Sunday, 7 April 2013

Now the dust has settled...

On finishing the walk we rushed to Adelaide for the wedding of the Millennium. I am back in Melbourne now and back to thinking about the walk.

Thank you everyone who helped make it happen so smoothly. *

Firstly I would like to thank Freya Mathews, whose book Journey to the Source of the Merri inspired me to also walk the Merri and to re-trace her steps of 13 years ago (albeit in the other direction). The book and subsequent conversation has been invaluable.

I would like to thank all the land owners who allowed us to walk through their properties. Describing an artwork before it is made, or trying to describe the processes involved in making art can be tricky. So I thank you all for trusting that what I was trying to explain was indeed what I was setting out to do.

I would also particularly like to thank everyone who let us stay over, or took the time to meet with me prior to the walk. In addition to the people listed below, thank you Melinda Hobson, for maps, cups of tea and advice!

Everyone at MCMC - especially Tony Faithfull, Luisa McMillan, Angela Foley, Brian Bainbridge, Katrina Roberg, Ray Radford and Ben North.

Thanks also go to the ANU School of Art: Patsy Payne, Raquel Ormella, Anne Brennan, Helen Ennis and John Pratt. And specially to Barbara McConchie, who maintained good humour and patience while hauling me over the line with all the official ANU paper work. Thanks Barb!

Finally I am most grateful to Vicki Penko who discussed riparian rights of way and the history of these laws in Victoria ad infinitum. Thanks Vicki, and soon we will have that coffee!!

Gil and Helen Berry - Keeper's of the Source, and magnificent raconteurs and hosts!
Michael Daunt
Barbara Brereton
The McDonalds
Ron and Family
Gaye and Family
Claudia and David and the Wallan Scouts
Ruth and Michael for a lovely lunch
Potential dye stuffs from Day One

Potential Dyestuffs collected on Day Two

Austral Bricks & 'Walnarring'
The Hauffe Family
Scott and Vic Barrow
Kate Looker (Bec and Woody!)

Katrina for walking and sharing her knowledge.

Greg Heffernan
Hannah Marriott (great sleepover and lovely heater!!)

Caroline Henbest, for opening our ears and being such a great sport.

Pine from Lockerbie, Day three Dyestuffs

mostly weeds

Mineral Springs, Macedonian Orthodox Church (Father Gavril)
Steve Copeland
Margaret and Richie Lloyd
The Glides
Charlie Bonavia
Margaret Walker and Pete the horse
Anna Topalidou, for fancy sandwiches and nimbleness
Zoe and Holly - you were there in spirit.

Prickly pear, charcoal, common reed etc.


Brendan Sullivan (Parks Victoria)
Lesley, for coping with prickles and rain.
Dave for the Cedar's Bakery lunch.

Pipeworks lopped trees, ready for homewares store and more

Dye stuffs, under the expert guidance of Ilka.
Brian and Colleen

Tony Birch (walker and lunch bringer)

Georgina for the best meat-balls EVER


Fellow walkers:
Roseanne Bartley
Ilka While
Jacqui Chan
Eliza, Aphra and Romola

DAVE for champagne & baklava

Everyone who joined us at the confluence.... thank you for coming

* Any omissions are purely my own human error, and I am very sorry. Others who have been fab: Mazza Frommer, my family and friends, and of course the Weichelt/Harding crew.... notching up all those km's on the Hume.

Walk stats

0: arguments (nice work!)

1/3: amount of Indian take-away consumed (Day Four, Dave feeding an army)

1: tumble in the Creek (Rebecca, Day Five)

1: homeless sleep out (near Pipeworks, very tidy)

1: blue tongue lizard

1: blister (Rebecca - pinky toe)

1: man with large shiny knife

2: nights in the tent

2: injured kangaroos

2: flight or fight moments (perilous creek crossings inducing fast heart rate in L)

3: snakes, 1 brown and 2 tiger, the latter sighted on the last day, in suburbia

3: rabbit exterminators (human - with ferrets and dogs)

4: no. of times first aid kit required

4: hunters with guns

4: falls

4: hot showers each

5: animal carcasses (fox, cow, mare, sheep, roo - parts only)

5: muesli breakfasts

6: co-walkers

6: wet socks (3 pairs)

6: hot dinners

7: shots fired by gun-wielding hunters

7: picnic lunches

12: foxes (approx)

20: swamp wallabies

25: fences climbed on Day Two

100: largest mob of kangaroos, Day Four

102: kilometres walked

672: kilometres travelled by support team

Friday, 5 April 2013

Behind the scenes - guest post from Lesley

Double rainbow on Mahoney's Road, on the drive up to our starting point at Heathcote Junction.
An auspicious sign, we hoped.

Camping adjacent to The Source at Gil and Helen's, the night before starting the walk.
Romola and Eliza. 7 of us sleeping in the big tent, Katrina snugly and sensibly in the one-man.

Cheeky, who likes vegemite toast for breakfast.

Eliza. Shoes off!
Day One: our fearless expedition leader.

Day One: Aphra on stand-by while Katrina pulls out some Cumbungi for us to eat.
The tender shoots coming out of the root section tasted a bit like radish.

Day One: Romola collecting walking sticks for the walkers.
Dave, David, Gil and the girls joined us for the first hour or so.

Day One: lunch at BB's farm, among the cow pats. Merri Creek at photographer's back.
Katrina, Rebecca, Michael and Ruth (providers of the ample and delicious sustenance).

Night One: sleeping in the ring at Wallan Scout Hall.
Rebecca, Katrina, Charlie (the Spoodle), Eliza and David (in the swag).

Night One: Rebecca's new Gortex is not only rain and snow-proof, but multi-tasks as sleeping attire.

Day Two: morning tea hovering over the Merri on the bridge near Camoola.

Day Two: lunch in a nondescript paddock - tinned tuna in corn wraps, banana and tahini on corn thins.
Maybe an apple and an almond / dried apricot combination. Merri Creek to photographer's left.
Note Rebecca's solar panel strategically placed at 45 degrees for phone charging (device aptly named 'Free Loader').

Day Two: a lovely soft brown farm dog joined us to his property's edge.

Night Two: sleeping like sausages in Kate's shearing shed.
Dinner in the shearing shed... delicious lasagne and a salad to die for. Certainly was a high point.

Day Three: Eliza and Romola hunting for Easter eggs at Kate's.

Day Three: Kate's dog Woodstock (Woody) walked with us for the first little while.
Day Three: lunch by the creek on Greg's property, courtesy of our Day Three companion, Caroline.
Much laughing on this day. Lovely rolls with prosciutto and cheese. Apples and chocolate.
'Free Loader' now at a carefree, jaunty angle

Night Three: our accommodation at Lockerbie, with Aphra providing context. Thanks for having us Hannah!
Night Three: we slept in the Boardroom, but had a shower, two camp beds and the capacity to make a cup of tea.
Caroline in the foreground, Aphra and Romy at the back. Rebecca in the shower. Dave ... busy.

Day Four: lunch among the Hawthorn trees - tasty sandwiches, grapes and Easter chocolates courtesy of Anna (above).
A gaggle of goats (not sure of the collective noun) watched on. Unclear if they were wild or domestic.
Merri Creek just beyond. Glenn, please note the green packet of 'moist towelettes' at the ready.

Beautiful birds' nests, Day Four (above left); Day Two (above).

Night Four: Eliza and Aphra on arrival at Margaret's farm.

Night Four: Soccer before dinner. Great entertainer. Should have thought of it earlier.
Night Four: Indian take away. Rebecca attending to urgent business (i-phone - friend of the modern walker).
David, Eliza, Aphra, Dave, Romola, Rebecca. Creek - somewhere to photographer's right.

Night Four: trusty tent at Margaret's property. No power. No toilet. No morning caffeine.

Day Five: started sunny, ended rainy. No companion walkers.
Rebecca looks quite buoyant though, don't you think?

Night Five: back at Miller Street. Phew. Gaiters, pockets, plant gatherings, backpacks spread out to dry.
Walking boots are beyond frame, toasting up on the heater.

Day Six: lunch in Fawkner, with Tony Birch. At a picnic table no less.
Left over curry for us. Date scones for Tony.
Merri Creek over Tony's right shoulder.
Day Six: Rebecca left her hat at home. Luckily, Dave's Greg Chappell hat was in the boot of the Subaru.

Day Seven: the familiar creek path in Thornbury. Eliza in foreground, Roseanne looking back.

Day Seven: the gang at Ilka's billabong. 'Free Loader' still free loading.

Day Seven: morning coffee at CERES. We sent Aphra and Eliza ahead to order!
Day Seven: lunch in Clifton Hill, just past Rushall Station. The curry feast leftovers continue.
 How many people did you buy for Dave?
A large contingent today, and a lovely warm, slow, contemplative amble to The Confluence.
From left: Jacqui, Roseanne, Ilka, Rebecca, Eliza, Romy, Aphra.

Day Seven: Dave approaching us as we approach The Confluence of the Merri Creek and Yarra River.
Aphra and Eliza were the first there - that's them lurking in the shadows.

Day Seven: walk complete.
I had such a great time Rebecca - many many thanks. xx

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Day Seven - bicycles, snakes and flat whites

Before the walk Lesley and I had discussed in passing what we might bring with us from the Source to the Confluence. In the end we simply brought each other, one step at a time, one fence at a time and one moment at a time.

Until yesterday we probably didn't realise how relaxed and 'present' the walk had made us. I know I cannot speak for both of us, and that we each had our own walk, but I would suggest there was a pacing between us and an engagement with the creek that never jarred or shifted into a dissonant gear.

And here we are today, at the end of seven days, looking back upstream at all our encounters and adventures and looking forward to sifting them through over the coming months. I am very much looking forward to Lesley's post tomorrow when facts and stats might be revealed - stay tuned.

Silk 'party' gaiters for Day Seven

Today we began at our house in Preston are were joined by Roseanne Bartley and Ilka White. Both women are wonderful artists, working with place and being in space in interesting ways. Also accompanying us today were our daughters, Eliza (Lesley's daughter) and Aphra and Romola (mine).

The weather was balmy today, barely a breath of wind and a perfect blue sky. In fact it was so beautiful that shortly after leaving CERES and the old quarry site we came across a large healthy tiger snake. The snake was stretched out in the grass, off the path on a slight rise at about our waist height. S/he was so relaxed in the sun that it took quite a while before s/he slithered off away from us.
(Is there a way to tell the sex of a snake without touching it?)

Basking Tiger Snake - spotted by Roseanne
We did stop at CERES (tactically sending the girls ahead to place our order) and enjoyed the family atmosphere of the cafe. We were delighted to bump into Elliot Howard and his two children. Elliot (another artist and friend) has engaged me in lively discussion around the process of the walk, both in the logistics and planning and in the physical walk itself. So it was great to see him and know he was planning on heading down to the confluence later.

Girls heading to CERES with coffee orders. Orthodox Golden Domes before them.
The weather, the pleasant company and the desire to savour our last day meant that we ambled along, experiencing the creek as cyclists rushed past on the shared path.

Girls at the Velodrome

Ilka took us to visit 'her' Billabong; a site where she has spent a lot of time and which has been the starting point for some of her beautiful textiles. It was here that Roseanne spotted our second snake for the day. The weather, and perhaps the narrowness of the riparian zone in the urban space meant that we and snakes were more likely to meet. It felt unexpected, especially as we had only seen one other on all our other days. Roseanne has been visiting the creek for 20 years, and today were her first ever snake sitings.

Roseanne at CERES prior to snake encounters and coffee
Ilka in the Billabong
 Ilka sharing some River Mint with the girls
Around Rushall Station Roseanne's friend Jacqui joined us. We immediately stopped for lunch and refueled for the final three kilometres to the Yarra. Eliza and Aphra steamed ahead, keen to 'arrive', while Ilka and Romola maintained a gentle pace allowing for looking, gathering and musing.

Rushall Station and Jacqui's arrival
Roseanne, whose jewellery practice involves (amongst many other things) walking and collecting plastic-based rubbish, was pleased that there was little for her to collect. It was true that Day Five or Six may have provided her with more raw material. However, when we arrived at a block of flats near what I think of as the flat wooden seamless bridge (so fun to rush over on your bicycle) we discovered a huge pile of hard rubbish. Romy was into the pile in a flash, wheels became a particular focus. It is a pile Roseanne may return to with spanner, pliers and other tools later.

Roseanne's rubbish with Romy and Rebecca
Coming back to the creek from the rubbish
We walked under a lot of bridges today, St Georges Rd, Railway bridges, Heidelberg Rd and others until finally we came to the enormous freeway bridge that towers over the final 50 metres of the Merri Creek. Here at the site of the Aboriginal School, the Yarra was in view. We arrived at the Confluence to find Dave ready with Champagne and Baklava.

Caroline, who walked with us on Day Three joined us, it felt lovely to have her there with us. Other friends came too, and the children rushed around the edge of the water line doing what children do when faced with water and an edge. Test, play, throw, yelp.

It was a social day, our last day of walking. The perfect weather and school holidays meant that the creek was abuzz with human activity. It reminded me of the importance of creeks in our imaginations and in our daily lives. The importance of them as a space to care for and enjoy being in, beside and with. Hours and hours of my childhood were spent in the creek near my home in Adelaide - romantically named Second Creek. The shortest way to my playmates house was to duck and weave through the gardens along the creek - always imagining and believing we were fast enough not to be seen by the owners of the properties.

Tomorrow I will thank everyone (via this blog) who has been party to making this walk happen so smoothly and successfully. But in the meantime I would like especially to thank Lesley, who was up for the adventure without a second thought, and then equally especially to our two David's whose week involved driving up and down the Hume with hot dinners, tents and other last minute requests in order for us to float downstream without a hitch. We love you both!

And it was such a great day, I went crazy with the pictures.... bear with them for the treat at the end.

Aphra, Eliza, Rosie and Ilka
Romola collecting, her pockets like a portable vase.
Fragrant Saltbush in fruit
Lesley leaping
Rosie and Lesley and the city
Nearly there
Dave: Champagne at the ready
The view into the Yarra from the Merri
Aphra helping Dave
At the Confluence, 100km and seven days later.
Looking back up the Merri Creek under the Freeway Bridges.

Tony Birch sent me a poem he wrote after walking with us yesterday.
It seems the right note to end on so here it is:


we were the children
robbed of music
water, air & blood

the creek
a barb-wired heart
beats for us