MWW2019 – Day 1: Conjola to Milton (Yea, though I walk through the Valley of Agony…)

Today started really well – but ended in agony.

Margaret cooked us bacon and eggs for breakfast, and then drove us to Milton. Virginia joined us to make a party of four. We had a lovely drive in beautiful sunny weather. Passing through Bodalla, Sean asked to stop so that we could photograph the Catholic Church in daylight, as it was dark last year when we walked past. We were very lucky to find a tradie working on some repairs to the exterior of the sanctuary, so the Church was open. This historical wooden building – built by the same family who built the stone Anglican Church on the other side of town – is only used these days for mass on two Thursdays a month, and on the 5th Sundays, so it is rarely open. Neither Margaret or Virginia had ever been inside either. Take the time to look at the photographs – it is really very special. The altar was not dressed (crucifix and candles were over on the Lady Chapel altar). The Eucharist is not reserved there, but the tabernacle is very nice. The real oddity was the oil lamps for lighting!

As we passed the Bodalla Arms Hotel, where we stayed last year, we noticed that it had closed. This is very sad, as now there is only the rather expensive motel in Bodalla to stay in. Also sad, as it means that the family who were running it were unable to make a go of their attempt to start a new life running a country pub.

We stopped at a very popular but out of the way coffee shop in Moruya for coffee. Again, see the pictures. The locals obviously know about it and head there for their morning cups routinely.

Moving further on, we went through Batemans Bay where they are building a new bridge over the inlet. This will, I think, completely spoil the iconic appearance of the current bridge there, but I guess the almighty automobile has first priority. We would have liked to have called in on Eileen, with whom we stayed last year, but she had earlier informed us that she and her husband would be going on a long overdue and well earned holiday over the Easter break.

And so we finally came to Ulladulla and on through to Milton, where we stopped at the  bakery and had some of their famous pies for lunch. They were very nice – but the pie shop at Glengarry in Gippsland wins hands down, I think. For that matter, the Shell Roadhouse at Ballarat on the highway used to make some pretty special pies too, but sadly that has closed and been replaced by some over expensive health food place…

So finally we arrived at Milton, and back at St Mary’s Star of the Sea. Therese was in the office to welcome us and showed Margaret and Virginia around. I changed into my hiking gear and Margaret and Virginia said goodbye to Sean (he had decided not to walk this day due to his sore knee) and then drove me out to the Murray’s Road turn-off at Cunjola. There we said our farewells, and I promised that Cathy and I would return within the year to see our friends at Narooma once again.

I waved them off, and set off. I was travelling light, without my pack and only with my stocks, iPhone and a bottle of water. It was clearly going to be a tough walk, and I didn’t want to be encumbered. A little way down the road, I came to the Cunjola Cemetery, and  went in to pray for the faithful departed. There I saw the first of what I saw plenty of on the rest of the way: a very large spider had built its nest across my path. I found myself dodging them for the rest of the day.

Returning to the Highway, I was faced with the difficulty of an extremely busy road with a very small verge on the side on which to walk. This difficulty became immense when I came to the Myrtle Gully bridge. There was no room to walk on the bridge, and the drop down to the Gully was deep and overgrown. I saw on the other side (the Eastern side of the bridge) a track leading down into the Gully, and decided to take that. I waited for a ute to go past, and then stepped out onto the road. Immediately I felt something as if someone had struck me across the back of the left leg with a broom handle. I stumbled, but the middle of the Princes Highway is nowhere to stop, and I hobbled to the other side. Looking back, I could see nothing. At first, I wondered if I had been bitten by a snake, but pulling up my compression pants leg, I could only see a small bruise in the area – not cuts. I decided that the best answer is that I was hit by a stone thrown up by the passing ute. Sean later suggested that what I felt might just have been my muscle ”popping”, something he says he has felt at times. Consulting my myotherapist by text this evening, he says there is a possibility that I have a calf-strain, but we can only wait to see.

In any case, my calf muscles were suddenly very taught and painful, so that I had difficulty stepping out of a back-step on my left foot. I still had at least 11km to go, and I thought that the best thing was just to push on. Not far along, I found an old rag on the side of the road, which I tore into strips and used to strap my calf muscles. This was the right thing to do, according to my myotherapist’s later advice. (Tomorrow I will buy tubing straps to wear for a few days).

The track I was on became a back road that led around the gully – I think it was part of the old Highway before the bridge was built – as it was sealed, but didn’t really lead anywhere. I came across other sections of this old road along the way too, and they were the only parts of the entire journey that was easy walking. Otherwise, I was constantly forced to chose between bashing through bush (and spiders) on the side of the road or edging my way along the highway itself. It was actually easier on my injured calf when I was clambering through uneven ground, and hardest when I was walking on the flat bitumen. At Currowar Creek, I had to go under a bridge through a cow paddock. It was muddy and shitty, but the creek did not flow right through, and I found a solid path across. Climbing over the barbed-wire fence on the other side my injured leg totally seized up and I just about fell backwards into a nest of spiders webs. To quote Ron Weasley, “Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be butterflies?”

When I came out into the valley, which earlier had looked so beautiful, I could see the Church on the hill outside Milton in the distance. The Valley had looked so beautiful and inviting when I set out today – now it looked like 9kms of agony to endure. Inspired by this thought, I began to pray the Rosary (on my fingers as I had left my beads at the church) – the Sorrowful Mysteries, starting with the Agony in the Garden. This at least channeled my pain, as I “offered it up” in union with our Lord’s own suffering on the way of the Cross. The last section of the road coming up the hill into Milton had no verge on it at all, and I had to scramble on the precipitous rock edge the other side of the traffic barrier. To my delight (a little ray of sunshine in the fast gathering gloom) I found a $10 note among the debris on the side of the road! The Camino provides!

Sean was up on the embankment on the other side of the road as I approached Corks Lane, photographing my arrival. In the end, it took me 3hrs and 40 minutes to walk the 12.4km back to the Church. Between 3 and 4 km/hr, which is not too bad.

I cleaned up and showered, took one of Sean’s codeine tablets, and used a proper bandage to strap my leg. We discussed what to do for dinner, and decided to make our way into town and buy food for dinner, breakfast and lunch tomorrow from the local IGA (which was open until 8pm). We walked the 2km round trip (not doing too bad at this point with the leg), and came back with sausages, bread and salad for dinner, yoghurt and milk and cereal for breakfast, and fruit, a tin of dolmades and kranskys for lunch, all for about $40. I also bought Panadol, not having brought any with me. Back at the house, I fried up the sausages and Sean made the salad, and we had a very nice dinner. No alcohol tonight due to the medication, as I took some anti-inflammatories with the meal. A cup of tea had to suffice.

Then to call Cathy to let her know what had happened, and my mother to find out how my father is doing (the answer is that he was awake and eating all his meals todays, so that’s good). Then called Josh, who is currently in Sydney and will be travelling down tomorrow and meeting us at Sussex Inlet.

We will have to see how things go from here. I need to accept that I am human, and if I cannot walk, I will just have to get alternative transport. I will keep up with the itinerary and walk when I can. To this point, I have walked every step of the way from Fitzroy, so it will be very annoying to now have to miss sections. But maybe this is a lesson in humility.

At this point, Sean and I have decided that the section of highway from Milton to Conjola is impassible (despite me actually “passing” it – just). Any future pilgrims will simply have to hitch a ride over this section if they want to arrive in one piece. At least until a “St John of the Nettle” (San Juan de la Ortega) or St Dominic de le Calzada comes along and builds a proper path and bridges etc for future MWW pilgrims. One could view it the same way we view Sussex Inlet or Botany Bay – since they are authentic barriers to walking, taking alternative transport is not cheating!

Please pray for us, dear Reader, as we will for you.

In the meantime, today’s photos are all here!

Distance: 12.36km
Elevation: 207m (-129m)
Average Speed: 3.4km/h
Total Time: 3hrs 38mins

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MWW 2019 – Day 0: Melbourne to Narooma (“This was your idea, you know…”)

So, I walked out the front door and turned left.

And left again, and left again and kept walking to the train station. The final leg of the MacKillop-Woods Way pilgrimage from St Mary MacKillop’s birthplace to her tomb had begun.

I took the train into the city where I dropped into my office to print out the guidebooks and maps for Josh and Sean. Then I went to the 6pm Palm Sunday Mass at St Patricks, before heading around to Sean’s home in Fitzroy where he had prepared a great meal of egg and bacon pie and roast vegetables. I had brought along a bottle of wine, so Sean, his landlord Jim and I had a pleasant Saturday night dinner together.

I bunked down on the couch in the lounge room, which wasn’t the most comfortable accommodation, but I was tired and slept well. Sean and I were up at 6am in order to catch a 7am tram to Southern Cross station.

Our companion Josh is flying from Tasmania to Sydney tomorrow to catch the bus back down to Milton on Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, I insisted to Sean that we were not going to Sydney just to walk back there, and that it was my intention to take the bus all the way back to our end-point from last year so that our arrival in Sydney will be on foot.

As it turned out, the massive rail-works in Melbourne meant that all outbound trains were cancelled, so the usual 8:04am Melbourne to Bairnsdale train was replaced with a coach. Somewhere around the bushy end of Victoria at 4:30pm this afternoon, with still another three hours to go on the bus, Sean turned to me and said “This was your idea, you know…”

And I am jolly glad that we did make the decision to come this way, because when we finally lobbed in at the end of the bus route in Narooma at 7:40pm, we were greeted by Fr Joseph and Virginia, the self-described “Parish Social Secretary”. They drove us out to the home of our hostess Margaret, where we were greeted by a small party gathered for dinner, including John and Suzanne (the latter is Parish Secretary), and John and Pauline (parents of Fr Luke at Bega-Tathra who hosted us last year). With Margaret (who hosted us here last year), Virginia and Fr Joe, it made up a warm and happy welcoming party. Margaret and John and others had prepared a wonderful hot meal for us, with plenty of red wine and good conversation to go with it.

So we are very tired now, but also very well fed, happy and comfortable. Tomorrow, Margaret and Virginia will take us up to Milton where we will start the pilgrimage proper.

Pictures from today can be accessed on my Google Photos albums here


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On our (MacKillop-Woods) Way again…

Dear Reader,

Yes, the time has finally arrived for Sean, Josh and I to pick up our hiking stocks, shoulder our packs, tie on our shells, and head off on pilgrimage once more.

It has been three years since we started from St Mary MacKillop’s birthplace in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, on 28 March 2016. We have walked over 1000km since then, via Bairnsdale, Orbost, Bombala, Eden, Narooma, Batemans Bay and Ulladulla.

This Sunday (Palm Sunday) Sean and I will catch the rail-replacement bus service (grrr) from Southern Cross Station all the way to Narooma where we will stay with Margaret, our host from last year.

The next day, Monday in Holy Week, Margaret will drive us to Milton where we will recommence our walk. Josh is catching the bus down from Sydney, and will walk from Wandandian, meeting us on Tuesday in Sussex Inlet.

Our schedule is:

Monday 15:                          Milton to Conjola (11.9km)

Tuesday 16:                          Conjola to Sussex Inlet (22.5km)

Wednesday 17:                    Sussex Inlet to Huskisson (19.3km)

Maundy Thursday:             Huskisson to Nowra (26.2km)

Good Friday:                        Nowra to Gerringong (31.7km)

Easter Saturday:                  Gerringong to Shell Harbour (28.1km)

Easter Sunday:                     Shell Harbour to Wollongong (29.1km)

Easter Monday:                    Wollongong (rest day)

Easter Tuesday:                    Wollongong to Stanwell Park (29.9km)

Wednesday 24:                     Stanwell Park to Bundeena (31.2km)

Thursday 25 (Anzac Day):  Cronulla to Kensington (27.2km)

Friday 26:                         Kensington to Tenison-Woods grave & St Mary’s Shrine! (21.7km)

Total of Fourth Leg (projected): 279km
Total of whole Pilgrimage (projected): 1276km

(Me: We are waiting to hear confirmation of the brass band and ticker-tape parade welcome when we arrive.
Conscience: This pilgrimage isn’t about you!
Me: Sorry, I got carried away with the emotion of it all…)

We hope to be at St Michael’s Nowra for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday and at All Saints Shell Harbour for the Easter Vigil. On Divine Mercy Sunday Sean and I will be at St Mary’s Cathedral.

Please check daily here on the blog to see where we are, how we are faring and what trouble we are getting into. I will be tweeting at @scecclesia also.

Already we have had a shaky start, with Sean having a bit of a bung knee and me battling to keep a cold at bay.

So please pray for us, as we will for you!

Here’s a little pic of Sean and me at St Mary’s statue at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, across the street from where she was born and where we started in 2016, and a full map of the MacKillop-Woods Way from Penola to Sydney.



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On the Jordan B. Peterson “12 Rules for Life” tour in Melbourne, 13 February 2019

This article was first published by Melbourne Catholic

Dr Jordan B. Peterson is a 56 year old professor of psychology from the University Toronto, and last night (Wednesday 13 February) it seemed to me that he was the oldest person in the Melbourne Convention Centre even though it was filled to its 5500 person capacity.

About half the crowd were the young men that legendarily flock to hear Peterson. They were a diverse mob, sporting suits and beards and tattoos and yarmulkas and even clerical collars. The other fifty percent seemed to be their mums, dads, wives, sisters, girlfriends, and so forth – but the main point is that this was a young audience (even the mums and dads). If you had this demographic turn up to mass on Sunday you would have no fears for the future of your parish. There was a sense of fraternity and trust in the air. The people were respectful, kind, friendly and happy to chat to strangers in the line up at the door. Each one had forked out $90 to come and hear someone giving a 2 hour lecture. “Entertainment” like this proves one thing: people don’t mind long sermons; they just want to hear someone worth listening to and something that makes sense to them. 

And there is more than just a touch of the bush preacher about Dr Peterson. He has come proclaiming a kind of “gospel”; and even though it isn’t exactly the Christian Gospel, a fair substratum of his message is based on the biblical narrative. In fact, on his podcasts and YouTube videos Peterson regularly strays into religious territory. One of the things he is famous for is his lectures on the psychological meaning of Old Testament book of Genesis. His lecture tonight is peppered with quotations from the the Gospels. Recently he defended the validity of the religious viewpoint in a series of four 3 hour live debates with Sam Harris, one of the “four horsemen” of the New Atheism. In particular Peterson is attracted to the Christian conviction that “the Word became flesh”, and that redemption comes through suffering. 

For about a year now, Peterson has been travelling the world giving sold out lectures based on his self-help manual “12 Rules for Life: an antidote to chaos”. Tonight he had just enough time to talk about rule number one: “Stand up straight with your shoulders back”. Yes, his rules all sound like that. Another one is “Set your own house in order before you criticise others” and “Always tell the truth – or at least don’t lie”. And “Don’t disturb kids when they are skateboarding”. 

Peterson focuses his message on the importance and potential of the individual in a free society. He declares himself an enemy of tyranny, whether fascist or socialist, on the left or on the right. Tonight though, he had his eyes set on demolishing the postmodern doctrine of Foucault that “power is everywhere” and that all social relationships are based on power and oppression. 

If that were the case, he said, our societies would not function. When power becomes the basis of relationship, societies crumble. Bullies in the playground don’t have friends. Corrupt businesses do not succeed. Instead, what works is when the relationships are built on trust and reciprocity. Yes, there are hierarchies in society, but these are based on skill and competence, not power. The successful plumber is the one who fixes your broken pipes. 

It is true that the world is competitive and unequal, but we accept that some people are better at business or their profession than others, just as some are better artists, athletes, writers and musicians. Inequality doesn’t matter so long as we treat each other with dignity and live in a reciprocal relationship of trust with one another. In fact, history teaches us that it is usually when powerful forces attempt to impose their “one great idea” for a Utopian equality of outcomes that the real hell breaks loose. 

Basically his message was upbeat. The human race is not going to hell in a hand basket. We are eradicating diseases, world poverty is decreasing, there have been no wars between western countries for almost 75 years. But that doesn’t mean life isn’t hard. He told the story of his father-in-law caring for his mother-in-law for 15 years as she slowly died with dementia, and how the whole family gathered around her bed in the nursing home when she finally passed away. “And because we all cared for one another and took responsibility for one another and loved one another,” he said, “it was no picnic, but it wasn’t hell.” 

“It was a tragedy, but God only knows what’s inside you, this capacity to confront potential and to turn tragedy into something good. And maybe that would be the purpose of your life; not to be happy, because there are problems to be solved, but be happy after you have solved the problems.

“So I looked at dark things, and I learned that the light is more powerful than the darkness and each of us is capable of remarkable things. That’s what makes us in the image of God, that is what gives us our intrinsic value, and the idea that we have intrinsic value is the bedrock presupposition of our state. Are we gong to question that? Or are we going to live it out? Better to live it out. Thank you.” 

There was still time for half an hour of Q&A (and, btw, Dr Peterson will be on ABC TV’s Q&A on February 25). One of the questions he was asked was: “With all your success, with crowds like this turning up to hear you talk for two hours each night and with 3 million copies of your book sold, what keeps you humble?” 

“Well, I’m married,” he replied.

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How do you empirically defend Human Rights?

I was driving to work this morning, listening to Tim Keller speak on the topic “The Closing of the Modern Mind”, on The Veritas Forum Podcast at New York University (3 March 2018). Yesterday, at ACU, I was teaching Catholic Social Thought to first year students, and explaining the idea of the innate dignity of every human being. I had to point out that this Judeo-Christian idea was based in the belief that a divine, personal Creator had made human beings in his own image. If you are not religious, I suggested, you might want to ask yourself why you believe that human beings have equal dignity, and why they are worth more than (for eg.) rats.

So I had to pull over and stop and listen when I heard Tim Keller ask the question: ‘Why should we believe in Human Rights?’. And I spent the next half hour transcribing what he said. I could just have bought the book he was quoting from (Alan Dershowitz (2002). Shouting fire : civil liberties in a turbulent age. Boston : Little, Brown & Co.]  but according to Amazon that costs over $100 and is only available in hardback. So here is the transcript of Keller summarising Dershowitz. It makes astonishing and thought provoking reading.

“It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence.” W.K. Clifford, The Ethics of Belief (1877)

His point was that you should never believe anything unless you have empirical evidence for it. And the trouble with religion is that as soon as you make religious claims, there’s no way to prove those things, so they’re best kept out of the public square.

There is probably not an epistemology course in the country [the U.S.] taught by any philosophy professor in any accredited university that would actually give you that thing to read and say “That’s my view”, because it’s pretty widely understood now that most of the things we hold dear – most the things we believe, most of the things that we believe that mean the most to us – could not be empirically proven.

I’ll give you one example: Human Rights.

Alan Dershowitz in his book “Shouting fire” asks this question: What if you come to a country which says ‘Why should we believe in Human Rights?’ And if you don’t just want to say ‘because I feel Human Rights are good things’, if you want to say something more powerful than that, what do you say?

Well, there are only four things to say.

One is you can do what Martin Luther King said, which is all human beings have inherent equal human dignity because they are made in the image of God. Now, Dershowitz says that for him, he is an atheist, so he just can’t go there, so he can’t say that.

He says the second thing you’d say is, well, Human Rights are natural, you can say you see them in nature. He says the problem with that is if you actually look at nature it is kind of violent. The strong eat the weak and that kind of thing. So it’s a little hard to get the idea of inherent dignity of every human being from nature.

He says the third thing you could say is that we create Human Rights, we just get together and we legislate them. He says the problem with that is if Human Rights are the creation of the majority, then they’re useless, because the whole point of a Human Right is to take the right of a minority and put it in the face of the majority and say ‘You have to honour rights of my people’ or ‘my client’. If they are created then they can be uncreated, and that means they’re useless.

So he says, what is it and what do you say?

Here’s what you have to say: We just know they’re there. Human Rights are discovered, not created. They have to be there otherwise they are useless. Why are they there (and they are)? We don’t know, but they are.

And when Dershowitz says ‘I know that if somebody comes to me and says ‘That is just what you white, western, individualistic people say’, well, that’s a problem, but I just know that this isn’t something from my culture, they [Human Rights] are just there. And then he says, ultimately, most of the human race now believes that they are there and that’s why we know they are there.

But the real problem, of course, is as he said: Is it is really true that what the majority of human beings think is right is necessarily right? No!

So in the end, can he prove Human Rights? Can you empirically prove them?

No. It’s a faith leap. It is a leap of faith. It is an assumption. There’s as much evidence for human rights as there is for God. (In fact, I think there is probably more evidence for God than for Human Rights.) But that’s another lecture.

The point of the matter is that they are both non-provable empirically, and they’re not self evident and therefore we are ALL bringing non-provable beliefs – more intuitions and convictions – into the Public Square, and we ought to let them come and let everyone talk about it.

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MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2018 – Day Twelve and Travel Home (28 & 29 April) – Milton to Melbourne via Ulladulla and Eden

We rose early on Saturday morning as Fr Michael had invited us to join him in celebrating mass at 7:30am in the Milton Church. It was just the four of us, and we incorporated Morning Prayer in the service. Fr Michael celebrated the mass in a peaceful way and invited us to join in the reflections on the readings and in praying at the point where we would normally have the prayers of the faithful. 

He actually gave us a little bit of admonition about the way we talked about our journey to others – to have the humility to remember that many of the people with whom we are so excitedly sharing the joys and hardships of pilgrimage don’t have the time or financial freedom to be able to undertake such a venture. This was fair enough – although pilgrimage does not have to be on the scale that Josh, Sean and I are doing it, just as you don’t have to take two months long service leave to go to Santiago in Spain. If a person has the determination and devotion to undertake some kind of pilgrimage, God will, I believe, give the opportunity. I’ve done all sorts of pilgrimages: I’ve flown to St Peter’s in Rome, and flown and bussed to Jerusalem. I’ve walked a week pilgrimage to Penola from Portland with the supported Aussie Camino, and I’ve done one-day walks on foot from my parish Church in Boronia to our St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. Heck, just going from your front door to your parish church can become a pilgrimage if you undertake it in the right spirit! 

But I had a realisation of my own during the mass. In the prayers, Fr Michael prayed for us to have courage to complete our journey – and I suddenly realised that what I really needed here and now was not the courage to continue the walk but the courage to return home and face my daily life and work again. Don’t get me wrong – I dearly love my family and my job at the Archdiocese – but there are so many many things in daily life that demand one’s attention and which can become sources of anxiety and fear, that I know I will truly miss the simplicity of the straightforward challenge of walking 30km each day. That, more than anything else, is the real attraction for me in pilgrimage: the simplicity of it all. At this point, I might just throw in a book recommendation – in fact, I think I have already mentioned it in my report of the first day of this section: “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce (2012). It is a novel about a man who undertakes a walk from one end of England to the other to “save” a friend dying of cancer. At one point on his walk, Harold muses on the the “simplicity of it all”. And he is right: if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will get there. As Michael Leunig added in one of his cartoons, you might want to sit down and have a little rest every now and again, but just keep on heading toward the horizon. “That’s how you get there.” I am glad that our return journey will take a full two days. I need the time to process my return.

That was made somewhat easier by the fact that our whole journey today was literally going backwards, including the strange case of the only 7kms on this pilgrimage that we have covered in the wrong direction: from Milton back to Ulladulla. The issue here was that the distance from Ulladulla to the next port of call along the road past Milton at the start of next year’s journey would simply have been too far to walk in one day, but it would be manageable if we knocked off the distance between Milton and Ulladulla this year before going home. As Josh had to be at the bus stop across from the Marlin Hotel in Ulladulla at 11am to catch the coach to Sydney, we all resolved to walk the distance back to Ulladulla with him.

Time was a bit short when we set off, so there was no stopping for sight-seeing in Milton, which is a pleasant village and one in which I would like to spend a bit more time. We walked straight past the Milton bakery and their famous pies, although the smell was tantalising. Spurring us on was the fact that it had begun to rain, not heavily, but steadily. At first we thought it might just be a passing shower, and so didn’t put on all our wet weather gear, and by the time that it was obvious that it was not going to stop, our trousers were wet through. So we pushed on, keeping a good speed so as not to spend longer in the rain than necessary, trying to avoid the running streams of water on the side of the road to keep our shoes dry. This was a hopeless cause. After an hour in the rain my shoes were full of water and the rain was dripping off my new Central Tilba hat. (I am happy to report that the hat suffered no damage from getting so wet – a benefit of having been made of polyester rather than natural fibres that would have lost their shape.) This was one section of the Princes Highway in which the verge is fairly wide, but despite being almost entirely built up all the way from Milton to Ulladulla, with homes and businesses either side of the road, there was no footpath upon which to walk until we got right into Ulladulla itself. 

We came down the road past the Church, and straight into the arcade where the public toilets were situated. Josh went in to change into dry clothes from his back pack, while I waited outside for Sean to catch up. Out of the rain, my  hiking trousers began to dry out, but my shoes and socks were clearly going to stay very wet. We accompanied Josh out to the bus stop, and before very long the coach had arrived. As it was still raining, we said our farewells, and he got on the bus. He was sitting on the other side out of our view, so we didn’t hang around in the rain, but went back under shelter as the bus left. 

I had a plan in mind, and as Sean went across the road to a cafe overlooking the bay for his morning double shot of coffee, I nipped across to the Vinnies op shop next to the church. I was in luck: a pair of slip on shoes for $4 (almost brand new) and a pair of socks for $1 (brand new) in my size. I put them both on immediately after purchasing them, and put my wet shoes and socks in a plastic bag and into my pack. Feeling like a new man, I returned to Sean at the cafe where we had a pot of tea and some eggs on toast. Now with warm food in my tummy and dry shoes and socks on my feet, we crossed through the rain back to the public library on the other side of the road. Here was a warm, dry place with comfortable lounge chairs and electric sockets to recharge my phone and iPad. Sean read the newspaper while I worked on my blog until it was time for us to catch our own bus to Eden. It was still raining, but we had dried out more or less. The bus was a little late, arriving just before we were due to leave at 2:20pm, and we were glad to get on and to settle down for the journey.

There is nothing much to tell about the ride, except that we stopped in Batemans Bay to grab something to call “lunch”. Nothing much was open, which surprised me, as it was a Saturday and still the last weekend of the school holidays, but we did manage to get a pie at a nearby ice cream shop. It tasted okay, but I later on I began to feel quite ill. I thought at first it was just motion sickness from the bus, but I think it was this pie that did it. I was a bit off colour for the next 24 hours. The ride on the bus was not smooth – the road was windy and up and down, especially from the highway through to Tilba and down to Bermagui and across to Bega. 

We arrived at Eden at about 7:15pm, and Mike Sheppard was there to meet us. It was a bit of a homecoming to arrive back at Mike and Judy’s. They had invited the two local Josephite sisters, Sr Brigid and Sr Bernadette, to join us for dinner. It was really nice to spend the time with our hosts and their guests in this comparatively quiet dinner. We reviewed many stories about our pilgrimage and  heard many other stories from the sisters. Sr Brigid had grown up in Eden, and Sr Bernadette in Sydney near St Mary’s tomb. It was not a late night – we were tired, and the sisters were going to come and pick us up early in the morning to take us to mass at Pambula, so we said our good nights and headed to bed.

We were up in the morning early again – it would take me over a week after getting home before I was actually sleeping through the night till dawn. The sisters arrived to pick us up and drove us to St Peter’s Pambula for the 8am mass. The service was taken by the parish priest, a Samoan, and accompanied by guitars and good singing from those who attended. We enjoyed talking to the parishioners afterwards and letting them know about our journey. We caught up again with Dr John Liston with whom we had met when we came through two weeks earlier, and with another experienced pilgrim of the Spanish Camino. He and Sean had much to talk about. The sisters drove us back to Eden, all the while pointing out to us local features and places on the side of the road. They drove us down to the bay in Eden to see the memorials to the various ships that had been a part of Eden’s history, including the ship that St Mary’s mother was on when it met its end. 

They dropped us back at the Sheppard’s, and we had time for a cup of tea before having to be back at the bus stop and getting on the 11am bus for Melbourne. I cannot express how thankful we are for the help that Mike and Judy and the people of Eden have given us – it has been a great base for us over the last two legs of the pilgrimage. We may return again next year, depending on how our travel plans work out to get back to Ulladulla, and Mike said we would be welcome. 

So now began the long journey back through Gippsland to Melbourne. Going through the “bushy end” of Victoria along the Princes Highway we once again were convinced that we could never have walked this way from Orbost. Although it was difficult making the arrangements to get from Orbost to Eden via Bombala, it was definitely the right way to go, and gave us a much richer – and safer – experience than we would have had had we travelled along the Princes Highway. We stopped in Cann River for a food stop again – Sean was looking forward to visiting the cafe we had visited on the way through two weeks ago. For the past fortnight Josh had been ribbing Sean about a rack of novelty glove puppets that were displayed for sale in the store under a sign which said “Don’t touch the puppets”. Of course, Sean *had* touched the puppets… To pay homage to this jocularity, Sean was looking forward to buying one of the puppets on our return journey just so I could then photograph him handling a puppet next to the sign which explicitly forbade this behaviour. Unfortunately our fun was spoiled by the fact that the sign against puppet contact had been removed. In disgust we went to the cafe across the road and had our coffee there.

There was time to wander about the town a little. Sadly, the rather magnificent Cann River pub is closed – it would have been nice to have had the last beer of the pilgrimage there. But the church was open, and that was a good consolation prize. (Readers of this journal will note that in the tradition of medieval pilgrims taverns and churches have had an equally major role to play in our travels.) St John’s is an Anglican Church, but it serves as a joint Anglican-Uniting congregation. With the autumn leaves, the dark brown wooden walls and red roof of the church made it look like something from a 19th Century American New England landscape. 

Back on the bus and now heading to Orbost and then to Bairnsdale. Normally we would have changed onto the train at this point, but as with the last time we travelled home this way at the end of our first leg in Easter 2016, the bus took us all the way to the station at Sale where we boarded the train. On the bus, I had heard the man behind me having a phone conversation with a friend in Caulfield arranging his visit. I vaguely wondered to myself whether the man was Jewish (Caulfield being a popular Jewish area in Melbourne) but thought nothing more of it. But Sean began a conversation with him at th Station at Sale and discovered that he was from Western Australia and had been to the Mimosa Rocks National park (we had walked through this on our trip) for a Buddhist guided walking meditation retreat. And yes, he was, at least by birth, Jewish, although he was not religious and did not keep kosher. So we ended up spending the rest of the journey to Melbourne sitting with Basil, as was his name, and talking of our various experiences related to walking, spirituality and the environment (he was a professional activist and promoter of environmentalism). As he was spending a few days in Melbourne, I extended an invitation to him to come and visit me in the following week at my office for a cup of tea and a tour of the Cathedral – which he did, together with Sean, the next Wednesday.

So the time went very quickly, and before we knew it the train was pulling out of Packenham and heading to Dandenong where I was to disembark and be picked up by Cathy. The final parting of the ways for the pilgrims came, and I said a rushed and awkward goodbye to Sean (he managed to hit his head on the rack above his seat – a change, because to this point of the journey it had been me hitting my head on things) and I found myself out on the platform on a cold Melbourne evening waving them off. Cathy arrived soon afterwards and it was a short 20min ride and I was back home.

So there it is. It took me about a week to settle back into the office. Strangely, it was only after this first week back that I started dreaming of the pilgrimage. And also it is now, in the second week since our return, that my body has begun to feel really physically tired. But my thoughts are constantly returning to our journey, and to our plans for the future.

Saturday Morning statistics
Planned distance: 7km
Measured distance by actual route (Gaia maps recording): 7.36km
Distance by iPhone Health data: 9.6km
Steps by iPhone Health data: 12,319 steps
“Flights climbed” by iPhone Health data: 9 floors (some of these were real stairs at our accommodation!)
Up and Down (Gaia maps recording): 7m (-81m) – note that if doing this in the right direction it would involve a steady climb upwards.
Highest altitude: Milton Church 95 metres.
Beach walking? No
Highway walking? Yes, all the way
Hours on the road: 1 hr 20 minutes
Distance covered from Eden: 307.28km
Distance covered from Fitzroy: 997.28km 


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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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