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MCG – SCG Walk 2.0 (Week 4)

Days 22 to 28: Deniliquin to Conargo to Jerilderie to Urana to Lockhart

Sunday 19 November: Today was a rest day at Deniliquin. After Sharma ji and I had breakfast, we left our clothes with Martine to put them through the washing machine. Subsequently, we drove to the town centre and began our walk towards Conargo and Jerilderie. We didn’t want to do a full day walk but wanted to get a head start for tomorrow. We walked to a landmark and returned to the town centre for a coffee. But to our surprise, everything was closed. Sunday literally means a Sunday in Deni. Thank God for one shop next to the information centre that was open. I had a coffee, but my friend Sharma ji preferred to have a tea. Why not? It is a matter of choice. We walked to the main park in the town centre. This park right in the heart of Deni has some massive old trees that are certainly worth a visit. We went to the Coles Shopping Centre to stock up and then went back to Martine’s place. All our clothes had been washed, dried, and folded. Thank you so much Martine. The Cricket World Cup was being played in India. However, I didn’t want to stay up late and watch it because we had a long day ahead. We had dinner and went to sleep. Martine, you are amazing! What you did for us is simply incredible. A big thank you!


Monday 20 November: We started early morning to avoid the heat, drove to the location where we had walked to the previous day, and started the walk. After a couple of breaks, we reached Wandook that was our destination for the day. There was nowhere to stay in Wandook, so we walked through Wandook and marked the spot with a spray where we terminated the walk. We drove back to Deni to stay another night. However, Martine had gone to visit her sister near Darwin. Thus, we checked into the Riverside Caravan Park on the left before crossing the bridge into Deni. Karen, the Park Manager, was aware of our visit to Deni. She was also a cricket fan. When Karen lived in Adelaide, she would pick up Australian Cricketers and bring them back to their hotel. Those cricketers included Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting who had just joined the baggy green at the time.


After settling into the allocated site, we drove to town and wanted to visit the Civic Centre. When I was about to enter the Council Offices, I got a call from Cr. Peta Betts the Mayor of Deniliquin. She welcomed us to town and showed us through the Town Hall. The Council known as the Edward River Council has a magnificent Auditorium with more than 300 seating capacity in the main hall and a balcony. What an honour it was to be shown through this beautiful hall by the Mayor herself. Thank you so much for everything Peta and Thank you Jenny. You guys are simply incredible! A big thank you to both of you!


When we returned to the caravan park, Karen told us that she had decided to upgrade us to a cabin. A brand-new cabin with its own lounge, air-conditioner, two bedrooms, fully equipped state of the art kitchen, bathroom with shower, and a separate toilet. All that right next to the river. All that at no additional cost. Karen, I am lost for words to thank you appropriately. You have such a big heart. A big thank you Karen! After dinner in the cabin, we had the most comfortable sleep in a long time.


Tuesday 21 November:  Sharma Ji and I woke up early and had some tea before saying Good-Bye to the caravan park. We drove to the point which we had already walked to yesterday and started walking towards Conargo, our next destination. We stopped for breakfast and a quick powernap. We continued to walk until we reached Conargo. When we entered this town of less than 200 population, we walked past the Conargo Primary School that had about a dozen children at the most. They all came out along with their teachers to greet us and take some photos with us and the van. It was a very special moment for them. Conargo is on the Road-Train Route from Deniliquin to Hay with all the large trucks powering through the town. The only place where we could have had a shower was the pub in this town. Unfortunately, this pub remained closed on Tuesdays and today was Tuesday. For us, there weren’t many options. We could park the van close to this hwy and stay overnight where we would have access to the toilets but no shower. This toilet block was neat and clean, and it was adjacent to the oval that was used for cricket and footy training. However, after walking so long as I did and that too, on a hot day, the first thing you want to have, is a shower to wash down the sweat and feel fresh. But no such luck tonight. I had to wait until it got dark before I could use a face washer over the wash basin to wipe my body as much as I could. However, it was rather harsh to go without a proper shower under such hot conditions. We had our dinner in the van and went to sleep.


Wednesday 22 November: Again, no shower in the morning. After freshening up, we resumed the walk from Conargo towards Jerilderie. After stopping for breakfast and a quick powernap, we continued towards our destination for the day. We saw the gigantic sprinklers in the fields known as the Lateral Sprinklers and they could be up to one kilometre wide. Once they are operational, they could water the fields up to six kilometres. This device is fully automatic, and it can be operated from your mobile.


An SUV coming towards me stopped near me and a young lad of 10 years of age got out and asked me if he could walk with me just 100 metres to their farm. That short walk alongside me made this fifth grader’s day. He was thrilled to have photos taken with me. When we arrived at the road leading to their farm, the entrance had been decorated with pink balloons, and all the kids were dressed up in pink. It was heartening to see the amount of work the Armytage Family had put in to supporting the walk and welcome us. This family had driven past our walk several times over the past couple of days and they knew that we would be coming past their farm. After a few photos, we continued to walk towards Jerilderie.


Around noon, we came back to the Armytage Family’s farm. We used their office bathroom to have a shower. After lunch in the van, I took some rest. Sharma Ji had a chat with Carla (James’s mum) and explored various aspects of their farming business. After 5:30 PM the temperature became a bit more bearable, and we resumed our walk again. A couple of hours later, we returned to the Armytage Farm and had dinner in the van while my body was cooling off. I had a shower and went to sleep. The Armytage family not only made our stay as comfortable as possible at their farm, Carla went out of her way and called Maree her mum in Jerilderie and told her about the walk. Carla gave us her mum’s contact number, where we would be welcome to park our van and sleep when we got to Jerilderie. Thank you so much Carla. Your support during the walk means a lot to us. Hats off to you guys and a big thank you!


Thursday 23 November: After freshening up and an early morning quick shower, we were on the move again. While we had covered significantly more distance than it was scheduled the previous day, we still had a long way to go to get to Jerilderie. Like yesterday, it was fairly hot, and I was drinking a lot of water and sweating like anything. We had frequent breaks to cool down when the body got too hot. Hot Sun was one issue and I had applied sun cream to the exposed parts of the body. The other issue was the large number of flies trying to get into your nostrils, ears and wherever else they could. It is so annoying on a hot day like today when you are sweating profusely, and these flies come from nowhere and sit on your sweaty face like a sticky glue. Fortunately, most of this day’s walk was flat where I didn’t need to use the hiking poles that I use to climb steep inclines. Walking with the sticks means, no free hands to get rid of the flies. Sprays and other insect/flies deterrents are effective for a few minutes and then you are back to square one.


We survived these challenges and arrived at Jerilderie town centre. We had a cuppa with snacks at the local bakery in the middle of the town. We walked around the lake to get a feel for the town and then drove to Maree’s who had been waiting for us. We parked the van in front of her house. Maree was very generous to share with us a remote control to gain entrance through the garage door, so that we could access the bathroom and toilet. She was gracious to share some valuable experiences with us. Sharma Ji and I had dinner in the van while I was waiting for my body to cool down. I had a shower inside Maree’s house, came back to the van and went to sleep.


Friday 24 November: Rain forecast, hence no walk possible today. After breakfast, in accordance with Maree’s advice, I walked to the local Hospital to have the toe blisters checked out. Jerilderie has a small hospital where the staff have big hearts. As soon as the staff found out about the walk and the trouble I had with my toes, they went into emergency mode. I was treated like a royalty. I was taken to a room, where a nurse was waiting with two bowls filled with warm water for my feet. In the wake of the five blisters that I had on my toes, it was the most comfortable wash followed by fresh bandages on the affected toes and the underside of both feet. After thanking the staff from the bottom of my heart, I left the Jerilderie hospital.


I walked back to Maree’s place where the van was parked. Sharma Ji and I drove to the bakery and parked at the front, so that people could see the van decorated with the banners. At the back of the bakery, we met with the Women’s Exercise Group for a coffee. We gave the members of this group leaflets about the walk and some members made a cash donation. After the meeting, we came to the front of the bakery. I walked across the road to the newsagent and got some copies of the Southern Riverina News (SRN) and the Deniliquin Pastoral Times (DPT). Both publications had covered the walk in their latest issues. For our comfortable stay and fundraising at Jerilderie, we don’t have appropriate words to express our gratitude to Maree for her invaluable support for this noble cause. A big thank you Maree! You are a gem.


There was no bank at Jerilderie and all the banking was done through the Post Office. I went to the Post Office to deposit $1,340 into the McGrath Foundation (MF) account. The lady behind the counter asked me to swipe the card to deposit the money. Because I didn’t have the card linked to the MF account, I ended up depositing the amount into my own account and then transferring the same from my account into the MF account. I didn’t want to carry over a thousand dollars cash with me on the walk. I emailed a detailed list of donors and requested MF to send out official receipts, so that people could claim the donations on their tax returns.


We visited the council offices and took some photos with the staff outside the council office. The council’s social club had made a generous donation to the McGrath Foundation. Subsequently, we started the walk towards Urana. The Newell Hwy A39 continues from Jerilderie to Narrandera. Five kms after leaving Jerilderie, there is a right turn to Old Urana road but we continued on the A39 until we reached the Jerilderie – Urana Road before calling it a day. Subsequently, we returned to Maree’s place and said ‘Good-Bye’ to her as she was leaving for Melbourne early next morning to catch a flight to Queensland. After dinner in the van, Sharma Ji and I went to sleep.


Saturday 25 November: After getting ready early morning, Sharma Ji and I drove to the point where had walked to the previous day. I got off, touched my forehead to the ground to pay respect to Mother Earth and started walking. Around 8:00 AM, we stopped for breakfast followed by a powernap. Two hours later, we were still 17 kms from Urana when it began to rain heavily, and we couldn’t continue to walk and decided to call it a day. We drove past the Lake Urana and checked into the Urana Caravan Park. We parked the van at the allocated site, had dinner and went to sleep.

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