Today, at last, we left the sea shore and began heading north. It was a completely different kind of day to previously, because I had predetermined to visit my brother Gary who lives on the North West corner of Mount Shank, about 2/3 of the way between Port MacDonnell and Mount Gambier. Sean asked if he could come along with me, as he wished to check out the possible routes and to try out his European designed and made luggage trolly.
I had been looking at the satellite pictures on my iPad, and Sean had been looking at surveillance maps, and together we were curious to discover what the dotted lines meant that ran directly north from where the Port MacDonnell Tourist Park was located to Mount Shank between the Riddoch Highway and Earls Cave Road / Big Hill Road / Ellis Road / Rabbitors Road. We set off on Millards Road, which was a road, right enough, but then continued on Starks Lane and Maneys Lane, right up to Berkefeld Land and into Mountain Path Road at Mt Shank. What was interesting about this route is that it is marked as a public throughfare on the map, but in fact there are no roads along these lines. What there is is a broad way, as wide as a roadway, but without any road built on it – vehicle tracks at the very most. There were gates across the way, but these were latched, not locked, and did not impede our progress – even with Sean dragging his trolley behind him. They took us through beautiful countryside right up to my brother’s place at Mt Shank arriving about 11am 17kms later. We did take a detour to the little Anglican Church of St Luke (where we rang the bell!).
Walking around to Gary’s place, we had the first of a number of encounters with innocent bystanders: a little dog came yapping out at us from a house as we passed by. Not a moment later, her owner came out after her. We were introduced to Trixie, a four month old Jack Russell, and we discussed with her owner what we were doing – including the fact that we were dropping in on her neighbour.
Gary and his dog welcomed us to his home. From the inception of the idea that I might do this pilgrimage, I have envisaged walking past Gary’s house and dropping in for lunch. His wife (a school teacher) and children were not in as it is still school term in SA, but he fed us several cups of tea and a good lunch of ham and cheese rolls with cucumbers and tomatoes from his garden before showing us around the farm. He was especially interested in the Camino, and expressed an interest in joining us next year.
From Gary’s home we headed northwest by a rather zig zag route, still following the public crown land throughfares: Bellum Road, Louden Hill Road, then Childs Road onto Rabbitors Road (the route the others had taken). Only the last of these is really a road – all the rest are tracks at most on the public throughfares. But the scenery was wonderful, as was the isolation. We were agreed and determined that this should be the official Camino Trail rather than the road that the others were taking.
As we headed then into Mount Gambier (the full journey was actually longer than the map seemed to indicate – it was another 20kms), we encountered two more innocent bystanders. One was working in her garden (we did not get her name), the other “Brian the Lapsed Catholic”. Each of these were fascinated to learn what these crazy people walking past their home were doing. But the greatest joy, which simply made my day, was the re-encounter with Bevin and Monique from the Nelson pub! They were driving past and saw me, tooted and turned around and pulled up for a quick chat. They had been on a day trip to Mount Gambier as a part of their Nelson holiday, and were very happy to see us walking along the side of the Road. I have been praying for them, and will continue to do so as I go on.
Finally, a small moment of grace. As we came over the blue lake and down into the town, we came to the Anglican Church. I went nearer to take a picture, and saw lights on in the Church and cars outside. “I will go aside to see this great sight, why the window are on and there are cars outside”, I said to myself. And yea verily, they were about to celebrate the eucharist. In absence of my own Church, I determined there and then to attend this mass; Sean went on to Jen’s Hotel to book us a room. The Anglicans were very welcoming, and when mass was over, I told them about the Camino, and asked if they had a stamp with which to stamp my card. They found one and duly did so. “Why not make the pilgrimage ecumenical?” they asked. It already is, was my reply. But they are right, we should market it better.
Eventually I arrived at the hotel to find a room waiting for me, with beds with sheets, and with an ensuite shower. I prepared for dinner and went downstairs.
Two of our companions are leaving us tomorrow, Mick Dillon and his mate Carl. Mick has done quite a bit of the work preparing for this Camino, including having walked two thirds of the Way from Melbourne to Penola (he recently did the walk from Melbourne to Apollo Bay, and did the current route last year with Luke). However, like us, he has never walked the way between Bridgewater Lakes and Lake Mombeong. So, as much as we would probably make very odd walking companions, I said that that was my goal to complete that section too, and we would look into how to do it next year.
At the end of the day, I calculate that we have travelled 165km, and probably have about another 70 kms to go. Tomorrow is going to be a very long walk. With my knee now strapped up with a proper knee brace, I have no doubt of making it, but I do need to get some sleep (and stop having late night conversations…)