Lost On Mt Macedon
I’d probably floor it if a big long-haired bloke stepped out of the darkness and into my headlights on a stretch of empty road at night. But what if that big long-haired bloke was just a lost hiker?
Call me a mug, because I’ve been him. That fella in a Meredith beanie you saw spooking cars on some Macedon backroad not too long ago might have just me trying to hitchhike back to my car.
One late autumn day, right as the sun was setting, I took a wrong turn at a fork in the track on Mt Macedon in Central Victoria. Right after I realised I was on the wrong track, my shitty phone died.
The tree canopy there is very thick and you can’t see far, so even though that part of the trail is barely past the outskirts of the township, I couldn’t really orient myself in the right direction with no map. Then it got dark. I had a torch, some water and enough warm clothes, but no clue which way led to the town.
More than a few times in my life, I’ve been lost in places where it’s genuinely made me scared. This wasn’t one of those at all. It was more like a “Fuuck – this is inconvenient” type moment. All I had to do was find a road and hitch back to where I’d parked.
I walked towards where I could hear cars in the distance, which took me through a rather desolate-looking area that had been logged recently, and then down a dusty logging trail through hundreds of huge pines planted in neat rows.
Eventually I started seeing occasional headlights and taillights through the trees and then, finally, the logging track came out on a sealed road. I’d been lost for an hour, tops, and soon enough, I’d be on my merry way home. At this point it hadn’t occurred to me that I was about to inadvertently scare the shit out of a few unlucky motorists.
I waved down the first car I saw. They slowed a bit, then quickly sped off past me. I then realised the fright I must’ve given the driver when I appeared in front of them. Several more cars did the same. Stop. Swerve. Speed off. One poor bastard in a clapped-out little hatchback went past me and then came back the other way about 10 minutes later – definitely not to pick me up, though. He must’ve been lost, too, and he was driving like a maniac. I’m glad he didn’t drive up a tree when he saw me.
“Sorry mate. Just trying to get back to where I parked. It’s near the pub. Tell ya what… I could murder a pint.”
It took me another hour or so to get a ride. I decided it was smarter to stay put, because I had no idea where this road led, and cars were coming past every five or 10 minutes. Several more cars later, finally, a couple around my age in a new-looking Hilux stopped.
“Are you okay? Jump in the back”, came the woman’s voice.
“I’m good. Just very slightly lost. I’m parked around the corner from the pub. I’ve just been trying to get a ride back there. Only if it’s not too much trouble”.
Her tone went from worried to friendly. Jovial, even. “Not at all,” she said. “It’s close. We’ve got you.”
I got in, then I kept going: “Thanks. I’ve been up here for a while. Well, for like, an hour, maybe. Nobody wanted to stop for me. Couldn’t imagine why…”
“No worries, mate. Some of the trail markers up here could be better,” went the guy, holding back some good-natured giggles.
Then I said, “Oh, and, I left my axe at home today, don’t worry.”
I explained the fork in the path. Both knew the spot. Her dad had been lost there, so had his brother, so had this-and-that from town. Neither of them mentioned tourists. We laughed about the hatchback guy. It was a relief to know I’d gotten lost like a local.
When they dropped me off, I went into the Macedon pub, quickly eviscerated my pint and then drove home to Fitzroy. I stepped into the kitchen to find my housemate cooking something in a pot on the stove, like any other night.
“I did the Macedon circuit again, but, this time I got lost, then I had to hitch back to the car and people wouldn’t stop for me, and…” I rambled, unsure if she’d laugh or just shrug.
She looked over to me for a second and half-sarcastically went, “Yeah, I probably wouldn’t’ve stopped for you.”
I got a beer from the fridge and sat down with my book, like any other night.