and buckles that suited my need. This wide auxiliary strap goes across the front of my chest pulling the two shoulder straps together to make it more comfortable (originally I bought it in Warragul on day four of the pilgrimage) but it also serves as a good place to hang the sandals when I am walking on the beach.

We then set off out of town along the coast. This was a little bit of an adventure, as we were avoiding the road and looking for the walking track known as the Old Tilba Road. It led through the Bermagui Flora and Fauna Reserve, around the Keatings Headland, and down onto the beach. It would probably make sense not to do that, as it will be difficult to get around Hayward Point on the beach if it isn’t (as it was for us) low tide. Josh ended up going back up onto the road and coming around to the start of the old South Tilba Road the back way.

The Tilba Road trail goes a couple of kilometres, and is rated as a Grade 2 on the sign. It is totally flat and completely sealed, which makes me wonder at the great gap between this Grade 2 trail and the purported “Grade 3” of the Kangarutha Trail… We saw a fair bit of wildlife on this stretch, which goes past a swampy lagoon. Lots of little lizards and even – joy of joys! – a RAT! I don’t know what kind of rat she was (yes, I know how to tell the sex of rats, it’s pretty obvious) but she had bigger ears and a longer tail than my pets at home. She was not bothered by us at all, and ran around nibbling at twigs while I videoed her. Now, given such a rich menu, the next bit of wildlife we encountered should have been no surprise, but it scared me enough that I hit my head on a tree as I sped away. We had just come a shady spot with a seat, Josh had sat down, I was taking a photo of Sean entering the glade, when Josh said (with no great sense of urgency or alarm) “Oh, look, a snake.” I turned to see a large black snake crossing the path towards Josh about a metre out of the scrub on the side of the trail (the rest of him still hidden in the grass). I didn’t get a close enough look at the snake to decided exactly what colour its belly was (I suspect it was red). The snake, probably as surprised as I was, had stopped still. Sean got a photo of it – I didn’t, as I was too far away by this stage. Josh just calmly got up from the seat and continued walking. Whatever one may say about his phobia of heights, one cannot say that he has any fears of a serpentine nature. I cannot say the same for myself. After a number of close encounters with tiger snakes on the Aussie Camino, I have been very aware of the danger these critters pose to bush walkers.

Back on the trail, we followed the Wallaga Lake Road through Wallaga Lake Heights and Akoele to the Princes Highway. The only surprise on this trail was – and it was a great surprise for although we had heard rumours of its existence we did not think it was on our route – a sign saying “Camel Rock Brewery 200m”!!! What indescribable joy! What bliss! What a miracle! Again the pace picked up (as it tends to do in the vicinity of a place of beer production) and, following the “Brewery This Way” sign like the Yellow Brick Road, we found ourselves seated with three midis of Camel Rock Golden Ale before us (one for each, that is, not three each – we still had 11kms to go!). There was music playing too – a trio with banjo, mandolin and fiddle playing blue grass style music. The staff reckoned the brewery had nothing to do with that – they just turned up and started to play.

Refreshed we hit the road again. The road here is of variable suitability for walking. Sometimes there is a wide verge, sometimes (as when crossing Wallaga Lake) no room at all, and you just have to make sure you are on the opposite side of the road to the vehicles. After crossing the lake, the road climbs directly up the hill. Not very high really, only about 50m ascent, and gentle enough. At this point Josh’s vertigo returned, and I had to be his “companion on the journey” to talk him through until we go to the other side of the Princes Highway. The views of Little Dromedary Mountain along this section of road – in fact all the way to Central Tilba – are magnificent. Mount Dromedary itself had its heights vieled in cloud (might have been something to do with the humidity today – only 20 degrees, but 90 percent humidity). The Princes Highway was dangerous and busy as usual with very little verge on the side of the road again, but we were only on it for about one kilometre, before turning off to the left on the road to Tilba Tilba.

Were it not for the sound of the highway traffic in the background (which slowly receeded as we went on), I would have judged this little patch of God’s earth to have transcended the excellence and beauty of the Towamba Valley (to this point the loveliest place on our journey). We were walking now in the shadow of the Mountain, behind which the sun was setting, although it was still only 4:30pm. It was very still and I had the strange “thick” feel of immersion in the combination of the natural and man-made beauty of the valley. I was surprised that Josh was handling the narrow curvey road with the steep hillsides so well, but he was by now way ahead of me and marching toward Central Tilba with a good deal of resolution. He told me afterwards that farm countryside does not terrify him in the way bushland environments do height-wise. Who can explain?

We arrived at the Two Story B&B at about 5:15pm, and were greeted by Lynn and Ken, who run the B&B, store and post-office. Sean and I were sharing the room on the ground floor with a queen bed and single in it, and Josh had the upstairs queen bed room with the bathroom (with a bath!). After showering and recovering our humanity, we went (on the recommendation of our hosts) to the Neck of the Woods cafe across the road for dinner. Here again, there was some impromptu musical entertainment – guitar and harmonica really hamming it up. It was a woodfire pizza establishment, with the oven burning on the decking outside. It was well frequented, and the food was good – although the waiter who took our order severely underestimated what three men who have just walked 25kms could eat, and we stupidly took him at his word when he said that the 2-serve antipasto, single pizza and two salads would be enough for the three of us. In fact, each of us could have polished off the entire meal on our own. And when we called for more bread, the report came that they were out of it. At least the wine was good – Barking Mad Shiraz 2016 from the Clare Valley, which Josh purchased and poured out equally between the three large glasses. Very nice! On our way out, we saw a basket with bread in it. Why can’t we have that? we asked. “Feel it”, was the reply. It was rock hard stale. But we took it anyway and munched it on the way back to our rooms.

Back at the Two Story, we had coffee and a glass of port (complimentary in decanters in our rooms). I was just starting to prepare to write up my blog, and realised that I was in fact very tired and it would be better to leave it till morning. We were in bed by 9:30pm, and I must have fallen asleep pretty quickly. I woke at 3:30am – I guess my body was saying “You’ve had your six hours sleep…” but managed to get back to sleep again before waking at a more normal 6am. Anyway, I’ll leave today’s story to tomorrow.

I’m including here a funny picture that was sent through to me by my colleagues back at the Archdiocese, Rachel Naughton, Mark Clarke and Brenda Hubber. They all know that I am somewhat protective of my car park space (no. 28) and are having their little laugh in this picture which Mark sent through with a “We are missing you” message. I should ring in on Monday at Lunch Time to do the newspaper quizzes with them.

 

Photos for today are here on Google Photos, and here are the maps:

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day Four (Thursday 19 April) – Tathra to Murrah Hall via Tathra-Bermagui Road

I stayed up too late last night writing up my journal, so I’m going to try to be a little more brief this evening. It should not be hard – today was less eventful. Thankfully. One thing that complicated matters for “Gadgetman” was that I had left my bumbag with my wallet and pilgrim passport and – most importantly – my portable backup battery for my phone at the Church in Tathra. It was found by a kind parishioner and taken into care, but the main point is that my battery was not recharged overnight, and that means my phone – which of course isn’t really a phone, but a camera, a Fitbit, a GPS, a Walkman etc. – ran out of power before the end of today’s journey.

We were up in good time this morning though, and after breakfast, Fr Luke showed us around the Church of St Patrick in Bega, where we said our prayers and received a blessing from Father for our journey. Josh had decided to take the bus to Bermagui and then walk the 7kms south to our hosts today instead of taking the 29km trek from Tathra. Fr Luke drove Sean and me to Tathra. At the Church we were met by John McLaurin from the Catholic Voice in Canberra. He had stayed the night in Tathra with the local bakers, Joe and Quyen Nguyen, members of the Parish who, along with others, have done a lot in the effort to help those who have lost everything in the recent fires. We agreed to meet down at the bakery to continue to catch up and chat.

So Sean and I took the path down to the foreshore. John was waiting for us at the bakery and introduced us to Quyen, who was kind and generous – she not only gave us each a coffee gratis, but also donated lunch for us to take with us on the way. She told us of the great sadness that she still feels over the fires, and how overwhelming it can be. Many of the symptoms she described were similar to those that the speaker at the Church last night was saying were to be expected after such a traumatic experience.

We finally set off at 9:30am. Our route was simple today – straight up the Tathra-Bermagui Road to Murrah Hall: 29kms. As we set off, there was a sealed walking trail for the first four kms or so to the Bega River. On top of the hill to the West of the town, we could see the burnt bush and buildings – and we passed the burnt out Tathra Beach Motel Village, but other than that the evidence of the fires was not obvious from the route we took through town. Once we crossed the Bega River, the road climbed steeply into the hills. There was never much verge on the side of the road for walking, but the road is not overtly busy and it was easy to get out of the road when they did come. For some reason the traffic was heavier going towards Bermagui than towards Tathra, so we walked on the left hand side of the road. There were several large rises to get over, never rising much above 80 metres. Between the passing cars, the air was filled with the sound of bellbirds. The weather was fine with a thin layer of cloud, which was also good. The landscape altered between forest and farm land and so was quite varied. One unusual feature was the large ant mounds in the bush, some well over a metre high.

Just before reaching Tanja we met a couple on push bikes – Janie and George. riding from Sydney to Melbourne and stopped to talk about our respective journeys. They will be riding on the East Gippsland trail from Orbost to Bairnsdale which we did when we were there last, but from there they will ride further south than we walked. We also both noted how early it got dark. Just as we were caught out last night, so they have found themselves riding in the dark before arriving at their destination.

The next turn in the road after our meeting with the cyclists, we reached Tanja. We sat on the steps of the school yard and ate our chicken rolls from Quyen. There was water and toilets there too – of course, no children as it is school holidays. We were just under half way to our destination when we left Tanja at 1:10pm. By this stage my phone was running out, and so the photos also had to stop (or at least be taken sparingly). I put on music for the first time on the walk to keep me going – I listened to Ingrid Michaelson first (nice boppy music) and then Katherine Jones (inspirational). After a while I found that too was using too much power for the phone and switched it off. Sean and I were last together just after the bridge over the Wapengo Creek at 2:50pm. This was at the very end of the Tanja-Wapengo valley. What came next was unexpected – and shows just why I should sometimes pay a little attention to Sean and his precious “topographical maps” rather than simply relying on satellite imagery.

The road began to climb up a hill of prodigious height: 155 metres, up onto the ridge where Murrah is located. Some people, faced with such an obstacle after 20km of hard walking, would slow down and go as gently as possible up the slope. Not me. I attacked this hill with a vengeance, barely stoping for breath before I got to the top. My companions have remarked on the strange phenomena, by which I actually speed up when things get hard, or when we are nearing the end of our journey for the day. Sean, on the other hand, is a strong believer in the gentle approach. Reflecting upon this, I realised that I would never make it to the top of the mountain if I were to take it slowly. I would simply collapse under the pressure of my backpack. Upon more reflection, I realised that one reason for this strange behaviour may lie in my athletic background. I was a good runner and a good swimmer, but never in the long distance events for either. Instead, I could win the 100m dash or the 50m breaststroke. I’d be exhausted by the end of it, but I would win. On longer, slower races, I could never pace myself in such a way to make the distance. Now, as a long distance walker, I find that as soon as the going gets tough, I really get going. Better to have it all out and flake out when I get to the top/end than to flake out on the way. I wonder what that tells me about anything else in my life…

There were lots of motorbikes on the road today, many of them in touring groups, and in fact we are, for the first time, on the same road that I rode my bike on when I was coming back from the national convention of the Christian Motorcyclists Association in 2014 with my brother and one of his friends. It was on that trip that I first conceived of doing this pilgrimage. I thought that the land was so pretty and peaceful that riding a bike ride not give me time to appreciate it, and that walking would be the better option. Today, towards the end of the day, I want so sure…

Anyway, so I get to the top of the hill. From there I can see back down the hillside to Wapengo Lake, and out to the West into the great Mumbulla forest and hills. And to the East, the ocean appeared. The road leveled off, and seemed to follow the top of a ridge more or less for the next six kilometres or so. At this point, I also found the town entrance sign to Murrah and thought “thank God, I’m almost there”. Almost. The road then plunged down again. Surely the Hall will be at the bottom, I thought. But no, only works on the bridge rebuilding at the Creek at the bottom of the hill. Then there was another 50 metre climb or so, until, a couple of hundred metres further down the road and around the corner, Murrah Hall came into view.

The main doors were open, and I staggered inside and introduced myself to the man there, thinking he was John, our host, who was meeting us. Mistaken identity – Howard was there finishing off a rehearsal for Bernard-Shaw play. But he let me into the hall, to sit down and rest, to wash up in the toilets, and most importantly, to plug in my iPhone. Regarding the latter, he said “But you won’t get any reception here…” “I know,” I replied, “I wasn’t wanting to use it as a phone.” I explained to Howard that I was waiting for John to pick us up, and for my companion to catch up with me. He offered to let me stay in the Hall as long as I locked up behind myself. Soon after John arrived with Josh. I suggested they go and pick Sean up, which they did. We had a look around the hall when they got back. Given that we were thinking we might need to stay there overnight if we found no other alternative, the fact is that I think we would have been very comfortable. There is a good kitchen there, and a room that is kind of lounge like (complete with a couch or two). The toilets are fine too.

Sean said that tomorrow he would join Josh in staying at the house in Cuttagee instead of returning to Murrah Hall and covering the distance in between. I have accepted this, and we have arranged that John will drop me back early in the morning after only a light breakfast, leaving my backpack at our host’s home. After a brisk 7km morning walk, we will then have morning tea and get on the way to Bermagui.

John and Colleen are very genial and generous hosts. Their daughter Sonia from Bermagui was here as were grandchildren from Canberra. We had wine and nibbles (with Tilba blue cheese!) before dinner. A little luxury was a bath – bliss on blistered feet. Well, actually, I haven’t got any real blisters yet, just worn and sore. My shoulders too are still acclimatising to the backpack straps, and it was good to soak them in hot water also. Sean and I took the opportunity to wash and tumble dry our clothes.

Dinner was roast lamb and lots of stories on every side. (John is a retired ambulance driver from Bermagui.) After dinner, I began to write up my blog – but it is really getting late now and I have to sleep.

Today’s pictures may qbe viewed here on Google Photos, and here is the map – it is very straightforward, as we followed the main road all the way. Something to note – the addressees of the farms and homesteads along the way are actually according to the distance from Tathra – so no. 2925 is 29.25km from Tathra. It was seeing this, at the bottom of the last hill in Murrah when the hall was still not in sight and I had no phone to guide me, which gave me the incentive to buckle down and push on that last 200 metres around the bend to my destination.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day Three (Wednesday 18 April) – Merimbula to Tathra via Coast

“Today was in some senses the best day and some senses the worst day thus far (there have only been two days, admittedly). We started late – largely because we had a cooked breakfast (I cooked) of scrambled eggs, ham, capsicum, mushroom, spinach and tomato on toast. So we only got going at about 9:00am. We visited the Anglican Church briefly and then St Joseph’s Catholic Church, where we prayed the Regina Coeli and said a prayer to St Mary MacKillop for our journey today. Turns out we needed them.

Next, we followed a route that I had spotted on the satellite maps across a bridge at the end of Munn Street over Merimbula Creek into the area known as Mirador (no, not Mordor, that’s another place, although Mirkwood might have been another appropriate appellation). Nice start, but the bridge didn’t go all the way over the bit of inlet on the other side, so we had to follow a small trail to skirt it. Then the trail started climbing up the rocks over and around the edge of the Black Lagoon. I rather liked this trail, although it wasn’t the one I had chosen, but then Josh’s vertigo struck (just when we thought he was doing so well) and we had to turn around, double back and take another track over the hill. In fairness, this was the track I had originally planned on taking, as it connected up with Mirador Drive. But this road came to an end with big wire gates across it, although the trails went on past this. So I led the way, but immediately it became clear that there were many trails and none of them were at all clear. So we took one that led us most of the way along the route I had planned – hoping to get to the beach on the other side of the Black Lake/Back Lagoon. Instead we took another track that we hoped would get us there, and instead it lead us down the hill to another small lagoon and creek, which we could not cross. Our only choice was then to climb back up along the creek bed to the top of the hill again out onto Casurina Place and Nolan Drive. We were completely shagged out by that stage, and had been walking for almost two hours and only done about 4kms, two of which were completely unnecessary.

So we made it to the Tura Beach Shopping Centre, and Sean shouted us a cup of coffee each as we replanned our day. Several decisions were made. Josh decided that the better part of valour would be if he avoided the walk along the Kangarutha Track later in the day and simply went around Lake Wallagoot to the Sapphire Coast Highway to Tathra. Sean wanted to go to Dolphin Drive to see a place where he holidayed as a child. I just wanted to take the shortest and quickest way to Tathra. So we started by following a trail around the back of the shopping centre from Tura Beach Drive to Kangaroo Run. Then, at Dolphin Cove Road, Sean parted company from Josh and me and went on his sight seeing, after which he went down onto the beach and walked towards Bournda Island. Josh and I went up Pacific Way to the Sapphire Coast Drive and then detoured down the gravel road called Widgeram Road. This took us eventually onto the North Tura Road, down to the car park and picnic grounds and the trail to Sandy Creek and Bournda Island. From the top of the bluff, I could see Sean coming along the beach. I phoned him and he asked us to stop so that we could have lunch – it was now 1:30pm.

Note that you cannot walk right around the bluff on the beach – the water comes right up to the low rocks. So if you are coming up the beach like Sean did you have to scramble over the rocks to the other side. Anyways, we sat and had our cheese and kransky and bread again as yesterday, this time sitting on the stairs coming down to the beach – sheltered from the ferocious wind coming down the beach towards us from the NNE. We then took off our footwear and walked barefoot along the beach for the next 5.5kms. The sea was rough and the wind was in our face. Once I nearly lost my hat into the surf, and another time, as I asked Sean to take a picture of me, a huge wave came in and washed us up over our knees. Thankfully the iPhone was not washed away. I quite like beach walking and the sand near the water was hard. The tide was going out, so there was a wide a beach.

At the trail to Hobarts Beach, we farewelled Josh (he gave us a verbal last will and testament should we not see him again), and headed toward the mouth of Moncks Creek, the opening of Wallagoot Lake to the sea. I was a bit nervous when planning this section of the walk that the Creek would be flowing across the path into the ocean, but we need not have worried. There was quite a high beach between the water on both sides, and although it was clear that the mouth would flow at high tide, I could never imagine it being deeper than a foot or two. We crossed this and had a bit of a rest at the top of the stairs on the Turingal Head. It was good to get out of the wind. A surfer came by, seeking a more sheltered place to surf. When he returned disappointed we asked if he was a local. When he answered that he was, we asked if he had traveled the Kangarutha track. Yes, he said, it is very rocky.

On the website for the Kangarutha Trail, We are told that it is a “Grade 3” trail, “Suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Some bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may have short steep hill sections a rough surface and many steps.” We are also told that  “Some bushwalking experience recommended”, that it is clearly marked, and that it will take 3.5 to 4 hours. Well it was just on 3:28 when we started, but in my experience, the timing of trails is usually greatly exaggerated, and it was only 9.1kms, so we thought we would do it easily in two & half hours. In fact, the first half was so easy going that I rang ahead to Fr Luke at Tathra to say that we would easily be in by 5:30pm. The scenery was magnificent, when you could see through the trees to the coast, and the vegetation varied. We saw no evidence of “rocks”. But then, just after I called and chatted to my parents on the phone at 4:45pm about half way along the track (if I had been watching the time, I would already have known that we were in trouble) the track suddenly did become rocky, and also in poor repair in places, and often not clearly marked, and regularly going steeply downhill to the gullies and inlets only to climb very steeply back up again. In truth, it was a the most gruelling 9km trek I have ever done. On Easter Monday, Sean and I walked 20kms around Silvan and Mount Dandenong, and according to my iPhone we climbed “159 flights of stairs” (540m). On this trail, the iPhone said that we climbed 157 flights. It was gruelling. Worse, our phone signals, which till then had been very good, cut out entirely. And it was fast getting dark. I was not really worried for our own safety, but I was concerned that Fr Luke and Josh and others would be, and I had no way of reassuring them that we were okay.

As it was, we had to use the iPhone torch for the last half hour of walking, and eventually came out the other end Kianinny Boat Ramp at 6:17pm, completing the trail in just under 3 hours. It would probably not have been so bad had we left earlier from Merimbula or had we not expended a lot of energy in the Mirador Maze. And the final straw was the high climb up Kianinny Street into town. We were finally back into range, and we received a call from a very worried Josh who had arrived at the Star of the Sea Catholic Church having walked the long way around and found that we were still not in. He was all for dialing 000, but Fr Luke got him to get the details of our travels first, and in the meantime we were back in contact. Fr Luke offered to come and pick us up, but we intended to walk all the way to the Church. We were grateful for him coming and taking our backpacks for us though! We arrived at the Church finally at 6:44pm, having walked for almost ten hours.

Originally I had been scheduled to give a little talk on our pilgrimage when we arrived, but Fr Luke had rung yesterday to say that plans had changed since a post-disaster trauma specialist was visiting and wanted to address the members of the parish about what to expect from themselves and those around them in the weeks and months and years following the devasting fires they had had just before Easter. I was glad for the change, because I could barely stand up. Yet, after a bowl or two of the excellent chicken and ham and corn soup that the parishioners had prepared for us, I felt quite reconstituted – better in fact than I had felt last night when we got to Merimbula. For all the rough terrain, it was actually easier on the feet than the flat walking on hard surfaces yesterday. I range Cathy to let her know we were okay, and also rang through to our hosts for tomorrow night to let them know we were on our way and to make plans. Josh plans not to walk with us tomorrow, but will take the bus from Bega to Bermagui and then walk the 7 or so kms down to our hosts, where we will meet him tomorrow night.

After the fire talk had finished we had a chance finally to say hullo to the locals. We heard a little about the fires and the effects on the town – although they were insistent that the town would recover fully and be “better than ever”. Sadly our time with them was short. Fr Luke had had a long day, and was driving us back to Bega to stay with him in the very large old presbytery there. We grabbed some beer on the way, and he bbq-ed up some steaks for us for hobbit-second-dinner. We talked till about 10pm when Josh went to bed, and Sean and I began writing up our journals. It is now way past my bed time and we have an early start again in the morning.

The photos from today can be viewed here on Google Photos. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter at @scecclesia for updates when we are within range of a signal. You might be required to give information to the rescue parties about our last reported location…

Our recording device makes the route that Sean and I took out to be about 27km. It should be shorter by at least 2kms if you don’t count our stuffing about in the Merimbula Maze. Josh’s route would have been about 7km longer.

Here are the maps of today’s journey – I’ve split this into three parts so you can see the details.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day Two (Tuesday 17 April) – Eden to Merimbula via Nethercote

Wow. I haven’t been this sore since my first day on the Aussie Camino in 2014 when we did 36km from Portland to Cape Bridgewater via Nelson Lighthouse. That’s where I met Sean all those years ago. I also completely buggered up my right knee walking up and down the sand-dunes, and ended up walking the rest of the way to Penola with my knee strapped and braced. Well, by the time we got to Pambula – with still 7 or 8kms to go to Merimbula, my knee was again playing up, and as I was walking up the driveway of the Sapphire Valley Holiday Park just after dark, my right foot was screaming “Blisters!!!”. Thankfully, I think I have dodged that bullet, but only just.

It has been a long day. We have averaged in the past 27-28kms a day, with the longest day we have ever done been our 36km day from Goongerah to Bendoc last year (which included a 700m rise as well). But then we were not carrying 12kg packs on our back. So it was a hard day today. We left Mike and Judy’s place at 8:10am (very thankful for a comfortable and hospitable night), and headed directly for the Nethercote Road. The road was actually quite busy – but at that time it was probably people coming and going for work. We were somewhat discouraged, and tried for a time to take a side track which ran along the road a little down in the valley. However, that track was far too much up and down for our knees, and we soon returned to the road, where the traffic was settling down a bit. I found it slow going to start with. This and that on the backpack needed adjusting, or something from one of the belts were digging in on my hip, or my water bladder was leaking etc etc. Once we got under way, things were great. It was a wonderful sunny crisp morning, with really fresh sea/mountain air.

However before long we ran into a difficulty. Right back at the start of our pilgrimage, on our second day on a hill the other side of Belgrave, Sean and I turned around to find Josh standing at the top of the hill looking down and completely stationary. It was the first time that we discovered that Josh suffered from vertigo and any steep or high trails caused him some difficulty. In fact, he got used to the trail and all was fine for the whole journey to Orbost. We thought he was over it. But when we came to going over the mountain in Easter 2017 from Orbost to Eden via Bombala, Josh pulled out. Turns out the reason was that his vertigo has not come any better. So today, heading out of Eden, we had to climb up to 293m over the mountain before we entered the Nethercote valley, and half way up, Josh froze and said he couldn’t go any further. The solution was to ring Mike and Judy and call upon them to come and take Josh over the hill, which the good people did. So Josh was about half an hour’s walk ahead of us until we caught up with him at the Nethercote hall for lunch.

The Nethercote Valley is much smaller than the Towamba Valley, but equally beautiful. The little community hall was a bit of treasure, and we enjoyed sitting on the veranda at the back and eating our bread, cheese, kransky, and fruit (I missed the usual glass of red wine to wash it down). Josh headed off again on the road to Pambula while Sean and I were still repacking our bags and before we left a local, Karen, turned up to drop some stuff off at the hall. We fell to talking, and she described the work that had to go into renovating the dilapidated hall about 10 years ago (it was built in 1910). “We didn’t so much restore the hall as restore the community in doing so,” she said. I have found that to be true many times on our journey, where the local community hall in small rural settlements has been the focus of community life.

The road from Nethercote to the Princes Highway was much quieter than the main road through the Nethercote Valley. It altered between gravel and bitumen road, but was easy to walk. Along the way today, I was constantly being contacted on the phone by various people interested in our story. Jodie Stewart, from the Eden Magnet, wanted to meet up with us in Pambula. Sandra, the parish secretary in Pambula, rand to offer to open the Church for us. John McLaurin, the editor of the Catholic Voice archdiocesan newspaper rang to ask for some video footage for the morning edition of their roundup. I rang Chris and Ray who live in Nethercote and with whom we had dinner last night. I texted a couple who run a drop in centre in Pambula whom we met at Towamba on Anzac Day last year to see if we could “drop in”. And my Aunty Jan texted to say she was back from her holiday in Cuba and to wish me happy travels. Josh said “Stop playing with your phone all the time,” but I felt I had some obligation to get the news out on what we were doing. And of course, I was tweeting about our journey too (although there was a blank spot in the valley itself). At the same time, it did feel that it was all getting in the road of concentrating on the walking.

At the end of the road, just before we got to the Princes Highway, the Yowaka River which flowed alongside the road from Nethercote suddenly widened out and became a tidal river connected to the Pambula River. It looked so inviting, I would have loved to have gone for a swim – but we didn’t have a spare moment. We came out onto the Princes Highway – by God, that was a shock. After the peace and quiet of the country roads, we were on a busy highway in the bright sun, with constant traffic including semi-trailers and caravans and four-wheel drives towing boats. There was little space on the side of the road to walk, and the traffic was whizzing past just metres away. Take my word for it: for walkers the Princes Highway is a road TO BE AVOIDED.

As we came into South Pambula, I rang Sandra to tell her that we would be at the Church within half an hour. Little did I know that fate had placed a great temptation before us along the way: the first micro-brewery of the journey! I felt we were obligated to get to the Church, but Josh mutinied and insisted on buying us all a beer. We went into the Longstocking Brewery and met the new owners who have been there only three days (the brewery itself is about 3 years old). Josh bought us each a Bohemian Lager, and the staff gave us a free sample of Fatty Arbuckles Dark Ale as well. We were tempted to buy their aluminium “growler” for takeaway tap beer, but at least realised that that would be unwise.

So we were a bit late getting to St Peter’s Church, a beautiful “storybook” building nestled in a little glade on the hill above Pambula near the old Courthouse. The sign on the wall out the front of the Church had a fitting question: Quo Vadis? The Church itself is the oldest continually used church in the Canberra-Goulburn diocese, having been built in 1865. We were met there by Sandra, the parish secretary (who had a stamp to put in our passports), John Liston, a local historian very keen on Mary MacKillop, and Jodie Stewart from the Eden Magent. After singing the Regina Coeli and saying the Lord’s Prayer and a prayer to St Mary in the Church, we sat in the meeting room out the back so Jodie could interview us on our project. We were very interested to learn that she was doing her PhD at University of Wollongong on the cultural significance of the Bundian Way project – so she had a lot of sympathy for our own pilgrimage.

We left there at 4:20, refreshed but eager to be on our way, as the office at the Sapphire Valley Holiday Park closed at 6pm. The Pambula Inspirations drop in centre was already closed when we walked past, so we missed catching up with Pastors Rob and Robyn Nelson. We had to walk along the highway still, but the benifit now was that there was a good sealed walking trail running alongside the road all the way from Pambula to Merimbula. We thought it would be an easy walk, but we were more tired than we thought, and every step was soon an agony. It was dark before we arrived at the Park, and the office called me just as I was walking up their stairs as they were about to shut.

Our room is very nice, a “family room” for $115 a night. We showered and refreshed ourselves and rubbed lotions on our feet and muscles before heading out to the local Club for dinner. I ordered Lambs Fry as I thought I could do with the iron hit, and the other two did the same. A nice glass of Kosciusko Pale Ale washed it down. We then went around to the Woolworths and bought supplies for breakfast and lunch tomorrow. Sean and I wrote up our journals as Josh hit the sack.

It’s now half past eleven, and I desperately need to sleep. So follow me on twitter at @scecclesia – or see the side bar of this blog – and take a look at the pictures for today on Google Photos.

Update on today’s journey: we make it about 32km that we walked from our accommodation to Merimbula via Nethercote. It would have been closer to 34km had we left from the Church, but we did that little bit last night.

Here is a map our today’s journey. It is fairly straightforward as we followed the road all the way.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day One (Monday 16 April) – Melbourne to Eden

It’s on again! Tonight we are back in Eden, NSW, where we finished off the second leg of our pilgrimage last Easter from Orbost in Victoria. To this point we had covered 690km of our overall project to walk from St Mary MacKillop’s birthplace in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, to her tomb and shrine in North Sydney. We are forging a trail that my pilgrim companion Sean Deany has dubbed “The MacKillop-Woods Way”, including in that appellation the name of the cofounder of the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Fr Julian Tenison-Woods, whose grave we will also visit when we arrive in Sydney. But that’s all for next year – this year our aim is to get to Ulladulla, about 290km to the north from here. We will also do the little bit from Ulladulla to Milton on our last day on Saturday 28 April (Deo Volente, as they say).

We have been very warmly welcomed by the Committee of the Mary MacKillop Hall and Museum. Mike and Judy Sheppard, who put us up last time we were here, are again showing us generous hospitality. Seven other members of the Hall Committee, Ray and Chris, Michael, Hilare and Mary-Lou, Vic and Marie, joined us for dinner at the Great Southern Hotel. It was good to see them all again and to share our plans and hear of their own lives in the twelve months since we were last together.

Josh had flown over from Tassie last night and stayed in Melbourne overnight before meeting Sean at the Southern Cross Station to catch the 7:20am to Bairnsdale. I had a bit of a sleep-in (!) and Cathy drove me to Dandenong where I boarded the train at 8:05am. It was the first time the three of us had been together since Orbost in 2016. Our train was stalled at Warragul because there was a broken down train on the line ahead, but we were going again in half an hour, and the trip was pleasant and uneventful for the rest of the way to Bairnsdale. We boarded the bus for Eden immediately and were soon on our way again.

It was good along the way seeing where we had walked over the past years. Again and again we would be pointing out the window and saying “There’s the trail” or “There’s where such and such happened”, or “Remember the people we met there?”. The last part of the journey, on the other side of Orbost, departed from our trail which we had taken last year to the north via Bombala, and instead followed the Princes Highway around the bend to Eden. As we went, we were confirmed in our wisdom of choosing the other route – the Princes Highway has a lot of traffic on it and there is very little room to walk on the verge. The road is monotonous too. While there are a couple of towns where you could get accomodation at first (Cabbage Creek, Cann River and Genoa are all about a day’s walk apart) after that there is nothing for about 70kms.

Just before we got into Eden at 4:15pm, I was phoned by a journalist from the Eden Magnet for an interview. We were still talking when we arrived at Eden. So all was a bit of confusion as I tried to bundle my gear off the bus, continue the phone interview and greet Mike at the same time! In the end she decided to try and catch up with us in Pambula tomorrow afternoon, when we plan to visit the Pambula Inspirations coffee shop run by pastors Rob and Robyn Nelson of the Pambula Christian community.

Mike took us around to his place, and we were greeted by Judy who had date scones and cups of tea ready for us. After talking and relaxing for a bit, Mike drove us around to the Star of the Sea Church, where we visited the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and then went into the Church to sing the Regina Coeli, say a prayer to St Mary MacKillop, and pray the Lord’s Prayer. We then set off on the first – very short – section of the pilgrimage: from the Church back to Mike and Judy’s. This way we can start in the morning having cut off 1.5kms of a 30km day!

So now the other two are in bed, and its time I headed there too. Josh is recovering from a cold that he has had for the last week or so, and I am trying NOT to get a cold. Lots of vitamin C, fish oil and echinacea. And finally to bed so we can get up nice and early for the morning.

You can follow me on Twitter as we go at @scecclesia, and also click here to see today’s photos on Google Photos.

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“Jerusalem is built as a city…” – Psalm 122 (121):3

Currently our JCMA text reading group is reading Karen Armstrong’s history of Jerusalem. We had quite a lively discussion on this, and will continue it next month after Easter/Passover when we meet on April 10.

Coincidentally, a friend of mine had contacted me on the weekend with a question about a verse that is used as a communion antiphon in the Mass for the 4th Sunday in Lent, a verse that is relevant to our discussion of the significance of Jerusalem for the three Abrahamic Faiths.

The verse in question is Psalm 122 (121) verse 3,which, in the New Revised Standard Version, reads:

Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together. 

My friend is a devotee of the Latin mass, so he was trying to make sense of the text in Latin. That reads:His problem was with the phrase highlighted, which he found hard to translate. I showed it a member of our JCMA text group, whose teaching career was in the Classics, and she too thought it was strange. It is something like “whose sharing/participation is in itself”.

It is worth keeping in mind that Jerome made that translation from the Septuagint (LXX), which is a  Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures done in the 3rd-1st Century BC. The LXX reads:The phrase there appears to something like “whose sharing/participation of it [is] towards/upon the itself”.

Here are a few more current English attempts. The Grail Version of the Psalms (which the Catholic Church uses in its daily prayer and also currently in the Service of the Word at Mass) reads:

Jerusalem, built as a city,
strongly compact.

In the current English translation of the Roman Missal (the book used for Mass), the Communion antiphon (translated from Jerome’s Vulgate) reads:

Jerusalem is built as a city
b
onded as one together.

However, Jerome also did a translation from the Hebrew text – as he possessed in the 4th Century in any case – and that is different again:

Hierusalem quae aedificaris ut civitas
cuius participatio eius simul

You will notice – even if you can’t read Latin – that there is a slight difference from the earlier translation, but the word “participatio”, meaning a communion or a sharing – is still prominent. A translation might be “of whom its participation [is] the same”?

Now, I know you are all asking, what is the “original” Hebrew text? Keeping in mind that the Masoretic text is not necessarily more ancient than either the Vulgate or LXX we have:

My rudimentary Hebrew was not good enough to translate that second phrase, so I asked my friend Rabbi Fred Morgan for his input. He replied that he would translate it as:

“Jerusalem (re)built, in which there is a joining together.” The Hebrew has echoes of groups of associates or companions being brought together once again, following the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple. So it could refer to the gathering together of the tribal groups in social (or national) harmony after the exile. Would be nice today to extend to all religious groups coming together in companionship.

And to which let all the people say: “Amen”.

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Plans for the 2018 leg of the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage

Sean, Josh and I are currently planning the next section of our MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage (click here for more information), this time from Eden NSW to Ulladulla NSW. Our schedule will be as follows:

Monday 16 April: Travel Melbourne to Eden

We will be staying overnight with parishioners belonging to the Eden Catholic Parish.

Day 1. Tuesday 17 April: Eden to Merimbula (31.33km)

Starting at Our Lady Star of the Sea, Eden and walking to St Peter’s, Pambula, via the Nethercote Road and then to St Joseph’s Church in Merimbula. Staying with local parishioners.

Day 2. Wed 18 April: Merimbula to Tathra (23.95km by Coastal Route)

We will stick fairly close to the coast for this walk (unless prevented by creeks that block our way) going past Wallagoot Lake and arriving at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Tathra by the Kangarutha Track. Staying with members of the local parish.

Day 3: Thursday 19 April: Tathra to Murrah (29.41km)

Following the Tathra-Bermagui road as far as Murrah Hall. Staying the night at Bermagui (we will need a lift!) with local parishioners.

Day 4: Friday 20 April 2018: Murrah to Central Tilba (31.87km) via Bermagui

Starting off again from Murrah Hall and walking back through Bermagui (visiting Our Lady Help of Christians), we will take the Wallaga Lake Road and Bermagui Road to Central Tilba. We are staying at a B&B there.

Day 5: Sat 21 April 2018: Central Tilba to Narooma (20.18km)

We are planning a bit of a rest in Central Tilba in the morning (perhaps visiting the local market) before walking to Our Lady Star of the Sea at Narooma via the Punkalla Tilba Road, Ridge Road, the Old Highway and Wonga Road. The Narooma Parish is helping with accommodation.

Day 6: Sunday 22 April: Narooma to Bodalla (21.84km)

After Mass at Narooma we have a shortish walk along the coast to Dalmeny, a short stretch on the Princes Highway, then through the forest on Mitchell’s Ridge Road and Whittakers Creek Road, before heading back on the Highway and to St Edmund’s Church in Bodalla. We are staying at the Bodalla Arms Hotel overnight.

Day 7: Monday 23 April: Bodalla to Moruya (31.5 km)

Faced with a full day of walking on the Princes Highway, we have decided instead to take “the road less travelled” from Bodalla to Moruya, via Bumbo Road, through the forest on Western Boundary Road and Little Sugarloaf Road, coming out on Wamban Road to Sacred Heart Church, Moruya. The local parish have offered us the use of the Moruya presbytery for the night.

Day 8: Tuesday 24 April 2018: Moruya to Batemans Bay (31.89km to the Church at Batehaven)

We will take a coastal route this time, via Granite Town, Broulee, Bevian and Burri Roads, and Old Grandfather’s Road into Batemans Bay. Members of St Bernard’s Church will put us up there.

Day 9: Wednesday April 25 (Anzac Day Holiday):

A rest day at Batemans Bay.

Day 10: Thursday 26 April: Batemans Bay to Kioloa (29km from Bridge, 34km from church)

We head along the Princes Highway until we pass Durras Lake, and then head in towards the coast on Mount Agony Road and the Old Coast Road to Kioloa, where we are staying at the Kioloa Beach Holiday Park.

Day 11: Friday 27 April 2018: Kioloa to Ulladulla (28.91km)

On this day we pass out of the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese and enter into the Wollongong Diocese. We walk from Kioloa to Ulladulla by Murramarang Road to the mouth of Willinga Lake, then follow the Willinga Lake Walking Track to the mouth of Reedy Creek, then along the coast to Termeil Creek, and the Tabourie Village Track to the Tabourie Creek when we return to the Princes Highway into Ulladulla. We will be staying at the parish house at Milton on this, our final night on the leg of the pilgrimage, and hope to catch up with parishioners from Ulladulla.

Day 12: Saturday 18 April 2018.

Journey home.

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