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


  1. Lovely poem Tony, especially with Rebecca's description of the the area of the creek where she couldn't walk probably having barbed wire in them.

    well done R and L! it seemed so short - like you should turn around and walk back up again- although you probably don't feel like that!

    two snakes so close to home- typical - we expect them to be 'out there' in the 'wild' but they would rather be with us and the rats and mice.

    speak soon. x

    1. It does feel like it sped by, but each day something or things happened that marked it in our minds as separate to the others. I meant to say that on DAY 6 just before we came upon the burn we met some rabbit catchers who were using ferrets and nets. It really felt like it was all going on that day!

  2. Wonderful. Well done.
    Dave with champagne at the ready reminds me of when we first walked from Sienna to Rome and there was our accompanying van and the driver ready with the prosecco in St Peter's Square. But that was a long time ago.
    What a beautiful sunny Melbourne day to finish!


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