Say Cheese!

Phil and I joined a running group at the end of last year as a way of meeting people and to help him train for the ironman.  When a few of them first invited us to join them in running the King Island 32km race, I didn't have to think twice about saying yes.  King Island is best known for its King Island brand cheese, and the promise of a cheese-filled weekend was enough to get me to run farther than I would have otherwise.

King Island is a a small island between mainland Australia and Tasmania.  There are around 1200 people living on the island, and 50,000+ wallabies.  Getting to the island involves flying on the kind of 10-seater plane that requires passengers to flap their wings in order to get off the ground.  When you land, you don't reset your watch to a different time zone, you set your watch back 60 years.  The main drag in the "city" is one block long, and in order to play 18 holes of golf you'd have to golf at both golf courses.  Good luck trying to fill up the gas tank after 12 pm on a Sunday.

The cheese did not disapoint, and we had a great time getting to know the group we went with.  A total of 8 of us decended upon the island and immediately found ourselves getting to know the local policeman.  Apparently he thought it odd that we were walking down the main street holding a live crayfish (lobster-sized).  Who were we to turn down a free meal!  It was given to a member of our group while they were unloading the boat - this poor guy appeared to have had a fight with an octopus and lost some legs so he couldn't make the long journey to China to be sold.  Fresh crayfish and some tasty King Island cheese was the perfect snack with a cuppa (tea).

On Saturday we spent a peaceful morning wandering around the beautiful beaches.  The shells that washed up were absolutely amazing, and we found some beautiful abalone shells and a few suicidal star fish.  On Saturday night, the runners all gathered to load up on pasta.  I made sure to try every pasta they had on offer - there were nearly a dozen.  Between the good food, the stunning ocean view, and the entertaining company it was a great way to kick off the event.

We got up early Sunday morning and made the harrowing treck to the other side of the island.  Just before sunrise is the worst time to be driving there because the wallabies are all over at that time of day.  Fortunately only one decided to test its strength on our Beruit-style rental van, but there were a few other close calls.  Phil and one of our friends started their 32-k runs first in the non-handicapped event (yes, I see the irony!).  Phil ended up taking third in his race and knocked 40 minutes off his best half marathon time.  Next was the relay, where four of us each ran an 8-k leg.  Another group member ran the handicapped event, and ended up taking 3rd place.  We were all very happy with our runs, no doubt because of the crisp island air and the delicious cheese.

Speaking of cheese, let's talk about the goodie bags the runners received.  Normally there are some pamphlets trying to sell things, possibly a sticker, if you're really lucky, a t-shirt.  These goodie bags had SIX wheels of cheese in each bag; Camembert, Triple Cream Brie, Roaring Forties Blue, Brie Rolle, Surprise Bay Cheddar, and a giant wedge of Peppercorn Cheddar.  And because that wasn't enough cheese, we decided to go to the Fromagerie after the race and do some cheese tasting. 

After a much-deserved afternoon nap, the runners reconviened for a big dinner and awards presentation in the Town Hall.  As we walked in the door we were handed a glass of champagne or beer, and to start the dinner off we were given a giant cheese platter.  More crayfish, lamb, beef, and then of course a cheese platter for dessert.  We could tell this was the big event on King Island because all the town girls donned their finest frocks. 

Monday was a day off for Labour Day, and we all enjoyed a good lie in after our efforts from the day before.  We took the good old Beruit van to the thriving town of Grassy (or at least it used to be before the mine closed down).  Rumor has it the mine will reopen sometime soon, but in the meantime we kept ourselves entertained exploring the crafts made with kelp and a view of the old mine and harbor below.  After a peaceful lunch at Bert's place (on the front porch, because he was only licensed to serve food on the front porch, not inside the house), it was time to pack up the cheese and head back home.  We parked the rental van in front of the airport, left the keys in the car, and checked in for our flight.  Who needs boarding passes when you can put dot stickers on the passengers' hands instead!  One more sketchy plane ride just above the clouds and we were back to reality.


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