MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day Three (Thursday 19 April) – Tathra to Murrah Hall via Tathra-Bermagui Road

I stayed up too late last night writing up my journal, so I’m going to try to be a little more brief this evening. It should not be hard – today was less eventful. Thankfully. One thing that complicated matters for “Gadgetman” was that I had left my bumbag with my wallet and pilgrim passport and – most importantly – my portable backup battery for my phone at the Church in Tathra. It was found by a kind parishioner and taken into care, but the main point is that my battery was not recharged overnight, and that means my phone – which of course isn’t really a phone, but a camera, a Fitbit, a GPS, a Walkman etc. – ran out of power before the end of today’s journey.

We were up in good time this morning though, and after breakfast, Fr Luke showed us around the Church of St Patrick in Bega, where we said our prayers and received a blessing from Father for our journey. Josh had decided to take the bus to Bermagui and then walk the 7kms south to our hosts today instead of taking the 29km trek from Tathra. Fr Luke drove Sean and me to Tathra. At the Church we were met by John McLaurin from the Catholic Voice in Canberra. He had stayed the night in Tathra with the local bakers, Joe and Quyen Nguyen, members of the Parish who, along with others, have done a lot in the effort to help those who have lost everything in the recent fires. We agreed to meet down at the bakery to continue to catch up and chat.

So Sean and I took the path down to the foreshore. John was waiting for us at the bakery and introduced us to Quyen, who was kind and generous – she not only gave us each a coffee gratis, but also donated lunch for us to take with us on the way. She told us of the great sadness that she still feels over the fires, and how overwhelming it can be. Many of the symptoms she described were similar to those that the speaker at the Church last night was saying were to be expected after such a traumatic experience.

We finally set off at 9:30am. Our route was simple today – straight up the Tathra-Bermagui Road to Murrah Hall: 29kms. As we set off, there was a sealed walking trail for the first four kms or so to the Bega River. On top of the hill to the West of the town, we could see the burnt bush and buildings – and we passed the burnt out Tathra Beach Motel Village, but other than that the evidence of the fires was not obvious from the route we took through town. Once we crossed the Bega River, the road climbed steeply into the hills. There was never much verge on the side of the road for walking, but the road is not overtly busy and it was easy to get out of the road when they did come. For some reason the traffic was heavier going towards Bermagui than towards Tathra, so we walked on the left hand side of the road. There were several large rises to get over, never rising much above 80 metres. Between the passing cars, the air was filled with the sound of bellbirds. The weather was fine with a thin layer of cloud, which was also good. The landscape altered between forest and farm land and so was quite varied. One unusual feature was the large ant mounds in the bush, some well over a metre high.

Just before reaching Tanja we met a couple on push bikes – Janie and George. riding from Sydney to Melbourne and stopped to talk about our respective journeys. They will be riding on the East Gippsland trail from Orbost to Bairnsdale which we did when we were there last, but from there they will ride further south than we walked. We also both noted how early it got dark. Just as we were caught out last night, so they have found themselves riding in the dark before arriving at their destination.

The next turn in the road after our meeting with the cyclists, we reached Tanja. We sat on the steps of the school yard and ate our chicken rolls from Quyen. There was water and toilets there too – of course, no children as it is school holidays. We were just under half way to our destination when we left Tanja at 1:10pm. By this stage my phone was running out, and so the photos also had to stop (or at least be taken sparingly). I put on music for the first time on the walk to keep me going – I listened to Ingrid Michaelson first (nice boppy music) and then Katherine Jones (inspirational). After a while I found that too was using too much power for the phone and switched it off. Sean and I were last together just after the bridge over the Wapengo Creek at 2:50pm. This was at the very end of the Tanja-Wapengo valley. What came next was unexpected – and shows just why I should sometimes pay a little attention to Sean and his precious “topographical maps” rather than simply relying on satellite imagery.

The road began to climb up a hill of prodigious height: 155 metres, up onto the ridge where Murrah is located. Some people, faced with such an obstacle after 20km of hard walking, would slow down and go as gently as possible up the slope. Not me. I attacked this hill with a vengeance, barely stoping for breath before I got to the top. My companions have remarked on the strange phenomena, by which I actually speed up when things get hard, or when we are nearing the end of our journey for the day. Sean, on the other hand, is a strong believer in the gentle approach. Reflecting upon this, I realised that I would never make it to the top of the mountain if I were to take it slowly. I would simply collapse under the pressure of my backpack. Upon more reflection, I realised that one reason for this strange behaviour may lie in my athletic background. I was a good runner and a good swimmer, but never in the long distance events for either. Instead, I could win the 100m dash or the 50m breaststroke. I’d be exhausted by the end of it, but I would win. On longer, slower races, I could never pace myself in such a way to make the distance. Now, as a long distance walker, I find that as soon as the going gets tough, I really get going. Better to have it all out and flake out when I get to the top/end than to flake out on the way. I wonder what that tells me about anything else in my life…

There were lots of motorbikes on the road today, many of them in touring groups, and in fact we are, for the first time, on the same road that I rode my bike on when I was coming back from the national convention of the Christian Motorcyclists Association in 2014 with my brother and one of his friends. It was on that trip that I first conceived of doing this pilgrimage. I thought that the land was so pretty and peaceful that riding a bike ride not give me time to appreciate it, and that walking would be the better option. Today, towards the end of the day, I want so sure…

Anyway, so I get to the top of the hill. From there I can see back down the hillside to Wapengo Lake, and out to the West into the great Mumbulla forest and hills. And to the East, the ocean appeared. The road leveled off, and seemed to follow the top of a ridge more or less for the next six kilometres or so. At this point, I also found the town entrance sign to Murrah and thought “thank God, I’m almost there”. Almost. The road then plunged down again. Surely the Hall will be at the bottom, I thought. But no, only works on the bridge rebuilding at the Creek at the bottom of the hill. Then there was another 50 metre climb or so, until, a couple of hundred metres further down the road and around the corner, Murrah Hall came into view.

The main doors were open, and I staggered inside and introduced myself to the man there, thinking he was John, our host, who was meeting us. Mistaken identity – Howard was there finishing off a rehearsal for Bernard-Shaw play. But he let me into the hall, to sit down and rest, to wash up in the toilets, and most importantly, to plug in my iPhone. Regarding the latter, he said “But you won’t get any reception here…” “I know,” I replied, “I wasn’t wanting to use it as a phone.” I explained to Howard that I was waiting for John to pick us up, and for my companion to catch up with me. He offered to let me stay in the Hall as long as I locked up behind myself. Soon after John arrived with Josh. I suggested they go and pick Sean up, which they did. We had a look around the hall when they got back. Given that we were thinking we might need to stay there overnight if we found no other alternative, the fact is that I think we would have been very comfortable. There is a good kitchen there, and a room that is kind of lounge like (complete with a couch or two). The toilets are fine too.

Sean said that tomorrow he would join Josh in staying at the house in Cuttagee instead of returning to Murrah Hall and covering the distance in between. I have accepted this, and we have arranged that John will drop me back early in the morning after only a light breakfast, leaving my backpack at our host’s home. After a brisk 7km morning walk, we will then have morning tea and get on the way to Bermagui.

John and Colleen are very genial and generous hosts. Their daughter Sonia from Bermagui was here as were grandchildren from Canberra. We had wine and nibbles (with Tilba blue cheese!) before dinner. A little luxury was a bath – bliss on blistered feet. Well, actually, I haven’t got any real blisters yet, just worn and sore. My shoulders too are still acclimatising to the backpack straps, and it was good to soak them in hot water also. Sean and I took the opportunity to wash and tumble dry our clothes.

Dinner was roast lamb and lots of stories on every side. (John is a retired ambulance driver from Bermagui.) After dinner, I began to write up my blog – but it is really getting late now and I have to sleep.

Today’s statistics
Planned distance: 29.41km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 29.93km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 28.6km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 35,028 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 49 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 389m (-393m)
Highest altitude: 144m (and it comes around the 24km mark!)
Beach walking? No
Highway walking? No – on the Tathra-Bermagui Rd, which has moderate traffic
Hours on the road: 8.5 hours
Distance covered from Eden: 90.38km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 780.38km

Today’s pictures may qbe viewed here on Google Photos, and here is the map – it is very straightforward, as we followed the main road all the way. Something to note – the addressees of the farms and homesteads along the way are actually according to the distance from Tathra – so no. 2925 is 29.25km from Tathra. It was seeing this, at the bottom of the last hill in Murrah when the hall was still not in sight and I had no phone to guide me, which gave me the incentive to buckle down and push on that last 200 metres around the bend to my destination.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day Two (Wednesday 18 April) – Merimbula to Tathra via Coast

“Today was in some senses the best day and some senses the worst day thus far (there have only been two days, admittedly). We started late – largely because we had a cooked breakfast (I cooked) of scrambled eggs, ham, capsicum, mushroom, spinach and tomato on toast. So we only got going at about 9:00am. We visited the Anglican Church briefly and then St Joseph’s Catholic Church, where we prayed the Regina Coeli and said a prayer to St Mary MacKillop for our journey today. Turns out we needed them.

Next, we followed a route that I had spotted on the satellite maps across a bridge at the end of Munn Street over Merimbula Creek into the area known as Mirador (no, not Mordor, that’s another place, although Mirkwood might have been another appropriate appellation). Nice start, but the bridge didn’t go all the way over the bit of inlet on the other side, so we had to follow a small trail to skirt it. Then the trail started climbing up the rocks over and around the edge of the Black Lagoon. I rather liked this trail, although it wasn’t the one I had chosen, but then Josh’s vertigo struck (just when we thought he was doing so well) and we had to turn around, double back and take another track over the hill. In fairness, this was the track I had originally planned on taking, as it connected up with Mirador Drive. But this road came to an end with big wire gates across it, although the trails went on past this. So I led the way, but immediately it became clear that there were many trails and none of them were at all clear. So we took one that led us most of the way along the route I had planned – hoping to get to the beach on the other side of the Black Lake/Back Lagoon. Instead we took another track that we hoped would get us there, and instead it lead us down the hill to another small lagoon and creek, which we could not cross. Our only choice was then to climb back up along the creek bed to the top of the hill again out onto Casurina Place and Nolan Drive. We were completely shagged out by that stage, and had been walking for almost two hours and only done about 4kms, two of which were completely unnecessary.

So we made it to the Tura Beach Shopping Centre, and Sean shouted us a cup of coffee each as we replanned our day. Several decisions were made. Josh decided that the better part of valour would be if he avoided the walk along the Kangarutha Track later in the day and simply went around Lake Wallagoot to the Sapphire Coast Highway to Tathra. Sean wanted to go to Dolphin Drive to see a place where he holidayed as a child. I just wanted to take the shortest and quickest way to Tathra. So we started by following a trail around the back of the shopping centre from Tura Beach Drive to Kangaroo Run. Then, at Dolphin Cove Road, Sean parted company from Josh and me and went on his sight seeing, after which he went down onto the beach and walked towards Bournda Island. Josh and I went up Pacific Way to the Sapphire Coast Drive and then detoured down the gravel road called Widgeram Road. This took us eventually onto the North Tura Road, down to the car park and picnic grounds and the trail to Sandy Creek and Bournda Island. From the top of the bluff, I could see Sean coming along the beach. I phoned him and he asked us to stop so that we could have lunch – it was now 1:30pm.

Note that you cannot walk right around the bluff on the beach – the water comes right up to the low rocks. So if you are coming up the beach like Sean did you have to scramble over the rocks to the other side. Anyways, we sat and had our cheese and kransky and bread again as yesterday, this time sitting on the stairs coming down to the beach – sheltered from the ferocious wind coming down the beach towards us from the NNE. We then took off our footwear and walked barefoot along the beach for the next 5.5kms. The sea was rough and the wind was in our face. Once I nearly lost my hat into the surf, and another time, as I asked Sean to take a picture of me, a huge wave came in and washed us up over our knees. Thankfully the iPhone was not washed away. I quite like beach walking and the sand near the water was hard. The tide was going out, so there was a wide a beach.

At the trail to Hobarts Beach, we farewelled Josh (he gave us a verbal last will and testament should we not see him again), and headed toward the mouth of Moncks Creek, the opening of Wallagoot Lake to the sea. I was a bit nervous when planning this section of the walk that the Creek would be flowing across the path into the ocean, but we need not have worried. There was quite a high beach between the water on both sides, and although it was clear that the mouth would flow at high tide, I could never imagine it being deeper than a foot or two. We crossed this and had a bit of a rest at the top of the stairs on the Turingal Head. It was good to get out of the wind. A surfer came by, seeking a more sheltered place to surf. When he returned disappointed we asked if he was a local. When he answered that he was, we asked if he had traveled the Kangarutha track. Yes, he said, it is very rocky.

On the website for the Kangarutha Trail, We are told that it is a “Grade 3” trail, “Suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Some bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may have short steep hill sections a rough surface and many steps.” We are also told that  “Some bushwalking experience recommended”, that it is clearly marked, and that it will take 3.5 to 4 hours. Well it was just on 3:28 when we started, but in my experience, the timing of trails is usually greatly exaggerated, and it was only 9.1kms, so we thought we would do it easily in two & half hours. In fact, the first half was so easy going that I rang ahead to Fr Luke at Tathra to say that we would easily be in by 5:30pm. The scenery was magnificent, when you could see through the trees to the coast, and the vegetation varied. We saw no evidence of “rocks”. But then, just after I called and chatted to my parents on the phone at 4:45pm about half way along the track (if I had been watching the time, I would already have known that we were in trouble) the track suddenly did become rocky, and also in poor repair in places, and often not clearly marked, and regularly going steeply downhill to the gullies and inlets only to climb very steeply back up again. In truth, it was a the most gruelling 9km trek I have ever done. On Easter Monday, Sean and I walked 20kms around Silvan and Mount Dandenong, and according to my iPhone we climbed “159 flights of stairs” (540m). On this trail, the iPhone said that we climbed 157 flights. It was gruelling. Worse, our phone signals, which till then had been very good, cut out entirely. And it was fast getting dark. I was not really worried for our own safety, but I was concerned that Fr Luke and Josh and others would be, and I had no way of reassuring them that we were okay.

As it was, we had to use the iPhone torch for the last half hour of walking, and eventually came out the other end Kianinny Boat Ramp at 6:17pm, completing the trail in just under 3 hours. It would probably not have been so bad had we left earlier from Merimbula or had we not expended a lot of energy in the Mirador Maze. And the final straw was the high climb up Kianinny Street into town. We were finally back into range, and we received a call from a very worried Josh who had arrived at the Star of the Sea Catholic Church having walked the long way around and found that we were still not in. He was all for dialing 000, but Fr Luke got him to get the details of our travels first, and in the meantime we were back in contact. Fr Luke offered to come and pick us up, but we intended to walk all the way to the Church. We were grateful for him coming and taking our backpacks for us though! We arrived at the Church finally at 6:44pm, having walked for almost ten hours.

Originally I had been scheduled to give a little talk on our pilgrimage when we arrived, but Fr Luke had rung yesterday to say that plans had changed since a post-disaster trauma specialist was visiting and wanted to address the members of the parish about what to expect from themselves and those around them in the weeks and months and years following the devasting fires they had had just before Easter. I was glad for the change, because I could barely stand up. Yet, after a bowl or two of the excellent chicken and ham and corn soup that the parishioners had prepared for us, I felt quite reconstituted – better in fact than I had felt last night when we got to Merimbula. For all the rough terrain, it was actually easier on the feet than the flat walking on hard surfaces yesterday. I range Cathy to let her know we were okay, and also rang through to our hosts for tomorrow night to let them know we were on our way and to make plans. Josh plans not to walk with us tomorrow, but will take the bus from Bega to Bermagui and then walk the 7 or so kms down to our hosts, where we will meet him tomorrow night.

After the fire talk had finished we had a chance finally to say hullo to the locals. We heard a little about the fires and the effects on the town – although they were insistent that the town would recover fully and be “better than ever”. Sadly our time with them was short. Fr Luke had had a long day, and was driving us back to Bega to stay with him in the very large old presbytery there. We grabbed some beer on the way, and he bbq-ed up some steaks for us for hobbit-second-dinner. We talked till about 10pm when Josh went to bed, and Sean and I began writing up our journals. It is now way past my bed time and we have an early start again in the morning.

The photos from today can be viewed here on Google Photos. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter at @scecclesia for updates when we are within range of a signal. You might be required to give information to the rescue parties about our last reported location…

Today’s statistics
Planned distance: 23.95km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 26.96km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 27.1km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 38,176 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 176 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 440m (-413m)
Highest altitude: 111m
Beach walking? Yes, a fair amount
Highway walking? No
Hours on the road: 11.75 hours (time lost in “maze” and last 3-4km)
Distance covered from Eden: 60.45km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 750.45km

Our recording device makes the route that Sean and I took out to be about 27km. It should be shorter by at least 2kms if you don’t count our stuffing about in the Merimbula Maze. Josh’s route by the main road would have been about 7km longer.

Here are the maps of today’s journey. I’ve marked in the route that we should have taken instead of mucking about in the Maze in a different colour green.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day One (Tuesday 17 April) – Eden to Merimbula via Nethercote

Wow. I haven’t been this sore since my first day on the Aussie Camino in 2014 when we did 36km from Portland to Cape Bridgewater via Nelson Lighthouse. That’s where I met Sean all those years ago. I also completely buggered up my right knee walking up and down the sand-dunes, and ended up walking the rest of the way to Penola with my knee strapped and braced. Well, by the time we got to Pambula – with still 7 or 8kms to go to Merimbula, my knee was again playing up, and as I was walking up the driveway of the Sapphire Valley Holiday Park just after dark, my right foot was screaming “Blisters!!!”. Thankfully, I think I have dodged that bullet, but only just.

It has been a long day. We have averaged in the past 27-28kms a day, with the longest day we have ever done been our 36km day from Goongerah to Bendoc last year (which included a 700m rise as well). But then we were not carrying 12kg packs on our back. So it was a hard day today. We left Mike and Judy’s place at 8:10am (very thankful for a comfortable and hospitable night), and headed directly for the Nethercote Road. The road was actually quite busy – but at that time it was probably people coming and going for work. We were somewhat discouraged, and tried for a time to take a side track which ran along the road a little down in the valley. However, that track was far too much up and down for our knees, and we soon returned to the road, where the traffic was settling down a bit. I found it slow going to start with. This and that on the backpack needed adjusting, or something from one of the belts were digging in on my hip, or my water bladder was leaking etc etc. Once we got under way, things were great. It was a wonderful sunny crisp morning, with really fresh sea/mountain air.

However before long we ran into a difficulty. Right back at the start of our pilgrimage, on our second day on a hill the other side of Belgrave, Sean and I turned around to find Josh standing at the top of the hill looking down and completely stationary. It was the first time that we discovered that Josh suffered from vertigo and any steep or high trails caused him some difficulty. In fact, he got used to the trail and all was fine for the whole journey to Orbost. We thought he was over it. But when we came to going over the mountain in Easter 2017 from Orbost to Eden via Bombala, Josh pulled out. Turns out the reason was that his vertigo has not come any better. So today, heading out of Eden, we had to climb up to 293m over the mountain before we entered the Nethercote valley, and half way up, Josh froze and said he couldn’t go any further. The solution was to ring Mike and Judy and call upon them to come and take Josh over the hill, which the good people did. So Josh was about half an hour’s walk ahead of us until we caught up with him at the Nethercote hall for lunch.

The Nethercote Valley is much smaller than the Towamba Valley, but equally beautiful. The little community hall was a bit of treasure, and we enjoyed sitting on the veranda at the back and eating our bread, cheese, kransky, and fruit (I missed the usual glass of red wine to wash it down). Josh headed off again on the road to Pambula while Sean and I were still repacking our bags and before we left a local, Karen, turned up to drop some stuff off at the hall. We fell to talking, and she described the work that had to go into renovating the dilapidated hall about 10 years ago (it was built in 1910). “We didn’t so much restore the hall as restore the community in doing so,” she said. I have found that to be true many times on our journey, where the local community hall in small rural settlements has been the focus of community life.

The road from Nethercote to the Princes Highway was much quieter than the main road through the Nethercote Valley. It altered between gravel and bitumen road, but was easy to walk. Along the way today, I was constantly being contacted on the phone by various people interested in our story. Jodie Stewart, from the Eden Magnet, wanted to meet up with us in Pambula. Sandra, the parish secretary in Pambula, rand to offer to open the Church for us. John McLaurin, the editor of the Catholic Voice archdiocesan newspaper rang to ask for some video footage for the morning edition of their roundup. I rang Chris and Ray who live in Nethercote and with whom we had dinner last night. I texted a couple who run a drop in centre in Pambula whom we met at Towamba on Anzac Day last year to see if we could “drop in”. And my Aunty Jan texted to say she was back from her holiday in Cuba and to wish me happy travels. Josh said “Stop playing with your phone all the time,” but I felt I had some obligation to get the news out on what we were doing. And of course, I was tweeting about our journey too (although there was a blank spot in the valley itself). At the same time, it did feel that it was all getting in the road of concentrating on the walking.

At the end of the road, just before we got to the Princes Highway, the Yowaka River which flowed alongside the road from Nethercote suddenly widened out and became a tidal river connected to the Pambula River. It looked so inviting, I would have loved to have gone for a swim – but we didn’t have a spare moment. We came out onto the Princes Highway – by God, that was a shock. After the peace and quiet of the country roads, we were on a busy highway in the bright sun, with constant traffic including semi-trailers and caravans and four-wheel drives towing boats. There was little space on the side of the road to walk, and the traffic was whizzing past just metres away. Take my word for it: for walkers the Princes Highway is a road TO BE AVOIDED.

As we came into South Pambula, I rang Sandra to tell her that we would be at the Church within half an hour. Little did I know that fate had placed a great temptation before us along the way: the first micro-brewery of the journey! I felt we were obligated to get to the Church, but Josh mutinied and insisted on buying us all a beer. We went into the Longstocking Brewery and met the new owners who have been there only three days (the brewery itself is about 3 years old). Josh bought us each a Bohemian Lager, and the staff gave us a free sample of Fatty Arbuckles Dark Ale as well. We were tempted to buy their aluminium “growler” for takeaway tap beer, but at least realised that that would be unwise.

So we were a bit late getting to St Peter’s Church, a beautiful “storybook” building nestled in a little glade on the hill above Pambula near the old Courthouse. The sign on the wall out the front of the Church had a fitting question: Quo Vadis? The Church itself is the oldest continually used church in the Canberra-Goulburn diocese, having been built in 1865. We were met there by Sandra, the parish secretary (who had a stamp to put in our passports), John Liston, a local historian very keen on Mary MacKillop, and Jodie Stewart from the Eden Magent. After singing the Regina Coeli and saying the Lord’s Prayer and a prayer to St Mary in the Church, we sat in the meeting room out the back so Jodie could interview us on our project. We were very interested to learn that she was doing her PhD at University of Wollongong on the cultural significance of the Bundian Way project – so she had a lot of sympathy for our own pilgrimage.

We left there at 4:20, refreshed but eager to be on our way, as the office at the Sapphire Valley Holiday Park closed at 6pm. The Pambula Inspirations drop in centre was already closed when we walked past, so we missed catching up with Pastors Rob and Robyn Nelson. We had to walk along the highway still, but the benifit now was that there was a good sealed walking trail running alongside the road all the way from Pambula to Merimbula. We thought it would be an easy walk, but we were more tired than we thought, and every step was soon an agony. It was dark before we arrived at the Park, and the office called me just as I was walking up their stairs as they were about to shut.

Our room is very nice, a “family room” for $115 a night. We showered and refreshed ourselves and rubbed lotions on our feet and muscles before heading out to the local Club for dinner. I ordered Lambs Fry as I thought I could do with the iron hit, and the other two did the same. A nice glass of Kosciusko Pale Ale washed it down. We then went around to the Woolworths and bought supplies for breakfast and lunch tomorrow. Sean and I wrote up our journals as Josh hit the sack.

It’s now half past eleven, and I desperately need to sleep. So follow me on twitter at @scecclesia – or see the side bar of this blog – and take a look at the pictures for today on Google Photos.

Update on today’s journey: we make it about 32km that we walked from our accommodation to Merimbula via Nethercote. It would have been closer to 34km had we left from the Church, but we did that little bit last night.

Today’s statistics
Planned distance: 31.33km (measured from the Church)
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 32.13km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 33.6km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 42,892 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 78 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 385m (-437m)
Highest altitude: 302m (The highest point on the journey is on first day)
Beach walking? No
Highway walking? Yes, several kms south of Pambula
Hours on the road: 10.5 hours (including stops)
Distance covered from Eden: 33.49km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 723.49km

Here are the maps of today’s journey. It is fairly straightforward as we followed the road all the way.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: (Monday 16 April) – Melbourne to Eden

It’s on again! Tonight we are back in Eden, NSW, where we finished off the second leg of our pilgrimage last Easter from Orbost in Victoria. To this point we had covered 690km of our overall project to walk from St Mary MacKillop’s birthplace in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, to her tomb and shrine in North Sydney. We are forging a trail that my pilgrim companion Sean Deany has dubbed “The MacKillop-Woods Way”, including in that appellation the name of the cofounder of the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Fr Julian Tenison-Woods, whose grave we will also visit when we arrive in Sydney. But that’s all for next year – this year our aim is to get to Ulladulla, about 290km to the north from here. We will also do the little bit from Ulladulla to Milton on our last day on Saturday 28 April (Deo Volente, as they say).

We have been very warmly welcomed by the Committee of the Mary MacKillop Hall and Museum. Mike and Judy Sheppard, who put us up last time we were here, are again showing us generous hospitality. Seven other members of the Hall Committee, Ray and Chris, Michael, Hilare and Mary-Lou, Vic and Marie, joined us for dinner at the Great Southern Hotel. It was good to see them all again and to share our plans and hear of their own lives in the twelve months since we were last together.

Josh had flown over from Tassie last night and stayed in Melbourne overnight before meeting Sean at the Southern Cross Station to catch the 7:20am to Bairnsdale. I had a bit of a sleep-in (!) and Cathy drove me to Dandenong where I boarded the train at 8:05am. It was the first time the three of us had been together since Orbost in 2016. Our train was stalled at Warragul because there was a broken down train on the line ahead, but we were going again in half an hour, and the trip was pleasant and uneventful for the rest of the way to Bairnsdale. We boarded the bus for Eden immediately and were soon on our way again.

It was good along the way seeing where we had walked over the past years. Again and again we would be pointing out the window and saying “There’s the trail” or “There’s where such and such happened”, or “Remember the people we met there?”. The last part of the journey, on the other side of Orbost, departed from our trail which we had taken last year to the north via Bombala, and instead followed the Princes Highway around the bend to Eden. As we went, we were confirmed in our wisdom of choosing the other route – the Princes Highway has a lot of traffic on it and there is very little room to walk on the verge. The road is monotonous too. While there are a couple of towns where you could get accomodation at first (Cabbage Creek, Cann River and Genoa are all about a day’s walk apart) after that there is nothing for about 70kms.

Just before we got into Eden at 4:15pm, I was phoned by a journalist from the Eden Magnet for an interview. We were still talking when we arrived at Eden. So all was a bit of confusion as I tried to bundle my gear off the bus, continue the phone interview and greet Mike at the same time! In the end she decided to try and catch up with us in Pambula tomorrow afternoon, when we plan to visit the Pambula Inspirations coffee shop run by pastors Rob and Robyn Nelson of the Pambula Christian community.

Mike took us around to his place, and we were greeted by Judy who had date scones and cups of tea ready for us. After talking and relaxing for a bit, Mike drove us around to the Star of the Sea Church, where we visited the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and then went into the Church to sing the Regina Coeli, say a prayer to St Mary MacKillop, and pray the Lord’s Prayer. We then set off on the first – very short – section of the pilgrimage: from the Church back to Mike and Judy’s. This way we can start in the morning having cut off 1.5kms of a 30km day!

So now the other two are in bed, and its time I headed there too. Josh is recovering from a cold that he has had for the last week or so, and I am trying NOT to get a cold. Lots of vitamin C, fish oil and echinacea. And finally to bed so we can get up nice and early for the morning.

Today’s statistics
Planned distance: 0km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 1.36km
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 13 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 39m (-9m)
Highest altitude: 54m
Beach walking? No
Highway walking? No
Hours on the road: 17min
Distance covered from Eden: 1.36km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 691.36km

You can follow me on Twitter as we go at @scecclesia, and also click here to see today’s photos on Google Photos.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Jerusalem is built as a city…” – Psalm 122 (121):3

Currently our JCMA text reading group is reading Karen Armstrong’s history of Jerusalem. We had quite a lively discussion on this, and will continue it next month after Easter/Passover when we meet on April 10.

Coincidentally, a friend of mine had contacted me on the weekend with a question about a verse that is used as a communion antiphon in the Mass for the 4th Sunday in Lent, a verse that is relevant to our discussion of the significance of Jerusalem for the three Abrahamic Faiths.

The verse in question is Psalm 122 (121) verse 3,which, in the New Revised Standard Version, reads:

Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together. 

My friend is a devotee of the Latin mass, so he was trying to make sense of the text in Latin. That reads:His problem was with the phrase highlighted, which he found hard to translate. I showed it a member of our JCMA text group, whose teaching career was in the Classics, and she too thought it was strange. It is something like “whose sharing/participation is in itself”.

It is worth keeping in mind that Jerome made that translation from the Septuagint (LXX), which is a  Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures done in the 3rd-1st Century BC. The LXX reads:The phrase there appears to something like “whose sharing/participation of it [is] towards/upon the itself”.

Here are a few more current English attempts. The Grail Version of the Psalms (which the Catholic Church uses in its daily prayer and also currently in the Service of the Word at Mass) reads:

Jerusalem, built as a city,
strongly compact.

In the current English translation of the Roman Missal (the book used for Mass), the Communion antiphon (translated from Jerome’s Vulgate) reads:

Jerusalem is built as a city
b
onded as one together.

However, Jerome also did a translation from the Hebrew text – as he possessed in the 4th Century in any case – and that is different again:

Hierusalem quae aedificaris ut civitas
cuius participatio eius simul

You will notice – even if you can’t read Latin – that there is a slight difference from the earlier translation, but the word “participatio”, meaning a communion or a sharing – is still prominent. A translation might be “of whom its participation [is] the same”?

Now, I know you are all asking, what is the “original” Hebrew text? Keeping in mind that the Masoretic text is not necessarily more ancient than either the Vulgate or LXX we have:

My rudimentary Hebrew was not good enough to translate that second phrase, so I asked my friend Rabbi Fred Morgan for his input. He replied that he would translate it as:

“Jerusalem (re)built, in which there is a joining together.” The Hebrew has echoes of groups of associates or companions being brought together once again, following the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple. So it could refer to the gathering together of the tribal groups in social (or national) harmony after the exile. Would be nice today to extend to all religious groups coming together in companionship.

And to which let all the people say: “Amen”.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Plans for the 2018 leg of the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage

Sean, Josh and I are currently planning the next section of our MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage (click here for more information), this time from Eden NSW to Ulladulla NSW. Our schedule will be as follows:

Monday 16 April: Travel Melbourne to Eden

We will be staying overnight with parishioners belonging to the Eden Catholic Parish.

Day 1. Tuesday 17 April: Eden to Merimbula (31.33km)

Starting at Our Lady Star of the Sea, Eden and walking to St Peter’s, Pambula, via the Nethercote Road and then to St Joseph’s Church in Merimbula. Staying with local parishioners.

Day 2. Wed 18 April: Merimbula to Tathra (23.95km by Coastal Route)

We will stick fairly close to the coast for this walk (unless prevented by creeks that block our way) going past Wallagoot Lake and arriving at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Tathra by the Kangarutha Track. Staying with members of the local parish.

Day 3: Thursday 19 April: Tathra to Murrah (29.41km)

Following the Tathra-Bermagui road as far as Murrah Hall. Staying the night at Bermagui (we will need a lift!) with local parishioners.

Day 4: Friday 20 April 2018: Murrah to Central Tilba (31.87km) via Bermagui

Starting off again from Murrah Hall and walking back through Bermagui (visiting Our Lady Help of Christians), we will take the Wallaga Lake Road and Bermagui Road to Central Tilba. We are staying at a B&B there.

Day 5: Sat 21 April 2018: Central Tilba to Narooma (20.18km)

We are planning a bit of a rest in Central Tilba in the morning (perhaps visiting the local market) before walking to Our Lady Star of the Sea at Narooma via the Punkalla Tilba Road, Ridge Road, the Old Highway and Wonga Road. The Narooma Parish is helping with accommodation.

Day 6: Sunday 22 April: Narooma to Bodalla (21.84km)

After Mass at Narooma we have a shortish walk along the coast to Dalmeny, a short stretch on the Princes Highway, then through the forest on Mitchell’s Ridge Road and Whittakers Creek Road, before heading back on the Highway and to St Edmund’s Church in Bodalla. We are staying at the Bodalla Arms Hotel overnight.

Day 7: Monday 23 April: Bodalla to Moruya (31.5 km)

Faced with a full day of walking on the Princes Highway, we have decided instead to take “the road less travelled” from Bodalla to Moruya, via Bumbo Road, through the forest on Western Boundary Road and Little Sugarloaf Road, coming out on Wamban Road to Sacred Heart Church, Moruya. The local parish have offered us the use of the Moruya presbytery for the night.

Day 8: Tuesday 24 April 2018: Moruya to Batemans Bay (31.89km to the Church at Batehaven)

We will take a coastal route this time, via Granite Town, Broulee, Bevian and Burri Roads, and Old Grandfather’s Road into Batemans Bay. Members of St Bernard’s Church will put us up there.

Day 9: Wednesday April 25 (Anzac Day Holiday):

A rest day at Batemans Bay.

Day 10: Thursday 26 April: Batemans Bay to Kioloa (29km from Bridge, 34km from church)

We head along the Princes Highway until we pass Durras Lake, and then head in towards the coast on Mount Agony Road and the Old Coast Road to Kioloa, where we are staying at the Kioloa Beach Holiday Park.

Day 11: Friday 27 April 2018: Kioloa to Ulladulla (28.91km)

On this day we pass out of the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese and enter into the Wollongong Diocese. We walk from Kioloa to Ulladulla by Murramarang Road to the mouth of Willinga Lake, then follow the Willinga Lake Walking Track to the mouth of Reedy Creek, then along the coast to Termeil Creek, and the Tabourie Village Track to the Tabourie Creek when we return to the Princes Highway into Ulladulla. We will be staying at the parish house at Milton on this, our final night on the leg of the pilgrimage, and hope to catch up with parishioners from Ulladulla.

Day 12: Saturday 18 April 2018.

Journey home.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Answering a question: “How to live best alongside Muslims in Australia?”

I was asked recently to write an article for a Christian congregation’s monthly newsletter. The editor wanted me to answer the question “How to live best alongside Muslims in Australia?”

Clearly the question isn’t posed in the way that I would have put it, but nevertheless, I had a go at answering it in the limited word space I was allocated. I didn’t have long before the deadline, so what follows here is not the best researched or even the most thoughtful reply that I might have given, and clearly there is a lot more that can and must be said. But I hope it is a start for the conversation we need to have.

I have also since found myself coming back to it – especially to the two Jordan B. Peterson quotes. If there is any need to apologise for quoting Peterson (not once, but twice!), I will simply defend myself by saying that I was thinking about the question set for this article while listening to/reading his material, and these two quotations seemed apposite to the point under discussion.

You can read the article here.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Sacred Pilgrimage

We had our monthly JCMA Text Group meeting today. Sometimes we choose a genre to focus on, and sometimes a theme. Today was on the theme of “Journey”, as a number of members of our group (including myself as SCE blog readers will know) had been travelling. I chose J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem “The Road goes ever on and on”, and included Michael Leunig’s “How to get there”.

Helen brought along a poem that is included in the Union of Progressive Judaism prayer book by Rabbi Alvin Fine, “Birth is a beginning”. It is read in Progressive synagogues at the Yom Kippur evening service. It seemed to encapsulate a great deal of my own reflections on pilgrimage and living life as a pilgrimage. I reproduce it here:

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey:

From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps, to wisdom;

From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness –
And, often, back again;

From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;

From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,

From pain to compassion,
And grief to understanding –
From fear to faith;

From defeat to defeat to defeat –
Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage.

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage –
To life everlasting.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage



 

 

 

 

An Australian pilgrimage trail in honour of St Mary MacKillop and her co-founder Fr Julian Tenison Woods.

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

MacKillop-Woods Way 2017: Day Ten (27 April) – Mary MacKillop Hall, Mass and Travelling Home from Eden

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.

Distance home to Boronia by car: 538km (6hrs 20min driving)

It is a fact often overlooked that in the centuries before the transport revolution, when people went on pilgrimage, their journey was only half finished when they reached their destination. They then had to turn around and make their way home by the same means by which they had arrived. We, on the other hand, have speedier means of transport to bring us home; nevertheless, it was still a 7.5hour drive (including breaks) for Paul. Seán and I were immensely grateful for his kind willingness to do this. Especially given that we left Eden after a rather full morning.

The day dawned sunny but still very windy. We rose early and breakfasted with the Sheppards before going around to the Hall. We wanted to have a good look at heir collection and displays before mass, as afterwards there was to be a morning tea and we wanted to make a timely start for Melbourne. The parish has made a good set up, with lots of informative displays, especially focusing on Flora MacKillop who died in the shipwreck of the Ly-ee-Moon 30 May 1886 – almost 131 years ago – at Greencape, off the Port of Eden. I was particularly struck by an original portrait of Cardinal Moran, Archbishop of Sydney and Australia’s first Cardinal. Moran visited St Mary in Sydney a few days before she died. When he left, he expressed the opinion that “I consider I have this day assisted at the deathbed of a saint”.

Following our time in the Hall, we went down to the church – Our Lady Star of the Sea – for the 9:30am mass. The altar of the church had been designed to incorporate the prow of a whaling style ship pointing out of the front. Striking indeed, but it struck me as the most effective way to prevent ad orientation celebration of the mass that I had yet encountered! The Vicar General, Fr Tony Percy – and his Labrador dog William the Conqueror – were visiting the parish to fill in for Fr James, the parish priest, who was away at the time of our visit. Fr Tony asked me to say a few words about our pilgrimage before the mass, and then spoke about St Mary during the homily. He also remembered Fr Paul Gardiner SJ, the postulator for St Mary’s cause, who died a few weeks ago. I remembered that Fr Gardiner was the priest at Penola on Palm Sunday 2014 at the end of our first Aussie Camino. On that occasion he blessed the hiking stocks that I still use and have used all the way on this part of the journey.

After the mass everyone present posed for a photo together with us in front of the altar. This is one of my favourite pictures of the whole journey. We also met Hilaire Alba, an artist who had painted a portrait of St Mary MacKillop which was installed in the church, and who had just finished work on an Our Lady of Lourdes grotto outside in the grounds of the Church which is to be consecrated in the next few weeks.  We all went up to the hall for morning tea, and while there, a reporter from the Eden Magnet came to get a more in depth story on our pilgrimage for the next editio of the paper. His name is Zach Hubber, and he is studying to be a teacher at ACU in Canberra. In the meantime he is working part-time as a journalist. He asked very intelligent questions, showing an understanding of what pilgrimage is all about. [His final article can be viewed here. It also turned out, when I returned to Melbourne, that Zach is the nephew of Brenda Hubber, who works next door to my office in the Cardinal Knox Centre as the Archdiocesan officer for Migrants and Refugees.] Zach took photos of us outside the Hall, also with the two Sisters of St Jospeh, Sr Brigid and Sr Bernadette. (Sr Brigid, by the way, grew up in the Towamba Valley, near Burragate. She returned to Eden some years ago to care for her centenarian mother before her death.)

Now it was time to say goodbye. It was just after 11am, and we thought we might catch an early lunch at the famous Boydtown landmark, the Seahorse Inn. Back in November 2014, when I first travelled through this area on my motorcycle with my brother and a mate from the Christian Motorcycle Association gathering in Stanwell Tops, we stayed at Boydtown Caravan park. We asked the proprietor whether there was somewhere to eat nearby and he said that there was a hotel down the road which we could reach by walking out onto the beach and turning right. We followed these directions, but when we got onto the beach, there were no signs of civilisation. Strongly doubting that we had heard correctly, we none-the-less turned right and walked about 200m down the beach – to come face-to-face with the most incredible country pub I have ever seen. You can read about the history of the Seahorse Inn here.

So the Inn was always on my list to visit when we were in Eden again, and I was glad to find that Seán shared this desire. I believe that Paul had been there before with his wife Frances, but was agreeable to the visit. We entered the bar and inquired about getting a light lunch, but the kitchen was not to be opened until 12noon, which was a bit of a wait and we were eager to get on the move. However, they had Grand Ridge Pale Ale – from Mirboo North – on tap, and neither Seán nor I could pass this up, despite the early hour of the day, so we each had a schooner (Paul, as our driver, was restricted to a coffee). We then headed back out to the car to get under way. But as we did, Seán spotted the old ruined Anglican Church on the hill – a feature about which I was completely ignorant until then, but for which Seán had been on the lookout. The ruins were on the top of – yes, you guessed it – another bloody hill, and a big one at that, and Seán was half way up it already. Well, it looked like we had another bit of sight-seeing to do yet. In truth, I needed little encouragement. Paul resigned himself and followed after us. It was quite a struggle to get to the top of the hill on which the red brick ruins were perched. From what I can gather, the church was never actually used, and burned down in bushfires in 1926.  The surviving ruin has a rather picturesque and gothic appearance, although the effect is rather spoiled by the wire mesh fence erected around it.

By the time we finished photographing the church, it was after 12 o’clock, and Paul decided that since we were still here we might as well return to the Inn and have lunch. I am very glad that we did. Seán and I both ordered the mussels in broth for $17, expecting that we would probably get half a dozen each. Instead we each received a mound of mussels in their shells – I counted about 2 dozen each. They were fresh and delicious. As a result of this generous lunch, I found myself falling asleep in the back seat of the car for the first hour of our journey home, waking only when we arrived in Orbost. From here on we were driving driving past places where we had walked last year. It was a strange experience knowing that we were covering in one day the distance that had taken us 25 days to walk. We stopped in Nowa Nowa at the Mingling Waters Cafe (a great spot to stop – it is a tourist attraction in its own right apart from the excellent food) for afternoon tea, and in Sale at MacDonalds for dinner. I mentioned that I had been listening to John Cleese’s autobiography – read by the author – and Paul suggested that I put it on for us all to listen to as we were travelling. It provided good humour and also an interesting accompaniment on the long journey home.  We got into Melbourne at about 8:30pm, and dropped Seán at the train station, before heading around to my place to unpack. I thanked and farewelled Paul – who is leaving next Wednesday for Italy and his 6-week bike tour from Sicily to Lake Como – and that was the end of the pilgrimage for 2017.

Personally, arriving home is one of my favourite parts of going on pilgrimage. The familiar, seen through eyes grown accustomed to the unfamiliar, is immensely comforting. Nevertheless, no matter what level of nirvana or spiritual enlightenment one may have achieved on pilgrimage, day-to-day concerns instantly impinge themselves back into your life. In my case, I arrived back to find that my wife had gone to be with a friend whose husband had had a heart-attack, my youngest daughter was out with friends, and – of course – remembering that my oldest daughter had recently moved out of home. As a result, my homecoming was like that of the man in the fairy-tale: the first one to welcome me home was the dog.

Later, I tweeted: “Well, I’m back”. I thought I was quoting Bilbo Baggins from the ending of The Hobbit, but a quick bit of research proved that the quote comes from Sam Gamgee upon his return from seeing Frodo off at Grey Havens. But in The Hobbit, I found the following verse from Bilbo:

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

All photos for today’s journey can be found in my Google Photos by clicking this link!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments