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Birthdays and Bridges

Last night Katharine and I stayed with an absolutely lovely couple called Elizabeth and John Reeves in Kiama, who fed us steak and cantalope and ice-cream, and kept telling me to put my feet up because I’d walked so far… the highlight of this stay was, of course, the glee with which I would boast to the other walkers in the morning, although unfortunately they all got amazing families too, which marred my joy somewhat.
Today was Chris’s birthday- Chris from the Gold Coast, that is, and he turned 22, like James and myself. After morning Mass, the lovely parishioners had a cup of tea with us in the parish Hall, and we thrust a flaming chocolate cake upon Chris, which I’m sure he never saw coming, despite a large group of us mysteriously disappearing into the kitchen and shouting frantically at each other in hushed tones.
Once we hit the road we walked a stint of about 4km before bussing it to Goulburn, where we walked another stretch. It was a rather long drive, and James and Victor, our resident orators, had a verbal wrestling match as they discovered that they love to debate anything and everything.
Once in Goulburn, Victor and I didn’t walk, as we had to drive the RV ahead to our destination for the night, which was a pretty little town called Tarago (yes, I can hardly believe it either, but they are STILL asking me to drive that beast). My highlight of the day was when we made a wrong turn, and in order to correct this, found ourselves on a windy little laneway, on which we were confronted with a low hanging bridge. Victor had to get out of the RV and talk me through driving underneath, inch by inch, whilst I awaited the sickening crunch of the roof peeling off above me at every moment. At one stage a car had to pass us- they were freaking out, I was freaking out, Victor was as cool as a cucumber. God bless him.
Once we were back on the open road, rolling along behind some ludicrous commuter who was doing 85 on a 110 highway, with no less than six vehicles behind, all held captive to this person’s desired speed limit, and no doubt blaming the lumbering RV which is huge enough to hide the real culprit from their vision, our day got even better. The power on Victor’s phone/GPS died, and all of a sudden we found ourselves in the middle of the barren countryside with no way of contacting a soul (my phone having maliciously died a day earlier, as if in cahoots with its charger, which hid from me while I was packing). Victor was once again the level- headed one of the two of us, assuring me that we would not perish. I had to agree that it was pretty unlikely that God’s plan for us was to perish on the side of the road somewhere between Goulburn and Tarago, and decided that if Tarago didn’t make itself known, we would just keep on driving until we got to Melbourne and then we could stay at my place for the night. Victor proved right yet again, however, and the town of Tarago rose up to meet us. Now when I say town, perhaps I should clarify: it is approximately one street intersecting with the highway, with a pub on the corner, a footy oval opposite, scattered houses and a hall in which we stayed.
It is a beautiful part of the world, with one of the most lovely sunsets I have ever seen, a rosy dawn, a clear view of the stars, and rolling, rugged hills. During the day, however, it is stinking hot. Shortly after our arrival James and I took the bus to pick up John from Goulburn train station, who was rejoining us after a few days away. Upon our return, Allison informed us that we had less than half an hour before the pub closed, the significance of this being that the pub contained the only shower available to us within a thousand kilometres, which we had rented for four bucks a shower, and three guys plus myself desperately needed to use it. (Actually, perhaps the desperation was localised within myself- I can’t speak for the guys, but I know that I was sporting my own odourous atmosphere at that point and that native animals were being drawn by my scent). As I walked to the pub with James I decided to put “Have a shower at a pub” on my bucket list, as it was very soon to be fulfilled.
Dinner that night was sensational, with a very generous man named Paul Foley having supplied us with it all: Roast chicken, salads, spuds, bread, plenty of drinks, cakes for dessert and egg and bacon for breakfast. The hall provided oodles of amusement with a table tennis table, some kind of indoor lawn bowls, fussball and even air-hockey. I realised that I had reverted to my ten year old self somewhere between stealing cake from somebody else’s plate, shirking the dishes and running to have a swig of fanta before getting back to my game of fussball with Ellen. There was a stage upon which James and Victor settled their disagreements with a very loud and somewhat theatrical debate.
Chris was a pleasure to be around on his birthday, always making peace and putting others before himself, and even tolerating the excessive amount of times he was sung Happy Birthday, usually out of key.
A group of us said the rosary under the stars, which may have even actually topped my bridge adventure with Victor. The bathrooms were outdoors, and I think a couple of the guys slept outdoors as well. We all crashed in our sleeping bags on the floor at about midnight, and despite the luminous exit sign, a couple of vicious mozzies and some snoring which I will not admit to, I, unlike a couple of the others, slept like a lamb.

Angela Schumann