21 July 2008

Sore Feet, light hearts - The beginning

We awoke at 4:15am, dressed ourselves and packed the van. All of the bags were packed the night before so we actually departed on time at 4:45am!
We arrived at the train station on time and joined the ticket machine queue. This would have had to have been the first time there was a queue at the ticket machine before 6am on a Sunday morning. Sydney Rail has a special family pricing where you pay for all adults (16 and over) and one child and the rest of the children travel free. The train left just as we arrived and we arrived at Sydney Central station right on time.
Then  our pilgrimmage really began. It is said that a pilgrimmage is supposed to include hardships we are to offer up for others. Our hardship was the long walking, big crowds and very long day. This first photo show the helpful signs posted along the route. There was no way to get confused or make wrong turns. The complete route was fenced with all pilgrims funnelled straight to Randwick Park.
The distance was about 6 km which is a long way for unfit people like us. But plod on we did. Many of the "official" pilgrims arrived there the night before and slept at the grounds. Randwick is a horse racetrack and has a capacity of around 300,000. The estimated number of people attending the final Mass at either Randwick or nearby Centennial Park was about 500,000 people! If you see any photos of the crowd we are a couple of orange dots.
Once we entered through the gate and found our designated area, the overnight sleepers had obviously forgotten what they were there for. These pilgrims were obviously without any group leaders or adult supervisors and so left their rubbish everywhere and stayed in their sleeping bags even when the Pope went past, thousands of people stepped over them and Mass was starting. Lana noticed people with tickets from other areas in our area and figured we could do better than stay here.
Eric was able to point out some other spots using his binoculars and you needed binoculars just to see the main altar or some of the big video screens. So we went wandering, pretending to find "our" group.
This plan worked very well. We ended up finding a much better location near a Papua New Guinea group and we fit right in.

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