21 May, 2018

...to the Ocean

So with Mountain to Mouth 2018 underway (see Friday's walk here) and after a few hours rest, we once again gathered at Johnstone Park in darkness for the short stretch to the next station near the boat sheds on the Barwon River. This station is always a little different from the others as Canoe is timed to arrive in darkness, meaning the art installation on this occasion involved a display of lights.
An "eel" at Station 6, just as dawn was breaking
Within minutes of our arrival however, we found ourselves in daylight. It always surprises me how quickly the sun comes up. At this point, there was just enough time for a quick coffee before beginning the long slog up the hill to Leopold and Station 7.
"Coral Consequences" invited participants to consider the effect of climate
change on coral reefs in Queensland which are the spawning ground for the
Short-finned Eels which inhabit the Barwon River
Upon arrival we were greeted by more artworks, incorporated in the permanent walking circle located in parkland at Christie's Rd. The theme of this piece was the "Borron Birds", highlighting the role of birds in the environment.
Birds on canvas, Christie's Rd, Leopold
Walkers were encouraged to leave a leaf (and a wish for the planet) in a "nest", to be burnt with Canoe in the final ceremony.
Take a leaf and make a wish
From here, it was a relatively gentle walk to Station 8 at Drysdale where we were greeted by "Sounds from the Earth" performed by local singers and children beating stones in time. Also present were two large gowns, representing local pioneering women of the 1840s and '50s, Anne Drysdale and Caroline Newcombe, after whom the town and suburb were named.
Echoes of the past: Anne Drysdale and Caroline Newcombe
From Drysdale, walkers and Canoe faced the longest, driest section of the walk. With almost 50km already completed, this was probably the hardest stretch to walk. A second coffee at the Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre was more than welcome as we were entertained by the tramways re-enactment group and took in the concepts of "The Caretaker is in - the grounding" which looked at the concept of care between strangers and invited participants to write about a care or concern.
Station 9
With the arrival of Canoe, it was back on the track for a short and - by contrast with the previous section - pleasant walk around the waterfront.
Performance art on the sand
 Our destination was Station 10 at Point Lonsdale where "In Motion" - a sculptural piece brought together land and sea and our tram conductors provided us with tickets for the next stage of our journey.
"In Motion", Point Lonsdale foreshore
In contrast to the previous two Mountain to Mouth walks in 2016 and 2014, this section involved only a short walk to the lighthouse car park, followed by a bus ride (for both Canoe and the walkers) to Ocean Grove. In previous years, we instead walked around 6km on the beach to Station 11 at Ocean Grove, on this occasion however, high tide prevented any beach access, so we had to settle for a short walk behind the dunes to the Surf Life Saving Club where Station 11 awaited us and we were treated to the small-scale but quite stunning "Blue Gold" installation featuring hanging ice drops melting into the sea.
Ice, sea and sand
Then finally, it was time for the last - mercifully short - stage into Barwon Heads.

Performance on the bridge
Once there, and with the final page in our "passport" stamped to confirm our completion of the journey, we awaited the spectacular fire on water ceremony.
This year, performers on the shoreline were bathed in lights whilst indigenous elders made their way back across the bridge.
Sound and lights on the foreshore at Barwon Heads
As in previous years, the Gathering of the Elements Ceremony, culminated with Canoe which had accompanied us the entire way, set alight and drifting out to sea and into the darkness.

Canoe's final journey


  1. Love the canoe being burnt. Do you know how that came up? Anyways, I really appreciate your documentation of this journey. It is terrific to see what people have created.

    1. Thanks Ross! I think that fire on water ceremonies are common to a number of cultures around the world so perhaps the artistic director took inspiration from there. The traditions of the local Wathaurong people are a feature of Mountain to Mouth walk and water from an indigenous "well" at the You Yangs is carried in Canoe to Barwon Heads. A smoking ceremony is also held, so fire and water are both important to indigenous culture so I guess a fire on water ceremony is a natural extension of that. Most of all, it makes a stunning show for the hundreds of locals who come to watch it!