By cautiously, she probably didn't mean going and scaling the 1000 Steps in the Dandenongs National Park...
Well what was I supposed to do? Reindert... yes, let's blame Reindert. At dinner, after beer club he said he was going up to the Dandenongs for a run. I sort of asked myself along. The trek up the 50 % incline would be fun. He could go off running, I could gently scale the steps, come down again and then go back to the car and read my book. Save him train fare and get me out in the fresh air.
It was a great move. A wonderful thing to do. The Kokoda Memorial Trek, up 660 steps to the summit, and seriously not for the faint hearted. I was pleased. Taking it easy to make sure there was no undue pressure on the leg, I made my way up the hill - thrilled that my recovery and CV fitness was holding out. Then the scary bit - coming down.
As a child I spend a lot of time in hospital having my legs fixed. Born knock kneed and with short Achilles tendons meant spending time in callipers and plaster boots at regular intervals until I was twelve. It was during this time I developed a fear of falling. While Reindert can fly down these hills, I have to carefully pick my way down. I wish I was sure of foot - but anything going down - stairs, escalators and steep hills normally fills me with dread. I even get nervous going down Anderson Street on the side of the Botanical Gardens. I love scaling the cathedrals of Europe - I hate crawling my way down - petrified of falling. It's a problematic, sort of embarrassing phobia.
Regardless, I made my way up and back in just over fifty minutes and felt great for it. Reindert gave me a good hour an a half to read my book before returning, muddy, but happy. Freak. Only Reindert would love running up and down these near cliff faces.
The following day, as a treat, Reindert and I joined the Grounded Dutchman on a wine tour of the Macedon Ranges. We say wine tour when really it was more a day trip. We planned on a visiting a few wineries, going to have a look around Hanging Rock, find a nice lunch and go home.
Reindert and the Grounded Dutchman have been regular day trip companions for ages. They're good company. They've also allowed me to see more of the state I've lived in for the last ten years. Until these guys turned up I rarely ventured out into country Victoria. As I child, we never went camping as a family and other than a few visits to places before I was eight, I don't remember visiting national parks - that was a thing for the campers and hippies to do.
The guys have been a blessing to have about. How wrong have I been?
The first stop was the Organ Pipes National Park. "Never heard of it." I said, but Reindert assured us it would be worth a visit.
For a small national park, Organ Pipes it packs a lot of wallop. The actual organ pipes are this natural wonder - just off the Calder Freeway, blink and you miss the turnoff. You can hear the gentle hum of the traffic in the far distance, the sites about a kilometre from the road. They're really cool. You just stand there and think 'How did that happen?".
There was also this natural wonder called the Rosette Stone at the park - not the one that helped translate the heiroglyphs that got robbed by the English and now sits in the British Museum. This would be too big for the colonials to take back to brag about. Another natural WTF moment.
Then it was off to Hanging Rock. Another place I've heard about but never been to.
Another big hill to scale. Joy. Thank goodness I was wearning my calf strap and runners. It was already aching from the day before and my quads were feeling like concrete after picking my way down Mount Dandenong. Never to mind, can't have the boys think you're not up to it.
It's an amazing geological wonder - a fantastic place to wander. Silent and ethereal. You can see why Peter Weir made the film about it. Of course on the summit you have to cry out "Miranda!" and you listen hard for the pan pipes that George Zamphir is expected to play when you get to the top.
Explaining this to two Dutchmen was a bit difficult. Another missed cultural reference.
I look at this shot of Reindert and Grounded Dutchman under Hanging Rock, looking very Dutch, hands in pockets, rather earnest. I look at his and think it would make a great album cover. "Hurdy and Gurdy Sing the Greatest Dutch Football Anthems Volume One." I can see it now.
Grounded Dutchman made sure he climbed over every rock he could find, despite shattering his pelvis 15 months ago. I'm certain that man was a cat in his last life. However he climbed down from each rock with a huge grin of triumph on his face. Proof of just how far he's come.
The uneven ground made me rather cautious. I stuck to the track. Reindert could be spyed looking out into the distance.
The place also made me rather melancholy. Why hadn't I been there before? What had I missed? Why had I allow myself to forgoe days like this? Being single and rather isolated, I've really done myself a disservice. Time for that to change.
But there wasn't time to drown in self pity - there was wine to be tasted, food to be enjoyed and winery dogs to pat. Three of my favorite things.
And even better, as the Grounded Dutchman has to behave himself around alcohol - a designated driver!
Hanging Rock Winery was first off the ranks. Some pleasant drops which may have been nicer if the man behind the desk had half a personality. Next came Curly Flat, (http://www.curlyflat.com/) where the Pinot Noir's are velvety smooth and the winery cat, Chewbacca, a 10 kg orange moggy kept us entertained. The Pinot's were lovely, but the cat stole the show, using Grounded Dutchman for a sofa for the time we were there.
Lastly, after a fine lunch at the pizza joint in Kyneton (highly, highly recommended) we made our way to Big Shed Wines. (http://www.bigshedwines.com.au/) where we were entertained by the unflappable Felix and the three Border Collies who sat at your feet and demanded a pat. Felix was the find of the day, with a long wine list to taste, great prices and an interesting way of handling the stock. Since the mountains are so cold, the cellar door is not the best to store stock. So the reds, normally drunk around 12-14 degrees at a minimum needed warming. Seven seconds in the microwave did it.... Felix kept us entertained by the wood fire for well over an hour.
We trundled back, replete, content after dark. Only seven bottles of wine in the boot between us. A small haul for a great day.
And for me, a new love of Australian National Parks - more of which I will have to explore in the very near future.