Day 8…that vast and utter loneliness…

Friday, 8th August 2008.
I am really enjoying being on the back roads in Victoria. Thank you Mr Burke.

Burke was unsure of the route he was going to take and took local advice along the way. He would have been welcomed in any of the gold mining towns along the way, but he avoided them all and kept to the bush roads away from the main Cobb & Co route. This may have been in order to ensure the expedition progressed with as few distractions as possible. When Burke was here at Barnadown he was invited to John Harney’s home at Adelaide Vale for dinner with the local councillors from Bendigo. Burke excused himself at 10.00 pm and returned to camp where many of the others were also feeling the effects of a week on the road in cold, wet conditions. The Bendigo press were rather scathing at the reception they received when they visited the expedition at Barnadown, but Beckler recalls they were all pretty tired and not at all prepared for the ‘curious loving people’ and their ‘time-robbing questions’.

Anyway, Burke avoided the major towns and took the back roads through Victoria, which means I am strolling down quiet narrow lanes between Goornong, Runnymede, Avondale, Elmore and May Reef and thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet and thanking Burke for not having walked down the Calder Freeway. The phone rang and the Melbourne Herald Sun wanted and update…”how was I feeling?’ – ‘good’; ‘how was it going?’ – ‘good’; ‘had I had any problems?’ – ‘no’ (I guess I wasn’t being all that newsworthy, if I wanted the headlines I would have to do more than stroll down country roads in Victoria), ‘had I felt lonely this week?’ – ‘No’. It had been a great week and I had met so many great people along the way I hadn’t had chance to be lonely. I guess I willl have to wait for the desert to get a chance to experience “that vast and utter loneliness”

So all men come at last to their Explorers’ Tree,
Whereon they carve their valediction to the world.
Whether as they, we explore a continent,
or are content to explore ourselves,
we find that mysterious centre,
that vast and utter loneliness, which is the heart of being;

‘Burke & Wills’ by Ken Barratt.
Published in A Book of Australian Verse, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1956. pp.153-154.

Distance travelled today; 29.1km.
Today Dave is at Picaninny Creek on the Terrick Plains north of Bendigo.
After eight days of travel, Burke was at Barnadown.

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