It is 7am on Saturday morning, and I am writing up the blog today because I was simply to tired to do so last night. Breakfast at the Two Story B&B is at 8am, and then we will go out to have a look around Central Tilba, since today is Market Day, before heading off to Narooma for tonight.
We are covering good distance quite quickly – perhaps too quickly. Yesterday, I walked 34kms according to my various doodads. That isn’t the distance from Murrah Hall to Central Tilba, of course but these recording devices record your every step. The actual distance was probably something closer to 32kms, but that is still a long walk by any standard. From Tathra to Murrah Hall was about 29km, Merimbula to Tathra somewhere around 26km, and Eden to Merimbula about 31km (I’m rounding my recorded distances down). So that makes it 118km so far and a bit further in real distance on my feet. By the end of today, it will be closer to 140km. Not bad going for five days walking when you consider that on the Aussie Camino they do about 140kms over 8 days without carrying a full backpack.
That pace is obviously more sensible though, because at this rate, I’m not only pushing myself to my limit, but I am pushing Josh and Sean past their limits also. So yesterday morning, I walked the distance from Murrah Hall back to our hosts at Cuttagee Beach (about 8kms) on my own. After a cup of coffee and a banana and a Berocca, John drove me down to start from the Hall at 7:30am. I didn’t take my backpack or any water for the short stroll and finished it in about an hour and a half. It was so delightful to be free of the burdon on my back. At one point I was bouncing along under the sun in the sea air listening to Katherine Jenkins, swinging my stocks and pirouetting in the middle of the empty road (because I could) when I saw a car coming ahead – they must have wondered who this crazy man was! I settled down a bit after that. There was only one big hill immediately after crossing the Murrah River – it was 55m high – but I felt like I floated up it without 12.5kgs on my back.
I arrived back at the farm and had breakfast while the others finished packing up. When we were ready to go again, it felt like I was just starting out afresh. We took photos of one another on the front porch – at which point, as I was putting on my backpack, I noticed a strap missing from my pack. We searched for it, but in the end concluded that I must have left it in the hall at Murrah. I asked John whether he thought there would be anywhere in Bermagui to buy a new one, but he said no, I would probably have to wait to Narooma or probably Batemans Bay.
We set off with a wave of the stocks and Buen Camino! and literally strolled into Bermagui. The walk is quite pleasant, and the road was not too busy, some beautiful views along the way. One view that had been with me since I came down the hill from the Murrah forest at Cuttagee was Mount Dromedary in the distance. This is a 806m mountain visible for miles around that was named by Captain Cook as he sailed up the coast. The indigenous name for it is Gulaga, and along with Little Dromedary Mountain to the side (native name Najanuga) is a place of great cultural significance to the local people. The neat thing is that on this leg of the journey, these two peaks tell you visually where you are going to end up for the night – Central Tilba is lodged almost directly between the two of them.
In Bermagui we were disappointed to find that the Church was shut, so, our spiritual hunger unsatisfied, we headed off to find something to satisfy our physical hunger. Not at all difficulty in Bermagui, as it turns out. The first port of call was a “hole-in-the-wall” bakery which made a strange little Swedish croissant style bun (a “bulla”) flavoured with cardomon seeds – in plural called Kardemummabullar. Delicious! The next port of call was the local patisserie where we had a proper lunch – chicken schnitzel rolls and ham and salad rolls and fresh cannelons straight from the oven. I was also very happy to find that the local Mitre10 sold strapping and buckles that suited my need. This wide auxiliary strap goes across the front of my chest pulling the two shoulder straps together to make it more comfortable (originally I bought it in Warragul on day four of the pilgrimage) but it also serves as a good place to hang the sandals when I am walking on the beach.
We then set off out of town along the coast. This was a little bit of an adventure, as we were avoiding the road and looking for the walking track known as the Old Tilba Road. It led through the Bermagui Flora and Fauna Reserve, around the Keatings Headland, and down onto the beach. It would probably make sense not to do that, as it will be difficult to get around Hayward Point on the beach if it isn’t (as it was for us) low tide. Josh ended up going back up onto the road and coming around to the start of the old South Tilba Road the back way.
The Tilba Road trail goes a couple of kilometres, and is rated as a Grade 2 on the sign. It is totally flat and completely sealed, which makes me wonder at the great gap between this Grade 2 trail and the purported “Grade 3” of the Kangarutha Trail… We saw a fair bit of wildlife on this stretch, which goes past a swampy lagoon. Lots of little lizards and even – joy of joys! – a RAT! I don’t know what kind of rat she was (yes, I know how to tell the sex of rats, it’s pretty obvious) but she had bigger ears and a longer tail than my pets at home. She was not bothered by us at all, and ran around nibbling at twigs while I videoed her. Now, given such a rich menu, the next bit of wildlife we encountered should have been no surprise, but it scared me enough that I hit my head on a tree as I sped away. We had just come a shady spot with a seat, Josh had sat down, I was taking a photo of Sean entering the glade, when Josh said (with no great sense of urgency or alarm) “Oh, look, a snake.” I turned to see a large black snake crossing the path towards Josh about a metre out of the scrub on the side of the trail (the rest of him still hidden in the grass). I didn’t get a close enough look at the snake to decided exactly what colour its belly was (I suspect it was red). The snake, probably as surprised as I was, had stopped still. Sean got a photo of it – I didn’t, as I was too far away by this stage. Josh just calmly got up from the seat and continued walking. Whatever one may say about his phobia of heights, one cannot say that he has any fears of a serpentine nature. I cannot say the same for myself. After a number of close encounters with tiger snakes on the Aussie Camino, I have been very aware of the danger these critters pose to bush walkers.
Back on the trail, we followed the Wallaga Lake Road through Wallaga Lake Heights and Akoele to the Princes Highway. The only surprise on this trail was – and it was a great surprise for although we had heard rumours of its existence we did not think it was on our route – a sign saying “Camel Rock Brewery 200m”!!! What indescribable joy! What bliss! What a miracle! Again the pace picked up (as it tends to do in the vicinity of a place of beer production) and, following the “Brewery This Way” sign like the Yellow Brick Road, we found ourselves seated with three midis of Camel Rock Golden Ale before us (one for each, that is, not three each – we still had 11kms to go!). There was music playing too – a trio with banjo, mandolin and fiddle playing blue grass style music. The staff reckoned the brewery had nothing to do with that – they just turned up and started to play.
Refreshed we hit the road again. The road here is of variable suitability for walking. Sometimes there is a wide verge, sometimes (as when crossing Wallaga Lake) no room at all, and you just have to make sure you are on the opposite side of the road to the vehicles. After crossing the lake, the road climbs directly up the hill. Not very high really, only about 50m ascent, and gentle enough. At this point Josh’s vertigo returned, and I had to be his “companion on the journey” to talk him through until we go to the other side of the Princes Highway. The views of Little Dromedary Mountain along this section of road – in fact all the way to Central Tilba – are magnificent. Mount Dromedary itself had its heights vieled in cloud (might have been something to do with the humidity today – only 20 degrees, but 90 percent humidity). The Princes Highway was dangerous and busy as usual with very little verge on the side of the road again, but we were only on it for about one kilometre, before turning off to the left on the road to Tilba Tilba.
Were it not for the sound of the highway traffic in the background (which slowly receeded as we went on), I would have judged this little patch of God’s earth to have transcended the excellence and beauty of the Towamba Valley (to this point the loveliest place on our journey). We were walking now in the shadow of the Mountain, behind which the sun was setting, although it was still only 4:30pm. It was very still and I had the strange “thick” feel of immersion in the combination of the natural and man-made beauty of the valley. I was surprised that Josh was handling the narrow curvey road with the steep hillsides so well, but he was by now way ahead of me and marching toward Central Tilba with a good deal of resolution. He told me afterwards that farm countryside does not terrify him in the way bushland environments do height-wise. Who can explain?
We arrived at the Two Story B&B at about 5:15pm, and were greeted by Lynn and Ken, who run the B&B, store and post-office. Sean and I were sharing the room on the ground floor with a queen bed and single in it, and Josh had the upstairs queen bed room with the bathroom (with a bath!). After showering and recovering our humanity, we went (on the recommendation of our hosts) to the Neck of the Woods cafe across the road for dinner. Here again, there was some impromptu musical entertainment – guitar and harmonica really hamming it up. It was a woodfire pizza establishment, with the oven burning on the decking outside. It was well frequented, and the food was good – although the waiter who took our order severely underestimated what three men who have just walked 25kms could eat, and we stupidly took him at his word when he said that the 2-serve antipasto, single pizza and two salads would be enough for the three of us. In fact, each of us could have polished off the entire meal on our own. And when we called for more bread, the report came that they were out of it. At least the wine was good – Barking Mad Shiraz 2016 from the Clare Valley, which Josh purchased and poured out equally between the three large glasses. Very nice! On our way out, we saw a basket with bread in it. Why can’t we have that? we asked. “Feel it”, was the reply. It was rock hard stale. But we took it anyway and munched it on the way back to our rooms.
Back at the Two Story, we had coffee and a glass of port (complimentary in decanters in our rooms). I was just starting to prepare to write up my blog, and realised that I was in fact very tired and it would be better to leave it till morning. We were in bed by 9:30pm, and I must have fallen asleep pretty quickly. I woke at 3:30am – I guess my body was saying “You’ve had your six hours sleep…” but managed to get back to sleep again before waking at a more normal 6am. Anyway, I’ll leave today’s story to tomorrow.
I’m including here a funny picture that was sent through to me by my colleagues back at the Archdiocese, Rachel Naughton, Mark Clarke and Brenda Hubber. They all know that I am somewhat protective of my car park space (no. 28) and are having their little laugh in this picture which Mark sent through with a “We are missing you” message. I should ring in on Monday at Lunch Time to do the newspaper quizzes with them.
Planned distance: 31.87km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 33.67km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 33.3km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 40,867 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 41 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 293m (-276m)
Highest altitude: 84m
Beach walking? A little bit on the other side of the Bermagui River, but you an avoid this by going around on the Wallaga Lake Road
Highway walking? Just 500m or so as you cross the Princes Highway to Tilba
Hours on the road: 9 hours
Distance covered from Eden: 124.05km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 814.05km
Photos for today are here on Google Photos, and here are the maps: