The sign said, car park, two hours. A bit longer than the walk up the valley, but probably a better view. I decided to take it.
Up on the tablelands, tussock, tall Californian thistles, cow pats the size of satellite dishes, should have alerted me to what came next. But they were up the hill a little and I didn't see them until I was close enough to be in their space.
Cows. Great big fucking big huge cows. They were so big they loomed. They were big and black and looming. Did I explain that they were, like, really big?
One of the more daffy projects of Nazi Germany was the attempt to back breed aurochsen. Aurochsen were giant cows with great sweeping horns. They went extinct in the seventeenth century. The Heck brothers, encouraged by Goering, attempted to back breed the largest and most primitive cattle to get something like an aurochs. Goering had the idea of turning eastern Europe into his own private hunting ground. There are still faux aurochsen around, called Heck cattle. And a more recent attempt, called TaurOs, is using our new knowledge of genetics. Don't quite know why they want to back breed aurochsen, really. Goering saw the aurochs as a symbol of Teutonic might. Perhaps we could back breed something a bit less culturally laden - perhaps dire wolves or - wow - giant sloths! That would be cool.
Anyway these big huge looming cows seemed as big as Heck cattle.
I am a city girl. Well, OK, I come from a little town you've probably never heard of, but I live in a city of sorts and my idea of the countryside is it's the stuff that happens between cities. I like nature. I like walks in native forests. My idea of nature is bellbirds and faeries. I can handle the faeries. As I've said before, my Weird Shit-o-meter goes up to 11. Not so sure about the big huge looming cows though. Proceed with caution, I figured. After all, they are herbivores. They eat grass, for pity's sake. I just hope someone has remind them of that recently.
Then I noticed they were steeren. I am not sure of the plural for steer, but I figure steeren is a good word, makes them sound bigger and fiercer than steers, like aurochsen which is the plural for aurochs. So they were young guy cattle and they were a bit full of themselves that day.
Some of them were sort of bouncing on all legs and flicking their tails. Then one of them wound it up a bit. He started rocking forward and aft, tossing his head. Then he cantered off down the hill and just casually shoulder barged another steer.
That steer lowered his head and said, like, 'Listen, shithead. Do that again and we throw down'.
The first steer said 'Yeah well bring it, motherfucker!'
The rest of the steeren immediately gathered around. Gosh, it was like primary school all over again, when everyone rushes over and shouts 'Fight! fight! fight!'. The air was full of steerosterone. Whoah! Here I was in the bovine version of Thunderdome. Two cows enter! One cow leaves! The steeren raised their heads and mooed. They flanked each other and pawed the earth. They lay their heads along each others backs and rose up on each other in a blurred mix of fighting, mating and playing. Touch! Pause! Engage!
Then they noticed me.
I didn't care if they were herbivores. Neither the tall Californian thistles nor the cow pats the size of satellite dishes stopped me until I was over the stile and away. As I headed back down the valley I could hear the terrifying din of the steeren, echoing from the Thunderdome, calling to their fellows each to each about the little puny human that got away.