Due to an error of advance planning, I ended up walking the entire day on my own. We had gathered at the foyer of Jen’s Hotel and were waiting to get going, and while waiting, I decided to go across the street to the Subway to see if I could get a cup of coffee. No success (“The milkman hasn’t come yet”), but when I returned to the hotel, there was no-one there except Sean (who wasn’t walking teh whole trail this morning, but starting about 10km up the trail at Wandilo). I assumed the others had all left, and Sean helpfully gave me directions to take.
So I set off at a pace to try to catch up. Along the way, I passed a butchers and popped in to buy a piece of fritz for lunch (thanks, Brian the Butcher!). Back out onto the street and then I found the old disused railway line towards Kalangadoo and started off. I was several kilometres down the trail, when I realised that there was no one ahead of me. Nor was there anyone behind me. I knew that several others were being dropped off with Sean at Wandilo, but surely I wasn’t the only person doing the whole trail?
The trail started off following the railway line before swapping to the sealed road that runs along the line up to the start of the pine forests. The ideal for the future would be if the railway line could be transformed into a hiking trail. That would solve all our problems. But it isn’t likely to happen any time soon – and for the most part it is currently too overgrown to walk or the locals have fenced sections off and are using it as a long paddock for sheep or cattle. As it is, we have had to find the most direct route which is, at the same time, a pleasant walk. I made the entire route out to be just under 40kms, but others thought it was closer to 37km (I think it depends if you wander about a bit or not on the way…). From the end of the sealed road (Wandilo Road) the route enters into an area of pine plantation and native forest conservation park. Here the road is limestone gravel road and very pleasant to walk along with very little traffic. After this came open farmland all the way to Kalangado.
It was in the forest that Adrian and Peter in the support vehicle caught up with me and let me know that, apart from Sean, Paul and Tom who all started 10km ahead of us at Wandilo, I was actually far out in front of the rest of the team. Apparently the reason there was no one around the hotel when I returned from Subway was that they had all gone around the block to have a coffee at MacDonalds. As a result, I had ended up leaving an hour ahead of everyone else. The fact that I was walking at about 5km/h – a tad faster than the average 4km/h we have generally been walking at – had served to put even more distance between us. Adrian parked the 4-wheel drive and went of walking back towards to the others, but Peter sat on a log with me in the forest and we talked together as I ate my lunch. After about 40 minutes I set off again.
The weather was quite cool today, with a couple of drizzly showers, so rather than putting on all my wet weather gear, I wore a disposable poncho left over from World Youth Day in 2008. It occurred to me that I should get my youngest brother – who is a canvas worker by trade – to whip up a heavy duty poncho for me for the future.
Once I was reassured that I was not alone on the trail, I didn’t mind at all walking on my own for the almost 8 hours that it took me to cover the distance today. I had a lot of time to reflect on things and to pray. I can recommend a day of solitude on a Camino. When you are with others you are either talking or listening – except in the rare and valuable times when you are simply walking companionably. If you are talking or listening, you aren’t really giving any attention to what’s going on within you or whats going on around you.
I actually caught up with the advance party of Sean and Paul just five minutes before entering town. Tom had already gone ahead and checked into the Kalangadoo Hilton, so I was the second person in and the first to have done the whole walk, at about 4:30pm. The pub is a typical small town local watering hole. Ian, the publican, is a native of Loxton. He has been very welcoming – making a good impression by pouring me a beer as soon as I entered the bar from off the street. ‘The ladies have what beds there are about the place, and the blokes have floor space for their blow up mattresses and sleeping bags. That may sound primitive, but to make up for it, the hotel has a bath (!!!) and good hearty meals.
The last pilgrim eventually came in at 7pm. Aside from possibly the first day at Cape Nelson, this was probably the longest walk for the pilgrimage. There is no internet connection here, so I will have to upload it tomorrow – possibly at lunch, as I had a good connection almost all the way here. They say if I go out into the middle of the cross road up the street, I will get a connection… Bring on the NBN.
While writing up this entry, I sat outside the pub and smoked my pipe. I made very little progress with writing as the locals gathered at the waterhole are all curious about what the hell we are doing. As with most pubs, you get people who are polite and people who are crude, but they are all friendly.
I have found multiple opportunities on the Camino to turn the conversation to matters of faith and the Gospel. I was telling Luke last night that I think that this little venture is very true to the New Evangelisation – although that is a term that probably few on the Camino would understand.