A trek that started in Orbost came to its final destination at Eden’s Mary MacKillop Hall on Wednesday as part of the MacKillop-Woods Way pilgrimage.
David Schütz and Seán Deany walked the inland trail over eight days following in the footsteps of Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop.
The pair was joined by Paul Coghlan, who played the role as driver and cyclist.
The three Melburnians passed through Goongerah, Bendoc, Craigie, Bombala, Cathcart and Towamba on the 240km journey.
Mr Schütz said the experience evolved over the pilgrimage.
“At the start the focus was on being out in nature, but the balance changed with the engagement we had with people along the way, especially the passage from Bombala through Rocky Hall and Towamba and now Eden,” he said.
“The engagement with the people has been a very touching thing for me.”
Mr Deany said it was a pleasure to educate people about St Mary MacKillop when people asked about their pilgrimage, while Mr Coghlan was full of praise for fellow drivers on the road.
“So many stopped and asked, ‘can I help?’, Mr Coghlan said.
The trio was taken aback by the scenery and sounds they encountered on the trek.
“It’s the Dandenongs on steroids with a lot more bellbirds,” Mr Deany said.
The walk was not without its discomforts, as the two walkers confirmed.
“You’re thinking about your body all the time,” Mr Schütz said.
“You have aches and pains and stresses. You’re going up a hill and then down a hill. It’s always in the back of your mind.”
The group averaged 27.5km each day.
“It did get a bit relentless and required bit of suffering to get there,” Mr Deany said.
“But being a photographer, it’s worth the pain.”
Each pilgrim admitted their experience varied.
“People do it for different reasons, whether it’s spiritual reasons or physical reasons,” Mr Schütz said.
“The man who started the ‘Aussie Camino’, his wife had died and he needed to process that and thought walking would do it.
“No one can impose the meaning of a pilgrimage.”
The three men were welcomed by Our Lady Star of the Sea parish, including mass, dinner and a morning tea on Thursday before they returned to Melbourne.
Mary MacKillop visited Eden in 1899 and 1901. Mary’s mother, Flora, was one of 76 people on the steamer, Ly-ee-Moon, to drown on May 30, 1886.
Mary was appreciative of the care and love shown to her mother by the Eden people that she decided to send Sisters to establish a school in Eden.
Despite Mr Deany cycling the first leg of the MacKillop-Woods Way pilgrimage from Port Augusta to Melbourne, the group’s collective journey has been staged from Fitzroy to Bairnsdale in one leg and then to Orbost in a second leg last year.
Next year the group will return to Eden in Easter and aim to reach Ulladulla, before completing their pilgrimage at St Mary’s shrine in Sydney in 2019.
To track their progress and read more about their journey see http://scecclesia.com/