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MCG – SCG Walk 2.0 (Week 8)

Updated: Jan 15

Days 50 to 56: Crookwell to Goulburn to Moss Vale

Sunday 17 December: After getting ready, Shekhar and I drove to the Bannister Lane, Kialla Road then later becomes Range Road. We deliberately opted to walk this road that is 5 kms longer than the highway straight to Goulburn. The road via Bannister and Mummel is full of curves with steep hills and narrow bridges that would be difficult to negotiate on a high speed. And perhaps due to this reason, there wasn’t much traffic on this road which is quite popular with bike riders. As soon as we came out of the built-up area in Crookwell, the visibility on the road was reduced by dense fog. We had to drive very slowly. In other words, we had to drive at a speed that would allow us to stop within the distance we could see ahead. The journey that would usually take just a few minutes was slow and risky. There were patches of fog mixed with sections of the road with a clear vision.


Suddenly, a couple of kangaroos sprung out of nowhere and started hopping along the road. We were going very slowly but I asked Shekhar to slow down even more. These kangaroos kept switching sides from left side of the road to the right side of the road. They seemed to enjoy this game of playing chicken with the van. I took a short video of this encounter between natural habitants of this land and the man and man-made machines. This unplanned event went on for quite some time. Hopping kangaroos are always a big risk to your vehicle, as any hit at the front or a crucial spot could render the vehicle undriveable. Shekhar gently increased the speed, and the hopping kangaroos were left behind. There was fog ahead and we had to wait for half an hour for the fog to lift and the visibility to increase before we could start the walk.


I touched my head to the ground to pay respect to Mother Earth before starting the walk towards Goulburn. As we had started late, we didn’t stop for breakfast until 9:00AM. Some sections of this road were quite challenging and tough to climb. I was sweating like a pig and going through lots of water. After lunch time, we called it a day and headed back to Crookwell. While driving back, the huge number of Wind-Turbines installed over a large area made it hard to ignore their significance in power generation as well as their contribution to the economy.


When we arrived back in Crookwell, we went straight to the information centre and requested reimbursement for the fees paid to stay the three nights at the caravan park. The lady behind the counter had already been briefed about it. She was happy to comply with the request. We made a booking to stay another night and that was at no charge. Thank you so much Crookwell especially Pam Kensit the Mayor, Alex the GM, Tristan and Tash at the Upper Lachlan Gazette and everyone for their support for this noble cause and making our stay so comfortable. All this would not have been possible if it wasn’t for one person to going out of her way to help us. Thank you so much Peta Proudford.


We went to the local IGA to buy some fruit, vegetables, milk, and bread. We wanted to give out leaflets to shops but most of them were closed. We returned to the caravan park. I had a good long shower because this was the last chance for us to wash ourselves at this beautiful facility. We cooked dinner at the van, cut some salad and fruit and enjoyed the last supper in Crookwell.


Monday 18 December: We got ready early morning and said goodbye to Crookwell. It was another foggy morning but not as bad as yesterday. We drove to the location where we had left off the previous day and after it cleared up, we started the walk. Around 8:30 AM, we had breakfast and I dosed off for half an hour. The day was heating up to 30+ temperature. We crossed the narrow bridge over the Wollondilly River that separates the Upper Lachlan Shire Council from the Goulburn Mulwaree Council. We had lunch in the van, following which I had some rest. After several breaks to cool down, rest and recover, we finally arrived in the outskirts of Goulburn. We called it a day and went for a coffee.


We didn’t see as many snakes during this year’s walk as we saw last year, but enough to scare you. We walked past a considerable number of dead animals throughout this walk. Not sure how long these animals had been dead but my God, they stank like hell. Not sure who would be responsible for their removal, but something needs to be done to clear them off the roads in a timely manner.


We drove to the Shri Hari Temple in Towrang to stay overnight. The Bali family arrived back from work. They had also invited Vishal and his family, the owner of the Café 5911, Goulburn. Together we all had a cuppa followed by a delicious dinner. We all did the Aarti at the temple. Vishal and his family left for Goulburn. The four of us sat up, had a good chat about a range of things including global issues and the Indian economy. Finally, we had a soothing cup of masala tea before going to sleep.


Tuesday 19 December: We had an early morning cuppa at the temple before driving back to the marked location in Goulburn. We had already emailed the Goulburn Mulwaree Council about our walk into Goulburn on the 19th. We had also confirmed our visit to the council offices and requested to meet the Mayor, and the GM or the CEO. While I was walking towards the Civic Centre, I got a call from the Mayor’s office confirming the time because they heard it on the radio that we would be calling into the council offices at 10:30 before visiting Café 5911 at 11:00. Somehow the email we sent had been lost in the system and the Mayor’s office wasn’t aware of our visit. However, the Mayor and the Executive Assistant would be happy to receive us, we were told.


Shekhar and I walked into the Civic Centre and went to the reception area. We announced our arrival and reasons for our visit. We were told to wait in the foyer. We had been there just a few minutes when a well-built middle-aged man along with a woman appeared from nowhere. Straightaway he bent down as if he was trying to touch my feet and I wasn’t sure who he was and what was he trying to do. Then we found out that he was Peter Walker, the Mayor and he wanted to inspect the soles of my shoes to confirm the long walk. It was such an extraordinary gesture on his part that made us click instantaneously. Peter enquired about the walk and the blisters on my toes.


We went to the van parked in the side street where two hours parking was allowed. We took some photos with the van. While we were taking photos, Vishwa my friend from Canberra and Adhyia his daughter arrived right there. They had come all the way from Canberra to meet us. They had parked their car near Cafe 5911 and walked to the Civic Centre. I requested the Mayor to walk with me to Café 5911 to attend the function to which he had also been invited. The Executive Assistant intervened and said that Peter had other commitments and he would come directly to the function and join us later. Peter interrupted her and asked her to cancel those appointments because he was going to walk with us. And he did. Peter, thank you so much for the honour. You are simply amazing! Peter, Vishwa, Adhyia and I walked to the Cafe while Shekhar drove.


Vishal Oberoi, the young entrepreneur from India, had organized a great function to honour the walk, raise awareness and funds for the McGrath Foundation. For the last 3-4 weeks, Vishal had run a fundraising campaign ‘Sip for Support’ under which he would donate $1 for each coffee sold on the weekends. The list of guests at the function included the Hon. Wendy Tuckerman State Member of Parliament, Cr. Peter Walker the Mayor, Cr. Steve Ruddell the Deputy Mayor, Tony Lamara Ex Mayor, close friends, and business associates. My friend Vishwa and his daughter Adhyia were there as well. Vishwa bhayia, thank you so much for specially driving all the way from Canberra to meet us and be a part of this function. You are not just a close friend, you are also an incredible human being with heart of gold. A big thank you for everything!

Wally the MC for this function announced that Vishal’s ‘Sip for Support’ campaign had raised more than $900 over the last 3-4 weeks. This amount was topped up to $1,000 by Vishal. This was followed by an impromptu collection of donations from those who were present. A total of $760 was collected in cash. Wendy, Peter, Tony and I spoke on the importance of donating to MF to fight breast cancer. Vishal thanked everyone for coming and announced that in the wake of success this initiative had, Café 5911 was encouraged to make this fundraising campaign an annual event. On a sombre note, it was sad to learn that just a few months ago, Peter walker had lost his 62 years old sister to breast cancer.


After the donations, everyone enjoyed the generous hospitality of Café 5911 as the day was heating up. A variety of veg and non-veg snacks, sweets and drinks were provided. Guests enjoyed the delicious delicacies. A huge effort on part of staff at the Café that deserves to be acknowledged. The amount of $1,760 was donated to MF online. A huge thank you to Vishal for taking this very thoughtful initiative and for organizing the function. I would like to express our sincere gratitude to all donors in particular Café 5911 for their generous donations to support such a noble cause. A big thank you!


Shekhar and I had lunch at the Café. Monday to Wednesday, Café 5911 is closed at 4:00PM. Other days it is open for dinner. Today being Tuesday, it was closing at 4:00. We all went to Vishal’s place. Vishal, and Mani’s son was born on Guru-Purnima in 2022. It was quite logical to name this cute and smiley baby Guru. We had a cuppa with snacks and sweets, followed with more snacks. Another cuppa with Indian snacks, and local snacks. Mani was busy making dinner, and I wasn’t sure how and where were we going to fit it all in. However, the dinner was so delicious that instead of having each item sparingly, we were loading it beyond capacity. And in accordance with typical Punjabi tradition, there was a glass of hot milk before going to bed. We all slept happily thereafter.


Wednesday 20 December: We had pencilled in today as a rest day at Goulburn. Coincidently, it was rain forecast and it did rain all day. In this kind of weather, we wouldn’t be able to walk anyway. We drove to Café 5911 and had breakfast. Thereafter we set up our laptop in the little room at the Café and started working on the blogs. A couple of hours later, Tony Lamara, the former Mayor of Goulburn, came by and invited us to join him for dinner at 6:00PM at the Workers Club. Shekhar and I had a cuppa with snacks at the café.


Shekhar and I drove back to Vishal’s place. Mani had prepared lunch that based on last night’s experience, we knew was going to be delicious. After some rest, Vishal drove to the Café. Shekhar and I were still driving, when Tony called and said that he was waiting outside the club. All three of us went to the club which wasn’t far from the café. Originally from Italy, Tony a man perhaps in his mid to late 80s, has lived in Goulburn most of his adult life. He has witnessed Goulburn, the first inland town in Australia, grow from a moderate size place to its current level. Tony had arranged with the reception to make announcement about the walk and appeal to everyone to come forward and donate to the McGrath Foundation. Thanks to Tony’s efforts, we raised awareness and collected some donations. We had dinner followed by a range of deserts until we were full.  Thank you so much for everything Tony, you are a gem!


When we drove back to Vishal’s place, Mani had also prepared dinner, but there was no room for it. Vishal suggested that we wait for an hour or two, by then we would be hungry again and then we would eat. And that’s exactly what we did. Before going to bed, I said to Vishal, “All the weight I lost since the start of the walk, I probably have regained over the two days we stayed with you.” I am honoured to admit, Vishal, Mani and Guru have become part of our family. Thank you so much Vishal and Mani for everything you guys did to make our journey comfortable. You guys are simply incredible. A big thank you!


Thursday 21 December: Shekhar and I got ready early morning and drove to Café 5911 as Vishal had insisted that we must have a cuppa before leaving. After the cuppa, I touched my forehead to the ground to pay respect to Mother Earth and started the walk outside the café. It was going to be hot and muggy. The Goulburn to Sydney leg of the MCG – SCG marathon was known to us from last year’s walk. We walked to the approach ramp to the M31 Hume Motorway. Shortly before reaching that point, I boarded the van and got off at the Towrang Road exit. I walked for a while. Shekhar could not pull over because there was no shoulder or enough space for him to stop clear of the road. I walked on the newly built bridge over the Wollondilly River. As soon as Shekhar could pull over, we stopped for breakfast, and I had a quick nap.


We resumed the walk and reached Towrang. We walked over the Mills Road rail crossing and wanted to proceed towards Brayton and Canyonleigh. The road was closed because of the bridge over the Wollondilly River was under water. The water over the bridge didn’t look very deep, but we couldn’t afford to take a chance and jeopardize the rest of the walk. We made a U-turn and drove back to M31 Hume Motorway this time towards Sydney. We left the motorway at the very next exit Carrick Rd towards Brayton. I got off at the corner Mills Road / Carrick Road and resumed the walk. We walked over the railway crossing and continued to walk. When we reached the bridge over the river, I touched my forehead to the ground and we called it a day.


I boarded the van, and we drove back towards the Motorway. We had spotted a Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) on Carrick Road and driven past it on our way towards Brayton. This time on our way back towards the motorway, we called in to visit the Sikh Temple. We had no idea who or which sect this temple belonged to. Similar to the concept of different sects within Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, followers of Sikhism also have different sects to which they belong. Like other religions, all of them claim to be authentic and true followers of the teachings of their particular faith.


Coincidently, the head of this Kaleran Wale Gurudwara, who is usually based in India, was in Australia and was visiting this gurudwara on the day. We were fortunate to have darshan (glimpse) of the head of this sect dressed in pure white and a Patka (like a turban). By the grace of the Almighty, we were blessed with the opportunity to take photos with him. We were taken to a room where we could pay our respect to the Almighty with an offering usually a bank note ($5, $10 or $20 or whatever you can afford to part with). To conclude our visit, we were offered lunch which we declined as we had to head back to Goulburn for a media interview at 1:00 PM. We had a quick cuppa and we departed.


We arrived at Café 5911 a few minutes early and so did the reporter who worked with Goulburn Post. at 1:00PM. After the interview, we left for Towrang. We pulled up a few hundred metres before the gate to Shri Hari Temple. The Bali family was at work in Canberra. We had some snacks in the van, and I started working on my blogs as we waited for the Balis to arrive back from Canberra. On their way back from work, the Bali family stopped near the van and tapped on the window to announce their arrival. We followed them through the gate and into the car park adjacent to the temple. After I had a shower and we all headed from the residential part to the temple building. We did kirtan for a couple of hours before the Shri Hari aarti and again following the aarti. We all enjoyed the delicious dinner Lajja ji had prepared Baajre ki Roti (Chapati made from a particular type of millet flour). We engaged in discussions to solve many problems in Australia, India, and the rest of the world. We had a soothing cuppa before hitting the bed.


Friday 22 December: Shekhar and I had a quick cuppa before leaving the Shri Hari Temple at Towrang. We drove to the M31 motorway towards Sydney, took the Carrick Road exit and continued driving until we reached the location where we had turned around yesterday. I paid my respect to Mother Earth and resumed the walk. Another hot day ahead of walking through tough terrain, climbing hilly road with curves and turns meant a lot of sweating and drinking a lot of water. There is not a great deal of traffic on this road. Just the local farmer or a tradie or family going about their business. No through traffic of large trucks, semi-trailers or road-trains is seen on this link road. Many parts of this road are just a gravel road. While this road had very little traffic, the foregoing conditions and no shoulder to walk on, describe the challenges to completing today’s walk.


When we arrived at Brayton, we had a short break near the bus shelter. With a population of just 208 (2021), Brayton is a small town but an important junction, for a number of roads in different directions intersect here. Here we took a few deep breaths and had breakfast. Subsequently, I had some rest for recovery. As a daily routine, when I woke up after powernap, I got ready and applied sun cream to the exposed parts of my body before stepping out of the van. Today was no exception. By the time we resumed the walk, it was already getting hot.


A local resident was curious as to who we were and what we were doing in this hardly visited town by anyone. After interviewing us, he was satisfied that all was good. We asked him how they managed without a phone or internet signal. He said, “When you get to the top of the hill going towards Canyonleigh, you will have a signal.” Indeed, we did when we reached the top of the hill, and we were able to determine our path for the rest of the day.


We took frequent breaks, and I went through lots of water. We walked past the University of Sydney Research project plantation. We walked several narrow and tricky gravel public roads through private property. Under this arrangement, you open the chained farmgate, go through, and put the chain back to close it again. This arrangement allows you to access the road and drive through private property. Keeping the gate closed prevents cattle or sheep from escaping. It was a tough task and a long day but we managed to keep going until we reached Canyonleigh. By the end of the day, I was absolutely exhausted. I had no energy left. With such a strong Sun throughout the day, my left arm had a suntan with a wristwatch mark clearly visible.


Canyonleigh is a small place and it does not have a caravan park or anything else where you could stay the night. We drove 23 kms to Moss Vale and checked into the caravan park at the showgrounds where we had stayed last year. John, the caretaker recognised us and asked me jokingly, “Have they got you walking again?” He told us that the park was full, but he would find a place for us. We were allocated an unpowered site, where we could park the van on a level ground for a good sleep. John didn’t charge us a cent. I told him that we would be staying at least three nights perhaps until the Christmas Day. He said, no worries. Thanks very much John for supporting the walk. You are a gem! We had dinner in the van. I then had a long shower to wash down all the sweat and remove the terrible sweaty smell from my body. After Shekhar had a shower, we had a cuppa before falling asleep.


Saturday 23 December: I had an early morning shower and we drove back to Canyonleigh. It was going to be another hot day and we wanted to cover as much distance as possible before it got too hot. When we reached our starting point, Shekhar turned around the van. I got off and touched my forehead to pay respect to Mother Earth and started to walk towards Moss Vale. Today’s walk was going to be challenging because this road was very busy with high-speed traffic and a major part of the road had no or only a narrow shoulder to walk on. Even after it joins into the Illawarra Highway, lack of shoulder space remains a problem for pedestrians.


As there was no shoulder space, Shekhar couldn’t pull over until he saw a turn off, an entrance to a property or a driveway. We had breakfast at one of these hard-to-find spots and I had a quick powernap. We managed to walk back to Moss Vale for a delayed lunch. In Moss Vale, we parked the van on the Illawarra Hwy so that by-passers could see the banners on the van and become aware of the walk. A male in his mid 30s approached the van and told us that his wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and she was currently undergoing the required treatment. He told us that when he spotted the van, he was drawn to it and felt like making a donation. In search for cash, this gentleman literally emptied his pockets and donated what he had. Listening to someone’s story firsthand is always heart-warming as to how McGrath Breast Care Nurses have been instrumental in making a difference and providing the much-needed care to breast cancer patients and their families across the country. I feel honoured and blessed to have the opportunity to make a small contribution to such an important and noble initiative.


I was drained after the walk and wanted to rest in the van. But I was also starving and wanted to have something quickly. Shekhar walked to the pizza place where we had eaten last year. It was closed. Perhaps it opened evenings only or it was closed due to the Christmas holidays, we wouldn’t know. Shekhar came back to van, and we drove a short distance to Domino’s Pizza. We ordered a vegetarian pizza and another one of Shekhar’s choice for take away. We drove back to caravan park and had late lunch. I was so exhausted that I didn’t have the energy to have a shower straightaway. I just changed into fresh clothes to dry myself from the sweaty undergarments and went to rest. Shekhar was reading a book to keep himself occupied. When I got up, we had a cuppa in the van. I had a long shower because I had been sweating like a pig throughout the day. While the dinner was cooking, we cut up fresh carrots, tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers, and an apple for salad. We hit the bed after dinner.


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