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MCG – SCG Walk 2.0 (Week 9)

Days 57 to 63: Moss Vale to Bowral to Yerrinbool to Picton to Liverpool to Canterbury

 Sunday 24 December: We planned the schedule months in advance for the daily walk and possible stops to stay overnight. Rest and recovery are an essential part of the plan especially for a long walk such as this one. We also pencilled in rest days for the body to recover. At the time of planning, we could not have known what kind of weather we would have on that day at the given location. In Moss Vale, it was rain forecast all day today. Considering the severe weather conditions, we could not go out on the road and walk. It would be simply too risky. We were supposed to have a Rest Day tomorrow 25 December Christmas Day. In the wake of rain, we switched the rest day to today.


Shekhar and I had a bit of sleep in. We took our time to get up and we enjoyed our breakfast in the van. I had already emailed the Bradman Museum at Bowral about our visit to the museum this morning. I had also sent a message to our friends Clive and Narelle who live not far from the historical museum. When Shekhar and I arrived, Clive received us outside the museum. He introduced us to the museum staff. Clive Harwood a 6 ft+ tall fellow, a retired accountant who also played professional cricket many years ago. He introduced us to Tina McPherson, a 6 ft tall woman, who was also a professional cricketer at the same time as Clive. Clive used to be a big hitter. He narrated an incident of how he met Tina as a cricketer. Clive was batting at 97 and Tina came to bowl. Tina was a fast bowler, but Clive never thought much of women cricketers and never took them seriously. He swung his bat in the hope of getting to a century but was clean bowled by the sheer speed and technique. Clive was in disbelief. He had just been clean bowled by a woman. Tina McPherson went on to become part of the team representing Australia at the First Women’s World Cup in 1973.


We enjoyed our visit to this piece of history dedicated to Don Bradman the greatest batsman the world has ever known. This museum is home to portrays of many Test Cricket greats including Viv Richards, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan, Muttiah Muralitharan, Graeme Pollock and of course, Sir Garfield Sobers. Adjacent to the museum is the oval where Don developed his unique skills and technique to play cricket when he was growing up in Bowral. It was a great honour to be shown through this piece of history. This museum is a MUST VISIT for anyone who loves cricket regardless of where they are from or which team they follow. We were honoured to take some photos with someone who made history; namely, Tina McPherson and our friend Clive Harwood.


Subsequently, we drove to Clive’s place where Narelle had been busy preparing lunch for us. They have a beautiful place in a courtyard in a quieter side of the town. Outside entertainment area allows fresh air but gets covered by a roof at the touch of a button if it begins to rain. And it did and that’s when we were able to see the closing of the roof first-hand. Hats off to such an impressive design. We had a soft drink followed by a cuppa. Narelle had prepared a variety of vegetables for me, and Shekhar was happy to try whatever else she had cooked. This was followed by a range of deserts. We enjoyed their generous hospitality so much so that we left our clothes with them to wash because we would be back tomorrow evening – Christmas Day. Thank you so much for everything Clive and Narelle. You guys are out of this world. A big thank you!


We drove back to Moss Vale. I worked on my blogs and had some rest. We had light dinner in the van before going to sleep.


Monday 25 December: Shekhar and I got ready and drove the van to the corner of Argyle Street and Illawarra Hwy A48. I got off, touched my forehead to the ground to pay homage to Mother Earth and started to walk on the Argyle Street towards Bowral and Mittagong. We sailed through Bowral and stopped to have breakfast at McDonald’s Mittagong. We engaged with a couple of other customers sitting opposite our table. Later in the day, these people made donations to McGrath Foundation. After the breakfast, we continued to walk past Bunnings Mittagong and turned right into Aylmerton Road. We kept walking along this road until we reached the Old Sydney Road. At the corner of these two roads, we called it a day.


We drove back towards Moss Vale and continued driving through the town centre. We were invited to have Christmas lunch with this family we had never met before. Pam and Brian Ruckley were friends of Dean Franklin who we had met at Boorowa. When Dean interviewed us for his podcast, he had mentioned about this family in Bundanoon. The Ruckleys were on a cruise at the time, but Dean told us that they would be back a day or two before Christmas. Bundanoon is about a 30 minute drive from Moss Vale. We arrived at their place right on the dot at 1:00 PM.


Brian had been waiting outside for us to arrive. What a grand reception! What a privilege and honour to meet this great family! Waiting inside the house were Brian’s wife Pam, their son, the daughter-in-law and their grandson, Pam and Brian’s daughter, and the son-in-law. Shekhar and I were treated like a part of the family. Their hospitality knows no limits. So much variety and so much food followed by cakes, pastries, biscuits and more. The list goes on and on. This was by far the best Christmas lunch we have had for a long time. Brian and Pam also made a generous donation to the McGrath Foundation. My dear friends, I cannot find appropriate words to express my gratitude for such an act of kindness towards total strangers. Meeting people like you makes this walk worthwhile. A big thank you!


After eating so much, Shekhar and I were loaded to the hilt. We drove back to the caravan park and saw the caretaker. We thanked John for his generous help an letting us stay when everything else was booked out. We had a cuppa in the van when we received a message from our friends Clive and Narelle that they had returned home after Christmas lunch with their son’s family. We drove to their place in Bowral and parked the van in front of their garage. We used the opportunity to connect to a power-point and charge the solar batteries. Last year, there was no problem; however, this year, the solar panels were not charging the batteries properly. Our clothes had been washed, dried, and nicely folded. What an amazing gesture by these friends!


We had a cuppa before the lavish dinner. Narelle and Clive had gone into so much trouble to prepare everything. We were still full from the Christmas lunch. However, we had to respect the hard work that they had put in. As we started eating, we realised it was yummy. It was delicious indeed. I had already conveyed to them that we would sleep in the van. All we would need was access to toilet and shower. But they again offered it to us to stay in one or two of their bedrooms. We were so used to sleeping in the van. Clive and Narelle left their front door unlocked through the night, in case Shekhar or I needed to come in. From the bottom of our hearts, we thanked them for their generous hospitality. You guys are friends for the long haul.


Tuesday 26 December: When Shekhar and I got ready, we had a cuppa with Clive and Narelle before leaving. We got on the Old Sydney Road and drove back to the corner of Aylmerton Road where I got off. I touched my forehead to the ground to pay respect to Mother Earth and started walking on the Old Sydney Road towards Sydney. Last year, when we left Mittagong, we had continued straight ahead, and I had to board the van because we had to go on the M31 Motorway for a short distance. This year, Shekhar found this alternative without entering the Motorway.


A couple of hours later, we reached Yerrinbool where we stopped for breakfast and powernap. It was another hot day, and I was losing a lot of fluid through sweating. I had to rehydrate and keep drinking water. Since the opening of the Albury Bypass to complete M31 Hume Motorway in March 2007, most of the estimated 16,000 vehicles around the Mittagong area use the M31. However, Old Sydney Road being a parallel road carries a substantial amount of local traffic.


After lunch time, we reached Bargo Shopping Centre. After terminating the walk for the day, we headed to the caravan park on the other side of the railway track. Shekhar had tried to call the caretaker beforehand, but no one answered. When we arrived at the Reception of the Bargo Caravan Park, there was no one in attendance. A jumbo sign on the reception door delivered a clear but disappointing message by displaying the words “No Vacancy”. This sign threw a spanner in the works. There was no other place to stay overnight. We returned to the shopping centre disappointed. We cooked chickpeas and bought some bread for lunch. I was tired, and I wanted to have rest.


When I woke up, we had a cuppa at a local coffee shop. I rang my friend Suresh who lives in southern part of outer Sydney and told him where we were and the disappointing situation regarding no vacancy at the Bargo Caravan Park. Suresh bhai said straightaway, “No problem bhai. Come and stay with us.” It was a big relief for me because we were supposed to go there Wednesday the next day and not today.


We drove to Suresh bhai’s place. Suresh bhai’s uncle and auntie were awaited. Suresh’s son and daughter-in-law and her parents were also visiting. Suresh bhai’s wife was busy cooking for everyone. We started with soft drinks followed by a cuppa. We had discussions on a range of topics and tried to solve the world’s problems. The women had prepared delicious food for dinner. We enjoyed their cooking followed by sweets with a cuppa. We all lived happily ever after.


Wednesday 27 December: Shekhar and I got ready early morning. Suresh bhai was up and had already boiled the kettle. We had a quick cuppa and started to drive back to Bargo. On arrival at the shopping centre, I got off and followed my daily routine to touch my forehead to the ground and pay respect to Mother Earth before beginning the walk towards Picton. We stopped for breakfast, and I had a quick nap.


There is an underpass before reaching the shops in Picton. This underpass has no shoulder to walk on, and a sign explicitly prohibits pedestrians from entering the underpass. You must turn right, cross the bridge, turn left, and continue to walk to rejoin the same road. Shekhar was ahead of me. He had already parked the van in the car park where we had parked for lunch last year. We had a coffee and lunch at a cafeteria cum bakery.


After lunch, we wanted to continue the walk. On the departure side of Picton, the road begins to rise, and the traffic increases significantly as we get closer to Sydney. This busy road turns right but hardly any shoulder space to walk. After several breaks to rehydrate, we reached the Razor Back Lookout, and we called it a day. After doing namaskar and touching my forehead to the ground, we drove back to Suresh bhai’s place. We had vegetarian dinner, and we all went to sleep.


Thursday 28 December: Today we had to leave early as we would be joined by two of the legends from The Big three Trekkers team; namely, Luke Alexander and Glenn Gorick. After a quick cuppa, Shekhar and I drove straight to Razorback Lookout. These great athletes were already there waiting for us to arrive. Without wasting anymore time, I put my gear on and got ready. Three of us began the walk on this quiet road with hardly any traffic especially at that time in the morning. Gorick as he is commonly known, began live streaming the walk on Instagram. We took many photos and short videos along the walk. I enjoyed listening to stories of different adventures and other fundraising walks these two had undertaken.


All four of us had breakfast in the van parked by the roadside. We continued to walk until we reached Camden. Gorick knew this area well and we stopped for a coffee at one of Cafes in a back lane of the shops. It was a nice coffee indeed. But we also needed to rehydrate. We drank a couple of 1litre bottles of water as well. We continued to walk on the Camden Valley Way in the northern direction. We enjoyed each other’s company as we shared our experiences relevant to personal health, community health and mental health.


We did not feel tired as we were so busy talking. We didn’t even realise that we had reached our destination for the day. After we walked into Emerald Hills Shopping Village, we started looking for a place to have lunch. We were not keen on junk food at any of the multinationals. We settled for a Thai restaurant. It was a delicious and reasonably healthy lunch. We all enjoyed whatever items we had ordered. After lunch, we moved to a cafeteria just around the corner from the Thai place. We had coffee with desert. I really appreciated the fact that these legends took time out from their busy lives to join us on this leg of the walk. From the bottom of my heart, A big thank you. Thank you so much you champions!


Shekhar drove Luke and Gorick to Razorback where they had left their cars this morning. I set up my laptop outside the Thai restaurant and started working on catching up with my blogs. When Shekhar returned to Emerald Hills, we did some shopping before driving to Suresh Bhai’s. We watched TV while we had some Indian tea. Suresh Bhai’s wife prepared delicious dinner which we all enjoyed before hitting the bed.


Friday 29 December: Shekhar and I had a cuppa with light snacks at Suresh Bhai’s place before leaving. We drove to the Emerald Hills Shopping Village. I got off, touched my forehead to the ground to pay homage to Mother Earth and started to walk towards Liverpool. The Camden Valley Way is a busy highway in outer Sydney, but fortunately, it has a detached footpath on the left side. I had to cross the road to use that footpath. It was hard for Shekhar to pull over on this busy highway with three lanes in each direction. However, he did what he could. Sometimes he turned into side streets on the left and waited for me to pass him. Other times, he would pull up and park at a petrol pump, or McDonald’s or Bunnings. There wasn’t another option.


We had breakfast in one of these side streets, but I didn’t go for a nap today. I kept walking until we reached Liverpool. Shekhar had already parked spot near a residential complex. When I arrived, we cooked kidney beans while Shekhar cut cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and an apple for salad. We enjoyed our ‘home-made’ lunch, and I had some rest thereafter. Subsequently, we resumed our walk towards Canterbury.


Like walking along the Camden Valley Way, we walked on the footpath on the very busy A34 Newbridge Road that later becomes Canterbury Road and New Canterbury Road. Apart from pulling over in the side streets, petrol stations, McDonald’s, KFC etc, there were not many options for Shekhar to park the van and wait for me. After a couple of hours into the walk, we pulled over in a side street where we had breakfast, and I had a quick nap. It was another hot day and my body was dehydrating very fast. I had to keep drinking water to replenish the lost fluid through excessive sweating.


Most of the A34 Newbridge Road has a footpath at least on one side of the road. However, a section of the A34 in Milperra area doesn’t have a footpath at all. This meant I had to walk on the overgrown grass with uneven ground beneath it and we did. We kept walking on this not-so-pedestrian-friendly surface until we reached Bunnings Bankstown Airport on A34 Milperra Road. By this time, I was exhausted, so we called it a day.


Shekhar and I drove back to Suresh bhai’s place. I had a shower to freshen up and got changed into something more appropriate to go to the temple. We all had dinner and a cuppa before going there. As a direct consequence of the walk and the heat, I was very thirsty. I kept drinking water before going to the temple, during our stay there and after leaving the temple to return home to Suresh bhai’s. We were indeed blessed to have the opportunity to visit the temple and listen to recitation of Ramayana before concluding the monumental walk. After the first part of tonight’s program was concluded, Suresh bhai asked me to address the audience and share the reasons for walking from Melbourne to Sydney.


I thanked Suresh bhai and the rest of the devotees for the opportunity to interact with them. Some of them remembered me from our visit to the temple last year. I explained to them the reasons why I took on such a challenge at this stage in my life. I appealed to them to donate generously and support the McGrath Foundation as it had been doing a tremendous amount of work to help breast cancer patients and families. I was told that due to Christmas break, the attendance was lower than usual. However, several devotees as well as the temple committee made generous donations. I thanked them and issued receipts for the amount received.


We came back to Suresh bhai’s and stayed up for a while and had a good chat. This was our last night at Suresh bhai’s. We had another cup of tea before going to bed. Thank you so much Suresh bhai and his family for your support and generous hospitality. You guys are real champions. A big thank you brother!


Saturday 30 December: Shekhar and I got ready, had a cuppa with light snacks before leaving Suresh bhai’s place. We drove to Bunnings Bankstown Airport on Milperra Road. I disembarked, touched my forehead to the ground to pay respect to Mother Earth, and began the walk towards Canterbury. My view was to walk today as far as I possibly could beyond Canterbury so that the last leg of the walk is easily manageable on Tuesday when we would walk to the Entertainment Quarter.


We continued to walk on A34 and after a couple of hours, we stopped for breakfast. But I couldn’t get any rest for a couple of reasons. First, we were parked close to very busy section of the road, so every time a large truck drove past us, it shook and swayed the van. For a good sleep, you need to have a stable and level surface. Second, it was playing on my mind that this was the second last day of this walk. It was hard to fathom that we had already reached Sydney with a couple of days to spare. While it made me happy that we were so close to completing the 1,325 kms walk, at the same time, I was also sad that the walk was coming to an end. The daily routine of getting up early morning, stretching, exercising, applying crème and oils to feet and toes, putting all the gear on, testing 2-way radio, and topping up the water bottle before touching my forehead to the ground to pay respect to Mother Earth before starting the walk. I am going to miss it all.


The A34 New Canterbury Road had a footpath again. We walked through Punchbowl and Canterbury. We had lunch in the van, and I had some rest. We were getting closer and closer to our final destination. At the same time, I was also getting tired. I hardly had any energy left to continue. I felt that my feet were getting heavier with each step. As we approached the corner Enmore Road and Stanmore Road, we stopped the walk for the day. We had a cuppa at a local cafeteria in Stanmore.


Subsequently, I jumped into the van, and we drove to Glenmore Park where we would stay the next three days with our young friends Kuldip, his wife Raman and their 4 years old daughter Gurmehar. They had hosted us around the same time last year as well. You could see the excitement on their faces. They had prepared a lavish dinner. But first we had a cuppa with some Indian snacks. We had a good chat regarding their recent trip to India from which they had just returned. I was exhausted from the walk and wanted to go to bed. Sensing my situation, the hosts set up the table. We had a beautiful dinner before going to sleep.



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