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Day 1

Fair sailing along the Mundaring –Kalgoorlie Pipeline, then to Norseman. Traversing dry wheat country where the signs of encroaching salt are ominous, then the goldfields. Coolgardie, with its wide streets and grand buildings, is practically a ghost town these days – 750 kms

Day 2

Swift passage through a lonely stretch to Eucla. Amazing inventiveness of crew as they played “I Spy” most of the way – 700 kms.

 

Day 3

Another lonely stretch. At Nundroo we encountered a “come aboard” request from an elderly aboriginal man with whom I had struck up a conversation. A dilemma as we were loaded to the gunwhales and there was no room – but what of our “hospitality” claim? We were assured at the roadhouse that he was well cared for, so drove on to Ceduna,
Cooling off at the end of Ceduna’s jetty we encountered a fellow voyager intent on mustering his teenage crew in counting the planks on the deck. First mate Jenny obliged by pulling out a tape measure to ascertain the width of the plank to aid whatever maths they were working on! – 500 kms.
Day 4

A shorter run across Eyre Peninsular to Port Augusta. Some interesting diversions, such as Wirulla’s inland seaport and the world’s greatest galah at Kimba. Accommodation along the way has been surprisingly good, as we only booked basic. At Port Augusta this included Foxtel and a spa! Pays to travel off-peak. 400 kms.

Day 5

An easy run into Adelaide along a busy road. Flagged down by a becalmed vessel towing a barge (car & caravan). His phone wasn’t working and mine had been cooked by the Nullarbor’s heat. Drove ahead and phoned for help. GPS helped us negotiate some new roads to Mum’s place. Saturday afternoon – an hour left to stock up supplies and head for our week’s digs at Semaphore. ATM denied access to our account and shredded Jenny’s card. 24 hour help line told us to wait until business hours on Monday. Other account inaccessible due to clash odf monthly clearing with public holiday resulting in six day delay. Strange feeling to be stranded in one’s hometown cashless and wondering what’s happened to one’s treasure chest. Booked into caravan park anyway as we had prepaid accommodation. Desk informed us we had overpaid and refunded $170 cash! Jehovah Jireh!

Days 6-13

Shore leave and visits with friends and family. Bank sorted out its “human error” and accounts restored. Climaxed with induction of my nephew, Mark Riessen, as team leader at Blackwood, one of Adelaide’s leading churches. A big load for a 30 year old, but I believe Mark’s up to it!

Days 13-17

Set sail for Melbourne with overnight anchorage at Horsham. With new tollways and freeways to negotiate, very glad of GPS. Several days rubbernecking – Federation Square and the holy of holies, Melbourne Cricket Ground, seemed to be the highlights. Coracle in dry dock to scrape the barnacles and be fitted for return journey. Replaced fan-belt and some sections of the exhaust system. Jenny and Lachlan finally left for Perth on big bird, leaving me alone for the first time in almost three weeks. Only for half an hour! Met long ago colleague Peter Nelson at airport and immediately promoted him to First Mate as coracle set out for CCTC Centennial Symposium.

Days 17-20

The symposium and the Class of ‘74 re-union are deserving of separate entries. See blog entries to follow for my reflections on issues raised at the symposium. The Class of ’74 stuff is intelligible only to those who were there and they will be contacted with the address for ongoing conversations.

Day 21

The beginning of a solo return. I detour through Kyneton, my old stamping ground as a student minister way back in ’73 and ’74. The old church has gone and its flock is mostly part of the great communion of saints by now. I have a different reason for being here, however, and that is to spend some hours with a colleague from my Canberra days (1979-1986). He has been in ministry with the Uniting Church in latter decades and has taken early retirement because of the effect of a brain tumour. He and his wife are building a home here, just a street over from where his daughter and her husband’s young family are living. The tumour affects the speech centre of the left hemisphere, manifesting mostly in diminished access to vocabulary. He remains ardently enthusiastic about his capacity for music, however, and looks forward to what he can contribute to the local parish in this area. His enthusiasm and positivity remain as inspiring as ever.

Day 25 – the penultimate.

The little white coracle has done well. I’m ensconced in a nondescript motel room in Cooolgardie. The 3000 kilometres of the last four days have passed benignly, with mild weather and little traffic. Another 600 kms and I’m home.

Today God challenged my generosity. It had to happen – given the combination of the coracle prayer, the aforementioned encounter with the aboriginal man from Nundroo, and the fact of the inspiring generosity of fellow pilgrims. About 40 kms west of the Caiguna roadhouse, camped by the roadside, was a young couple with car and trailer. The man waved me down, seeking a lift to Norseman. His ultimate destination was Esperance, but I wasn’t going there. He told me en route that they had run out of money, food, and petrol and that he had the prospect of selling some goods (in his bag) when he reached Esperance. He could then return to the campsite, collect his wife and car and trailer and resume his journey. The next roadhouse was Balladonia, about two hours away. I cashed him up to buy a can of petrol to get him back to Caiguna and fill up enough to get them all to Esperance as well as buy some food. He offered me a ring that he had hoped to hock, but I said, “That looks special – you should keep it.”

This is uncharacteristically un-miserly of me. I am naturally suspicious of hard-luck stories – unfortunately they are an occupational hazard. But I was not in my occupational mode, he had no expectations or requests other than a ride as far as I could take him, and the initiative came from heavily insistent internal prods that I could not ignore, particularly in the light of an extraordinary generous gesture by one of my acquaintances just before we embarked on this whole journey.

Last night I read some of the latest copy of reo that I had saved on my laptop. It was from an essay by Lucas Taylor dealing with the theme of “gift” in John’s gospel. One point he made was to the effect of how pure gift – that is, gift with no strings attached, no expectation of reciprocation – subverts economic order and vice versa.

The notion of economy extinguishes the beauty of creativity (the bringing into existence
of something for its own sake, regardless of pay off) and ultimately breeds suspicion of every
gift— where are the strings? What is the catch? What are the expectations contingent on
me through the act of receiving this gift? The notion of existence as economy extinguishes
innocence and wonder.

Taylor, Lucas, ‘At the Well: Gift as Witness to Triune Reality in John’s Gospel’ in reo: a Journal of Theology and Ministry, Issue 31, 2007:1

Perhaps these words motivated my senseless and prodigal act of generosity. It felt like grace and amazingly light not having to go through my usual routine of questioning and lining up some form of accountability only to eke out some paltry sum that satisfies neither donor nor recipient but satisfies some law of economics.

If the whole trip, with all its stimulation and rich encounters, afforded only this reflective experience, it will have been worth it!

Day 26

Home and the coracle is berthed. I will soon be back in harness.

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