Folks, do you know the difference between steps and stairs?
Me either, but this week I walked up the 111 Steps staircase scaling Gladstone’s Auckland Hill, and it took me 318 steps to do it.
The steps were built in the 1980’s by a dedicated band of
Rotarians and Work for the Dole
They also built the stone-pitched waterfall, without cranes, scaffolding or any thought for their own safety. Using ropes, a bosun’s chair (basically a seat made up of a piece of wood connected to a pulley) they’d lower themselves over the cliff face and slap some mortar and stones in place until it was completed.
Again, utilising the bosun’s chair, our volunteers also planted hundreds of shrubs and trees all over the once barren, rocky face of the hill.
They were so successful you can barely see the view through the foliage now.
Amazingly, no one was killed during the building of the steps or the waterfall (or they possibly were and are now a permanent part of the structure?)
Auckland Hill has had an interesting history. It used to be round and its’ feet were washed by waves from the harbour and the outflow of Auckland Creek.
It is recorded a carving of the Madonna was cut into the rock near the base by an artistic sailor many years before Captain Cook arrived, but was destroyed ‘by wind and tide’ as local poet Val Vallis lamented.
A cannon inscribed Santa Barbara was also located nearby, evidence of Spanish or Portuguese visitors predating the British, but it was also conveniently ‘lost’.
A guano (bat shit) mine was dug into the side of the hill to provide fertiliser for farms. As a boy I recall visiting the mine and peering into the depths beyond the steel grating the council had placed over it to keep curious little mouth-breathers like me out.
I haven’t been able to find the mine entrance since, and occasionally I’ll stumble around in the shrubbery trying to locate it.
Note: if I ever disappear unexpectedly, I suggest starting the search on the western side of Auckland Hill.
Anyway, from the base of the steps, I counted 351 paces to the lookout at the top of the Auckland Hill cliff.
The best time to use the stairs is anytime. Most people drive up to the lookout, walk as far as the waterfall then pop back to the café for a quick top up before driving off.
I’ve never been held up by crowds on the stairs… or steps.
Steps, stairs, whatever you call them, taking the time to wander up or down them is definitely a step in the right direction.