The scenery is simply spectacular, but the going is tough on this leg. We did 20km today from the School Camp at the small Cape Bridgewater township around to the freshwater Bridgewater Lakes. I noticed that many of us were walking more on our own at our own pace more than yesterday. Perhaps everyone was talked out, perhaps the aches and pains are getting more pronounced (cold is gone, pain in the neck is gone, but now I have a dicky left knee – which I hope will also be gone by tomorrow morning!), perhaps everyone wanted to take in the scenery at their own pace.
Okay, so what is a pilgrimage? Part tourism indeed (read Egeria’s account of her 4th Century pilgrimage to Jerusalem), part serious hike (more than part on this camino), part exploration (“David! Where are you going now?”). For myself, it is all of these with the addition of prayer. I am very glad that this morning Fr Greg said mass for us at 6:15am. It was very simple, but the camp actually has a sort of non-denominational chapel that served for the purpose, and about half the pilgrims came to mass. Then I listen to the Divine Office using the iPhone app – all seven offices. And say the Angelus. And pray for all the people that I said that I would pray for. And listen to music. (Did I mention that Michael Nyman’s soundtrack for the film “The Piano” is the perfect accompaniment to the pounding waves of this coastline?).
I found today that the walking was very slow. We had hardly covered 9kms in the first three hours – but there was so much to stop to look at. You will find the same thing happens if you drive along the Great Ocean Road and stop to look everytime there is a sign pointing to something interesting on the coastline. I sped up a bit as we were getting toward the end. The glimpse of the Lakes in the distance spurred me on, and upon arrival I stripped off down to my compression pants and jumped in. It was freezing but refreshing. We then relaxed on the lawn eating our trailmix and tuna while waiting for the rest to arrive. A large hired school bus took us back to the camp at Cape Bridgewater, where we spent the remainder of the afternoon before having dinner down at the shore cafe which opened especially for us and provided a surprisingly good menu.
There was something self-defeating in being brought back to where we started. That is the major flaw of this excellent adventure at the moment: the distance between Bridgewater Lakes and Nelson is just too great to be done in even two days, and on top of that, there is nowhere to stay in the middle. You would have to be a very hardy hiker, enthusiastic explorer and determined tourist to fulfil the pilgrimage via that route all the way with everything you need to survive out there on your back. (Which isn’t to say it isn’t an idea that tempts me). I am confident that in the future a solution will be found to this – once the camino becomes so popular that there is a demand to find a solution. Luke and the other pioneers of this pilgrimage have a number of good plans to enlist the support of the locals, the government (national parks/tourist) and the Church (both diocese and parishes) in support. I reckon one thing the camino needs is a plenary indulgence! I think that the local bishop can grant this…
Tonight in the chapel they are showing the film “The Way”. I’ve seen it, but watched a bit of it. There is something of that camino spirit on this trip, but this is definitely much tougher as far as the actual walking goes. We received the first sprinkling of rain tonight. And we expect much more later in the week.