MWW2019 – Day 3: Sussex Inlet to Huskisson (“Uncharted Territory”)

The three of us slept at fairly close quarters last night, so we inevitably disturbed each other with snoring or getting up in the middle of the night. But when day dawned, we rose and set about the business of pilgrimage once more.

We headed around to the main street of Sussex Inlet to go to the supermarket, but then Josh suggested that we call in at St Patrick’s Church to say our prayers. We did not expect the church to be open, but we said our prayers in any case outside near where the Blessed Sacrament would be reserved. As we finished, a car pulled in and a bloke named Stephen got out. He said he had come to get the church ready for 8:30 mass – which no one had told us would be on. Because Fr Michael was away, “Fr Bill” would be saying mass. Unfortunately, we did not have time to stay for mass, but looked about the Church, said a few more prayers, and then bade Stephen farewell and went and did our grocery shopping for lunch (same basic menu as yesterday).

We planned to meet “Wayne 2” (as Sean calls the resident of Sussex Inlet that he met on Monday night at the Milton Church) at the local cafe for coffee at 8:30am and an interview about our pilgrimage. Josh ordered eggs benedict (in honour of the emeritus Holy Father, who turned 92 yesterday). When Wayne (2) turned up he told us about the “Sussex Inletter Weekly” for which he writes. He had been reading about our venture on this ‘ere blog, and so his questions were well aimed at what it meant for us. Of course, he also wanted a local angle on our visit to Sussex Inlet. The odd thing is that on one level, we get to know a place quite intimately when we visit through getting to know and meet some of the locals, and Sussex Inlet is no exception. On the other hand, we never get to “sight see” as such, because, being on foot, we are limited to seeing just the section that we walk through. Wayne took a couple of pictures of us as we walked down the main street to the Marine Centre. I stopped to get some more supplies at the Chemist, and then we went around the Centre, where Wayne (1) met us and stamped our passports. Mike then gave us life jackets and helped us on board the motor boat. Wayne (2) took photos as we waved goodbye to Sussex Inlet and were ferried over to the other side.

We sailed past the oldest residence in the area, a place called “Christian Minde”, which these days is a holiday accommodation centre, and Mike dropped us at a jetty with “Tony’s Shed” written on the boat house. We waved farewell, grabbed our packs, and turned around to meet the very “Tony” after whom the shed was named striding towards us. We introduced ourselves and asked, of the large homestead in front of us across the lawn, if this was his place. Yes, he replied, and this is private property! Well. That was awkward. We couldn’t work out why Wayne (1) and Mike would have planned to drop us off at a jetty if it was not okay with the owner. Tony said that the homestead, Kullindi, was built by his Danish great grandfather, and the family had lived there ever since. His grandkids were fishing off the jetty. He said he would be quite okay with people crossing his property if only they asked permission first, and gave us both his phone number (0428 496 048) and website kullindihomestead.com.au If anyone wants to follow in our footsteps, they should phone and make sure that Tony is at home and it is okay with him that they cross his property, as you have to cross his property to get to the main road. If you have the funds, you might even find it rewarding to book a room at Kullindi.

So we set off along the newly graded dirt road that skirts the shoreline of St Georges Basin to Cabbage Tree point. The road, while pleasant, was actually quite busy. It serves not only the few homesteads along the Inlet such as Kullindi and Christian Minde, but also a number of holiday units at the end of the cove. The drivers didn’t always slow down, which made the road quite dusty. From Cabbage Point, the road climbs quite suddenly upwards to bout 100 meters over about 1/2 a km, which was quite a strain to walk.

While going up the hill, my mother rang.

Dear Reader, while the pilgrimage has many challenges, there is also another challenge in my life at the moment: my father is dying. Cathy and I visited him and spent 5 days with him the weekend before I started this journey. On our last visit to the nursing home, he recognised who I was and I gave him a big hug to say goodbye. I knew at the time that it was possibly the final time for us together. I was also very aware that his passing might take place while I am on this pilgrimage.

Mum was ringing to discuss a possible surgery that Dad might require in the next few days, but that the doctor from the nearest town was coming across to examine him and determine the best course of action. She said that she would ring back later when she knew more.

We stopped at the top of the hill to say the Angelus (it being 12 noon) and to have lunch. From there we could already glimpse Jervis Bay. But when I looked at my phone to check my Gaia maps app, I realised that we had passed the track that I had intended for us to take while I was talking to my mother. We had now gone too far to turn back, so we walked on, down the hill to the Booderee Visitor Centre and entrance to the Jervis Bay Territory. The Territory is an interesting historical oddity, which, if I have my facts right, was established as a federal territory to ensure that the Australian Capital Territory had “sea access” that was not dependant on NSW. The border runs almost parallel with the road on which we were walking – if we had taken the track to the north, we would have walked out of the Territory without passing the official border control. Technically (and Tony had reminded us of this) we should not have entered the Jervis Bay Territory without paying an entrance fee, but we were able to walk around the toll booths from the inside without being touched for a a donation to the Federal Government.

The main road into Jervis Bay is very busy, and would have reminded me of the Princes Highway if it were not for the decently sized verge on the side of the road. Josh had been busy telling us how very few people in Australia ever visited the Territory, but today it looked as if it was the most popular destination on the tourist map. The sun was out in full force by this stage and, although it was only 23 degrees, it was uncomfortably warm. We passed the “Harmony Haven Fire Trail” (which was where I had initially planned we would come out) and found that there was a gate across the track. If he had come that way, we would have missed some excellent views of the Bay and of the Jervis Bay Village.

The next track that I had planned to take, which would have taken us off the main road toward the east into the Jervis Bay National Park, had been blocked off many years ago and was overgrown. So we continued on the main road until we came to the Erowal Bay Road turnoff. We went in the other direction, on the Bristlebird Management Trail (aka St George Avenue), toward the water and communications towers at the intersection with the track known as Birriga Avenue. There we stopped for a rest again. It was 2pm and we were getting a little knackered. My leg was getting sore again, so I took off the bandages to take a look at it. I as surprised to see a nasty purple bruise on my heel, and sent of an inquiry to my myotherapist. He texted back that the bruise was called “tracking”:

“The calf has had a small bleed and gravity and the fact that you’re on your legs walking all day is causing the blood to find a distal space to fill. Seen it many times before. Are you able to walk without too much of a limp? This walk is certainly going to test your resilience!”

Actually the answer to this question, when I took off my knee braces and ankle brace and all but the Tubigrip on my calf was “yes”. I felt much freer without these encumbrances, which were actually putting more strain on my leg than was good for me, I think.

After a wrong turn down toward the coast on St George Avenue, I realised that we had again missed the turn off that I had planned heading north. This unnamed track skirted the farthest hole of the Vincentia Golf Course. You know you have reached civilisation when you see people on golf buggies…

The track here was very rocky and uneven, but nice to walk along, and brought us down into Troubridge Drive. We went on a bit further, which resulted in some bush bashing, to come out onto the street in which the Holy Spirit Catholic Church is situated. Oddly enough, this is called “St George Avenue too, although it does not connect with the track that we were following earlier. We heard singing as we approached the Church, and inside found the local choir practicing for the Triduum. We spoke briefly to them, letting them know that we were doing a pilgrimage in honour of St Mary, and then said some prayers and made our way back around to the shopping centre.

There we paused in a local cafe (the Albert Miso) where we had some nice Krombacher Weizen Bier and a good long rest. We should have bought our evening supplies from the Coles supermarket while were were there, but didn’t think of it. The waitress advice taking the shoreline pathway along Collingwood Beach to the Huskisson Holiday Haven Caravan Park. This was a very pleasant walk along a paved bike path. We chatted to people along the way, including some young teenagers who rushed up from the beach to “give information” (we must have looked lost). We told them we were walking from Melbourne to Sydney (“WOW”) and that it was was a pilgrimage in honour of St Mary MacKillop (“So, you’re Christians are you?”). I told them yes, and that we were doing this walk because we loved God and wanted to honour St Mary who was an important part of the work of the Church in our Australian history. We met another gentleman who was leaving his back gate onto the path with a walking staff, and spoke to him about what we were doing. He said that he had once met the pope and talked to him: “Back in 1986, I went with a group of nuns to Alice Springs to meet him.” He was, of course, referring to St John Paul II. The real estate on the shore line of Vincentia must be worth a mint, because the views, as one bloke told us from his front lawn, were magnificent. He had just driven down from Sydney to spend the Easter break at his holiday house. We could also see something like parachutes out over the water, which turned out to be “hydrofoils” according to a chap who was packing his back into his car – “It balances you between the air and the water!”

Finally we crossed the bridge and rounded the corner and we were in the Holiday Haven Caravan Park. We were directed to the office, and then shown the cabin right next to the office, behind the one facing the ocean shore. It is not the most palatial of cabins (Sean has just pulled his bunk mattress out and put it on the kitchen floor because he doesn’t fit in the bunk space) but it is comfortable. I sent Josh and Sean off to buy food from the local IGA before it closed at 6pm, while I went off to wash all our clothes. There is a good breeze blowing outside, so I have hung the washing out rather than put it in the dryer. The others returned with rissoles, sausages, salad mix, olives, potatoes, frozen spinach, avocado, onion and cherry tomatoes. Sean made the salad while I boiled the potatoes. The stove top was not very effective, so the rissoles and sausages were not frying up very well. While we ate the potatoes and salad, I put all the meat, together with the spinach, onion and left over cherry tomatoes from the salad into a big saucepan. We poured in some of the oil from the olives and left the whole thing to stew for an hour. The result was really yummy. We washed it down with more of the Weizen Bier we had had this afternoon.

Mum rang back this evening to say that the decision has been not to go ahead with the surgery for Dad. They will instead medicate him to control the pain, but the result of his condition is that he will die in the next few days or week. This is a very confronting situation for me. I found myself weeping for the first time since we became aware that he was dying. Mum has given me leave to continue the pilgrimage if he dies in the next few days. If that happens, I will fly home from Sydney and Cathy and I and the girls will drive up home straight away.

Speaking of the girls, Mia had some good news tonight: she has scored her first paying job. She was on a trial shift at a local restaurant as a waitress. She starts her first real shift on Monday. This is exciting for her – and for us too.

Tomorrow we are beginning the Sacred Triduum, when we commemorate our Lord’s suffering and death and resurrection. We have our longest day yet, as we walk to Nowra for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. As we walk along, Sean, Josh and I, each with our various challenges and ailments that we are carrying with us, are also aware of the suffering in our personal lives and in the world, and offering it all in the name of Jesus in prayer.

Pray for me, as I will for you.

Photos are here.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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