I leave my car in the parking area and walk past families picnicking and kicking the footy as the BBQ warms up. I smile at a toddler who’s blowing a dandelion; her mum nearby, watching carefully.
As I approach the national park, I pause at the trail sign, which reads: Upper Morialta Trail 6kms, Lower Morialta Trail 3kms, Advanced Hike 12kms.
The latter includes all manner of warnings, including one that says something about ensuring hikers have packed enough food provisions in case of an accident or becoming lost. Right. Not my cup of tea, so I take the upper trail. I wriggle my backpack into a more comfortable position and set off.
Fifteen minutes into my hike, I hear the gushing flow of a waterfall. As it comes into my view, I stop, captivated by its beauty. A rainbow appears behind the stream.
I snap a number of photos on my phone and keep walking.
The incline is fierce. My T-shirt is damp from my sweat and I am panting. I eventually reach the summit and am instantly rewarded. The view stretches all the way to the ocean; the chasm below a cornucopia of colour. Green hues of the suburban treetops merge into a dull grey of the CBD, before melting into a deep sea blue. I gasp in wonder.
‘Excuse me,’ I say to a couple standing at the lookout. ‘Would you please take my photo?’
‘Of course,’ responds the female. She reaches for my phone and smiles. ‘I’m Rose.’
I pose at the edge of the lookout while Rose calls, ‘Say cheese!’
She takes about five pictures and hands my phone over.
‘Thanks so much,’ I say.
‘Hey,’ Rose asks. She looks at her companion and nods. ‘Matty and I are going to have lunch in the restaurant here at the summit. Would you care to join us?’
Matty’s face registers surprise.
‘Thank you, so kind of you. But I really have to get back to my car and head home.’
I have no plans for the rest of the day, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Matty wants to be alone with Rose. He doesn’t have a poker face, this guy, and the relief he feels is obvious.
‘Be safe!’ Rose calls out.
I hear Matty murmuring to Rose as I walk off. It’s mostly indecipherable, but I hear ‘crazy’ and ‘know her name’. It’s then I realise he’s right. I didn’t even tell them my name.
It’s nearly midday when I return to the picnic area, where I set off. I decide to eat lunch at the cafe just off the car park. It’s crammed with people, but I find one seat at the bar by the window. I’m ravenous, so I order eggs and bacon, with avocado, tomato, mushrooms, fetta on sourdough. And a flat white.
I amble to my car an hour later. As I unlock the doors, the car next to me blips as it unlocks as well. I turn to see Matty and Rose approaching. Rose’s face is screwed tight, her brow creased in emotion.
‘So I guess you didn’t need to hurry home after all?’ she asks accusingly.
I shrug as I get in my car. I crank the ignition and select reverse. I owe them no explanation.