MacKillop-Woods Way 6th Leg – Day Four (Easter Thursday, 8 April, 2021): Glenthompson to Dunkeld

The sky was quite clear overnight, and it was very still and quite cold. In my location south of the railway, the highway was far enough away not to wake me with the sound of the occasional truck going through. More prominent were the sounds of crickets and barking dogs. I did wake in the middle of the night as now seems usual and again used the time to write up my journal before going to back to sleep. I was quite warm in the tent. I have noticed that the combination of the blue foam under mattress and the Mountain Design sleeping mat produces very good heat insulation as well as reasonable comfort (Nb. I’m only 73kg – not everyone will find such arrangements “comfortable”!).

When dawn came, I could see large drops of water a few inches above me on the inside netting of the tent. If you have ever wondered about the expression “dew fall” in the second Eucharistic prayer, and why it is likened unto the Holy Spirit, I’ve observed that it can be as wet as rain, that it often comes after a hot day, and that it doesn’t so much “fall” as suddenly appear soaking everything. Under these circumstances it was hazardous to stay in bed, so I got up. As I said, it was cold outside, so I just put my cold clothes on over my warm thermals. I’ve been wearing the same clothes every day for walking, without changing. They are pretty smelly, but just as a falling tree makes no sound when there is no one in the forest to hear it, so there was no one to tell me I stunk. I paid some attention to my blisters, but they seemed to be settling down. Today would be sandals again.

The Roadhouse opened at 7am, so I went up and had coffee and an egg and bacon sandwich while charging my phone, checking emails, writing my journal etc. On the way back to camp, I went into the Anglican Church and said Matins. The sun was up by now, and streaming through the east window at the back of the church.

Back at St Thomas’, I noticed the dew drops had fallen through onto my sleeping bag. So, since the sun was now up, I took down the tent and draped the sleeping bag, tent and fly cover over the bushes in the garden in full sun to dry out. I had done a little washing of socks and underclothes last night too, but of course they were still as wet as when I had hung them out. Of course everything I had stowed under cover in the toilets was unaffected by the dew, so I was able to pack my backpack without any problems.

In all, it was 10:30 before I got going. My plan today was to walk along the railway line instead of the highway. As far as I could see, there was a track of sorts on one side of the rails. I started at the old Glenthompson station house and headed west. In general this plan worked quite well. I was always on the lookout for snakes, but didn’t have any such encounters. If the trail got difficult or overgrown on one side I just swapped to the other. Only very occasionally did I have to walk on the tracks themselves to get through an otherwise impassable section. While this track isn’t used often (I saw no trains in the two days I followed the tracks), walking on the tracks is not only unsafe (and probably illegal) but also uncomfortable. But it was a great relief to get away from the noise of the Highway. On this section too the Grampians loomed larger and larger on the horizon so that, as Josh commented, there was finally “something to look at”! I continued listening to my text books for my studies, including a book on the significance of “place” in interdisciplinary studies. This perfectly complimented my thoughts as I pushed along the trail. Within a few weeks I need to produce an 8000 word essay on pilgrimage and the philosophy of place, so this was a kind of immersion study.

I stopped for a bit of a lunch break along the way, eating biscuits that had been left for me in the Streatham church washed down with “milk” made from my drinking water with a generous squeeze of condensed milk. Sweet and refreshing! I expected to get to Dunkeld in the mid afternoon so I had not packed much food. I had Easter eggs, muesli bars, nutrigrain and wild apples as well to munch on. The temperature was predicted to hit 29°C but only reached 27° – and even then, thanks to the cool breeze and cloud cover it felt much cooler. My weather app told me the “feels like” temperature was under 20°.

I arrived at Dunkeld at 2:30pm. I had done minimal research into accommodation, and checked into the first Caravan Park I stumbled upon on the Highway. There is another one further off the main road closer to Mt Sturgeon (the southernmost peak of the Grampians which towers over the town), but I wasn’t walking further than I needed to. I checked in, paid $15 for an unpowered site, and was shown to a site which would be “nice and quiet”. It was, but it also had ants nests everywhere, so I shifted to another spot of my choosing. The only drawback was that the ground there was rather dry and hard, and I broke a tent peg trying to hit it in (I have a lightweight plastic mallet that does a good job). I later scrounged a spare peg from the park office (they had an ice cream container of various pegs). Having set up the tent, I showered and changed and then left all my gear in the tent and set off on a little exploration of the town.

As it was now 4:30, so I went directly to the post office to get a stamp in my pilgrim passport. I was pleasantly surprised to find the old original weatherboard post office still in service, even if it was looking a bit dilapidated. The jovial postmaster was more than happy to give me a stamp when I told him what I was doing, and threw in a fridge magnet and a postcard of the post office in earlier days. I asked what the chance was of this building remaining open or whether it was likely to close and move down to the local Mobil roadhouse as had happened in Skipton and Glenthompson. His answer was that that would ever happen because “I own the building and I’m not retiring yet!” He said they had plans to do an inside and out renovation, although it would take a while. I asked whether he had considered a “picture stamp” like some other post offices have. He said they did have such a stamp for a while, but found a stack of extra work from people just wanting dozens of stamped postcards (“which they went and resold afterwards”).

Looking around the rest of town, I noted that the Uniting Church and Anglicans had joined forces in a cooperative parish (the parish church was, appropriately, a combination of two church buildings). I noted a bakery where I thought I would get breakfast in the morning. I then found the Catholic Church and saw that it was open, so I went inside and began saying evening prayer. I had hardly started when I heard bolts sliding on the front door! I made a noise, which saved me from spending another night in a church! The fellow who was closing up invited me to sign the visitors book, and I went on my way. I was looking now for somewhere to have dinner. There are half a dozen eateries in this town – largely because of its popularity as a tourist destination, but only a little general store. The Royal Mail features annually in The Age Good Food Guide, and the menu was priced to match. Across the road was the Sturgeon View Cafe with food for half the price. I discovered they had 4 Pines beer (bottles) as an alternative to the ubiquitous Carlton offerings, so I decided to stop and eat there. I ordered the mix grill, and was not disappointed when they reported that the pork spare ribs had not arrived but they could add extra rissole, sausage and bacon! I sat outside as it was a pleasant evening. After the meal, I needed to write up my journal, so I went inside (the mozzies were coming out), and ordered a glass of wine and then a cup of coffee to finish off the meal.

The wind was picking up a bit and the first drops of rain were falling as I returned to camp. I made a cup of tea in the camp kitchen and wrote up some of more journal while recharging my phone and battery. I went to bed early, but stayed awake for a while watching some of the BBC program on the Via Francigena on my iPhone. I was pretty weary though, and so I switched off, rolled over and, as the psalmist said, sleep came at once.

The distance from Glenthompson to Dunkeld was 18.93km, which I walked in 4hrs and 23min. My iPhone tracked me at 23.1km for the whole day.

Click here for all today’s photos in a Google Photos album.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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