Why is it that I always seem to end up walking up hills? It could be that I enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of reaching the top. Or, it could be that as Dunedin is surrounded by hills there’s always a better than average chance that I’ll end up walking uphill at some point.
So it was that on a reasonably fine Saturday I decided to head up Dunedin’s 41 peg track from Tomahawk lagoon to the Soldiers Memorial on the Otago Peninsula. This seemed a simple enough plan, however it wasn’t till I was halfway up the first paddock that I realised it was all up hill! In hindsight this seems obvious however it really didn’t occur to me when I started out.
Starting out at Tomahawk lagoon, I made my way around the head of the shallows before heading uphill through bush for a short time until the track cleared on to open farmland. It was here, having left the native bush and resting near a trig point on open farmland that I made a most careful observation. That being that the track seemed relatively steep and then went up!
Having rested and once again confirming my complete lack of fitness,I set off for a walk through, over and past stonewalls, rocks, gorse, long grass, even long grass and even larger gorse bushes, all the while taking in the wonderful views that surrounded me.
At some point in my journey, about half way up, just after the track converged with a section of long grass and a lengthy series of gorse bushes, the path narrowed to a two metre gap that separated a very old looking electric fence and a very overgrown series of gorse bushes. While these two factors aren’t necessarily dangerous, the large herd of cattle that sat right on the fence line looked extremely dangerous. Now, I’m no expert on cow behaviour, and while the majority of the herd clearly didn’t care about my presence, one clearly seemed to object very much. It was sometime between the beast turning to face me, snorting and stamping it’s foot that I decided I needed to quicken my pace. After all, ‘here lies John Caswell stood on by a cow’ isn’t really what I want my headstone to read.
Leaving the angry cow behind, the track continued on a more steady incline as the memorial came into view but sadly little else. Having started out at the lagoon surrounded by bright clear weather, nearing the top and my destination, the clouds had rolled in and the wind picked up. The commanding views were now pretty much a backdrop of white.
As I sat and looked across the city my mind began to wonder back to a news item I had read some time back. After some time searching on google I found the statistics that seemed to be rattling around at the back of my mind. According to the Guardian Newspaper, between March 2000 and March 2020, 22 members of the public were killed by cattle in the UK. I vowed right there and then to avoid cows wherever possible.