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.


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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