We arrived at our destination early today, as the Yarragon to Moe part of the pilgrimage is the shortest on this first leg. It measured 17.5km on Google Earth and 19.95km by my GPS (which of course, takes into account all our additional wanderings). Because it was only a short trip to Moe, we were able to take our time this morning – a mini Sabbath. A bit of a sleep in, and then breakfast at the cafe next door, before returning to our motel room to pack up. A word to the financially challenged: Yarragon is right on the highway, and the price of food and coffee was bordering on highway robbery ($5 for a cup of coffee). But the food was good, can’t complain about that.
Josh was very interested to find out where his grandparents had lived in Yarragon – “right opposite to the Butter Factory, now a B&B” his mother had told him. No place fitted that description, but we were able to find the Presbyterian Church in which his grandparents were married – it is now a local crafts gift store in the front street. On leaving the motel, we went via the post office to get a stamp in our pilgrim passports, then walked around to see the local Catholic Church. St Jarlath’s (there’s one to look up in Wikipedia) was a very quaint church; it would have been good to have had the chance to go inside. When I got there, Sean was talking to some local fellow who had given him a hand made religious pamphlet – on close inspection, I identified it as Jehovah’s Witness. No wonder the poor fellow was confused by these Catholics doing a pilgrimage in honour of St Mary MacKillop – whom he thought he might have heard of.
We then headed out onto the road on the other side of the railway running parallel along the north side of the highway. I think it can be safely said that this section of the walk is not only the shortest, but also the least appealing. The road is dead straight, except for a slight bend to the north at Trafalgar, running along the valley plain with the Strezlecki hills running off to the south and slowly converging with the road as you approach Moe. The main four lane highway is only 50 metres or so off to the right and the railway is in between the walking road and the highway. The problem is that this backroad is well known to the locals, who seem to use it in preference to the highway – perhaps because they don’t need to be as cautious about their speeding. It isn’t exactly a busy road, but cars were passing us every minute or so, and getting more frequent as we approached Moe. There wasn’t much of a verge on the side of the road upon which to walk either. We took this route for the simple reason that there isn’t any other; at least not as far as we have been able to find.
The weather was dark and threatening rain for most of the morning, but it only rained for a very short minute or two. This bEgan exactly when Sean took his wet weather gear off, and ended precisely when Josh and I had finished taking our packs off and putting our wet weather gear on… Wet weather is expected again for later next week – most likely on Wednesday, but otherwise the forecast looks good.
When we reached Trafalgar, we called in at St John’s Church. The church wasn’t open, but we knocked on the door of the Presbytery and introduced ourselves to the Parish Priest, Fr Bernie Krotwaar. We told him what we were doing, and he was kind enough to let us use his toilet and to stamp our pilgrim passports. His parish encompasses Trafalgar and Yarragon and several other little communities either side of the highway. We stopped at the Criterion Hotel in Trafalgar for a beer and pizza, and then hit the road again.
There is a funny story to tell at this point. As we were leaving Trafalgar, just after passing the Holden Museum, a car drove past and pulled up in front of us, and two big lads (one wearing sunglasses and the other was sporting a magnificent Ned Kelly style beard) jumped out and accosted us. “Are you the guys who are walking to Sydney?”, they asked. Our fame has spread, we thought. “We’re Deacon Mark’s sons, and we have this bag to deliver to you.”
So now the back story before the punch line. Yesterday while we were in Mass at Warragul, Deacon Mark rang to say that Sean had left behind a “khaki bag”. Sean was a bit puzzled by this, so I texted Mark to ask what the bag was. It was a cloth bag, he texted back, that had been used to prop open a door. It wasn’t his, so it must have been ours. Today I had another text message from Mark to say that he was sending his two sons ahead of us to Moe to deliver the bag. Sure, OK. And we thought nothing more of it.
Now here were the two sons with the bag. None of us had ever seen it before. It was just a large cloth bag. Then I twigged to it. “That wouldn’t be the bag that the blow up mattress came in, would it?” Mark had produced this mattress, which he and his wife had purchased some time before but never used, for Josh to sleep on. That was indeed what it was. It wasn’t ours – it belonged to our host, but it was as unfamiliar to him as it was to us. A bit of a laugh, pose for a picture, and the guys drove back to Drouin and we pushed on to Moe.
Absolutely nothing of any event or interest happened along the rest of the journey. It was rather taxing simply because we had to watch out for traffic on the road all the time. Normally that would have been a simple job of listening for the sound of the approaching vehicle, but in this case, the noise of the highway just a few decimetres away completely masked the sound of the speeding cars and utility vehicles coming up behind us.
We were very glad to arrive at St Kieran’s and to meet Fr Harry Dyer OMI, who showed us to our rooms and made us a cup of tea. He has gone out to celebrate Mass tonight at Yalourn North, and Fr Matthew, who we met later on, is saying the 6:30 mass here in the Church next door. After that, they have invited us to join them for their Saturday night dine-out at the local Chinese Restaurant.
I’ve rung ahead to check that Fr Bernard at Traralgon is expecting us for tomorrow night, so that is all sorted. Josh has been down to check on the train time table for the morning and to buy his Myki ticket. Daylight saving ends tonight, and Josh has to be off at 8:30 or some such time, so we plan to leave when he does and to wave him off at the station before heading on to Traralgon. In contrast to today, tomorrow will be one of our longest journeys, but also should be quite picturesque, as we are following a rail trail for much of the way. We will also go very near the electricity generation plant.
The figures thus far for our travel, at the end of this first week, are 158.3km according to our Google Earth calculations before we left, and 182.03km according to my GPS tracker. That is quite a difference, but the latter figure should not be completely dismissed – the distance you actually walk on any route is always more than the direct measurement between the points. So if we called it a round 170km, you would not be far wrong. That would make it about 28km per day. We have been on the road for a total of 53 hours, making our pace (including stops for lunch and rests) about 3.2km/hour, which sounds about right. At this point it would make sense for Sean and I to have a rest, but we are planning a rest day at Cowwar on Tuesday.