You never know when you’re going to be tested.
Early last year Ellen and I joined a group from across Canada and the United States for a tour of New Zealand and Australia. In Los Angeles, forty-five of us met our veteran guide who had conducted over thirty tours of these two countries.
Toward the end of our week in New Zealand, we had come to know enough about the members of our tour group to realize these were seasoned travelers. To a person, they were kind, considerate, flexible, inquisitive, and full of life. Not one was a pain in the neck, with the possible exception of me. They tolerated me quite well, not surprisingly, as I have suggested by their fine qualities.
We learned and laughed together in Auckland, in Queenstown, during farm stays near Fairlie, at a famous bungee-jumping site where one of our intrepid members took the plunge, in Dunedin, in Christchurch, and a number of other locations. But it was in Dunedin, a town with a lot of Scottish ancestry and a grand statue of Robert Burns in the town center, that the test came—out of the blue.
Our sly guide sprang the world’s steepest street—Baldwin Street in Dunedin—on us one foggy and cool morning. We pulled up at the bottom of the hill where Baldwin Street began. Our guide explained that, just out the window to our left, was the Guinness Book’s “World’s Steepest Street.” The street is 1,150 ft. long, or about 350 meters, and has a 35% grade.
Here I am trying to decide whether to hike up the Steepest Street in the World.
Our test was voluntary, not mandatory. The test was to see if we could hike from the bottom of the hill all the way to the top of Baldwin Street, a street with small but well-kept homes along each side.
About a third of the group, with me among them, decided to give it a try. Ellen had bad knees at the time, at least worse than mine, so she wisely sat this one out.
Of those who gave it a try, a few made it to the top. I was not among them, having made it perhaps two-thirds of the way to the top. As I began debating with myself how far I wanted to push myself up the hill, and as the grade of the street grew steeper, it turned out to be a short debate. I said to myself, “Heck, this is not a competition. Several turned back before I did. There’s no prize involved. I have nothing to prove to anyone.”
So I stopped, paused a bit to catch my breath, and turned back to the larger group at the bottom of Baldwin Street who had gathered to watch the more serious hikers among us.
While I didn’t pass the test, I was a bit proud of myself for trying, for having gotten as far as I did. I still take pride in my effort, in the fact that I made it two-thirds of the way up the Steepest Street in the World.
I got no ribbon or trophy. No special recognition. I was just an “also ran.” That’s peachy fine with me. I had nothing to prove to anyone. And I’m still glad I took the test.