Day distance: 33.48km. Total Distance: 70km.
This morning in Orbost was still and foggy – a good sign for a sunny day ahead. Seán, unfortunately, had a headache and was feeling nauseous – a condition not helped by the fact that to get back to our starting point for today’s walk required a half hour drive on Australia’s windiest section of road. He decided that he would pass on the first half of today’s walk, rest up at the Tin Chalet in Goongerah and join me at lunchtime.
We had packed most of our gear the night before, and completed packing this morning. Leaving a thank you note and gift for Fr Anthony, we drove out to Sardine Creek where I headed off on my own. I don’t mind having a day at least when I walk on my own when I go on pilgrimage. I like walking with others and talking as you go along, but on your own you are completely left to your own thoughts and can completely set your own pace. You can stop to look at what takes your curiosity, or press on at double pace if you want. You can play music or just listen to the silence.
Paul and Seán dropped me at Sardine Creek at 8:30am and drove on to Goongerah to get set up there. Jill said that she would be around till about nine to get them settled before driving down to Orbost for the day. So I was keeping my eye out for her as I headed off.
One of my main concerns all day was the question: “How much traffic uses this road?” It is, after all, a connecting highway, even if only a C class. We have not hesitated to enrol roads into the MacKillop-Woods Way in the past – even if we prefer rail trails and bush tracks. But it has been a pain whenever we had to walk very far along a road that had a lot of traffic (the worst to this point was, I think, the connecting road between Yarragon and Moe). On the whole, I can say that the Bonang Highway was really quite a good walk. The gradient up to Malinns Track – a cleared area where there is a small farm – is gradual and gentle from about 100m at Sardine Creek to 320m. That location is almost exactly the half way point, 16.5kms (which is why we chose it for the lunch location). After that, the road rises a bit more to about 380m before gently coming down and then following the valley of the Brodribb River into Goongerah – another 16.7kms.
Okay, so how much traffic was there? 49 vehicles in all between 8:30am and 4:30am, roughly one every ten minutes. In the first hour and a quarter alone – that is after 6kms – I had been passed by 15 vehicles, many of them forest management or road works vehicles. These tended to travel in convoys, and in the afternoon they all came back again. But often I walked on the left hand side of the road for over half an hour without any cars coming along on that side (ie, from the south). You can hear the vehicles coming from miles off, so you have plenty of time to position yourself on the road to be out of their way. All the rest of the time it is peacefully quiet with only the sound of birdsong and the creeks on the side of the road (which actually could be quite noisy at times).
Vehicle #22 was Jill Redwood, our host at the Tin Chalet in Goongerah, coming down the mountain in her “jalopy” – ie. her old ute – with the back filled with glass bottles and tin cans from the Easter camp (the Goongerah Forestry Appreciation) which was attended by over 100 people. She pulled over and told me that Paul and Seán had settled in to our accomodation. We chatted for a few minutes. I asked about the alternate route to Goongerah along the Gunter Track that I had been considering. “Not unless you are looking for a challenge.” Same goes for Postmans Track tomorrow. “Stick to the road”, she said. She was also surprised at the amount of traffic on the road. That’s not apparently normal. She also told me that the signs of bushfire that we had seen all the way along the Old Bonang Highway and the Bonang Highway today were from the bushfires in 2014.
I had hoped to get more stories about that from her this evening, but we didn’t seen her tonight. Her other tenant, Peter, popped by in this evening to see who was here and to ask if Jill had returned, but we had not see her. I had been expecting her to pass me on the way back into Goongerah. Apparently “the Jalopy” had been having fuel problems, so I hope she got back home safely. Peter too commented that he has at times hitchhiker into Orbost from Goongerah and discovered that he had had to walk 10kms before another vehicle came along. So perhaps 49 vehicles is an aberration.
The walk itself was generally pleasant. There are some nice spots that would make good camping – especially one near 29 Mile Track. Along the way I came across an ancient wooden milestone – or actually post, since it was wooden – with “M 28” on it. Did that mean “28 miles”? Or “28 miles from Marlo”? I did think it might be the latter, but the fact that it was in close proximity to 29 Mile Track made me think that maybe “M” simply stood for “miles”. There were lots of tracks leading off into the bush along the way that would have been nice to explore. Unfortunately none of them actually lead anywhere except deep into the forest, so were no use for the MWW.
I remembered to stop at 12noon today to sing the Regina Caeli – it sounded very strange in the context of the bush noises.
I stopped for lunch at Malinns Track as I mentioned earlier, and Paul came and delivered my lunch pack to me. Seán was not with him – apparently he was still feeling unwell and had thought better of trying to walk any distance today. Instead he just took the whole day as a rest day. I didn’t mind. I was enjoying my solitude.
For the last two days I have been dreading meeting a snake on the road, and today I finally did. However, it was my favourite kind of snake: a dead one which had been run over. It looked like it might have been a copperhead. Paul says that when he was driving along the road this morning he though he had driven over one, and it might have been the very same snake.
At one point in the distance through the trees, I could see a very large mountain. Consulting the Gaia Map app (off line maps as there was no coverage anywhere along the trail today – or indeed here in Goongerah) I figured that it was Mount Ellery, at 1291m, only 13kms away.
Paul caught up with me again about 7kms from Goongerah, this time on his road bike. He was aiming to ride all the way back to Sardine Creek, but I think from what he said tonight he turned around about three kms short of that distance. I made it to the Tin Chalet at Goongerah before he returned, getting in at about 4:30pm. The overall distance was about 33.2kms. I had been wearing my sandals for most of the day, and I probably should have returned to wearing my Brooks runners as a small blister had begun to form on the ball of my left foot. Hopefully it will not be a bother for the days to come. It hasn’t swollen up and I don’t intend to prick it, so hopefully a bandaid and a different pair of shoes in the morning will see it right.
I was quite sore today when I arrived at Jill’s accomodation. I came through the back paddock from the camp ground, saying hullo to the two draught horses and the goats and the geese etc. I flopped down on the couch on the verandah, and Seán came out with an IPA beer for me which went down very quickly as I soaked my sore feet in a bucket of hot water. As I mentioned, Peter the neighbour came round for a chat, as I did my cooling-down exercises. My shoulders are very sore today. We are not carrying heavy packs, but nevertheless I was unaccustomed to carrying any pack at all. Thankfully my knees are holding up. The human body is a fickle thing, as Seán is discovering. We have a very big day ahead of us, as we have to climb up to 900ms towards Bendoc.
The Tin Chalet is very comfortable. All power is solar generated with a bank of big batteries upstairs in the bedroom. Seán has claimed the queen bed, but there is plenty of room for me to put my air mattress alongside it. Paul is bunking on the fold out couch bed downstairs. There is a good shower, and a drop toilet built into the bathroom. Fridge is a car fridge plugged into a car cigarette lighter type plug. We have brought our own car fridge in and are using that too. Paul and I jointly cooked steamed veggies and marinated lamb cutlets for dinner on the gas and wood-fire stoves.
All is very nice here. I am completely exhausted and now need to get some sleep as it is already quarter past nine. Tomorrow we pack up, send Paul on to Bendoc to get the key for the Old School House from the Bendoc pub, and try to make it as far up the hill toward Bendoc as possible.
Pray for us, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop!