(Please note: this edition of my journal for the MacKillop-Woods Way was edited by Josh.)
Early rise this morning as we had a long way to go to Batehaven. We were glad to find that the Church of the Sacred Heart was already open. This is a truly beautiful building with very little that has been done to it by way of modernisation – even the altar rails are still around the high altar. One of the very few changes that have been made to the building since the Council are the two stained glass windows in the transept. At first, I took these to be original to the 1887 church, but then spied the date etched in at the bottom “by Benfields Studio 1979”. Have a close look at these windows and the details in the pictures link below, and you will see little Australian details that mark them out as modern. It just goes to show that it is not impossible to make beautiful things for our places of worship even in this age.
By 8:30am we were on the road and crossing the Moruya River. There were lots of pictures of swans on all the businesses and road signs everywhere, which led us to think that maybe “Moruya” means “swan”, although one member of our group thought that maybe it meant “elephant”…
Instead of following the Princes Highway to Batemans Bay, we went via the coast. There are a couple of options here, but to start with we needed to head out towards the Moruya Airport on North Head Drive on the north side of the river. This is a beautiful route, even though the road is still quite busy. In the early morning, there was plenty of dew on the grass which wet our feet as we walked on the verge, but it was so still that we could see almost perfect reflections of the boats moored on the river. We came to the Moruya Quarry, now closed, and the park across from it that commemorates the temporary workers’ settlement established in 1925 called “Granite Town”, which was set up in order to accommodate those who quarried and shaped the granite that was used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The first stone quarrier in the area, however, was a chap by the name of Henry Ziegler who opened the quarry in 1864. I first noticed this name appearing on the tombstones in the historical cemetery outside of Central Tilba, and we had come across it again as the builder/provider of stone for both All Saints Bodalla and Sacred Heart Church in Moruya. I noticed it especially, because my step-grandmother’s maiden name was Ziegler, although I am sure that there is no close connection.
An interesting thing is that Google Maps shows Granite Town not being where the commemorative park is (on the north bank of the river where the quarry is), but rather on the north-west side of the racetrack where currently there is a village populated by people who work in the local horse-racing industry. I had planned to get off the main road at this point by taking Donnelly Drive around the race course, but I also noticed that Google Maps (and some other satellite sources) shows a trail running through the bush parallel to Donnelly Drive. I was curious to try this route, so while the other two went on the way we had planned, I followed this bush route. A word of advice to future pilgrims: don’t do this. I did eventually find the track – it was there – but at the start it was barely more than a kangaroo track. I had to change my sandals for my shoes, and at one point totally lost the track. Also, it is on private property. I eventually came out onto a vehicular track that was quite easy to follow, but then came in the back of the go-kart business, which was all fenced in, and had to be shown the way out by the proprietor.
Josh and Sean meanwhile had come up Donnelly Drive and met me just as I emerged. The maps show this as a no-through-road, but you can get through the end on a sandy track, doubtless used by the horse people and their steeds, which crosses George Bass Drive and heads around the airport runway to the Bengello Beach car park. Here starts a attractive trail that runs for about 4kms, covered with a shady canopy of banksia and gum trees. A cool breeze was blowing from the shore about 150m to the left of the trail which made it one of the most pleasant sections of the Way so far. It had a sort of monotonous beauty that made walking effortless and peaceful. It comes out at the South Broulee Beach car park. At this point, a nice shared bikeway leads for about 2kms all the way through to the bridge over the Candlagan Creek.
In Broulee there is a small supermarket and post office in Grant Street, where we requested and received a stamp in our pilgrim passports. We were going to buy our lunch there, but they advised that there was a cafe just another 500m down the road called Single Fin Cafe. We can recommend this to future pilgrims – great coffee and good food. The proprietress was a local who had spent much of her life in Melbourne but had returned to the South Coast to look after family and took on this business. We filled up our water from the filtered water in the cafe and headed on toward Batemans Bay. We were making very good time to this point – we had arrived at 12:30pm – but we left forty minutes later, a little behind what I would have liked to have been doing. We made our way up Annetts Parade toward George Bass Drive again, and found a small track through the bush just before meeting the road, which saved us walking on the main road for about 850m. On the other side of the bridge over the Tomago River is a large IGA and a restaurant with a…beer garden. Yes, dear reader, your correspondent and his weak willed companions were once again tempted off the Way by the demon drink. So after another half-hour delay, we were finally on our way again by 2:45pm.
This next section was really not very pleasant. While in most cases there was a verge on the side of the road which we would have been very glad of yesterday walking along the Princes Highway, the road was nevertheless very busy. As we were approaching the turn off into Dunns Creek Road along Tomakin Road, I saw a Subaru station wagon screech its brakes at the right hand turn into Dunns Creek Road, and squeal its tyres as it accelerated up the hill. Great. As it turns out, I think that this road – which is newly sealed and in very good condition for cars – is the locals’ highway of choice rather than the A1. Australia really, really is not suited for cross country walkers. Bushwalkers, yes, but if you actually want to walk from A to B (or A to Z as we are) you will find it something of a challenge and even quite dangerous, as no consideration whatsoever is given to those who might wish to walk rather than drive. No wonder so many cyclists are killed every year on our roads.
There is an alternative to the Dunns Creek Road which is the Burri Road, but it is slightly longer, and we had no way of knowing whether it was less busy than the route we ended up taking. There are also possibly a number of bush trails that might lead you through this area, but once again they would add to the distance and I have no idea of the conditions. Another thing to take into account when planning a way through this area is the topography – what elevations are covered by the route you want to take? It can make a big difference to your stamina if there are many hills in the way. As it was, Josh got himself through today’s route by telling himself that all he needed to do was to make it back onto George Bass Drive, from whence our hosts could come and pick him up. In the end, he made it all the way. Long distance walking has a lot to do with psychology and the story you are telling yourself in your head about how far it is still to go and how surely this must be the last hill for the day.
When we did come out onto George Bass Drive from Tallgums Way, we once again found ourselves faced with the challenge of a four-lane highway and nowhere to walk. Some argued that we should take a route through the suburban streets, but these were a true labyrinth (Josh would prefer I said “maze” because he likes labyrinths and says that they actually are unicursal, having only one path in and out again, whereas mazes are multicursal, but I am sticking with labyrinth).
So after some particularly harsh words on my part (pulling rank as Pilgrim No. 1), we continued on the side of George Bass Drive, which, I think, proved to be the right decision. It was now getting well and truly dark. I was in constant text communication with Rebecca who was waiting for us at the Church with Eileen Hogg, our hostess. She was encouraging us with texts saying things like “you are getting closer!”. We turned into Sunshine Bay Road, and from here followed what my map said was the shortest route to the Church. Once again, a good look at a topographical map would have told us what we soon found: an enormous hill (well, it looked enormous to us after 34kms of walking and almost nine-and-a-half hours on the road) lay between us and our destination. Finally, having come over the top, turning into Sheila Street we saw the Church in front of us. We came around the church, and spied the sanctuary lamp inside in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. As the Church was closed, we knelt down outside and gave thanks to God for our safe arrival. Eileen and Rebecca and Fr Dominic advanced toward us from the parish office across the driveway and greeted us warmly.
Fr Dominic wished us well as we would not see him in the morning (he was headed to Moruya for the ANZAC Day services there), and Rachel and Eileen took us around to Eileen’s home in Surfside on the other other side of the Clyde River. I rode with Eileen, who pointed out all the local landmarks on the way. Eileen and her husband Michael (who is currently in Canberra where they have their lighting business) have a very, very large home with seven bedrooms and three living rooms and multiple bathrooms. They built it so that they could accommodate their large extended family when they came to visit, and often their home is used to provide a retreat venue for the Missionaries of God’s Love Sisters from Canberra. We are being accommodated in the “family area” on the second floor. Eileen and her husband have their space on the top floor.
After showering/bathing and changing into fresh clothes, we went upstairs for dinner: shepherds pie (and lots of it) and a nice bottle of 2008 Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon, with much conversation with Eileen about her life and family. We then joined her to watch a special on TV about Sir John Monash, which was being aired to coincide with tomorrow’s holy day, ANZAC day. She was especially interested in this because her father had fought in the Gallipoli campaign under Monash, and knew Simpson and his donkey. At the end of the program, since we were all very tired, we wished our hostess good night and headed to bed.
Planned distance: 31.89km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 31.33km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 32km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 40,503 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 33 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 217m (-207m)
Highest altitude: 102m
Beach walking? No
Highway walking? Yes (Not on the Princes Highway, but the section after the Tomaga River is mainly on a busy road)
Hours on the road: 9.5 hours
Distance covered from Eden: 228.35km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 918.35km
And the maps are here: