A car tourist from Melbourne asked me, “So where are you going?”
Meaning, today. Not “What are you going to achieve in your life”. Fwew!
Her sister and her dreadlocked friend seemed interested too, but they just nodded when I answered,
“Today I’ll shoot for Queenstown, and try to camp somewhere on the other side.”
I guess on their map it doesn’t look too far away. But she was quick to point out, “Oo there’s a big hill over that side of Queenstown. Good luck!”
And that was the first time of many that I was warned of the Queenstown “hill.”
There just seems to be something about mountains that capture people’s fervor.
I get it. It’s cool. Me too!
A couple hours later, these new acquaintances of mine found me out there(there’s only really one road) and pulled their car over on the road to say hi, on their own trip to Queenstown. They had the jovial enthusiasm of the slightly inebriated.
“Woah, you’re not even breakin a sweat, mate!”
Well, it was downhill for the last kilometer.
No matter my nonchalance, they were amazed at how far I had come, themselves having just watched all the hilly kilometers go by, undoubtedly trying to imagine it on a push bike. They saluted me with their beers. Respect.
And here I was thinking that I had actually gone terribly slow. Hm.
And I had to wonder… Is it legal here for passengers to drink alcohol in a moving car? Hm!
Queenstown is a rent in the mountain, heavily quarried, quite remarkably quarried, yet it has a bit of history, and… that certain something, about towns living in the shadow of mountains. They are at once rugged and rustic; isolated, and so more lofty, more mysterious, than, say, a coastal fishing town.
This town didn’t exactly conjure that classic mountain mining town mystique, however. More of a Scooby Doo mystery town, perhaps?
At any rate, I didn’t stay long. I’ve got a hill to climb!
At the IGA standing in line: “Yes I know there is a big hill.” [food: +2.5 kgs]
At the pub filling water: “Ah yes, I’ve got to climb that mountain, I know. So these towns on my map, let’s see, ‘Gormanston,’ and ‘Linda’…? Perhaps I could wait to refill water until then? No? There’s nothing there, nothing at all?! Well, perhaps it would be a good place to camp then….”
[water: +5 kgs]
Thus restocked and weighted down, I started out of town. I passed a couple blocks of houses, then the terraced residential gave way to the narrow bluffs of “no effin’ way you could build up here.”
[a piss, staring up at the winding heights, just before the real ascent began: -0.15 kgs]
Up the hill then.
And it was a doozie.
Though it was never unachievably steep, it was very long. So long, my back began to ache; so long the sun dipped behind the peaks…. How much longer can this possibly last?!?
At one point, though, I had real reason to smile. My head was down, as usual during this type of situation, low-gear life, concentrating on my “momentum” (such that it is climbing mountains) and I heard a car coming down the hairpin turns towards me. You can hear ’em coming a long way off up in the hollows; by the pitch of their engine you can even tell if they’re going up or down the mountain. I focused even more, so as not to swerve at that dangerous moment when we pass each other, but as they whistled past me, somewhere above my field of view, I heard a cheer…
Three cheers to be precise! I looked up to see my friends the car tourists from Melbourne, leaning out the windows of their car, now probably quite drunk, probably looking for me, and probably now celebrating even more as they cruised back to Strahan. As I kept climbing, I couldn’t help but wonder if they would be settling a wager right now. And if so, who won?
I made it to the top, a clear stony summit cloaked in darkening blues, but I didn’t have too much time to admire the view. Before true night had a chance to tighten its grip, I slapped on my windbreaker and zoomed down the other side of the mountain in a mere frigid fraction of the time it took to climb it.
Gormanston, by the way, had at least three houses, and Linda had a cafe. So I guess you can’t always trust what the barman tells you!