Today we farewelled Cowwarr for good, as John Cooney drove us back to Munro for our second to last day of walking on this first leg of our pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. I left a donation for the continued upkeep of the Parish House in Cowwarr and any future pilgrims along this route are encouraged to do the same. The future of the house is not certain; and at present it is a perfect stopover place for travellers looking for a place of spiritual significance and natural beauty to stay a night or two.
John dropped us at the very spot that we were picked up, and we set out walking along Sinclairs Road, a good gravel road/track that runs right along the railway line from Munro to the next old siding town, Fernbank. The trail is only used by local farmers to access their properties, so we only met two vehicles on the whole way. Like our walk along Freemans Lane yesterday, it was silent and peaceful, with nice bush land around us and farmland to the sides.
Arriving in Fernbank we met a local woman, Jill, who pointed out to us that we could continue along the railway from Fernbank along Pearce Street which eventually connected with the Fernbank-Lindenow Road. I met another local, Paul, with whom we talked about walking as he was going on a three day walking trip with his son in the near future. then we had a look around town. The Catholic Church, one of the most prominent buildings in the hamulet, has been converted into a very nice home, and the Uniting Church (St Margaret’s) had only just recently been sold and was being converted into a holiday home. We sat and ate our picnic lunch on the steps of the Hall. The hall had a bit of a verandah on it, which you could camp under at a pinch, but there are no public toilets. Water is only available from the rainwater tank down by the CFA shed.
Leaving town by Pearce Street, we were again in quiet bushland until the track met up with the sealed bitumen road to Lindenow South. This was not at all a busy road, and had a good verge on it even when traffic came along, so was pleasant walking. There is no track on this section along the railway, and you have to follow it all the way into Lindenow South. The plains gave way to low hills along this stretch.
Entering Lindenow South you come first to the Football and Tennis grounds. There are ample spots here for a camper to find shelter without a tent and very good public toilets. It also has a little general store, which Sean tells me was well stocked with cold drinks but little else. The local cemetery is also on the road north of town, and so I popped in there for a look and a prayer for the holy souls.
But we were pushing on to Lindenow (pronounced -oh rather than -ow) proper which was still four kilometres away. There are a couple of ways of getting there after you cross the railway line. I took the direct root on the main road. After crossing several hills you come down into the broad valley of the Mitchell River that appears to be used for vegetable farming. Lindenow is built upon the souther bank of this valley, and affords some quite dramatic views. The road leads down into the valley, and then you have to climb back up again into the main street.
I was really exhausted by this point and was glad to have made it into the post office / general store by 4:40pm to get a stamp in my pilgrim passport. Sean was some way behind me, so I went around to our accomodation which is just across the main road in Ross Stweet. Altar Ego Church Stay is a new B&B run by David and Robyn, converted from the old Anglican Church (currently the Uniting Church and Anglicn Church share the brick church across the road). It has two rooms available, both set up for couples rather than groups of travellers, although there is an adjoining door if you wanted to hire the whole place. Sean and I had booked the “Queen Room” at the back for $140 a night with a $10 extra charge per person for breakfast provisions (cereal, bread, jam, vegemite, fresh fruit, milk, yoghurt). It is a one room layout, with bed, shower, toilet, table and sink area all in the one space. Very contemporary in design and aimed at comfort. We missed a microwave oven, which might be useful for some travellers (I like to heat up my cup of tea when it has gone cold), and we took turns going outside when the other was using the bathroom (really, I don’t think that even if Cathy and I were going to stay here together we would want to be on display when going to the toilet!). Still, much more comfortable than sharing a tent!
When Sean arrived, we cleaned up and showered and shaved before going over to the local Lindenow Pub for dinner. This is a really nice place, with very friendly staff. The proprietors are Shane and Sal (? – I think I got those names right). Those staying at the Altar Ego get 10% off food and drinks. The pub values its heritage and has a underlying Irish theme. There is Guinness on tap (we each had two pints), and the food is excellent and moderately priced. I had leek soup and beef and Guinness (natch) pie with mash for $30 all up. While we were waiting for our dinner, Sal showed us around the dinning rooms pointing out the pictures on the wall showing the heritage of Lindenow and of the pub, and some original artworks of the local scenery. I very strongly advise future pilgrims to put this establishment on their itinerary. Unfortunately the Pub isn’t set up for accomodation.
Today was another good day for praying along the way, quite and peaceful. I am feeling totally relaxed, although with the end of this leg of the pilgrimage in sight I am wondering how long this feeling of well being will last when I return to the real world where the daily pilgrimage is to work and back. Pope Francis’ Post Synodal Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, on the Joy of Marriage and Family Life, came out tonight. In it, he describes marriage and family life itself as a journey, a Camino, a pilgrimage. I am wondering if there is a way I can approach my daily life in the same way that I am approaching this pilgrimage. Yes, there are a thousand little things to plan along the way, but you keep your eyes on the eventual destination, and realise that wherever you are in terms of the present problems you are passing on to other things. At the same time there is the need to appreciate the present moment, to look at the scenery, to feel the ground beneath your feet. In terms of marriage and family relationships, that is the valuing of every moment. And again, on this pilgrimage, I have had to live at close (sometimes like tonight very close) quarters with my pilgrim partners Sean and Josh. You can’t walk together if you are at each other’s throats all the time. You have to constantly show your better virtues to one another rather than give vent to your weaker side (as Pope Francis says of marriage in his letter). So I think there is plenty of food for thought along these lines as I return to the so-called “real world” on Sunday.