Updates on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage!

Dear visitors to this blog,

I am currently updating my entries on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage. I have one more posting to do to complete the account of the most recent leg of our journey, from Eden to Milton/Ulladulla in NSW. For those who have visited in the past, I have updated the last dozen entries or so with maps, pictures and statistics from the journey. I have yet to update the general entry linked on the page above. Please explore the posts and entries on this project so far – if you have any questions, please submit a comment below. We plan to head off again to complete our +1250km pilgrimage from St Mary’s birthplace to her tomb in Holy Week and Easter Week 2019.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Eleven (27 April) – Kioloa to Ulladulla via Broulee

We were up and packed and showered and breakfasted and on our way by 8am. There was a large kangaroo looking back at me through the cabin window as I was having my morning cup of tea. I had taken a short walk down to Kioloa Beach, and cannot say that I was very impressed. Josh would say “One beach looks just like another after a while anyway”. There is an old store opposite the caravan park, but it looked very closed and may not have been operating for some time. We started off walking on roadside north of the town for a stretch, but the traffic was light and there was a good verge, so this was quite pleasant. A concrete path began about 4km down the road, just before we reached Bawley Point. It was still in the process of being constructed, so maybe the plan is for it to go all the way to Kioloa, which would make this stretch very easy.

We stopped for coffee at the Bawley Takeaway. Just as we were putting on our packs on again, a woman came up to us an asked if we had walked the Camino. She had spotted the shells on our packs and was eager to tell us that she and her husband were about to do the Santiago pilgrimage in three weeks time. Sean is, of course, the only one of the three of us who had done the Spanish Camino, so he was able to converse intelligently on this subject with her. But we also told her what we were doing. I asked if she was a Catholic, and she replied that she was. She said she had attended a “home mass” celebrated by Fr Michael from the Milton parish at Bawley Point recently. Later we were to find out that these “home masses” were a part of the priest’s plan for reaching out to lapsed Catholics in the remoter regions of his parish. There is another, more “trendy” cafe not far up the road, called the Bawley Beach Cafe, at which we just bought some water so that we could use the toilets. This would have perhaps been the better place to stop for coffee, but if we had, we would not have met Larissa.

Just as we were exiting the Bawley Point settlement and heading out onto the beach, we passed a house that had a most unusual garden ornament: a five foot high model of a church or chapel. There was no inscription to indicate what it was supposed to signify – maybe it was a building of some significance to the owners of the property. In any case, Josh decided that as this was the first church we had come across today, we may as well say our prayers there. So we sang Regina Coeli and the Our Father from the other side of the fence.

A short bit of bush walking brought us onto the beach for the first time that day at Reedy Creek. In deference to Josh’s preference for avoiding precipitous cliffs, we didn’t take the loop track onto Nuggan Point, although I would have liked to have seen the views. Just before we got to the mouth of the Creek, I saw a small pile of what looked to be pale smooth pebbles on the path, but on closer inspection turned out to be seeds. They appeared to have come out of a red fleshy pod, but I couldn’t see any trees around from which they may have fallen. Perhaps a bird – eg. a large cockatoo or something – had carried them there. I didn’t recognise the plant at all, so I souvenired one of the seeds to bring home to see what it might grow into… Like all the other creeks and inlets we had planned to cross on this trip, the mouth of Reedy Creek was also “closed”, that is, you could cross on the sand bar between the two heads. However, an added complication at this point is that the track ended in a dead end over the water. It appears as if the last part of the sandy head over which the trail had once led had collapsed. We made our way down the rather steep sandy bank, trying neither to slip or fall over with our packs on our backs, and made it onto the beach without having to retrace our steps to the last pathway. After crossing the mouth, there was another bit of bush walking over Meroo Head to Meroo Beach. There is a very nice campground at Meroo Beach – it would be a pleasant place to return to at some time in the future. We walked on the seashore here for about 1.5kms to Termeil Lake. This was our last bit of beach walking for this year’s journey and will possibly be the last bit that we have to do on the entire pilgrimage (although we will be walking along the coast next year quite often). After our first lengthy walk on the beach from Lawlers Creek north of Narooma on our way to Bodalla, we were glad to see the last of it. It has been very hard on our feet and lower leg muscles. To celebrate , Josh broke open the last bottle of the Ahornberger Landbier left over from last night. In the absence of cups, we all took a swig from the bottle.

Now it was just a short walk up to the campground and then on the road and track that lead into civilisation again through the back of the Lake Tabourie community and out onto the Princes Highway again. We stopped for lunch at the Tabourie Tuckerbox on the Highway, but despite the advertising, we were informed that the kitchen was closed – Josh couldn’t even get a milkshake. They other two bought the pies and sausage rolls in the warmer. They didn’t look very appetising to me, so I just had the prepackaged sandwiches. These were okay, but the bread was drying out a bit. The date on the package was yesterday – and Sean surmised that perhaps the date was not the day the sandwiches were made on but their use-by date. He may have been right. While having lunch, I rang the Premier Motor Service bus company and booked tickets for Sean and I to return to Eden next day. It cost $75 for the two of us, but his was a concession, so I am guessing the full price was probably $40-$50.

From here we continued to walk towards Ulladulla on the Princes Highway. We passed some holiday homes facing directly onto the Highway, in what I would have found to be very unpleasant circumstances, but their backs faced onto the Tabourie Creek, which was, I suppose, the attraction. With the trucks and cars roaring past us as we walked on the footpath, I passed one fellow digging in his front garden. “Ah, the serenity!” I said to him – and he had the good grace to laugh.

After crossing the bridge over Tabourie Creek, we found that there was a good stone track running all the way along the highway about fifty metres to the right. This seemed to be a service track for an underground power line, and it provided us with easy smooth walking out of the way of the traffic all the way to the Stony Creek crossing. From there we were following the footpath into Ulladulla. I rang ahead to Therese who was meeting us at the Holy Family Catholic Church that it was our plan first to visit the Post Office and then to call into the local pub, the Marlin Hotel before coming to the Church. She quite understood and said they would be waiting for us at 5pm. The folk at the Post Office were very friendly and got out their special picture postage stamp (“We hardly ever use it!”) to stamp our passports. The pub was very ordinary and neither particularly comfortable nor with very good beer on tap (I think we had Fat Yak again), and the patrons looked at us with a good deal of suspicion.

Around at the Church we were warmly welcomed by Therese and Greg. They opened the Church up for us, so that we could say our final prayers of thanksgiving and completion of the journey there. Then we all bundled into their four-wheel drive for the ride out to the Milton Church where we were to have tea and spend the night. The food was in the back and smelled delicious. As we were driving up the highway on this 7km section of road, they were pointing out that we would have no difficulty walking on the side of the road coming back tomorrow, as the verge was very wide in most places. The sun was setting as we arrived at St Mary Star of the Sea Church on the hill on the other side of Milton. This pretty little church is beautifully located with the scenic backdrop of the green rolling countryside. Greg told us that it had all once been rainforest before the settlers came. There is a bell tower next to the Church and a “poustinia” out the back also – which Greg said is offered to homeless people as they come through the town. Inside the open church, the sanctuary lamp was all that lit up the interior.

We were shown into the “Parish House” which used to be the presbytery in the old days. The priest, Fr Michael Dyer, now lives in the old Josephite convent next to the Parish House. The parish house not only had the secretaries office and the kitchen and meeting rooms, but several bedrooms. Sean and I shared a room and gave the other to Josh. The guests for the evening meal were beginning to arrive, but we wanted to shower and make ourselves a bit respectable first. When we came out, we found that Greg and Therese had been joined by Michele, Deidre, Dianne and her husband Tony. Fr Michael came in soon afterwards. We had an enjoyable meal together, followed by conversation on both the themes of pilgrimage and ecumenism (given my role at the Archdiocese of Melbourne). We kept the night short, however, firstly because we were tired, and secondly because Fr Michael invited the three of us to join him for mass early in the morning before he set off about his parish visitations. The invitation to return next year when we recommence our journey was extended and kindly accepted. We closed the evening in prayer and with a blessing from Michael before heading to bed.

 

Today’s statistics
Planned distance: 28.91km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 29.15km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 29.5km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 38,178 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 22 floors
Up and Down: 204m (-185m)
Highest altitude: 56m
Beach walking? Yes
Highway walking? Yes (but with side track)
Hours on the road: 9 hours
Distance covered from Eden: 299.92km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 989.92km

The pictures for today can be viewed here on Google Photos, and here are the maps:

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Ten (26 April) – Surfside to Kioloa via Pebbly Beach

This morning Eileen drove Sean and me up to the Princes Highway to the point we reached on yesterday’s stroll so that we could recommence our pilgrimage from the same point. Our plan for the day was was to head towards Pebbly Beach, and from there walk over Durras Mountain to Pretty Beach and Kioloa. There are ways that you could do this that would avoid the Princes Highway, coming up along the coast, but they depend upon the mouth of Durras Lake being closed – and we were not sure if that was the case or not. We could easily have found out by calling the local National Parks office, but another consideration was distance and terrain – just about any alternative would have been longer and more difficult. So it was back on the A1 again until we reached Mount Agony Road.

There is more verge on the Highway here than there was further south, but it was still fairly difficult. We kept looking for alternative side roads, and found one detour which went along the power lines for about 1.5km from the Liberty Roadhouse almost to the Enhance petrol station. To get to this, you take a right hand turn down a private road (it says “no entry”, but we inquired of one of the locals and he said there was no problem with us walking along it). After a while this track leads into the national park. This was fine too, but it meandered a bit to avoid some pretty big hills and at one point it led back onto the Highway such that we had to bush-bash for about 50m through scrub to get back to the power line track.

Of the two petrol stations, the Liberty one is the largest and has toilets and food, but we also stopped at the Enhance, which is pretty much a glorified bottle shop with some basic groceries, pies and sausage rolls and drinks for sale. They let us refill our water from the rain water tank out the back.

Durras Drive is just past the Enhance Petrol Station, and from this point on, the power line is on private property, so it was back onto the Princes Highway for us. About 1.5km down the road we came to the boundary between Eurobodalla Shire and the Shire of Shoalhaven, making this the third shire we have travelled through on this trip (the first one being Bega Shire). I wondered too if this was the border between the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn and the Wollongong Diocese. I know that Kioloa is in Wollongong, so I expect that the border is somewhere here. That means we entered our fourth diocese on the pilgrimage (the other two being Melbourne and Sale).

Just as we got to the Mount Agony Road turnoff, Eileen pulled up with Josh on their way to Kioloa. Josh had decided to make this another rest day, and we are glad he did as it went through some heavily forested areas and had some climbs and descents that were very high and steep. Eileen was happy to drive him around to the Kioloa Beach Holiday Park and check into our cabin there. They were also carrying about 50% of our luggage, so our back packs for the day were much lighter. My shoulders still ached dreadfully, however, and I think I might investigate getting a new backpack sometime before the next section of the pilgrimage. This one has served me well – I bought it for $5 at a Salvos store – so I can’t complain for value, but I’d like to get a lighter and more comfortable pack.

After Eileen and Josh drove off, Sean and I turned right onto Mount Agony Road. The name makes this road sound dreadful, but in fact was a blessed relief after the Highway. (Apparently it was named for the agony suffered by bullock drays along this road in the old days.) There was still a fair amount of traffic, but most of it was heading for North Durras and Depot Beach, which are both south of Pebbly Beach and to which there is a turn off about two thirds of the way towards the coast, after which the traffic was more than halved. There was very little verge on this road, but it didn’t matter, as the traffic was sparse enough generally to allow us to walk on the right hand side of the road and to get off when there was oncoming traffic. The surrounding bushland here is incredibly lush. There are vines growing up the gum trees, and a tall species of palm tree with wide fan-like branches, and tree ferns everywhere. The birds are plentiful and were making quite a racket. About a quarter of the way in, the Durras Lake Walking Trail heads off to the south/right, and follows the Lake all the way down to the little Durras Lake settlement. It would be very pleasant to do this one day.

Mount Agony Road ends in what looks like a Y-Junction, with a gravel road going off on the left and the sealed road continuing off to the right. In fact, at this point the Mount Agony Road simply runs into the point of a very sharp turn on the Pebbly Beach Road. The sealed road to the right leads down to Pebbly Beach itself while the gravel road to the left leads around and (eventually) back to the Highway. I would have liked to have taken the right hand turn all the way to the bottom to Pebbly Beach itself as I had been told by locals that it is very scenic with kangaroos on the beach etc. and from the map the distance that way was no further around than taking the left hand route. Sean pointed out however that if we took that road we would descend 100m and then have to make up that 100m when we climbed back up Durras Mountain Coast Walking Track to the Old Coast Road – and that even before attempting the climb to the top of Durras Mountain itself. Unfortunately pilgrims – at least the type that are dependent on their own feet for transportation and their own backs for carrying their gear – can’t always be tourists. (Although there is an interesting historical relationship between tourism and pilgrimage – a musing that will have to wait for another time…)

So we took the left turn on the gravel section of Pebbly Beach Road, intending to turn back on the right into Old Coast Road when we came to it. Actually, the first right hand turn we came to, with a sign pointing to Kioloa, was Higgins Creek Road. That wasn’t right – yes, it would have led to Kioloa Beach but it was a main road, was further than we had planned and didn’t take us up onto the Mountain. So we doubled back and, with the help of my electronic maps and compass on my iPhone, found where the entrance to the Old Coast Road should have been. We found it, concealed and unmarked, leading sharply back the way we had come and steeply uphill. Although it was a vehicular track, it didn’t look like it was used very much. In fact I would not much like to try it with anything vehicular at all, as it was dangerously steep and covered in leaves that made it slippery for our shoes, let alone for car tyres. At the bottom of the track there were metal barriers to stop vehicles descending the track driving straight over the edge onto the other road below. These were bent out of shape in such a way as to indicate they had come in handy at least once in the past…

Climbing up the Old Coast Drive, we ascended from 110m above sea level to 270m at the top, over a distance of about one kilometre. It was strenuous work, which made me glad to have only a half-full pack. At the top the trail levels off and follows the ridge of Durras Mountain. The gumtree forest also gives way to lower and more varied vegetation, and the leaf-strewn rocky trail becomes what looks for all the world like mowed lawn path (although I can’t imagine them getting a lawn mower up that hill). In fact the whole surrounding area has the appearance of an overgrown garden. On the right hand side (East) were views of the ocean, from which a nice cool breeze was blowing; on the left hand side were views of the distant mountains. An old “trig point” greatly interested Sean. There is a cement water tank up there too, colourfully painted on one side, indicating that perhaps this was a spot with some civilisation at some point in the past. (Nb: the tank does not provide drinking water). There are also picnic tables on the summit, and so, having in fact brought a picnic with me from Eileen’s place, I sat down and ate my remaining sandwich and apple.

At this point we were back in reception and a text came through from Josh saying he was at Kioloa and had settled into the cabin and was exploring the town. He wanted to know where we were, and I replied “I think we have found the garden of Eden.” Have a look at the pictures to get some idea of what I meant – although these iphone photos don’t really do justice to the reality.

The rest of the walk was a stroll in the park for the main part. Josh said he would wait for us at Pretty Beach, and that from his vantage point the path “looked very steep”. Yet we were still ambling along with small ups and downs in a gentle decent. Fairly abruptly, the “garden” came to an end and the gumtrees returned as the dominant vegetation. When we were about a kilometre from Pretty Beach, and still going along on a fairly level path, I stopped to check our bearings. It turned out that we had missed the turn off to Pretty Beach about 750m back along the Old Coast Road. We debated what to do as we could have continued onto Dangerboard Road (doesn’t that sound fun?) and into the back of Kioloa that way (which, given the condition of the track, might be easiest for future pilgrims), but we decided to go back because Josh was waiting for us in Pretty Beach, and we had no phone reception to tell him we were altering our route. Again we found that the turn off down to the Beach was concealed and poorly signed. The little sign that was there would have been visible to people coming up the mountain but not to those coming down it, and the track was thickly covered with leaves making it almost indistinguishable from the rest of the forest floor.

Once we were on it, however, we recognised it as Josh’s “very steep” track. It reminded me of some of the downhill slopes on the Kangarutha trail to Tathra – quick rocky in places with a descent of 100m or more over about 600m. I was glad to reach the bottom, and sat down to rest to wait for Sean to catch up. As I waited, a bloke in jogging gear came up to the start of the trail putting his earphones on. “Is that your evening jog?”, I asked. “Yep”, he said, and set off up the path I had just come down. Each to his own, I guess.

Pretty Beach is a… well, pretty beach, and a popular campsite. Josh was nowhere to be seen, so Sean and I wandered about looking for him. We found our way to the beach, from which we had a good view of the mountain we had just climbed and the coastline back south. In fact, as Sean pointed out, we could just see Mount Dromedary faintly outlined in the very distant south. And we thought we had seen the last of it! Funny to think we had travelled all that way in five days of walking. The sun was setting and as is usual at this time, the kangaroos were coming out. They were plentiful and not at all fussed by the humans wandering past. Still no Josh. And still no phone reception, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I decided we would split up and sent Sean off in one direction around the camp and I set off around the other. That was a good idea, as Josh had been wandering around the circular path looking for us too and we would have kept going around in circles otherwise – we met him at the entrance to the Camp.

Josh led us back through the growing darkness toward Merry Beach, where there was a small grocery shop (kitted out with enough stuff to buy supplies if you wanted to make your own meal in your cabin) and a rather expensive restaurant. Josh decided he didn’t want to cook and would subsidise our expenses if we found the restaurant too pricey. Aside from the waiter acting more camp than all the rows of tents down at Pretty Beach, the restaurant was a good experience and worth the extra cost. It had an excellent range of bottled beers (none on tap) and a good menu. The other two had the salmon risotto, but I chose the prawn and chorizo linguini – which was flavoured with garlic and chilli and covered in lashings of shaved parmesan cheese. It was solid stodge, and just what my body needed. I was tempted to order the $38 lamb shanks, to see if they could have outdone the Bodalla Arms $20 special. I also would have had a glass of red wine with the meal, but since Josh had purchased three 500ml bottles of German beer which he had waiting for us back at the cabin, we left it at that and paid the bill. $166 for the three of us (including the $9 beers). Yikes.

We walked the remaining 500m to the Kioloa Beach Holiday Park and Josh showed us to our cabin. There were quite a few other people in the cabins nearby barbecuing their dinners and making a fair bit of noise. Showers were first on the agenda when we got in. Josh had made a comment about the sign on the taps saying that only the cold water in the kitchen was drinkable, and that all the rest of the water was from the dam. This was self-evident when I filled the shallow shower-bath with water to soak in: it was very brown and smelled strongly of clay mud. Ablutions were followed by sharing the rather sweet malty beers that Josh had bought. We only drank half of it though, and were all so tired we were ready for bed practically straight away. There was no internet, so I couldn’t upload the day’s pictures or do any direct work on the blog. We had to make our own beds, and, as it was a family cabin, Sean and I shared the bunk room while Josh slept in the queen bed in the other room. The bunks were not full sized beds, and the mattresses were fairly thin foam, so it wasn’t the most comfortable night I had spent on the trip. Nevertheless, I slept fairly soundly.

Today was one of the longest days in terms of distance so far and also the second hardest day in terms of elevation climbed – 93 “floors” according to my iPhone health app (compared to 176 on the day to Tathra and 78 on the first day to Nethercote).

Today’s statistics
Planned distance: 29km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 31.83km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 33km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 40,615 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 93 floors
Up and Down: 466m (-473m)
Highest altitude: 297m
Beach walking? No
Highway walking? Yes
Hours on the road: 9 hours
Distance covered from Eden: 270.77km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 960.77

Here are the pictures for the day on Google Photos and here are the maps:

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Nine (25 April) – Batehaven to Surfside (via Batemans Bay!)

After a very restful night at Eileen’s home, I woke around 7am. Our plans were that we would leave at 8:55 for Mass, so I had about two hours to organise myself, shower, have breakfast, edit photos etc. Josh and Sean also took a more leisurely approach to the start of the day. Having a whole kitchen to ourselves, we organised our own breakfast, and met Eileen as planned. She drove us into town, once again pointing out the many attractions. We were planning to walk back to her home in Surfside after Mass, so she pointed out the way we would need to take. The main street was closed off for the ANZAC march, but otherwise we saw that we would have a pleasant stroll through the town.

It was a true pleasure to be able to join the parishioners at mass at St Bernard’s today. It isn’t often when we are on pilgrimage that our schedule and the local mass timetable coincide. Thinking back over the years that we have been walking, we made it to mass in Warragul, Moe, Traralgon, Bairnsdale, Bombala (which wasn’t a mass, but a Sunday liturgy of the word at which I preached), Eden, Narooma and today in Batehaven. So it is a special grace to be able to join a local community in their liturgical celebrations as we are passing through.

This morning’s liturgy was, of course, requiem mass with its own propers for ANZAC day (the priest wore violet), St Mark’s day being transferred to tomorrow in Australia. Fr Martins Aloga, a Nigerian priest, has been Parish Priest here for 10 months, and was conscientiously trying to address a national celebration of which he must have had limited experience. For what it is worth, he did well, and celebrated mass devoutly. After mass, we met Sr Carmel, one of two sister Carmels in the parish (!!) both of whom are Josephites. We had our picture taken with Fr Martins, Sr Carmel, Eileen and Rebecca (the parish secretary who did so much to help organise our stay here), and Fr Martins gave us his blessing. Rebecca stamped our Pilgrim Passes with the parish stamp, and then we were ready to head off on today’s shortened itinerary.

We set off down the road to the shoreline, and followed the path through Batehaven to Batemans Bay. It was marvellous not having our backpacks or our sticks with us. Again, as for the last week and a half, the sun was shining with a nice sea breeze and a temperature in the low twenties. We stopped at an unusual coffee shop that specialised in icecream and bagels. I could not choose whether to have the coffee or the icecream, so I had an affogato (which was both, with a biscuit added, and cheaper than having both).

We then headed into Batemans Bay, and Josh thought it would be fitting if we stopped for a beer at the RSL club. We figured that that was what the “Soldiers Club” was, and that did seem to be where the main ANZAC function was being held (given all the uniforms about), so we went in and found something like the RACV club in Melbourne: it was a mini shopping centre! Upstairs the bar and restaurant area was enormous, and looked out to nice views of the Clyde River. We ordered our beers – I had a very nice IPA made in Canberra by the Bentspoke brewery. Then Josh announced his intention to have lunch here – which I had not intended as there was plenty laid on by our hostess back in Surfside. However, they did a special on Beef and Bean Soup for $6.50, and that was cheaper than our beer, so I went with it. And I am very glad I did, as it was one of the heartiest and tastiest soups I have had in ages.

Finally back on the road again, we wandered down the main wharf to the bridge. At this point we decided that rather than take the Princes Highway route (spit, choke) we would go around the Wharf Road on the north side of the Clyde to Karoola Crescent and then up to Outlook Drive. This was longer, but very pleasant. Given how busy it is on the south side of the river, it is surprisingly quiet on the north side. We arrived back at Eileen’s home at half past two. We did our washing and I began writing up my blog while Sean had a nap. I had intended to spend time getting our finances all worked out, but it took me so long to finish the account of yesterday (and for some reason I can’t get pictures to upload to the blog, so there are no maps for today or yesterday), that not much got done in that department.

We had dinner with Eileen at 6:30pm – “Dinner is served!” came over a loud speaker calling us upstairs!! A lovely roast chicken dinner with a 2008 Chardonnay and again a lively conversation about life and family. Josh is planning not to do tomorrow’s walk which goes through some fairly remote areas. Instead, Eileen will drive him to Kioloa ahead of us, and he will take much of our extra luggage so our backpacks are lighter. It will be a hard day for Sean and me – we have been arguing about the route, but are now settled on the way. There will be major patches without phone reception, so we don’t want a repeat of our walk into Tathra. I’ll be heading to bed soon, after doing a bit more on my finances for the trip – it is just on 9:40pm now.

Today’s statistics
Planned distance: 5km
Measured distance by actual route taken (Gaia maps recording): 10.59km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 10.7km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 13,760 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 10 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 12m (-17m)
Highest altitude: 26m – starting point at the Church
Beach walking? No
Highway walking? Yes (but just over the bridge and there was a pedestrian path)
Hours on the road: 2.5 hours
Distance covered from Eden: 238.94km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 928.94km

Click here for the the pictures for today on Google Photos, and here are the maps.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Eight (24 April) – Moruya to Batehaven via Broulee

(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.

Today’s statistics
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

The pictures for today may be found by clicking here to take you to Google Photos

And the maps are here:

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Seven (23 April) – Bodalla to Moruya via the Princes Highway

Today we did something that we have not done in all the previous 34 days of walking, and we did it only because we had no choice.

The Way from Bodalla to Moruya is wide, open countryside, with many lakes and creeks and rivers. The rural landscape is green, dotted with sheep and cows. The bellbirds sing in the trees. Here and there is a country church on a hill. In the distance is the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. We even had lunch in a pine glade on the shore of an inlet near an oyster farm. The only problem with this whole idyllic picture is that all day we were walking with our elbows less than a metre from constant traffic going 100km/hr in both directions on Australia’s Highway No. 1, the Princes Highway.

There is no way we would have walked this if we had had any other choice. In fact, we did have other choices. We had a forest route all worked out that was about 32kms long. This route would have taken Bumbo Road to the left of the Highway about six kilometres down the Highway, and then up Western Boundary Road, Little Sugarloaf Road and Wamban Road into Moruya. But the problem with this was, aside from the distance, the burning off going on in the forest at the moment. We could have taken a route that Daniel recommended on Saturday night after about 14km along the Highway towards the coast on Bingie and Congo Road, but this would also have added about 7kms to the route. So in the end, we stayed on the Highway all the way until we came to Noads Drive, and then, with great relief, we took the back way into Moruya. The effect of stepping off the Highway and onto the country road was almost like yesterday when we finally stepped off the beach onto the bushland track. The constant roar of the traffic was akin to the constant roar of the ocean, and walking through weeds on the side of the road like trying to find a path through soft sand. Some of the weeds, by the way, are a real pain, especially a little daisy-like plant that has small spear-like seeds which stick to your socks and trousers. And, of course, there was the constant worry about snakes, especially after having seen a baby snake on the side of the road soon after we left Bodalla.

I woke quite early this morning, and began work on the blog. My iPad case external keyboard wasn’t working for some reason (a little hissy fit in which the s key was totally non functional and the delete key made /// marks – it is back to normal now) so I had to type the whole thing on the iPad internal keyboard which, given I am using an iPad mini on this trip and I have very large hands, was a pain in the digits. So it ended up that the others were off exploring the town and having breakfast in the bakery before I joined 9am. The bakery is very good by the way – they don’t actually serve breakfast, but they have nice pies and quiches and sausage rolls and, of course, coffee. We also bought sandwiches for lunch from there in presealed containers so they were fresh when we had them later on.

The Bodalla Dairy is an attraction for visitors. This time we didn’t buy any cheese to take with us (I didn’t need more weight in my pack) but we did taste the samples that were put out.

The REAL attraction for the ecclesiastically minded in Bodalla is the Anglican Parish Church of All Saints. This 1881 church is a real architectural gem. It was built at the cost of 13,000 pounds at the time (nb. by Moruya builder Ziegler, the same as the stone mason who made the tombstones in the Central Tilba historical cemetery that we visited – I was interested in this because my step-Grandmother was a Ziegler) under the patronage of the Mort family. There is an historical story here, because one of the Morts married a Catholic and they funded the building of the less grand, but still interesting, St Edmund’s Catholic Church. (Nb. We didn’t return the 1km down the road to look at St Edmund’s in the daylight – it was too far and the church was closed anyway).

There was a “mini” labyrinth in the garden of the Church, and Josh is a bit of a devotee of this form of meditation. Given that the labyrinth is itself a kind of micro-pilgrimage, it seemed appropriate that we walk it. So I followed him as we chanted the Regina Coeli and Lord’s prayer, which he followed up with a Latin hymn and some more versicles, which took just long enough to take us to the centre and out again. We then looked at the meditation garden and the memorial garden before going inside the church itself.

Which is a marvel. Just look at the pictures. They say it all. If ever we can achieve an ecumenical accord with our Anglican brethren and sistern, this is one bit of their patrimony which would fit perfectly in the Catholic tradition. If we are practicing Receptive Ecumenism, I want to receive this from the Anglicans. (Or am I breaking the 10th Commandment – Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house of worship…?). For good measure, we sang “Who would true valour see” and then, since we were indeed supposed to be being pilgrims, set of down the highway finally at 10:15am.

The first thing of interest that we saw along the road was a little black baby snake curled up on the edge of the bitumen. We kept a good distance, because I have been warned that these little buggers can be as venomous as their elders. But he was, to quote a joke I told Josh and Sean the other day about a sick mouse, “very small”.

One reason we were coming this way around South Eastern Australia on the pilgrimage instead of on the “deadly Hume” was precisely to avoid the “deadly” bit. But I encountered three road-side shrines to people who had died on this stretch of the Princes Highway today. The youngest was for a little girl – Madeleine – who was born in 1997 and died in 2002.

Another surprise along the road that I was not expecting was the Coila Creek Service Centre, marked by a large “crashed” pink airplane. You can miss it driving let alone walking, but I had missed its existence on the map – possibly because I was not planning on coming this way. It would have been an excellent place to get lunch, but instead we had lunched by the oyster farm just down the road in Turlinjah on our bakery sandwiches. The Service Station sold prawns in 1kg bags for $25, and that would have made a very nice lunch for three – although Josh says “I don’t eat bottom feeders”. It also sells cold drinks, which would have saved us carrying a bit of water too.

After Turlinjah, you pass the turn off to Tuross Heads, which appeared very popular indeed, with many vehicles going in and out of the road in that direction. Interestingly, many of them were tradies, which seemed to indicate a growing population down the road. On a hill nearby is an old Church, very picturesque in its setting, but it seems to be disused. There is no sign, but at the same time no indication that it is being used as a residence either.

After that it was just a slog until we finally got off the HIghway at Noads Drive, which took us around the back onto the Congo Road and into Moruya from the East along South Head Road. At around Keightley Street, just as you pass the first homes on the edge of town, a really good bike path begins that takes you all the way into town. Just as we were thanking God for this treat, an even greater joy appeared: an abandoned Woolworths shopping trolley! Josh joked that we could put our backpacks in it an push it back into Moruya, and was a little scandalised when I did exactly this. Josh didn’t want to look silly so he pushed on, but Sean accepted my offer to push his pack for him too. It must have been a miraculous trolley, because it travelled smooth and straight. I dropped it off in town when we passed Woolworths, so we made a better impression upon walking up Queen Street to the Church.

The Church and Presbytery are truly substantial buildings. Rachel, the parish secretary, met us and gave us “kind admittance” (as it says in the third Eucharistic Prayer) to the presbytery) and showed us our large upstairs bedrooms. I put a whole load of washing on for the three of us, and then had a very long hot bath. My shoulders are beginning to chafe from the backpack. I might look into getting something like wool covers for the straps next year. I did find some pieces of firm foam on the road today which I used to give some relief (again, “the Camino provides”). We went out to dinner at the Adelaide Hotel (it seemed appropriate for a South Australian), but although the food was good and well priced (I had salt and pepper prawns for $17) the menu was meagre and the meal was not large enough. Sean wanted to buy some stuff for breakfast so we went around to Woolies and got some porridge and milk and such, and also bought a pack of pasta and a container of carbonara sauce which we cooked up when we got home for “hobbits second dinner”. As the beer choice at the Adelaide was also very disappointing, we also bought too large bottles of Guinness stout which we drank with our pasta (yes, a somewhat odd combination, but the others did not feel like red wine).

I did a bit of work on my blog and then Cathy called and we talked for a while and I ended up going to bed by about 9:30am.

Today’s statistics
Planned distance: 26.07km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 25.71km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 27.3km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 34,694 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 11 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 153m (-179m)
Highest altitude: 61m
Beach walking? No
Highway walking? Yes, almost the whole way – no alternative
Hours on the road: 7.5 hours
Distance covered from Eden: 197.02km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 887.02km

Click here for the Google Photos album for today. And here is the map:

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Six (22 April) – Narooma to Bodalla via Potato Point

I woke early before dawn on Sunday morning having slept like a log in the big comfortable bed at Marg Latimer’s home. The good food and wine and company (and, to be honest, probably the hot bath) worked wonders on my body and I felt totally refreshed. But as couldn’t get back to sleep I went out to the main living room and wrote up my journal for the day before. As I was doing so the sun rose over Lake Mummuga, and I could see what appealed to Marg so strongly when she bought this block of land. In her living room, the lounge chairs do not face the TV – they face the view. Later in the morning, when everyone was up and preparing for Mass, I sat in one of these chairs just to take in the peacefulness of it all – and promptly fell asleep again.

Mass was at 9:30am in Narooma. We picked up Lippy (I hope I have her name right), a Samoan woman who leads the choir. At the church, we met up with our dinner companions from last night, and met Fr Steve Astill, a Jesuit priest in his seventies who was filling in for the parish priest, Fr Joseph Tran, who is on Sabbatical. He welcomed us at the beginning of the service. The music for the mass was Paul Taylor’s St Francis Mass and hymns were Love Divine, The Lord’s My Shepherd (Crimond), and Christ is made the Sure Foundation, so we had a good sing. The choir also sung with great gusto. Quite a few people at mass including many young families. The homily was, as we had been told to expect, excellent. The one take away from it was Fr Astill’s opening line: we have an instinct for self preservation, but our vocation is self-sacrifice. He was drawing upon the gospel text for the day, which was “ the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Josh, Sean and I were asked to take up the offertory gifts.

After mass they had a morning tea out in the sunshine where we were able to meet other members of the congregation. We had our pilgrim passes stamped with the parish seal, and Fr Astill gave us his blessing. After a photo with everyone, we set off at 11am. Marg had kindly agreed to take our backpacks around to the Lawlers Creek car park in Dalmeny, about ten kilometres down the track, and to purchase our lunches from the local Vietnamese bakery. So we are entirely unencumbered with only our stocks in our hands. It was a wonderful feeling to be so free! We headed down the Main Street to the foreshore where there was a Sunday market in progress and across the bridge to the board walk over the waters edge. Marg told us that it was not unusual to see plenty of marine life from this path, including stingrays, but today the tide was a fair way out so nothing was on display except the excellent views.

The sun was shining and the sea breeze blowing as we headed onto one of the nicest stretches of our walk so far, a 6.6km stretch of shared bike way from Narooma to Dalmeny built entirely by volunteer labour and donations of the locals. A great initiative – which makes one wonder why the local council didn’t do it themselves. I guess as the old saying goes, if you want something done… As we had been on our way to Mass, Marg had pointed out the Park that the Lions Club had built and funded, including a toilet block with a large Lion painted on it by a local school group. Knowing this toilet block was there, I was particularly planning on a visit, so you can imagine how pleased I was to find a sign saying that the facilities were temporarily closed and apologising “for the inconvenience”! We made good time along this path, covering the ten kilometres from the church in two hours, arriving just on 1pm.

At the car park at the end of the trail, we found not only Marg, but Lippy and Pauline (Fr Luke Verrell’s mother) and her grandson Luke (named, as he proudly informed me, after his uncle). After we had eaten our excellent ham salad rolls – followed by cream filled chocolate eclairs that Marg thought would give us added energy (a challenge to eat gracefully in company with my moustache!) all four joined us for the first kilometre of walking along the beach in the Eurobodalla National Park. We were headed, on Daniel’s advice from last night, for Potato Point, a further six kilometres down the road. We set off at 1:30pm, and enjoyed pleasant conversation along the way. It reminded me of being on the Aussie Camino, with the beach walking and the changing groups chatting as we went along. Young Luke was fascinated at what we were attempting to do. I told him that he was now a pilgrim himself, having completed one kilometre of the MacKillop-Woods Way – when he was older he could come back and do the other 1249!

We had chosen this route for two reasons, firstly to avoid the Princes Highway, and secondly because there appeared to be a good amount of burning off going on in the forests. The local rural fire service was taking every opportunity of the calm weather for “waste reduction”. But with our heavy backpacks, the beach walking was hard going. Sand that would normally have supported our weight crunched under foot and our feet sank deeper in than normal. Sean and I were walking in bare feet as this felt a lot better and gave our feet a chance of being dipped in the breaking surf, but Josh kept his boots on and stuck to the edge of the shore. Nevertheless, it was exhausting either way, and what time we had made up on the a earlier in the day was lost in this exercise. The next five kilometres after farewelling our hosts took us n hour and a half, so that it was 3:30pm by the time we got to Jemisons Point, just south of Potato Point. Along the way we had passed the closed mouths of both Whittakers Creek and Lake Tarourga. The tide was out as we were walking, but in a few places, it looked as if the beach might be impassable at very high tide.

At Jemisons Point, we took the track leading west through the forest instead of going into Potato Point – a very pretty stretch of bushland, marred only by three young kids on their mini trail bikes and a smoking pile of rubbish that looked to have recently burned. We were a little worried by the latter, given recent events. The fire was practically out but the coals were still hot. I tried looking up the fire service on my phone to find a number to call, but could only see 000, and wasn’t sure if this was really an emergency. In any case, I was saved from the trouble by a couple of guys driving up behind me in the Potato Point fire ute – they had already been informed of it. I asked whether dialling 000 would have been appropriate in the conditions, and they assured me that it would have been the correct course of action.

We were now on the open sealed road between Potato Point and Bodalla, and were again concerned as it was getting late. It is 9.5km from Jemisons Point to the centre of Bodalla, and it was now 4:20pm. Thankfully there was no chance of getting lost on such a major road. It was an awkward time though for Josh’s vertigo anxiety to hit again – which seems to be exacerbated by the combination of bushland and rising paths, and we were going through just this sort of terrain now, even though the highest point on the road is just over 100 metres. He felt better when we took a detour along the power line where he could see clearly around him for some distance and there were no steep slopes on the side of the path.

As is usual for me, the combination of anxiety about our accommodation for the night (I had had no confirmation of our booking from the pub nor had I been able to raise them on the phone) and the drawing near of the end of another long day led me to speed ahead of my brethren. I put some music on to lift my drooping spirit, and was soon fairly dancing down the road. It was dark by the time I arrive at St Edmund’s Catholic Church on the corner of Potato Point Road and the Princes Highway at 5:50pm and I sat and waited for the others to catch up (saying a few prayers to the sainted martyr for strength for our journey). According to my calculations, we had walked 27km today.

The Bodalla Arms was another kilometre or so down the road from the Church, and I was glad to see the light on. We walked in and greeted the four or five locals in the bar, which was unattended. One rang the bell for the publican. As we waited for a response, we noted that they had beer on tap from the PACT brewery in Canberra and planned our first drinks. When Nick arrived, he said “Are you the Mary MacKillop fellas?”, and I knew all was okay. He showed us around to our rooms out the back. The hotel is quite large, but not all the rooms seem to be functional for accomodating guests. Josh had a room far down the passageway and around a few bends near the bathroom, while Sean and I had a room each at the other end towards the front of the pub – mine with a window directly onto the highway. I helped Nick put a sheet and a doona on the double bed in my room, and then we all went back to the bar for a drink or two and some food. Michelle, Nick’s partner, was in the kitchen cooking when we ordered our meals. They were very reasonably priced – I ordered the Lamb Shank for $20. Josh was still buying drinks for us (according to his promise that Sean and I would each receive the first $60 drinks on him as our birthday gifts), so we had a glass of the PACT Lager and one of the Brown Ale. Our meals arrived – big plates well filled with very tasty food. My lamb shank was in a nice gravy with a huge serving of potato mash and veggies. Michelle came out to say hi, and that she had been doing some research into her family tree and discovered a connection with St Mary on the MacDonald side of her family. She happily signed our pilgrim passes in lieu of a stamp.

We had been warned by the Narooma locals that the Bodalla pub would be rough, and it is that, but it is also comfortable and cheap, just $40 a room. And again, added luxury, a bath to soak in after dinner and before bed. What more could a pilgrim ask for? After getting into bed at 8:30pm and putting in my ear plugs, I began to work on the photos of the day, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and soon fell fast asleep.

Today’s statistics
Planned distance: 23.0km (but we went on a different route than planned)
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 26.8km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 26.9km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 35,312 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 23 floors
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 188m (-173m)
Highest altitude: 93m
Beach walking? Yes, quite a bit
Highway walking? Last 1km at the end of the day in Bodalla
Hours on the road: 7.5 hours
Distance covered from Eden: 171.31km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 861.31km

Pictures for today are here, and here are the maps.

 

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day Five (Saturday 21 April) – Central Tilba to Narooma on the Old Highway

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.

Today’s statistics
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.

 

 

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018: Day Four (Friday 20 April) – Murrah Hall to Central Tilba, via Bermagui

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.

Today’s statistics
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:

 

 

 

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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.

 

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