Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
(T.S. Elliot, Four Quartets, Part II, stanza V)
The Inaugural Aussie Pilgrimage has come to an end, but I am confident that it has really only just begun.
Today was a shorter walk than most days and on level ground, but the terrain was hard going as we were following the railway from Kalangadoo to Penola most of the way, and where it wasn’t being used as a stock run (at one point we came across a permanent water trough installed on the railway verge) it was densely overgrown. The track itself was stoney and too rough to walk on for very long, so we often found ourselves in the paddocks with the sheep and the cattle. I joked that we should add an additional category to the passport: Camino by Ride-on Lawnmower. In the long run the ideal thing would be to have the entire line converted to a rail trail.
We travelled together for most of the day – for me the first time since the Nelson – Port MacDonnell leg. This was important for several reasons. First we wanted to enter Penola together as a team, but secondly this was our last day together and even if we were walking silently the companionship was important. There were seventeen on the walk today – we were joined by Vic and Moira – a South Australian couple who own the Cobb & co. Building across from the Church in a Penola and have an interest in developing the camino. Several others were with us who taken a rest day or two, so I suppose that about 10 or 12 in total did the full walking camino.
We stopped for lunch at the Kronghardt siding, where we built a small cairn of stones on the track. I added a piece of shell I had from the beach near Lake Mombeong out of my “Julian Tennison Woods” specimen box (the plastic container my knee brace had come in). On the way I found a few more specimens/souvenirs: a piece of rusty barbed wire, an even more rusty railway nail, and a fully intact tortoise shell sans any remains of its defunct inhabitant. While having lunch we met a local farmer, Ross Rogers, ploughing his paddock preparing to sow potatoes. We had a long conversation about the camino and the railway and the path ahead. Turns out his brother married the aunt of a chap I went to school with.
About five kms out of town, we shifted from the rail line onto the corner of a gravel road, Kidman Lane, at the point where it touches the line. From here the lane veers to the left of the line so that we need up entering Penola along Mount Burr Road. Where we left the line, Kidman Lane takes a sharp 90 degree turn. There is a strainer fence post on the corner which Luke selected to enact a custom that is observed on the Spanish camino. He collected an armful of stones from the railway and gave one to each of the pilgrims to throw at this fence post. I had a small beach stone in my specimen box which I had collected from Cape Bridgewater for the purpose and three that. Over the years, if each pilgrim does this, the pile should grow…
At the end of Kidman Lane, our backup team was waiting for us along with David McLachlan who is documenting the last few days on video. We stopped for a group picture on the Mount Burr Road under the “Welcome to Penola” sign, before joyfully entering the town. Our immediate destination was the old school house beside the Mary MacKillop Centre – the official conclusion to the Camino. I first went into St Joseph’s Church to pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and give thanks for a safe arrival. Then I visited St Mary’s shrine and lighted three candles – one for Jan and Carl, one for Peter, Suzie and Albert, and one for my family, Cathy, Mad and Mia. It was for these – and for my own conversion of heart – that I walked this Camino.
At the Centre we were welcomed by Sister Claire, given tea and coffee and biscuits, signed the register, and received our “credentials” – the latter modelled on the Santiago Camino (too closely, in fact, as it referred to the Church of St Joseph in Penola as ‘this holy and apostolic church’!) in both Latin and English (the text needs a bit of work). I showed Sister Claire my small collection of artefacts and asked if the was a place in the garden where I could deposit them. She said that she would like a list of what they were and where they came from along the way, so I promised to do that this evening.
We then were shown to our lodgings. Some of the group stayed at the Royal Oak Hotel, but the rest of us were at the Coonawarra Motor Lodge at the other end of the Main Street. This time I accepted a ride! The evening meal was at the Royal Oak where we enjoyed a good meal washed down with plenty of good Coonawarra red wine. Speeches were made and thanks given, a real celebration of the Camino, and Luke stamped our passports with the final Penola Stamp. I walked back to the lodge, giving thanks to God for a journey completed and looking forward to a good nights rest and the start of Holy Week with mass in the morning.