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MCG – SCG Walk 2.0 (Week 5)

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Days 29 to 35: Jerilderie to Urana to Lockhart to Wagga Wagga


Sunday 26 November: Sharma Ji and I got ready and drove back from Urana around 17 Kms to our mark, where we had walked to the previous day. It was a fairly hot start to the day. After doing namaskar to Mother Earth, I started to walk towards Urana. Around 8:00 AM, we stopped for breakfast, and I had a quick powernap. We resumed the walk around 9:20 AM and despite the increasing heat, we continued. I kept drinking lots of water because I was sweating a lot. The walk was made more difficult by flies sitting on my sweaty face. However, we kept pushing.

 

As we got closer to Urana, I realised that I hadn’t seen the van drive past me for a while. I tried to call Sharma Ji on the radio but received no response. I tried using the mobile phone to contact him, but there was no signal. At first, I thought Sharma Ji might have been busy doing something, so I wasn’t worried. However, now it was well established that we had lost contact with the van. As it was a hot day, I didn’t want to stop the walk in the middle of nowhere. I thought if I got to Urana, I would have a signal to communicate with Sharma Ji. I kept walking and kept trying to call Sharma Ji without success. I was just going past the ‘Welcome to Urana’ sign, when a car pulled up and the driver told me that Sharma Ji had sent the message to tell me the van was broken down and it won’t start. I thanked the stranger who delivered the important message. Before I could do anything to deal with the situation, a second driver gave me the same message.

 

At the first opportunity after reaching Urana, I called Sharma Ji and told him to hang in there, keep the air conditioner running to full capacity to stay cool, have patience until help arrived, and have something to eat. There was plenty of food in the fridge. I rang Michael, the owner of the van, apprised him of the situation and got all the details from him to call Roadside Assistance. Then I called the Toll Free number, with the exact location of the van (3 kms from Urana) and gave the person at the end of the phone, Sharma Ji’s number because he was at the van. For a city resident, it may not be possible to comprehend that the true nature of life in the rural area, was that the Road Assist Mechanic came from Narrandera, a town 85 kms from Urana. The poor guy tried his best for an hour but couldn’t start the van. Then he decided to drive back to his base station and come back with a tow truck to tow the van to Narrandera. Sharma Ji was on his own dealing with the situation and after this guy left to get the truck, Sharma Ji was all alone again in the middle of nowhere.

 

I was trying to arrange a lift to the van, so that I could reach there as soon as I could. While I was waiting, I was constantly in touch with Sharma Ji. I had my lunch at the news agency-cum-takeaway in Urana. At this shop, I met a young couple from Peru who dropped me off to the van. Soon after I arrived, the tow truck turned up and we were on our way to Narrandera, an unplanned stopover during the MCG – SCG Walk 2.0. The insurance had already sent us the details of the motel where we would be staying overnight in Narrandera.

 

Upon arrival at Narrandera, we got our stuff from the van and headed to the motel a couple of streets away. Upon checking in, the owner gave us milk and other items for tea/coffee as well as what we had selected for breakfast which wasn’t covered by the insurance. We got a room on the ground floor with two separate beds and an attached bathroom. Coming to Narrandera wasn’t a part of our walk, but here we were sitting in a motel room in Narrandera and the room was paid for by the insurance. Isn’t that amazing?

 

We had seen Christmas lights on the streets of Narrandera, and we were curious to have a closer look at these decorative lights. We went for a walk on the main street and ended up having dinner at this Hotel/Pub. The guy at the bar was also a snake catcher. I showed him the picture of a curled up snake that I had taken whilst walking to Urana that morning. He identified it as a ‘Brownie’ meaning it was a brown snake that is several times more poisonous than the Indian cobra. I didn’t tell Sharma Ji about the snake because I wasn’t sure how he would react to it. On a positive note, a patron of this pub learned about the walk and donated $100 to the McGrath Foundation. I issued a receipt, and we walked back to the motel and hit the bed.

 

Monday 27 November: We were just having breakfast in the motel room, when we got a call from the mechanic that the van was ready. They had replaced the battery, and it was good to go. I had to settle the invoice when we picked up the van. The battery cost was reimbursed by Michael, the owner of the van. On the outskirts of Narrandera, we drove to a service station and filled up the van before driving 85 kms back to Urana. Coincidently, today was pencilled in as a rest day. However, due to excessive heat, I opted to walk late afternoon. We walked for about 15 kms towards Lockhart, marked the location with a spray paint and returned to Urana for another night. We cooked chickpeas for dinner, enjoyed the taste of freshly cooked food with pickle, and relaxed into the world of dreams.

 

Tuesday 28 November: After a quick cuppa in the van, we drove to the marked location and started walking towards Lockhart. It was another hot day from early morning and there was no let up in sight. We walked until 8:00 AM then had breakfast and went for a powernap. Around 9:30 AM, we resumed the walk and kept walking until lunch time. We stopped for lunch and continued the walk after lunch. We terminated the walk for the day around 10 kms short of Lockhart. We drove to Lockhart and checked into the caravan park. We were pleased to see the bathrooms, toilets and laundry were recently installed and spotless clean. To our surprise, this caravan park even had a charging station for electric cars, which indicated a foresight and preparation for future technologies by the council planners. We had dinner in the van and went to sleep.

 

Wednesday 29 November: Sharma Ji was very excited as he was going home today. Mahendra bhayia would be taking over. Sharma Ji and I drove to the point where we had walked to on Tuesday. I did the namaskar to Mother Earth and started the walk. Around 8:30 AM, we were back in Lockhart. I went to the local hospital to get my toes checked out. Sharma Ji was waiting outside, and I went in via the Emergency Entrance. A nurse used the video link to connect me to a doctor sitting in Wagga Wagga Base Hospital. After looking at the photos of my toes with blisters and missing toenail, the doctor told me that I would need to get sandals for walking and alternate them with the shoes I had been using. Sandals would allow the feet in general and toes in particular to breathe. The nurse cut out the dead skin and applied bandages to the damaged area of my feet.

 

From the hospital, I went straight to the council offices, introduced myself, and announced our mission. It was an honour to meet the Mayor and the General Manager, and take some photos with them. Mahendra bhayia arrived at 10:30 AM and we all wanted to have a cuppa together before Sharma Ji left. However, Sharma Ji wanted to get back home as soon as possible. Sharma Ji filled Mahendra Bhayia in on the responsibilities of support crew. Sharma Ji then switched to Mahendra Bhayia’s car and took off on the quickest way back to Melbourne.

 

In accordance with doctor’s advice, Mahendra Bhayia and I drove 65 kms to purchase a pair of sandals from Athletes Foot in Wagga Wagga. We had a cuppa at the Café next to the Athlete’s Foot. On the way to Lockhart, we stopped about 10 kms short of Lockhart and started walking. When we arrived back at the caravan park, Mahendra bhayia was surprised to see how neat and clean the facilities were. My brother Vinod and his wife Shashi had sent another supply of cooked food with Mahendra bhayia. We heated up a couple of dishes from that supply and had dinner in the van. One thing we did almost every day, was that we always cut fresh salad mix of carrots, Lebanese cucumbers, apples and tomatoes, and/or mushrooms. I had a shower and then hit the bed.

 

Thursday 30 November: We had an early start because it was going to be a long walk and it was going to be a hot day. We had breakfast at 8:30 and I had a quick nap. We resumed the walk and kept going with frequent breaks and drinking lots of water to counter the dehydration from the heat. We walked through Brookdale, Belfryden and finally reached Collingullie on the corner of Lockhart Road and Sturt Hwy A20. I was absolutely exhausted after covering more than 30 kms on this hot and windless day. To make the matter even worse on a day like this, the flies become super active to annoy you. Nevertheless, that is part of Australian life in summer months.

After terminating the walk for the day at the corner of the Sturt Hwy, and Lockhart Road, I jumped into the van, and we drove back for another night at the Lockhart caravan park. When I rang the caretaker to advise that we would be staying another night, I was told, there would be no charge for tonight because of what we were doing. Thank you very much caretaker for your support for this noble cause. Mahendra bhayia and I had dinner and went to sleep.

 

Friday, 1 December: Mahendra bhayia and I drove to the corner of Lockhart Road and Sturt Hwy and started the walk at 6:30 AM. The amount and the kind of traffic on the Sturt Hwy A20 is similar to that on a motorway. On this highway, you can see all sorts of cars, utes, small to medium size trucks to buses, and big, long road trains with 46 or 58 wheels. This kind of traffic would scare any walker. However, walking on this Hwy had also an advantage. Most of this Hwy was uphill and downhill but it had a shoulder to walk on. Of course, there were sections with no shoulder but that would be a relatively small distance in total. As we approached the final hill, there was a sign placed to indicate roadworks ahead. In accordance with the conditions set out by relevant authorities, I was required to travel in the van and NOT walk across the length of roadworks area. Since leaving the MCG on 29 October, this was the first roadworks we came across. After passing the End Roadworks sign, I resumed the walk to Wagga Wagga.

 

I had emailed and advised the Wagga Wagga Council of our upcoming visit to Wagga and the reason for it. I had also requested to meet the Mayor and the GM or the CEO. We drove to the civic centre and went to the museum adjacent to the Council Offices. They pointed us in the right direction, and we announced our arrival at the reception. The woman at the reception was very helpful and immediately contacted the Mayor’s Chamber. Within a few minutes, Cr. Dallas Tout the Mayor came downstairs and invited us to his chambers. What a beautiful view the Mayor had from his office! Cr. Dallas would have to be one of most humble people I have met in my life. The following demonstrates the true nature of his character. The Executive Assistant at his office had responded to our email but I hadn’t opened it because I was walking at that time. The email was sent out to say that unfortunately, the Mayor was fully booked out for the day. However, when the Mayor learned that we were already in the building and he had just a few minutes to the next meeting, Cr. Dallas decided to meet with us. It was such an honour to meet and take some photos with the Mayor of Wagga Wagga. Thank you so much Cr. Dallas. You are such a wonderful human being!

 

Mahendra and I drove to the Big4 Caravan Park in Wagga and checked in to stay the night. This caravan park backs on to the Murrumbidgee River. The unpowered site we were allocated was close to the back of the park and just a couple of minutes’ walk to the river. Just 20 meters from us, there was a luxury van owned by a retired couple from Bowral. Our introduction with Clive and Narelle Harwood began when they made a $50 donation to the McGrath Foundation. We had a cuppa together, but Clive and Narelle had to bring their own chairs and cups because we only had two cups in our van. We all enjoyed having a chat and cracked some jokes that made the evening so beautiful. We had dinner from the food stored in the fridge and went to sleep.

 

Saturday, 2 December: It was a rest day today. Mahendra and I had Weetbix for breakfast and then drove to the Wagga city centre. We were having a coffee when the Mayor tapped on my shoulder. He sat down with us while his wife went shopping. Cr. Dallas told us that in the last couple of weeks, he had just attended three Diwali functions with the local Indian community in Wagga. He also told us that with the increase in population from diverse backgrounds, Wagga had become a truly multicultural place. After she had finished shopping, we met his wife and had a good chat with them. What an honour! Thank you so much Dallas. You guys are champions!

 

Shekhar arrived around 1:30PM. He was joining us to drive the support van all the way to Sydney. The excess stuff from the van was shifted to Shekhar’s car. Mahendra bhayia took over Shekhar’s car and drove back to Melbourne. A day after arriving back from holidays in Thailand, Mahendra bhayia came to Lockhart to support us. Bhayia, thank you so much for your kind help. A big thanks to Mahendra bhayia!

 

Shekhar and I had lunch at the shopping centre before driving to the Lincoln Cottage Motel. Our stay at this motel was arranged by Maree Thomas whose cousin Peter and his wife Tina owned it. Shekhar was able to drive the van inside the complex and park it just outside the room. This beautiful room had a double bed and a single bed. It had all the facilities you would expect from a four-star accommodation. Thank you so much Peter and Tina for your kind support! Hats off to you and your generosity. Thank you so much Maree for organizing such a wonderful place for our comfortable stay over the weekend. You are a true gem!


Late afternoon, we drove to the McPherson Oval to watch Clive and Narelle’s grandson play cricket. At the age of just 15, Sam Harwood stood tall at 6’3”. He was a big hitter with the bat and equally good with the ball. With 47 runs to his name, Sam was the top scorer on both sides of the game.

 

Shekhar used the washing machine to do our laundry. We also met two gentlemen from Greenvale Plastering who had come all the way from Melbourne in connection with the specialised work that they do. They appreciated what we were doing and made a generous donation to the McGrath Foundation. We had dinner and then went to sleep.
































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Tracie Kyne
Tracie Kyne
Dec 27, 2023

I'm so sorry to hear of your van and feet issues..... that's not what you need at all. Not long to go now.... looking forward to seeing you enter the Sydney Cricket Ground very soon!! You're such an inspiration Prabodh xxx

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