I woke only once during the night, about 12:30pm, having been asleep for more than 4 hours. But I went straight back to sleep and didn’t wake again until 5am, after 9 hours of sleep. That is the longest that I have slept on this trip so far.
At this point, I got out of bed and began doing some catch up blogging/journaling. I wrote up both our Rest Day on Easter Monday and completed the story for Tuesday, and posted both. At 6am, I heard the shots being fired at the Anzac Day memorial service down the road. By the time I had finished my blogs, Josh and Sean were waking up. I had hoped to have more time this morning, but the minutes just seem to slip away when we are preparing to leave and we needed to be down to catch the 9am ferry this morning. We had a long day ahead of us – 27 km. I had walked further on Good Friday, but this would be the longest walk that either of the other two had done on this trip. I estimated that it could take us at least eight hours, if not nine, which would mean that we would definitely be getting in after dark unless we moved quickly.
Moya came in to farewell us this morning. Being a justice of the peace, she used her JP stamp to mark our pilgrim passports – a first! Ostensibly, it attests that the passports are a true and correct record of our pilgrimage! We headed down to the ferry via the RSL club, where we paid our respects at the memorial. There is a memorial near the jetty which commemorates the first Anzac Day service to be held in Bundeena on 25 April 1946 – 73 years ago. While we were waiting for the ferry, Moya and her friend Fran caught up with us. They had walked down to see us off and wanted to take a picture of us all together. This was indeed a kindness, as we do not have many pictures of all of us together.
The ferry which took us across to the mainland was slightly older than that. Apparently it will turn 80 years old in May! And still going strong. The crossing was a pleasant little harbour cruise for $6.80 each. When we arrived at the other end, we each bought a coffee at the little coffee and souvenir shop on the jetty. The girl behind the counter was very chatty, so we told her what we were doing. She knew who Mary MacKillop was and understood what were doing. She asked if we were all friends, and I replied: “Well, we were when we all started off!” She also offered to take our photo together. Sean bought me a souvenir Cronulla Ferries enamel mug. “That’s going straight to the Office for Tea and Cake”, I told him.
I was anxious to head off and set off at my normal pace, before Josh reminded me that we had to take today gently, applying the Leunig dictum of regular rests. I found this a little frustrating during the day as my “super power” (as Josh calls it) of getting faster and faster toward the end of the journey was starting to kick in. The route from the Cronulla wharf to Botany Bay is not direct, but basically we headed north past the Woolooware Station until we came out near the Sharks Rugby Club. On the way, Fr Cameron Forbes rang to give his condolences with regard to my father’s death and also to discuss leave arrangements. He was ringing from Indonesia, and we were on the move (I was supposed to be navigating), so we did not talk for long.
We came out onto Captain Cook Drive, where the police were out in force breath-testing drivers, and went through the Solander Fields onto the bike path that leads around the bay. Once again, what a difference a good path makes. Without this path, this end of the walk would be very unpleasant, but it converts the route into quite a nature path, skirting the coast between the mangroves and the industrial areas. There are some offices and some residential appartments along here, but their view of the bay is obscured by the trees along the path. Some have tried removing these trees, but the local council has put up “shame signs” saying that this area has been vandalised and the council will replant five trees for every one destroyed! As the path approaches Taren Point Road and Captain Cook Bridge, the industrial section gives way to a residential area, where the views are great but where the houses are still built on mudflats. Sydney folk will build a house anywhere if it has a view.
We crossed the Captain Cook Bridge (Josh needed just a little moral support to overcome his vertigo, so I didn’t get a lot of time for taking phots), and headed off around the bay again towards the west. As we passed the sailing club, some people asked us where we were walking from. When we replied “Melbourne” they let out some cheers of encouragement and said “Almost there!” At this point we made a significant change in our planned route. We had intended to walk along the bay, but this would have been quite exposed to the sun (it was very warm), lots of people (the Anzac Day holiday had again brought out the crowds), and traffic. Instead, we found a bit of a track – nothing really clear – leading up along a waterway known as the Bado-berong Creek. The creek was more of a stinking drain, and the grassland and trees around it were an odd assortment of parkland, horse agistment, and overgrown jungle – even some market gardens further up the path. We decided to take this route, as it more or less led directly north to the Ramsgate RSL club where we planned to stop for dinner. The path though is not defined or direct, and between Russell Street and Sandringham Street we could find no through access and had to turn around about wandering in circles through the bushes. But from Sandringham Street onwards, we had no difficulty finding our way to the RSL.
We stopped for Yum Cha at the RSL – which I thought was a bit strange, but Josh didn’t think so. He said that it would have been strange if it were a sushi bar. The girls at the bar were very interested in our walk, one of them had clearly been to St Mary’s tomb and had said “You’ll love it when you get there.” The service was a little slow at first, but then the food started coming quick and fast. We had (if I can remember some dishes), deep fried prawn dumplings, duck, pork bun, dim sims, spring rolls and a number of other things before finishing with mango pancakes. We had checked our bags into the cloak room, and when they brought them out for us, they commented that my pack was much heavier than the others. I had been suffering from a bit of an aching shoulder, which was the first time o this trip that my new AARN backpack had given me any problems at all, so I thought that maybe I needed to offload something. The first to go was Sean’s muesli/granola mix – that got rid of about half a kg. I ate fruit I had brought, and drank some of the water. It wasn’t much, but it felt lighter afterwards.
We set off again, following the creek line through the Rotary Park. At points there was a proper trail here, other times we were just following where a lawn mower had clearly gone through the overgrown reeds with the hope that there was an opening at the other end, but the overall effect of this path was peace and quite and coolness and shade. At times we would hardly have known ourselves to have been in the Great City. After the Rotary Park was the Leo Smith Reserve, then Scarborough Park, then the Civic Avenue Reserve, then past the Rockdale Bicentennial Park, before finally coming out into Brighton-Le-Sands. At some sections of this walk the creek opened up into quite a wide waterway. But once we hit Brighton-Le-Sands, we were in built up suburbia. And by God, it was ugly. There was nothing at all to recommend the architecture for several kilometres. We passed St Thomas More Church, but it was closed up as tight as Fort Knox.
We continued up Francis Avenue to Bestic Street where we crossed but again did not follow our original planned route. Instead of following Muddy Creek, we went up a shady gap between the sports fields and the houses on the western side, then between some market gardens and the Riverine Park Wetlands. Then we kept going north through Banksia Field and Eve Street Wetlands. Finally we came out onto the bike path that led underneath the M5 East road. This took us on along Marsh Street and toward Airport Drive, but before crossing the bridge, we needed a break. The Novotel Hotel is on that side of the bridge, and I went ahead to see if we could find someone for a coffee or a drink in the hotel. Instead I found a small coffee shop just closing up. The barista said he would be happy to make us a coffee each before closing. After I found Josh and Sean, who had lost me as I was walking around the hotel precinct, we did enjoy a coffee and a cool drink each. The Barista wanted to know if the coffee was as good as the coffee in Melbourne, and we said he could tell his mates that we had walked 1250 km for a cup of his coffee! It was 4pm already, so I rang Fr Tony at the Chevalier Centre to say I didn’t think we would be in til 6pm. We ended up spending about 40 minutes there, which put us very behind schedule.
We then headed up over the Airport Drive bridge over Cooks River and followed the bike path past the Airport along Alexandra Canal. Sean and I, more so than Josh, I think, were fascinated by the planes coming in to land and trying to photograph them. I caught some great video footage of a plane coming in right above our heads. The sun was setting by the time we passed the Nigel Love Bridge and came out into Coward Street in Mascot. This lead us directly East for some distance, until we turned up Maloney Street in Roseberry. It was now 6pm and in the middle of this street, quite apart from any other shops, we came across a street side pizza shop. I proposed that we stop for dinner, since there was nothing particularly close to the Chevalier Centre, and once we arrived we were unlikely to want to go out again. This decision was met with approval, and we ordered the 2 large pizza meal deal with garlic bread and soft drink – a Greek Lamb pizza (in honour of the Greek Orthodox Easter this weekend – we had passed a Church where they were beginning their Maundy Thursday liturgy) and a cherry tomato, parmesan and prosciutto pizza. Both were excellent. I had some red wine left over from last night in one of my drink bottles, so we made quite a feast of it. Our “last supper” before the big day.
I had called Fr Tony to let him know that we had decided to stop for dinner, a decision he agreed with and told us not to worry – he was waiting for us. At 6:45 we headed off again, it now being quite dark, and made our way over the M1/Southern Cross Drive on Gardeners Road, before turning north into Tunstall Avenue. We clearly had arrived in the “nice part of town”, as the general architecture improved considerably and there were nice lawns out the front of the houses, where just the other side of the M1 were derelict looking flats. Fr Tony rang to ask where we were, and when I replied that we were on Tunstall Avenue, he told us not to go around the long way, but that he would come and meet us at the gate to the oval on their property, which was at the highest point of the Avenue.
It was a glad meeting, being the latest of any of our arrivals since our fateful Tathra experience. He led us by the light of my iPhone torch (also shades of Tathra) across the oval to the large imposing buildings which were once the Seminary of the Order of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, but is now a retreat centre. He showed us inside, pointed out where we could have breakfast, signed and stamped our pilgrim passes, gave us our keys and wifi passwords, and told us that our stay would be gratis – for which we are very grateful. Josh quickly went off to shower and to bed, while I started trying to catch up on the blog and upload my photos and Sean worked on his journey. I sat in the Breakfast room and drank tea while writing until about 10:30pm when I needed to go to bed.