Eel Festival Healing Walk visits Walker Swamp

The Healing Walk is organised by the Lake Bolac Eel Festival (Kuyang Lapakira – Plenty Eels), and has run since 2005. Neil Murray writes about the origins of the walk here.

We gathered on Thursday 21st November near Yarram Gap Rd and finished at a billabong near Dunkeld on Monday 25th November, travelling across Djab Wurrung land led by Neil Murray and Lou Hollis from the festival crew, with support from Daryl and his trusty old Toyota.

The 2019 walk had twelve participants from across Victoria. The first day was a total fire ban, so we dawdled to the meeting place via the Willaura bakery which does a roaring trade (boosted by a visit from the walkers, some of whom went in more than once).

Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos greeted us the first night, and many times afterwards.

The walk skirted around the feet of Gariwerd, passing through stringybark and redgum forests. There was one monster hill, but most of the walk was undulating to flat. There were several side trips to visit (and dip into) the Wannon River which fans out into a delta of swamps and runnels.

Each person brought their stories and talents; great cooks, bush lore, plant-buffs, singers, musicians and some of the funniest storytellers I’ve heard in a very long time. I’ve never laughed so much as those five days. We cooked communally, swam in brown water, and slept on the ground, some of us sharing the comforts of the open-air tarp.

On the last night we stayed at the Nature Glenelg Trust property, Walker Swamp Restoration Reserve, in the sand forest. The walkers helped to plant out some Kangaroo Apple seedlings around the viewing tower, and Mike Innes and Helga Birgden joined us for dinner. That night the Growling Grass Frogs and Mopokes sang us to sleep. In the morning we could hear the Brolga calling through the mist. People loved the place … kangaroos, emus, wetlands, night noises and a very comfy campsite.

Our final day we walked to Gooseneck Swamp where a hive of bees was looking for a new home, then skirted around the top of Brady Swamp to our final lunch stop, a swim, and lots of hugs as we said goodbye. Returning home after only five days in the scrub; shops and houses felt rather odd.

The walk is the people as much as the places. Thank you to all of them for a fabulous experience, and to Lou, Neil and the Eel Festival crew for offering us all the opportunity to take part. If you would like to be around the big-hearted vibe, the next Lake Bolac Eel Festival is on 20-21 March 2020 and tickets are available now.

Dinner almost ready to serve at Walker Swamp


Jodie Honan