By avoiding the Princes Highway between Bermagui and Narooma, the pilgrim on the MacKillop-Woods Way is rewarded with a tiny slice of heaven. After four quite gruelling days of walking, this was the “rest day” without being a rest day.
Staying at the Two Story B&B (no, that isn’t a spelling mistake – my guess is that it means the building has had “two stories” as well as being “two storeys”, first as a post office, and today as accommodation) was a little treat. Ken and Lynn have had the place on the market for about two years, after operating the B&B, shop and Post Office for around three decades. Ken said it was time to retire, and since neither of their children were intereted in taking on the job, they needed to sell. I can say that they were great hosts, the best that you could expect from local tourist accommodation.
Sean and I were up at about 6am, packed and writing up our blog/journal when Lynn called us for breakfast at 8am. Ken served us the eggs, bacon, tomato and toast, and coffee and tea, as we enjoyed the antics of Bridie, the English Springer Spaniel (and yes, she was “springy”), who stayed obediently outside the French windows leading onto the little decking from the dining room while we ate breakfast although she clearly wanted to be inside and part of the action.
After breakfast, I continued work on my blog for a bit. Lynn stamped our pilgrim passes with a very decorative postal stamp featuring the B&B on it. Cathy rang and I caught up on what was happening at home. Josh and Sean headed out to see the town, and I followed as soon as I had everything completed online.
It was market day in the big old shed across road, where we bought calzone and pizza rolls for lunch. A walk up to the top of the hill brought us to the old Methodist Church, no longer used for worship. We wandered around the shops in the rest of the town down to the ABC Cheese Factory where we sampled the cheese and bought some blue and vintage for Marg’s dinner tonight. I dropped into a leather goods shop which also had a wide range of hats, mainly akubras. I ended up bying a new hat – not a leather one, but a polyester weave with a wide brim to keep off the sun. Apart from the fact that it doesn’t have a sting to keep it from blowing away or to tie it to the backpack, it should be an excellent walking hat. It certainly looks a lot more stylish than my two dollar op shop cloth cap that I have worn all the way thus far (which, to be fair, has done me very well).
At 11am we shouldered our packs once again, took up our stocks and headed off through the town along Bate Street. I stopped in at the Dromedary Hotel which was just opening to say hullo to the proprietoress. We had been intending to stay there, but they decided to stop doing accommodation and so had rebooked at the B&B, but I wanted to say hullo anyway. She said she had seen us on the road yesterday coming from Bermagui.
We took the Punkalla Tilba Road out of town, which was fairly quiet, although it was Saturday/Market Day. Most of the traffic into Tilba came from the Highway, not this back route. Our journey today was only 20kms, but it was slowish going due a a signifcant amount of up-and-downness. Every turn was astonishingly beautiful. We walked past the building used in the TV series “River Cottage Australia”. The humidity this morning was what could be described as 100%: soft misty drizzle accompanied us for the first hour or so. Not enough to get us wet, but just enough to dampen our clothes, which, truth be told, were getting wetter from perspiration than from precipitation. The temperature was very mild and even, and the weather overcast all day, such that it was a surprise around 4pm when the sun briefly came out enough for us to see our shadows.
About five kilometres down (actually, mainly up) the road, we came to a T-junction where the Punkalla Tilba Road actually went off to the left, and the road we were on became the Ridge Road. To this point the road had been sealed all the way, but along this next section it alternated between bitumen and gravel. We sat and ate our lunch at about the 8km mark, and then pushed on until Ridge Road met the Old Highway. At about this point, I was in a conversation with my mother who rang to find out where I was.
The Old Highway went down to sea-level to an inlet of Corunna Lake, and then immediately began climbing back up again to give some excellent final views of Mount Dromedary, still shrouded in clouds. We stopped briefly to look at an historical cemetary on the left. At the intersection of the Old Highway and Wonga Road, we needed to make a decision about which one to take. The distances were about the same with each, but the Old Higway was (at this point) becoming a little busier and we saw no cars at all taking the Wonga Road route. The only drawback of Wonga Road was that, according to the topographical maps, it went down to sea level and then there was a bit of a hill to climb up into town, whereas the Old Highway rather more gently sloped its way into town. Nevertheless, we took Wonga Road, which turned out to be the right choice. It was very quiet – only four vehicles came along – and has recently been sealed for most of the way. Along the way, I tried calling the Bodalla Arms Hotel once again to confirm our booking for tomorrow night, but once again just got their answering machine. I looked up and called the Bodalla Bakery just to make sure that the hotel was still open, and the woman there assured me that it was, so we will just have to trust that everything is okay.
We arrived on the outskirts of Narooma just on 4:15. Marg had instructed me to call her as soon as we entered town so that she could come and pick us up, but Josh said that we should stop at the first pub we saw and have a beer first. As it was, the first and only pub we saw was right opposite the Church, so we went in and had a glass of Tooheys Old (the beers on tap were all good standard commercial), before calling our hostess. We then went across the road to the Church, which was locked, but said our prayers of thanksgiving for another day’s journey completed. Marg arrived soon after. It was good to meet her after talking on the phone so often. It was clear as soon as we met that our evening would be a very enjoyable one.
Marg lives in Dalmeny, about eight kilometres north of Narooma. As she drove us to her home, she described the walk we would take tomorrow along the foreshore. She told us thtat the best thing to do would be for us to leave our packs with her, and to walk from Mass to the Dalmeny Foreshore where she will meet us and walk with us for a bit up the shoreline past Lake Brou. As this would save us carrying our packs for about one third the distance, we gratefully accepted.
Arriving at her home, she showed us each to our separate rooms, to the bathroom and to the laundry. I asked when the guests would be arriving for dinner; the answer was “in about twenty minutes”, so we didn’t have much time to mess about. We got straight on with the business of “freshening up”. We piled all our dirty washing into the washing machine and took turns in the bathroom. I took the more decadant choice of using the bathtub – the hot water was like an all-round heat bag on weary feet and shoulders.
Marg had invited an additional six guests for dinner: Pauline and John (Fr Luke Verrell’s parents), Kay, Virginia, another John, and Daniel. Daniel especially has had a lot of experience with walking up and down this coastline, and was a mine of information for us on the routes for at least the next two days – but I think he will be a great source of information for us to plan even the next leg of the journey for the rest of the way into Sydney. Already we have re-written tomorrow’s route, now to have us going through Potato Point (which I personally think ought to have been called Potato Head…). The route will take no longer than the way I had planned, and will even be much nicer, avoiding the Princes Highway altogether. Another complication is that there is currently burning off going on in the forests, and so our planned route from Bodalla to Moruya needs to be rethought, probably with a little more walking along the Highway and a detour in towards the coast. However, the benefit again is that it will be less hilly and shorter than our currenlty planned route.
The evening with Marg’s friends was absolutely delightful. We held hands at the beginning of the meal as Marg prayed a blessing on us and our time together. It was good to get to know Fr Luke’s parents, who are both English. The other John is a lawyer who became a Catholic about eight years ago, coming from an Irish/English Presbyterian background – and a fellow motorcyclist. Marg had cooked a lamb roast, and there was plenty of red wine to wash it down with. The result of the entire congenial evening was that by 10pm I was very relaxed and very ready for bed. The guests understood this instinctively and so we said goodnight and looked forward to seeing each other again at mass in the morning. Several of the other guests said they intended to walk with us a short distance on our journey and Daniel said he might come with us all the way to Potato Head and perhaps to Bodalla as well.
Planned distance: 20.18km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 20.46km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 21.8km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 28,483 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 26 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 264m (-320m)
Highest altitude: 112m
Beach walking? No
Highway walking? Yes, but only last 1.5km into Narooma and there are footpaths
Hours on the road: 5.45 hours
Distance covered from Eden: 144.51km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 834.51km
Today’s pictures are all here, and here are the maps.