Aussie Camino Day 8 Part 2 : Meditation, Prayer and Gus

As today was the final walk into the historic town, Penola, we were all hanging outside the hotel anxiously wanting to start walking. Chrissy was leading a small group doing the “prep stretch”. I was very pleased to hang around her (every morning) to prime my body with all sorts of stretching. I was no way as flexible as her. Being an ex-ballet dancer and having taken up ballet dancing again, she had an unfair competitive advantage over me. I was happy to see her so fit which means that she will live to a good old age without the risks of severe mobility limitations. Chrissy, thanks for the exercise every morning. My back have been as good as gold. And on this last day, I was confident that I would triumphantly march into Penola without back problem. My chiropractor, Lorriane, would be ever so proud to hear this!

Kalangadoo to Penola 26km

Kalanagdoo to Penola 26km : The overview instruction in the Pilgrim Guide states:

“Very important to wear long pants today! This will become obvious. This is quite a short day but not the easiest”.

Long Pants Paul & sunscreen too

Long Pants Paul & sunscreen too

I loved the feel of country town. The air is so crisp and so quiet. We have literally the whole town and the whole road to ourselves. In all that time, there was one person that we encounter, local farmer (I assumed) that drove by at a country speed of 10kmp and stopped for a yarn (a chat).

 

Before we set , we gathered with ur leader Luke to prepare ourselves spiritually for the walk with our daily meditation and prayer.

 

Meditation for the Day

Getting to Penola

It was here in 1866 that Mary MacKillop, an outstanding young teacher and Julian Tenison Woods, a priest and brilliant scientist, founded the uniquely Australian Sisters of St Joseph.

 

They provided a Catholic education, initially for the isolated bush children of Penola. Since then the lives of many throughout Australia and overseas have been enriched and transformed.

Little did either of us then dream of what to spring

from so small a beginning.”

Mary Mackillop 1891

 

The Camino Australia is now a reality. The gem of idea has produced a modest harvest from beginnings. There have been a few pilgrimages in Australia: Tasmania, New South wales, Northern Territory, and New Norcia in Western Australia. This is ours for the moment. Maybe it has brought changes in our inner self, or led us from forgiveness to thanks giving.

  

Aussie Camino Prayer

God of Pilgrims, Saint Mary MacKillop trusted your guidance in her journey of life and deepened her confidence in your will.

May we renew our trust in your Providence to lead us in hope.

May we relish the sacred in the ordinariness of our lives.

May we grow in the fullness of your love and the depth of your mystery.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the life.”

Amen 

Today is the last day for Gus to walk with one more pilgrims before retiring until the next pilgrimage. Yesterday,Peggy and young Keelin had the privilege of Gus walking with them in the sun, followed by rain, sleet and strong wind. Gus had it all from the cliff tops to the sea beach, fro paddocks to pine plantations, winning away quiet country towns.. Today the journey would be along railway tracks and then into Penola.

I was surprised that I was awarded the company of Gus by Peggy and Keelin for three roles : blister busters, weatherman and the Camino paprazi.

I was recognised for my skills as the official camino blister busters. With one case, it was a bit beyond me.  Phil’s toenail was bleeding and was about to drop off.  I asked one of the pilgrims to get Dr Michael A for a specialist consult. Dr Michael A kindly  assisted and agreed that we should wrapped up his toe rather than mess around with the injured toe. I was glad that I was able to help as blisters can spoil the whole walk.

Yesterday’s weather forecast was a bit tricky but was spot on. The other days were straight forward – hot. With yesterday, Peggy was either impressed or horrified by the accuracy of my weather forecast, that the rain of about 5mm would come in at about 11am. It did.  Some one commented that it was more than 5mm.  I thought so. It was more than what we bargained for when the rain turned into sleet with strong wind. I did not know that I was the “weatherman” for the camino.

However, I would not deny that my photographic enthusiasm must have been just a little bit too noticeable. I hope that the recognition of my role as the “paparazzi” did not mean that I was stalking or harassing any of the pilgrims. You are welcome to enjoy the gallery of photos of our journey in this blog. Please send yours through to be added in.

With that, Gus was pinned onto the back of my day pack to walk with me for the rest of the day.

Drying the socks at every opportunity

Aussie Camino Day 8 Part 1 : Morning in K’Doo

This is the last stage of the Aussie Camino walk, from the a very largely unknown, small town of Kalangadoo in SE South Australia to the historic Penola.

Last night, we stayed at the K’doo Hilton, Kalangadoo Hotel. While I slept while, sharing the basic room of two single beds with a hand basin, it is by no means a Hilton. However, it served me well for I was grateful to have hot shower and a comfortable bed with a roof over my head. There is a shared shower (one) and a bath tub (and I wondered who would soak in the bath tub) and a toilet. The sleeping quarter was located just behind the dinning room.

We woke up to a very sunny morning. The town at 6am was bathing in glorious morning sun but without a soul in sight, except the pilgrims streaming towards the Kalangadoo Catholic Church, St Joseph (built in 1904).

It is a charming little country church. A group of volunteers cleaned and prepared the church for the Pilgrim mass for this morning. A local, Tom, came early to open up the church. A few locals that hosted the female pilgrims also attended mass with the pilgrims.

The church, I gathered, has not been in use regularly. Kalangadoo population is only about 300, with a small percentage of Catholic. I gathered that the thought of selling the church has been brushed. This is an important stop for the Aussie Camino and I hope that this church can be retained as part of the camino place of worship.

Mgsnr Rob celebrated mass and appropriately put the pilgrims into the right spiritual frame for this final leg of the pilgrimage.

After Mass "Church Bulletin" announcement by Luke

St Joseph’s Church, Kalangadoo

 

After mass "church Bulletin" from Luke. Tom at the back of the church (infant of the door) came and open

After mass “church Bulletin” from Luke.
Tom at the back of the church (infant of the door) came and open

We returned to the Hotel for our $10 cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast and unlimited flow of tea and coffee. We smelt of the salivating fried bacons coming from the kitchen as we went to church. By the time we came back, the plated breakfast were all laid out nicely but was cold as cold. As pilgrims we ate with our breakfast with gusto with conversation running to how to run a country hotel etc. Rob invited Tom back to the Hotel for breakfast thinking that a cooked breakfast could be ordered. He came out of the kitchen with the news that the kitchen was already closed. Instead, Rob end up sharing half of his breakfast with Tom.

 

Have a laugh!

Then we heard a light hearted event of the night before. The girls were hosted by local catholics. This was pre-arranged by Luke. There were two going to stay around the corner from the hotel. After dinner, they decided to walk to their host house. The number they were looking was 16. In a dark country road, they mistakenly knocked on No. 10, to be greeted by a man. They told the man, innocently that they were pilgrims on the walk checking in. the witty man, obviously not the rightful host, quickly responded by saying that he got a double bed and the girls were welcome to share his bed. The rest of the story were history. Our pilgrims ladies very quickly retreated and went looking, very carefully, for No.16. We all had a good laugh.

Aussie Camino Day 7 Part 7 : Christmas Quiz

We gathered for a hotel dinning room for a pub meal with a few more drops of red.

 

Katherine, Andy, KAylee, Jill, Peter S, John

At the European Camino, I was told that for about EUR10, a pilgrims will get a 3 course dinner with a decent bottle of Spanish red. That sounds quite civilize to me. There were a few laugh with the way the steak was cooked. It did not turn out rare or medium other than well cooked. I have learnt very early on not to order red meat like rare or medium rare steak out in the bush. You might not get them as rare other than well done. A safe main course would be pasta or chicken dish. Fish and chips are usually frozen fish as the place is too far inland for fresh fish. However, in this part of the country, you cannot go wrong with the wine. The coonwawrra wine made up for the evening.

I enjoyed my meal while we were focusing on the Aussie Camino Christmas Quiz.

Second last night came with a surprise.

 

Keelin, Luke, Phil, Peter McC, Michael A, Peggy

 

Christmas Quiz

The Quiz Master was our Parish Priest from Portland, Peter. He surprised us with his Quiz sheet and before long, everyone was heads down in trying to intelligently tackled the questions. I was counting on my partner, Noel on some of the grey areas. The questions are biblically based.  I thought some were trick questions. It was an entertaining quiz and the winner went to the girls on the next table (Am I right?).

The Quiz Master, Peter S

Peter, we appreciated your effort in preparing the Quiz and gave us a little surprise on last night before our entry into Penola.

These are the 21 questions and I thought I knew the Christmas story well until I read the questions.

1. Joseph was originally from… (Luke 2:3)
A. Bethlehem
B. Nazareth
C. Hebron
D. Jerusalem
E. None of the above

2. What does the Bible say that the Innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph? (Luke 2:7)
A. “There is no room in the inn.”
B. “I have a stable you can use.”
C. “Come back later and I should have some vacancies.”
D. Both A and B
E. None of the above

3. A manger is a…
A. Stable for domestic animals
B. Wooden hay storage bin
C. Feeding trough
D. Barn

4. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?
A. Cows, sheep, goats
B. Cows, Donkeys, goats
C. Sheep and goats only
D. Miscellaneous barnyard animals
E. None of the above

5. Who saw the star in the east?
A. Shepherds
B. Mary and Joseph
C. Three Kings
D. Both A and C
E. None of the above

6. According to the Bible, how did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
A. Camel
B. Donkey
C. Walked
D. Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
E. Horse-drawn chariot
F. Who knows?

7. How many angels spoke to the shepherds? (Luke 2:10)
A. One
B. Three
C. Multitude
D. None of the above

8. What did the angels say/sing? (Luke 2:14)
A. “Glory to God in the highest, etc.”
B. “Alleluia”
C. “Unto us a child is born, Unto us a son is given”
D. “Joy the world, the Lord is come”
E. “Glory to the newborn King”

9. What is a heavenly host?
A. The angel at the gate of heaven
B. The angel who serves refreshments in heaven
C. An angel choir
D. An angel army
E. None of the above

10. There was snow that first Christmas…
A. Only in Bethlehem
B. All over Israel
C. Nowhere in Israel
D. Somewhere in Israel

11. What is Frankincense?
A. A precious metal
B. A precious fabric
C. A precious perfume
D. None of the above

12. In Matthew, what does “wise men” or “Magi” refer to?
A. Men of the educated class
B. Eastern Kings
C. Men who studied the stars
D. Sages

13. What is Myrrh?
A. Middle Eastern Money
B. A drink
C. An easily shaped metal
D. A spice used for burying people
E. None of the above

14. How many wise men came to see Jesus?
A. 3
B. 6
C. 9
D. 12
E. We don’t know.
15. Where did the wise men find Jesus? (Matthew 2:11)
A. In a manger
B. In a stable
C. In Nazareth
D. In Saudi Arabia
E. In a house
F. None of the above

16. When the wise men found Jesus he was… (Matthew 2:11)
A. A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
B. A young child
C. A boy in the temple
D. A grown man

17. The “star in the east” that the wise men followed… (Matthew 2:9)
A. Stayed in the same place their entire journey
B. Disappeared and reappeared
C. Moved ahead of them and stopped over the place where Jesus was
D. Was just a mirage
E. None of the above

18. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem… (Matthew 2:2)
A. To inform Herod about Jesus
B. To find out where Jesus was
C. To ask about the star
D. To buy presents
E. None of the above

19. Where do we find the Christmas story?
A. Matthew
B. Mark
C. Luke
D. John
E. All of the above
F. Only A and B
G. Only A and C
H. Only A, B, and C

20. When Joseph found Mary was pregnant, what happened?
A. They got married
B. Joseph wanted to break the engagement
C. Mary left town for three months
D. A and B
E. B and C

21. Who told (made) Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem? (Luke 2:1-5)
A. The angel chorus
B. Mary’s mother
C. Herod
D. The shepherds
E. Caesar Augustus

I was with Noel and while we did well, the girls did better.

 

My thanks and appreciation to Peter S for making this great effort to bring Christmas to the Aussie Camino.

 

Were exhausted from this epic walk today and even though the night was young,  we retired to an early night. As I lay down to sleep, a few thoughts cross my mine. I have never ever walked 47km in my entire life. I have never walked in such a strong wind, in the rain, with sleet. I thought how blessed I was to have a strong back to complete the walk. I remembered the kind family who went home to put the kettle on and served the cold and wet pilgrims with hot drinks and cake. We see God and his kindness at a time most unexpected, out in the outback miles from any soul. What a day to cherished. For anyone prospective pilgrims who are comtemplating whether to walk or not to walk, you will have your own journey of discovery in the Aussie Camino. I was contented and at peace, though very exhausted but the fire is burning in me ready to get up early tomorrow morning for the 6.30am mass and to finally enter Penola as a pilgrims. You do not get to feel that way too often. 

 

Aussie Camino Day 7 Part 6 : “Letter from Kalangadoo”

I only heard of Kalangadoo from a parishioner from my church before I left for the camino. She grew up in the Limecoast, the south east and she was excited when she heard that I was stopping at Kalangadoo.

 

Then at the camino, someone mentioned that Kalangadoo gained its national fame from the ABC radio weekly show “Letter from Kalangadoo”. I will digress a bit here to add a bit of flavor to wages otherwise a quiet country town, Kalangadoo. Like most country towns in Australia, Kalangadoo is suffering from a terminal slow death. Unless, something is done, the town will not exist. This is now the stop for Aussie Camino before the entry into Penola. This is an important stopping point. It also served as the place for us to pause before completing this long pilgrimage.

By accident Bryan Dawe put Kalangadoo on the national map with his ABC radio show. Maybe there is hope for Kalangadoo. Bryan Dawe, from 1986-2006, wrote a weekly radio show “Letter from Kalangadoo” for ABC National Radio. It entered around an endearing and beloved Character, Roly Parks that lives in a realtown called Kalangadoo in the South East of Australia. Each week, he writes a letter to his son, Gene, who is gay and lives in London with his partner, Ahmed. This is Australian Story telling at its finest. You might know or remember Bryan Dawe from the famed ABC satirical interviews as Mr John Clarke interview. John Clarke with Bryan Dawe as his collaborator performed their weekly satirical mock interviews on TV on 9 network and A Current Affair and later on ABC TV in 2013. The mock interviews became an eponymous program “Clarke and Dawe” just at the close of the ABC TV news at 6.57pm.

aussie-camino-457

aussie-camino-459

Back to the Camino.

Finally we arrived. It was long day of 47km according to my GPS mapping software.

Great achievements to all pilgrims.

We were greeted at the town by Jill, the Camino official greeter.

Another welcoming Jill.

As we enter the town, there was general store where pilgrims got their dose of caffeine. Opposite the General store is the Kalangadoo Hotel, referred to as K’Doo Hilton by the

We all felt great as we walked into the hotel. We surived the wild weather,  the bull and it was a long walk. We checked in K’doo Hilton and were delighted that the power was back and the water was running. Jill, the first arrivals, showered in the dark and cold.

The firs thing for me was to take of my wet shoes and let the feet breathe. Then a hot shower and the laundry was part the pilgrim routine.

My priority today was to try to get my shoes wet dry. My Salomon Gortex waterproof walking boots was not much good in that wild wind and pouring rain. At one stage, the shoe was acting like a reservoir. Wet shoes with wet socks and feet are the right combinations for developing blisters. As soon as the rain stopped, I took the shoes off and hand winged the sock dry. That worked as I was blister free.

I was anxious that the boot might not be dry for this final walk. So, I was very happy that the blue sky re-appeared again when we reached the hotel. My pair of boots were on the clothlines at the back of the pub and the wind, though have died down considerably, have air dried the internal of the boot.

I was naturally anxious to get the weather forecast for the last day of the walk. That will decide whether I need to carry more or less water, meaning a heavier or a lighter day pack. Also, if the rain coat was not required I wouldn’t be carrying it.

The Telstra mobile coverage in most of the country town that we went through were non-existence. In Kalangadoo, there were no coverage at all. The only source of a good weather forecast or for any matter was to talk to a local at the bar counter. Yesterday, I caught up with a jovial farmer whose opening comment to me was “You coped the lot” meaning that we had the worst of the weather. Then he went on to say, after finding out that our final leg was the next day “You will be alright, mate. The wind will moderate and the rain will stay away but not the following day”. He sounded like a meteorology water man. I was happy to hear his forecast. t

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone is here, at last.

A well earned drink

 

Phil, Greg, JOhn

At the bar, the convesrtaion was about the elements that we endured, the wind, the rain etc. And we were also excited to narrate the “Running of Kalangadoo Bull” story. Peter S, our Portland parish priest, who grew up in the country, brought us back to earth with his country boy perspective of the bull. He reckoned that the bull escaped from the paddock and was running away from the farmer (Peter S, maybe it has to do with life being too hard on the paddocks!).  There is a startled difference in perception here. We thought the bull was running TOWARDS us. Peter S country knowledge suggested that the bull was liberated, escaped and was running AWAY from the farmer. So, the “Running of the Bull at Kalangadoo” might have never been a reality. The bright pink cap and rain coat worn by Kalee and the red shoes of Keelin might not be the focus of the bull. My imaginative and creative  vision of the crashing bull like in Pamplona might not be the order of the day! However, I thought this was a good story of some delirious pilgrims (due to the long walk), a good laugh and a little legend for the Aussie Camino.

Aussie Camino Day 7 Part 5 : Running of the Bull like in Pamplona?

We were getting closer to Kalangadoo with a few country farm house on the horizon. A car came by and stopped and had a chat. The girl, Emily, told us that there was no power or water in Kalangadoo. We assumed the storm had hit the utility services. I was looking forward to a hot shower even though Luke had already toned  downtime expectations that the facilities at Kalangadoo were basic. We as in Keelin, Andy, Kalee and myself marched on ahead. The tail comprising of Kathryn, Peggy and Peter McC were not far behind. We were the last group passing the farms before gating into Kalangadoo.

Paddocks with sheep

Paddocks with sheep

 

The farmer with his best friend.

The farmer with his best friend.

The Guide mentioned that there is a nice tree lined road leading into Kalangadoo. We came up to this stretch of the road and it looked pretty with old and big gum tree on either side of the road.

 

The tree lined road into Kalangadoo

The tree lined road into Kalangadoo

I was just about to admire the big gum tree when we all notice soothing ahead of us.

Can you see the bull?

It appeared that we were not going into sneak into kKalangadoo quietly without any drama. To help you recap the start of the day at 6am, we (or should I say “I” with the presence of Fr Rob) started off the morning setting off the alarm at the Jens Hotel in Mt Gambier. Thus, we should end the day with some excitement.

While hogging the whole coutry road to ourselves, walking in the middle of the road with beautifully matured gum tree on each side, I was enjoying this rather peaceful entry into Kalangadoo. There was not a soul to be seen. Out of the blue, we first noticed a bull in the far distance ahead of us. . I squint my eye to confirm what I saw. We all then start to realize that there was a bull in front of us. It was galloping and started to pick up speed. We still have the sense of humour to joke to the girls. Kaylee had a bright pink rain coat on and her pink cap would served as the beacon for the bull. Young Keelin had red shoes and red backpack. We have all the right color in place for a bull run. Andy was kind to tell the girls that they were the target. I thought that this was the scene for Pamplona with their annual bull run, Pamplona is en route in the Camino de Santiago.

I was busy taking photos thinking this paparazzi shots might provide the Asuuie Camino a viral fame in the web. At the same time, I was surveying the beautiful mature gum tree trying to formulate a survival plan. I thought if I picked the biggest gum tree, I might hide behind the trunk and avoid the bull.
Farmer harassing the bull to go home.

 

Our initial joke and laugh turned to a concern and a little of fear set in as the bull started to pick up speed. As mysteriously as the bull appeared onto the road, the next scene was a white ute heading towards us. We workd it out that the farmer must have spotted that he got a loose bull on the road trying to do the Pamplona Bull Run on the country road in Kalangadoo. He sped towards us and then did a ninety in degree swing  to the left of the road to come infant of the bull. This caused the bull to turn and run in our opposite direction. The farmer used his ute to chased the bull back into the paddocks.

aussie-camino-440

So that was the end of the highlight of our entry to Kalangadoo. I was worried that the bull was going to charge us. Our option was to hide behind the big gum tree trunk, the bull would hit the trunk and leave a mark. Then we could have a new legend for Luke and the Camino, a version of the Pamplona story. Luke, there were no such dramatic ending.

We survived to tell tale. Or were we tired and delirious!

 

Aussie Camino Day 7 Part 4 : Wild weather, cakes and hot drinks

As we departed from the cottage, I heard  Fr Rob looking for a lift to Kalangadoo from the support vehicle. They have already left. I tried calling on my mobile and the Telstra coverage was very weak. In the meantime, one of the pilgrims tried sending a sms to Luke.

With the weather turning againstus, we zipped up the rain coat, covered up the day pack and off we went. The wind started to pick up. Then came the downpour with very strong westerly wind, literally blowing us off course. The left side of the body got a pelting and the left shoe filled up with water in no time. Then I felt the cold realizing that rain got through and I was soaking wet. We stopped and turned around keeping an eye on the last group: Rob, Phil and Peter McC. We saw a tiny speck of them with a white car. We thought that it was good that someone was giving Rob a lift. After all, you have to be lucky to come across a car in this deserted part of the country.

We soldier on in the rain and also very mindful of any falling tree branches as the wind at this stage was violently strong. We guesstimated that it was a 40 to 50kph wind.

As we literally pushed our way into the wind, we realsied that the white car that was supposedly giving Rob a lift never turned up.

Then the rain stopped as fast as it came. But then wind was even more blowy than ever.

From rain to blue sky!

From rain to blue sky!

Peter S who was behind us was falling behind. But for a good reason. We turned around and saw him having a cup of tea. A cup of tea out in the bush? He had stopped to have a cup of tea, yes a nice cup of tea with a cake in his hand. Hmm… There was a black car, not a white car, that was providing a country tea run. We all stopped and walked backwards to realized that Fr Rob was in the front seat with Michael McC and a car with kids and adults. Apparently the white car that was upposed to provide the lift went home to put the kettle on, digged out the Lions Christmas cake and came out in the bigger car with the kids. It must be the highlight of the Summer holiday for the kids for the parents to run a “rescue” operation in the outback in the “wintery” weather in the midst of summer.

 

This car gave Rob a lift. This generous person, I believe his name is Brian, went home to get the thermos flask and cake for us. We were soaking wet from the rain and blustery wind. L-R Peggy, Peter McC and Peter S.

This car gave Rob a lift. This generous person, I believe his name is Brian, went home to get the thermos flask and cake for us. We were soaking wet from the rain and blustery wind. L-R Peggy, Peter McC and Peter S.

 

The gentleman with the big heart (as I was told by the volunteers at Mary MacKillop Centre) could be Brian O’Connor. Rememeber city folks, everyone in the country know everyone. I was given two big pieces of the Lions Christmas Cake but i polity only took one as I couldn’t possibly squashed another piece in my wet pocket.

 

At that point Peter McC decided to get out and join us in the walk. We were the tail and the rest have already gone ahead. The car moved on with Fr Rob wrapped up in towel (not quite like Jesus in swaddling clothes in the nativity scene) heading off. Far far from a distance view ahead, we saw the car stopped again, offering the next group of pilgrims the Christmas Tea run. I was very touched by the sensitivity and thoughts of this family. We were wet, we were fighting the wind, and this little gesture of God’s love lifted my spirit and I was overjoyed. It might be coincidental as the reflection in the morning before we left touched on  this:

“It’s a common saying that outback people on big holdings have big hearts. Worth investigating”

It might be prophetic but we were touched by the family with such a big heart. If they are reading this blog, my heartfelt thank you to them. I hope the kids have a great story to tell after their summer holiday how they “rescue” a group of pilgrims in the midst of the summer “winter” storm.

 

The wind was howling and we couldn’t hardly hear our convesrtaion. This was an unusual summer weather with not only rain but a good dose of sleet beating on us. I thought that we might as well experienced all the elements of the weather.  We virtually have 4 seasons in a short space of time, short of snow.

At last the rain stopped but not the wind. It was a gale force wind sweeping across the farming plain. It was an unseasonal experience.

Outback people on big holdings have big hearts.  What an incredible day to experience Love in this way.

Outback people on big holdings have big hearts. What an incredible day to experience Love in this way.

Aussie Camino Day 7 Part 3 : Towards Bush Haven Cottage

We kicked off the day just after 7.45am with graet enthusiasm walking through the sunburbs of Mt Gambier along suburbia.

Another Country Christmas scene

We stayed together till we got out of town as there were a few turns to get us onto the country road to the pine plantations.

We climbed a few more hill, passed a few timber mills before getting to the pine forestry plantations. They are impressive huge plantations. They formed an integral part of the economy in this part of Australia. They are planted in straight rows and stood majestically straight.

aussie-camino-416

The weather forecast   warned of rain of about 5mm but that ws not evident as the sky was blue and the sun smiling. The walk through the pine planataions was very still and quiet, other than the footsteps of the pilgrims.  I could hear the birds singing that was about it. Usually, there were chapter amongst the pilgrims at the start of the walk and silence then ensued. With complete silence it was a very peaceful walk through the plantations. Thees pines trees are used for woods chips. I was thinking that they would end up as wood chips  for furniture in the lounge, timber for the building industry or even in our A4 photocopy paper.
While we were covering long distance, it was not obvious as the walk so far had been fairly comfortable. The track have been flat since we enter intio the plantation. The new experience of walking through the pine plantation refocus the mind on the surrounding rather than thinking about the steps taken.

 

Smart & quick thinking pilgrims ... this way folks!

Smart & quick thinking pilgrims … this way folks!

We were mindful of Luke’s earlier caution in staying on track. We came to a cross road and the earlier group of pilgrims left us with a sign. Peter S saw three beer bottles forming an arrow on the dirt track. We took  that as the direction to head to.  This track led us through a nice section of natural native bush vegetation.

A stretch of native vegetation which is a change from man planted pine plantations.

In the meantime the sky start to darken with thickening clouds. The sunny morning gave way to a likely storm. This was just after 11am and the bureau forecast rain at 11am of about 5mm. It did not look that we were going to escape rain today. Wee have been lucky with dry weather since we started.

It was a relieved when we saw a house with sign that says Bush Haven Cottage. This was designated as our mid way stop. We have done about 17km and we still have another 20km to cover.

L-R Peggy, Keelin, Phil, Peter S, Rob, Tee Ping

L-R Peggy, Keelin, Phil, Peter S, Rob, Tee Ping

I thought that this property was  in somewhere connected to the young couple with a baby at mass this morning at Mt Gambier. Who ever is the owner, he is very very generous toped up the place for our use. There are two bed and breakfast cottages. The Bear Cottage,with lots of teddy bears, was open for us to use the facilities. We would like to thank them for their generosity and it was a tranquil setting with beautiful garden. As this was about the half way mark to kalangadoo and we took advantage of the place to rest the feet and ate lunch. And true to the words of the weather forecast, the sky start to open up with a few drops.

Aussie Camino Day 7 Part 2 : Meditation, Prayer, Gus

Meditation of the Day

In the Outback with Mary MAcKillop

Mary’s really the spirit and soul of many of us. She’s been walking on our country for a long time now.

“And today too, the sisters and the work that they do, which is the living evidence of Mary and what she tood for, for the rights of disadvantaged people.”

“The fact the sisters are still with Aboriginal people today shows that Mary’s spirit is still strong within our cmummunities and with us.”

Vicki Clark, Aboriginal Catholic Ministry

Today we could concentrate on being in tune with our bodies, our minds and our environment as we head north to Kalangadoo : we pass through red gum coutry symbolizing the scacredness of this land. We are treading lightly, wondering about forgiveness – what is it exactly, whose respsonsibility is it? It’s a common saying that outback people on big land holding have big hearts. Worth investigating?

Pilgrims prayer

Aussie Camino Prayer

God of Pilgrims, Saint Mary MacKillop trusted your guidance in her journey of life and deepened her confidence in your will.

May we renew our trust in your Providence to lead us in hope.

May we relish the sacred in the ordinariness of our lives.

May we grow in the fullness of your love and the depth of your mystery.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the life.”

Amen

Presentation of Gus


Luke presented Gus to two persons, Peggy and her daughter Keelin for their wonderful spirit. This was a special recognition for both of them, especially for Peggy who had with a bit of minor ailments. As for young Keelin, she, at the young age of 16 , being one of the youngest pilgrims, if not the youngest, showed exemplary tenacity and determination. I have walked with Keelin along various tracks. Never had she ever complained or asked :”Are we there yet?” She showed characters that will see her going very far in life.

Well done, mum and daughter! Keeling new walking companion for the day was Gus.

The Dinner

Aussie Camino Day 7 Part 1 : Mount Gambier to Kalangadoo 37km

This was touted as the longest day, suggesting that it would be physically testing, the day to stick together as there was some risk that we might get lost as we travelled through the forestry pine plantations.

In theory, we should be hardened by now, the last few days of walk should have prepared the body for this stage. After the first day, the aching was evident.  Now the muscles should be toned and toughened. However, 37 km sounded like many kilometres!

We started the day early trying to get out of the hotel for the 6.30am mass. The trailer was parked at the back of the hotel. I was trying to open the rear door but the ledge was too high, even for Fr Rob couldn’t reach. I eventually got onto a chair to unledge the door, and that we did. Except that was a security sealed door, thus triggering off the alarm at about 6am. That was embarrassing. No one came with the security of the hotel being breached.  We later discovered that the only way out of the hotel was via the front door which act as a one-way door for after-hours. The rest of the pilgrims walked out happily through the front door to the church, unknown to them that we started the day with a bit of excitement.

St Paul

While we were on the road (or rather on the walk), we were a bit out of touch with the happenings around the world as mobile signals were unpredictable. At the mass, I heard Fr Rob mentioning about praying for the victims and family of the siege in Sydney. I was later to discover the tragedy of the violent end to the siege in the early hours of Monday morning with two hostages shot dead and a number seriously injured.

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The catholic church, St Paul’s, was only stone throw from the Jens Hotel. It is a grand building , built in the late 1800s. The stained glass were striking with the morning shine bringing out their beauty. There was a couple at the church with a little child for the early mass. Apparently, they are associated with the Aussie Camino through Luke. If I was not mistaken, they offered their place, Bush Haven Cottage for our mid-stop. This morning we lost another pilgrim with Dave leaving us after mass. Also, after mass, Dave went back to Melbourne.

This morning we had our hot brekky at MacDonald. When you are a pilgrims, to get a hot breakfast, regardless of where, is a bonus. The routine was the same, stretching exercise led by Chrissy followed by Meditation and Prayer before we set off. Except this morning, Luke issued a cautionary note to stick close enough to be within line of light so that we all reached Kalangaoo before sunset.

McCafe is what we need

Aussie Camino Day 6 Part 6 : Mt Gambier City, here we come

Once we left the ice cream shop, we were on the home stretch. We reached the famous Blue Lake. It was blue as blue. The last time I came with the kids, it was that blue at all. Apparently, the lake had some special chemical reactions affecting the intensity of the blueness of the lake.

Peggy and Phil admiring the blueness.

 

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As we head into the city, we walked passed some very beautiful homes. The gardens were meticulous and the character of some of the homes indicated that Mt Gambier back in the 1900s were very prosperous.

It was no surprise when we were enthusiastically and warmly greeted by the Camino Welcoming Ambassador, Jill. It was always a relieve to see a familiar face and to guide us to the hotel. By then, we were fairly exhausted with the extra 6km on the highway. There was not much energy left to wonder around the city looking for the Jens Hotel.

Getting to the hotel was a relief as it was cool, able to sit down and take off the shoes and socks.

I must have the shell shock look on my face as Noel came up and asked whether I was alright. Well, I did confessed that my ankle was hurting and I was hobbling at that point. Noel was so kind and bought me an icy cold cider citing that it would help. Then John and Noel insisted in getting to the trailer to get my bag in. I was very touched by their kindness.

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We have another story to tell today. We walked a total of 34km instead of 28km. We were not alone as Paul, and a few others also missed the “T-junction.” Noel shred his story and we all had a laugh too, at his expense. Unbeknown to him he had a problem with his shoe. He was limping by the time he left Mt Shanck. As he was walking along the wrong stretch of road heading towards Riddoch Highway, he deiced to call it a day and thumb a ride into the city. A car came along and was racing past him. He missed his chance. Some of these country road are fairly deserted. He sued on only to see the car coming back in the opposite direction. The car swung around and a young lady agreed to give him a lift into the city. Noel worked out later that the young driver must have seen John and other pilgrims at the front and worked out that this straggler was part of the group and was in trouble. She turned out to be a young lady who insisted in delivering Noel right to the hotel doorstep. So, what was Noel’s problem that caused the limp? He discovered that he inserted two inner sole into one shoe! He was tipped out of balance for about 13km causing hip and knee pain. Poor chap! Anything is a goer in a camino venue the simplest thing like two inner sole in one shoe!

We had a hot shower and which was refreshing.  By the time we were ready to go to supermarket to get some supply, Jill was offering to take us there. Being an early arrival,  she had already surveyed the city and knew exactly how to get there. We got our supply believing that our next stop, Kalangadoo, might not have much to offer.

It was on the way back to the hotel that we were taken a detour and guided tour of the city. The three of us, Andy, Kalee and I,  came to the conclusion that Jill still have lots of energy. She was at least an hour ahead of us and she looked cool as cucumber. We looked like we were done for the day, hobbling, limping and struggling. I learnt that Jill is an early riser and would have been to the gymn by the time most of us got up. That fitness is evident as she and John were naturally fast and relaxed caminos walkers. John , who is in country Victoria, got up every morning for his 10 to 20 km walks. No wonder, he found the walk just like another day of his normal walk. The message is clear: do some serious walking before walking any caminos as it help you to enjoy the   pilgrimage.

Jens Hotel was pleasant and comfortable. The food was good. We were joined by Fr Michael who recently took up his new post at Mt Gambier following his ordination. A pilgrims dinner was always lots of exchanges of stories. I finished off the night with a few more blisters to pop.

Jens Hotel, Mt Gambier City

Jens Hotel, Mt Gambier City