MacKillop Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Three

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.

MWW Day Three Part One

MWW Day Three Part One

MWW Day Three Part 2

MWW Day Three Part 2

Tonight we have arrived in Tynong North, just south of the Bunyip Forest near Cannibal Creek. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Josh says “Make sure you tell them we are all bloody buggered.” Done.

According to my original Google Maps measurements, we were supposed to have travelled 27km today. In fact, the GPS measurement (which is usually a little exaggerated) was 35.2km. I know for a fact that we walked 1km further than we originally intended, because the Cornucopia Cottage where we are staying was not at 540 Tynong North Road (Peppermint Ridge Farm, the home of our hosts, is there), but at 459 Tynong North Road. Still that should only bring it to 28km, and it was certainly further than that. Sore shoulders, feet, etc. and Sean has a nasty blister to deal with (May the Lord and all his saints preserve us from such disaster).

But we have real beds tonight, with nice linen and towels, a hot shower etc. and so we are feeling comparatively civilised again. We had prepaid for the cottage ($115) and for breakfast supplies ($10 a head extra: eggs, mushrooms, home-grown tomatoes, home-baked bread, butter, jam, milk etc.). Rather than carry extra food with us from Gembrook, we had planned to cook all that up for dinner tonight, and just have bread and jam in the morning.

But we made the mistake of thinking our accommodation was actually up at Peppermint Ridge, and called in at the Farm. While it was disappointing to be told that we still had another kilometre to walk to the cottage, it was a “happy fault” in that we ended up with extra supplies for dinner as well. Our hostess decided to give us another half dozen eggs, a bunch of silverbeat, two leeks and a bunch of parsley. So I decided to cook up omelettes for dinner tonight.

When we got here, we also found a bag of oven fries in the freezer (perhaps left behind by a previous guest?) so we bunged them in the oven to cook while we took turns in the shower (the first really decent shower I have had since leaving home). We ate these while I was cooking tea. I say “I cooked tea”, because I knew exactly what I wanted and didn’t want either of my companions mucking it up. We had omelette stuffed with fried leek, tomato, silverbeat and mushrooms. Sean donated a small block of cheese, which we grated and added to the filling. With a slice of home made bread and a glass of red wine left over from last night, that was dinner.

So now that things have quieted down, it’s time to reflect on the day gone by. The accommodation at the Emerald church worked really well, but I still woke at 4am and was not really able properly to get back to sleep. After we had all risen and packed, we spent some time in prayer in the church before the blessed sacrament. Josh said his morning extraordinary form office, and I listened to Morning Prayer on the Divine Office app. (Josh calls it my “prayer wheel”). At the end, we sang the Regina Caeli, and headed off down to the local bakery for breakfast.

Then it was a matter of finding the trail. We entered the Emerald Lake down at the Nobelius Siding, and walked through the length of the park on the northern side of the lake. This was indeed a very pretty path in every way. We had little yellow arrows to point us the way, which reminded Sean of the Camino de Santiago. From the Emerald Lake Park, we made our way into the Wright Forest following the trail through to Cockatoo Creek. Wright Forest was quite a contrast to anything we had yet walked through, with little greenery and the only trees being tall Mountain Ashes. Coming into Cockatoo, the trail led past St Luke’s Anglican Church. While Sean and I were taking a closer look at the church, the pastor (that’s how he was described on the door), Rev. Owen Proud came around to see who was poking around. We introduced ourselves and chatted for a while about his ministry and the history of the parish.

We stopped in at the cafe at Cockatoo where I bought some water for my backpack bladder. I intentionally have not been carrying water if we could get it freely along the way, but now I knew we would be needing something for the rest of the day. The three of us had some argument about what route to take to Gembrook. We had been really spoiled by the beautiful pathways this morning, and Josh was convinced that surely there would be a trail along the Puffing Billy railway? Moreover he claimed to have found such a thing – a signed pathway just down the road from the shops. Only this trail, which started rather well, ended up taking us down the Pakenham road to the Josie Bysouth Reserve, on quite the wrong side of Cockatoo Creek. On the other side of the road, we found a track called Tymon Road, which took us through to Doonaha Road and back up onto the main Belgrave-Gembrook Road at the Fielder Railway station near the Whistle Stopover B&B.

This road had been a bit of a climb, and the climbing didn’t stop there. We headed up Fielder Road till it joined the main road at the top of the hill. By that stage the weather had begun to turn and it was drizzling lightly and blowing quite a cold fresh breeze. I took shelter under a roadside stall (with lots of lovely produce for sale – I would have bought up big, except I would then have had to carry it all day), and put the cover on my backpack. Walking now high along the ridge, it was possible to look across the valley and see to the north of us the other route that we had originally intended to take, Amphlett Avenue. Given how busy the main road was and how little room there was on the verge to walk, this would have been a greatly preferable option.

Several kilometres still from Gembrook, there is a point where the Puffing Billy line comes very close to the main road and passes over a bridge. There was a track leading under the bridge, and I wondered whether it might lead to a trail along the railway. No such luck. It was all long grass, and wet, and I was in sandals and socks. There were also signs up prohibiting cycling, riding horses or walking along the line on pain of a $200 fine. We rested then at the Gembrook sports ground, sheltering a little from the wind and drizzle and resting our weary shoulders. It was just on 12noon by this stage so we sang the Regina Caeli and then pushed on into town. Now there was a trail along the railway, along Station Street, which we followed.

There were workman on the railway, and we asked their task meant that the train was cancelled for today. No, they replied, it would be along in about 10 minutes. With this expectation, we completed our walk into Gembrook and entered the Station House. There was a fire burning there in the hearth, and we were invited by the staff to come and sit and chat. Josh kept watch outside for the coming train. We had a great conversation with the staff, who were very friendly, telling them what we were doing. I enquired about the Hotel in Gembrook – I had been told that it was closed but that it would open on April 1st, which, unfortunately, was two days away. The staff laughed. No, they said, it had been bought and was being refurbished, but it was taking years and no-one knew when it would be finally opened. They reasonably surmised that the people telling me it would be opened in a few days were having an early April Fool’s joke on me.

The Puffing Billy steam train finally pulled in twenty minutes late, to much excitement and photo-taking. One of the staff kindly offered to take a picture of all three of us in front of the train. We were then directed up to the Post Office to get our pilgrim passports stamped. There again, we had a great conversation about our plan to do the full pilgrimage to Sydney. The Post Office staff were familiar with the Camino de Santiago so we didn’t have to laboriously explain the stamping routine. We asked for recommendations regarding dinner, and were told the same thing the railway staff had told us: The Independent Restaurant and Bar does Argentinian style Spanish tapas style meals that are very good.

We took up this recommendation, despite the food being a little pricey. It was an order to share arrangement, and the food was really good, as was the special Coopers Independent Lager brewed just for the restaurant. Nice bread with a creamy cheese and olive oil, followed by Beef and Port Croquets, Beetroot in yoghurt, crispy potatoes, Chorizo sausage and Crumb-fried Black Pudding. All very nice. In truth, we could have done with a bit more food, as the rest of the day was still very long. According to my calculations, we had about 15kms still to go. I think in reality it was over twenty.

It was after 2pm, so we really had to step on it. We decided simply to head out on the Beenak East Road, which led around onto the Gembrook-Tonimbuk Road, instead of our original plan to walk down Red Road and the Avenue. In truth we were very tired of climbing up and down hill, and it looked like the Beenak road was the most inclined simply to go in a downwards direction! Once again, however, there wasn’t a very good verge, and we were mainly walking on the road. Sean’s Carrix couldn’t handle the walking off the flat surface very well, and this limited his options for the rest of the day.

Along the way, we passed two young blokes with their backpacks and tents. When we asked where they were headed, they said “near Bunyip”, which I thought made no sense as that was another full day’s walk from where we were. We don’t know what became of them, as we passed by and continued on our way.

This section along the Gembrook-Tonimbuk Road was actually unpleasant. One thing I do not like about the Christus Rex Pilgrimage is how much walking is done on the edge of busy roads, and that is exactly what it appeared this would be. While we must have walked four or five kilometres like this, once we were in the Bunyip State Forest, Josh found a side track that we could walk on (it was still unsuitable for Sean’s Carrix, unfortunately). He and I walked on this track, which ran parallel to the road, for some way, while keeping an eye on Sean’s progress on the road. But then, about 600m before the turnoff south, we came to Dawson’s Track which led in the right southerly direction parallel with the Tynong North Road. Again, Sean could not take this track, and in any case, was feeling a bit nackered, so he stayed on the road while Josh and I climbed up the trail into the forest.

This was quite good, actually, as it took us deep into the rather attractive native bush land. The trail did, however, climb upwards a long way before turning back down onto the Tynong road. Along the way, Josh spotted some three big dear on the trail ahead of us – but they ran off as we came near. No wonder all the signs showing prohibition of dogs and firearms. Sean was waiting for us at the Bald Hill picnic grounds. Here we saw that the Tynong North road is not sealed, and so very few cars made their way through the State Forest along it. Josh and I continued to follow the park management trail down towards Tynong, finally emerging just before the end of the forest.

Now we were sore and desperate to get to the cottage. The road opened up onto a flat expanse which was much more pleasant to walk. Finally too, we all three made it to our destination (as per story up the top of this page) at 6:30pm. Too late really. Next week it will be dark by that time!

Because of a really bad internet connection here, I will wait until tomorrow night to upload today’s pictures!

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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