There's this walk I've been doing recently during my lunch hour, a quick climb up a couple of hundred feet to a good lookout point on the side of the mountain. At first the path describes a steep but polite zigzag up the slope, but towards the end these pretensions are abandoned and it just goes straight up. To reduce the erosion problem, the authorities responsible for this path have used rocks, logs and bars of recycled plastic to create steps. Every time I walk these stairs, about halfway up, I catch myself thinking "this is soooo much better than a StairMaster" -- I'm not sure why, perhaps I'm too conditioned to associating exercise with working out, which is at best boring and at worst (when you're stuck in a brightly lit barn full of terrifying machinery, surrounded by people who never seem to break a sweat) humiliating.

This path is not boring. For one thing, there are views: down into the bowl of the city and the harbour on one side of the ridge, and on the other the wide sweep of the Atlantic, the beaches and the buttresses of rock stacked up like dominoes all the way to the end of the peninsula. Some days you can't see a thing because you're walking in cloud and droplets of water condense on your eyelashes; that's good too. Then there are the plants: this is the loveliest time of year for the leucodendrons, and there are moraeas and small flowers of pink oxalis in the path. There are birds, of course, and frogs to be heard, if not seen. The steps are high and uneven and there's a certain satisfaction in achieving a good rhythm on your way up; even more in bouncing down.

Someone worked hard to make this path: I think about this too, about men with bare arms working in the sun; I wonder how much they got paid, whether they had fun, whether any of them ever come here just to walk it now. I hope it was a better deal than working in a StairMaster factory.