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MCG – SCG Walk 2.0 Week 3

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Days 15 to 21 of Yatra: Goornong to Rochester to Echuca to Deniliquin

Sunday 12 November: After using the facilities and getting ready, Michael and I had breakfast at Danny’s house in Bendigo. We then drove back to Goornong where we had left off the previous day. In accordance with my own beliefs and my daily routine, I paid my respect to Mother Earth and started the walk towards Echuca. With Elmore being our destination for the day meant the distance of just 17 kms scheduled for the day, it was a relatively short walk. After Bendigo, it was a fairly flat landscape. We took just one break on the way and walked into Elmore by lunch time. Elmore is a junction on the Midland Hwy A300 from Shepparton to Bendigo and the Northern Hwy B75 towards Rochester and Echuca. Michael and I had lunch at a restaurant, and we checked into the Elmore caravan park. Late afternoon, we went for a short walk towards Rochester, came back, had dinner and went to sleep.


Monday 13 November: The walk to Rochester was also a relatively short one just 17 kms. Like the previous day, the road was fairly flat and we arrived at Rochester by lunch time. The silos near the Rochester station had a fresh makeover with beautiful silos-art. There are some well-maintained classic buildings to highlight the superb know-how of by-gone era. These magnificent buildings are now homes to hotels, pubs or other types of businesses. Unfortunately, this town has been devastated by regular floods and more recently in 2022. The town is still not fully recovered. Some residents still awaiting insurance claims to be settled and their homes to be rebuilt. What a shame that despite of computers and cars available to loss assessors, these poor families are faced with such delays.


My brother Vinod and his wife Shashi close their shop on Mondays. They drove to Rochester and restocked the fridge with fresh supplies of cooked Indian food and sweets because of Diwali just the previous day. For those not familiar with Diwali, it is a festival of lights. It is celebrated to mark the victory of righteousness over evil, of light over darkness, and of truth over illusion. Vinod and Shashi met us near the bakery in the town centre, had a cuppa and walked around to the silos to take some photos. I had been hungry but was waiting for them to arrive. Thank you Vinod and Shashi, for coming all the way and bringing so much food to make our journey comfortable. A big Thank you!


After Shashi and Vinod left for Melbourne, Michael and I checked into the caravan park The park owner did not take any money because of the nature of the walk. After taking some rest, we began our second shift and started to walk towards Echuca. A family who lived on the service road of the Northern Hwy B75 , asked us if we accepted cash donations. Of course, we said, and the young woman gave us $50. We had a quick chat with that family and continued our walk towards Echuca. Before it got dark, we terminated the walk and started driving back. With the intention of giving the family a token of thanks, an MF scarf, we stopped near the same house. One thing led to another, and we ended up having dinner with Tracie, her husband Justin and his cousin Maree. We were dining with the people a couple of hours earlier we didn’t even know. Maree made me a delicious vegetarian dinner and for Michael, she made something he loved; namely, fish and chicken along with his favourite wine. It was indeed a beautiful evening. We thanked the family, returned to the caravan park and went to sleep.


Tuesday 14 November: We had 23 kms left to walk to Echuca as we had already walked 5 kms yesterday. After touching my forehead to the ground and pay my obeisance to Mother Earth, we started the walk. We stopped for breakfast around 8:30 AM and I had a powernap. When we reached the outskirts of Echuca, we had lunch in a shady park to avoid the direct heat of the Sun. Subsequently, we drove to the Echuca Regional Hospital (ERH) the biggest and possibly the best medical facility in the area. I had already apprised Sarah Crossman at the ERH and requested a doctor to check out my toes before attending the media conference. I had already lost one toenail a few days earlier and didn’t want to lose another one. Sarah had made the best arrangements possible. The head of the emergency personally attended. I was taken in straightaway and treated like a VIP. The head doctor brought me a glass of cold water and asked if I wanted some cold drinks or if I would like some food for lunch. A team of medical professionals including senior doctors cleaned my toes very gently. It was a very delicate operation as one little slip up could have cost me another toenail. Finally, a nurse put on each affected toe bandages with cut-to-size cushions to make the continuation of the walk a possibility. This was followed by a photo session with doctors and nurses. I thanked them from the bottom of my heart for what they did and appreciated how they cared about my feet being fit for the fundraising walk. A big thank you to everyone in the team at the ERH! A special thank you to Sarah!


Subsequently, in another part of the ERH, we attended the media interview where Sarah introduced to us a MF nurse who had come to meet us. Poor Michael had to wait in the van because he couldn’t find a parking spot near the ERH. We then drove to the NRMA caravan park and paid $40 for the unpowered site to stay the night. We met a middle aged couple who had sold their house up in Darwin a few years ago and they had been travelling and living in their caravan ever since. At present, they were working in Echuca and staying at the caravan park. We drove to a café near the Murray River that separated the twin towns of Echuca in Victoria from Moama in NSW. We started to walk towards Deniliquin. When you cross the Murray, you see a big sign, ‘Welcome to New South Wales’. After an hour’s walk, we drove back to Echuca, so we were back in our home state Victoria. We walked around to see the town and find a good place to eat. After dinner, we drove back to the caravan park and went to bed.


Wednesday 15 November:  I met a gentleman early morning in the men’s facilities, when we both went to brush our teeth. I told him about the marathon walk we were doing to raise awareness and funds to support the McGrath Foundation. I didn’t have any leaflet with me as I just went to use the bathroom. However, later in the day, he traced us via the internet and made a generous donation. Thanks very much Kelvin. You are simply amazing.


When we were leaving the caravan park at 5:30 AM, the boom gate wouldn’t open with our code. Where do we go or what could we do so early in the morning? We kept trying to open but it won’t accept our code. Guess what? The woman from the family from Darwin we had met the previous evening, came after the night shift and she was going to drive into the caravan park. She helped us get out and we were on our way. I firmly believe in the notion that ‘Nothing happens without a reason’ and this incident reaffirms that belief. Had that couple not met us the previous evening, and had that woman not come back from work right at the time when we were trying to leave, I wouldn’t know what we would have done to get out of the caravan park that early in the morning.


We walked 20 kms or so towards Deniliquin and returned to Echuca. Echuca is an interesting town, closely associated with the life of First Australians and I would certainly love to revisit it at some stage. After a cuppa at another café, we took some photos along the river and the old railway station. We then returned to the NRMA caravan park and went to the office to check in for another day. When the two women in the office found out what we were doing, they not only let us stay free of charge, but also returned the $40 the younger colleague had charged us the previous day. We took photos with the ladies and the van. We gave them the MF scarves as a token of thanks and appreciation. We cooked some dinner and had an early evening.


Thursday 16 November:  We drove to the point, which we had already walked to the previous day, and started the walk to Mathoura, a town before Deniliquin. After a short pause for breakfast and powernap, we resumed our walk and soon after lunch time reached our destination. The information centre told us that we could drive to the caravan park, or we could stay the night at the bowling club that had toilet facilities and a hot shower for travellers. We drove straight to the Mathoura Bowling Club where we had some coffee and delicious vegetarian lunch. When we told Martine the young woman at the reception what we were doing and asked her about the shower and toilet facilities, she was happy to give us the code to unlock the shower/bathroom. The toilets always remained unlocked. Martine then instructed the kitchen staff to not charge us for the dinner that night. The dinner was ‘on the house’, she said to us. Michael and I enjoyed the dinner at the bowling club. However, Martine wasn’t finished yet. She also offered us her place to park and sleep in the van at her place and use the facilities when we came to Deniliquin. Martine, you are simply amazing. A big thank you to Martine!

Friday 17 November: After getting ready for the day, we started the walk towards Deniliquin. After reaching our destination for the day, we kept walking past it. We terminated the walk late afternoon and drove back to Mathoura Bowling Club for another night. This time the dining area was fully occupied. So, Michael and I went to the bar area. We ordered what we wanted to eat and returned to our seats in the bar. I asked the woman in charge of the bar if she could help us by announcing our presence in the bar area and what we were doing. She went a step further and introduced me as the marathon walker who was easily identifiable by the pink McGrath Foundation T-Shirt. By the time, we finished our dinner, a total of $220 had been donated by the dining guests. We thank the Mathoura Bowling Club for everything they did to make our stay comfortable. We also thank their guests for their generous donations. All this was made possible only because of one person – Martine. I would like to express my gratitude to Martine for everything you did to support this noble cause. A big thank you!


Saturday 18 November: We left Mathoura early morning and drove past the Hill Plain Fire Brigade. When we reached the point where we had left off the previous day, I got off and paid my respect to Mother Earth before I started to walk the final leg of our walk to Deniliquin. We reached the town commonly referred to as Deni and went for a coffee at the Frank n Beans Café located in the heart of the town. Jenny, the Secretary and Claire, the Members co-ordinator from an organisation called CanAssist, met with us at this café. Jenny told us that they had auctioned a painting by Fiona Waters, a local artist who had requested half of the amount to be donated to McGrath Foundation. The painting was sold for $500. Jenny and Claire handed over $250 in cash along with a beautifully written letter of appreciation for the work that we were doing to raise awareness about breast cancer and the McGrath Foundation. Thank you so much Jenny, Claire and Can Assist. You guys are incredibly dedicated and amazing. A big thank you for your support for this noble cause!


Also met Kelly, the President of this wonderful organisation while I was walking on the road, and she was driving her children to school. I was told that this Can Assist branch alone had raised more than $300,000 and distributed to support cancer patients in the Deni area. Hats off to this enthusiastic team of volunteers for this remarkable achievement.  Can Assist is an organization with its headquarters in Sydney. However, its branches are standalone entities that provide financial assistance and support to cancer patients in rural NSW. All branches raise their funds locally and these funds are used to support local patients in their area. Another branch at Cootamundra expected to raise $20K when a well-known local tradesman offered to cut his locks that he had kept for many years to raise funds for Can Assist. This was well publicized in the local area, and everyone was well aware of it. To everyone’s surprise, and despite having a small population, they ended up raising $120K from this activity. That is the kind of spirit rural people have when it comes to helping each other. Hats off to the idea of Can Assist and all the volunteers associated with it!


Today was also the day for support crew change over. Michael was going home and Jagmohan Sharma (Sharma Ji) would be taking over. There was another catch to it. The change over would take place 165 kms away at Bendigo Railway Station and not in Deniliquin. When we finished our coffee, Michael started fixing the automatic step used to get out of the van when the sliding side door was operated. Being so low, the step or some part of it was perhaps scratched or damaged on the underside. Michael had removed it completely the previous night when we stayed at the Mathoura Bowling Club. He thought he could fix it and install it back if he had the right tools.


Jenny offered to help us out. Jenny and her husband Paul have a large transport business with their own workshop equipped with hoists and a pit. Their young son drives one of their Road – Trains. For the first time in my life, I climbed into the cabin of such a large vehicle with 46 wheels with a carrying capacity of 60 tonnes. No need to go onto a weigh bridge these days. Just at the touch of a button, you’d know how much load is behind you. Real high-tech stuff in these large freight vehicles. If the driver yawns for example, the driver’s seat vibrates to wake him up and immediately, a message appears on the dashboard saying, “You need to pull over and have a rest”. The owner of such a truck has access to all the information he needs at the touch of a button on his/her mobile phone. Hats off to this level of sophistication and technological advancement.


Unfortunately, despite having access to a full workshop and all kinds of tools, Michael couldn’t fix or install the step. And we lost time in the process. Thus, we were running late to meet Sharma ji at Bendigo station. The drive from Deniliquin to Danny’s house in East Bendigo is two hours where Michael’s car had been parked for the whole week. Danny lives very close to the B75 Northern Hwy from Bendigo to Deniliquin. I dropped Michael off and thanked him for his support for the walk as well as for generous donation he made to McGrath Foundation. Without your help Michael, this walk would not have been possible. A big thank you to Michael!


I drove the van to the station and met with Sharma ji who was supposed to come by train. However, the whole Sharma family had decided to come for a drive and drop him off. It was great to see them all especially Chhotu, Sharma ji’s four-year-old grandson. After Sharma ji was handed over the van keys, we said bye to the Sharma family. After a cuppa in the Marketplace near Bendigo station, we headed back on the B75 to Deniliquin.


Martine had already sent me her residential address and google maps did the rest. We first went to the Coles shopping centre to use the facilities but also because she wouldn’t get home from work until late in the evening. To our surprise, she had reached home much earlier than expected. We soon headed to her place. Sharma Ji and I had dinner with Martine and her friend. Martine left the front door unlocked for us to use the facilities during the night. It was incredible to see how total strangers could raise the level of trust in each other to these heights within hours of meeting for the first time in life. Martine, you are simply amazing, an incredible human being with such a big heart. The words thank you do not appropriately reflect what you have done to support for this noble cause. However, I am running out of vocabulary. A big thank you Martine!

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