Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Scouts Orienteering

As a change, we have decided this week to try out one of the scouts orienteering events, which are held every Tuesday in the eastern suburbs. We have persuaded Mark to join us, with a promise to take Susi next week. We arrive at the scout hut in good time and are met by Geoff, who briefs us on the technology side of this event. For the first time in months, we are using electronic punching. No, not Si nor Emit (heaven forbid), but Geoff's own home-grown system.

It is a 20 control score event, on a colour map (novelty) with an hour's time limit. Pat chooses to walk, Mark and I say we'll run (sort of). The dibbers are homemade, costing less than a dollar each(!), and the controls have a button to press on arrival. Simple. It is also a punching start, rather than the usual mass start mayhem we have learnt to call normal.

I go first and head NW and round to 13, then retrace my steps to visit control 9. More difficult features than usual mean close inspection of the map is essential. I trot round to 7 behind the cricket nets. It's hard not to flinch at the thwacks of willow on leather. It's a hot evening and everyone's out doing their own thing. This explains why there is never anything worth watching on television. I have a stack of DVD's awaiting my attention, but not while the weather stays like this. I find 1 on the end of the fence and then traipse all the way round to 16. The dibbers work well, with a flash and a polite beep.

Control 3 causes me to hunt a bit amongst the bushes, and then it's on to 6, 17, and 19. I decide to leave out control 4. A voice calls 'Dad!' and I turn to see Mark hailing me from the other side of a small horse paddock. He joins me, grateful to find that one. We trot together to 20 and then diverge our separate ways. 8 is next, then 15, then 18. I am grateful to a man who peers over his garden fence to assist me at 15.

The clock is running down, I have only about 10 minutes left. Up the road to 5, then up even more to 14, heading now for the finish. I have left out 4, 2, 10 and 12, arriving back with only a couple of minutes to spare. For the first time in my (lengthy) orienteering career, a cup of ice-cold squash is pushed into my grateful hands. Pat arrives just after me and then Mark. My legs ache from an hour's activity, but I've enjoyed every minute. Proper orienteering, colour map, electronic punching, sunny evening, whats not to like? Can't wait 'til next week!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Clarinda - Street Orienteering

My cold from the weekend has abated and it's time to go orienteering again. I think I just overdosed on aircon last week in the 40 degree heat. Which would I rather have, +40 degrees or -5 degrees? It's a tough one.

Anyway, a 30 minute trek south in the rush hour seems a good idea just to get out. As we approach the venue, "Road Closed" notices cause the satnav to hyperventilate, but we make it eventually. This evening's offering is a Score event, rather than a Scatter course, but I'm not sure why. I opt for the D course which gives me 40 minutes to score as many points as possible. Double digits is good.

Turning over my map on the signal, I spot 16, 17, 18 and 20 all within hailing distance, so determine to build a loop including those five-pointers. South east through the park, and across the bridge to 18 and then south to control 10. I'm learning to despise these controls at the end of cul-de-sacs. Back and round to 16. Legs feel heavy and uncoordinated, still full of germs I expect. I'm OK on the clock so down and round to 6 on the way to 17. Three valuable controls visited and still 15 minutes left. North I go to 20 in the park then cut across the grass to 13, all the while on the lookout for snakes. No worries, this grass is better than our lawn.

Time is starting to press, I need to head for home. I trot along to 9, blowing hard now and then on to 14, needing to sneak the occasional walk. I head across the park around the cricket oval. There are a lot of folks here playing some weird game with an oval ball. I see the finish clock and just manage to make the time with 40 seconds to spare. Nine controls visited will do me. Pat arrives a little while later, having walked a very similar course to mine but in the reverse direction.

I continue to lose weight with my antipodean eating style involving lots of salad and fresh fruit. Ten kilos (a stone and a half) have evaporated (I think that's the right word) and these street events have helped my running fitness. In January I reach the grand old age of 65, so maybe my orienteering will improve. If only I can find some.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Wednesday means Street-O time again. This time the event is just round the corner on Doncaster Road, but we opt for the car rather than walk (again). Google Earth tells us there are loads of parking places, although we know from previous experience that they will all be taken if we delay too long.

6.40pm proves to be a good arrival time for a 7pm start and we pay the paltry 4 dollars each, fill in control cards (come back Emit, all is forgiven) and scan the available blank maps for any helpful clues. My 'D' course only requires me to visit 8 controls so I can see that south of the Eastern Freeway is not an option for me. I can hear the traffic from here.

We turn over our maps on command, some going east and some go west. I go east. It is only when I struggle up the slope to my first control, number 8, that I realise the map has 10 metre contours, so we are clearly in for plenty of up-and-down. 5 comes next and then 11. Do I go for 3 now, or do 16 later on? I opt for the former.

My legs seem to be behaving themselves this evening. My newly purchased ankle strapping tape is doing the trick. I am reminded of a trip to hospital in a previous life with a severely sprained ankle. It's never been the same since. Tonight is good however. If I can get 4 or 5 controls done without pains, I'm happy to limp the rest.

3 comes up on cue, then down a big dip and up to 13. Lower legs are fine, I can push it a bit. 18 is down to the bottom of a steep hill then back the way I've come, heading for 4. Either there's a lot of up and down here, or I'm flagging a bit. 10 finishes the job off in about 33 minutes for 4.5 kilometres. Pleased with that, but delighted that I seem to have found some pharmaceutical assistance for my aging limbs.

Pat's new shoes have propelled her speedily around the walkers' score course and she is pleased with her route.

I have now run 4 times in the last 8 days, which for me is a colossal amount. I've also lost 8 kilos in weight. These two facts are surely connected. Let's hope I can keep it up.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Smith's Dell

This Wednesday's street event sees us head into the posher part of town; the fourbyfours are all clean here. This is Hawthorn, about 30 minutes along the freeway, at the limit of our midweek travel radius. A glance at google maps suggests some park running which will be nicer than plodding the streets.

The car park is overflowing when we arrive with a full quarter-hour to spare. The more events we do, the later we get. Parking up the street, we quickly get ready. I still take my compass although I hardly need it. I would feel lopsided without it. This is a score event and I opt for the 40 minute running version (course D) while Pat is doing the walkers 65 minutes. There are lots of people here, looks like another bumper 150 plus turnout.

I find myself giving out maps to eager hands as 7pm edges nearer. Some last-minute instructions which no-one listens to and then we're off. We turn over our maps and search for some meaning. A group of lucrative controls (19, 17, 20) to the north catches my eye and I head off up the hill, trying to catch John but I can't. 19 comes first, then we enter an interesting narrow lanes section between 10, 17 and 1. Four controls done and 15 minutes taken, now what?

I trot down towards the freeway. Can I go under it, or will I have to go round? I'm keen to get 16, but no clear plan on how to get there. Then I see John again, clearly going round to the right, so I follow him. We reach control 4 together but can't see it. Then I read the control descriptions, better late than never, and it says 'seat underside'. I spot it, but why does it need to be underside? On down the track, past an enthusiastic game of baseball, to the valuable 16.

I glance at my watch, a new Aldi purchase for $7, cheaper than buying a new strap for my old watch. It shows ten minutes left. Time to go to 13? I don't think so. My calf has tightened up, forcing me to run on my heels. I'll head back the way I've come and collect 6, which I had very cleverly left for just such an eventuality. I stagger beyond the cycle velodrome, the bikes whooshing past. Not far now.

Finishing with a minute to spare, I hand in my control card. Why no electronic punching? Then we could have instant results. I think I've done OK, but there's no way of knowing. Pat comes in a little later, also pleased with her effort. We learn later - results appear on the website the following morning, now that's impressive - that we are both well into the top half on our courses. We are both getting fitter, which bodes well for when we can find some bush orienteering to get our technical teeth into.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Mitcham Street Event

It's been a few weeks since my last blog post, but little of real note has happened. The weather is warming up sporadically and the daylight lasts longer, so that's good. The summer programme of Park and Street events is now under way and the longer evenings mean that we can visit bits of parkland which have been off-limits to the likes of me with a five dollar BigW headtorch.

So Pat and I find ourselves at the Wednesday evening Mitcham event. After a day of 30 degree temperatures, the weather is cooling down as rain clouds gather. Pat takes my watch to help her judge the time on her walking course, with a max of 65 minutes and penalties for lateness, she doesn't want to get it wrong.

For my own part, I have a limp (in both legs, if that's possible) after my Monday run (I use this word in its loosest sense), so decide to attempt the E course. This is just like the A course, but there's a lot less of it. The A course requires that most controls be visited, whereas the E needs a humble 6. Any 6 will do. I decide on a clockwise route with the idea of finishing with 17. I fail to notice that this final control is not as near the finish as it looks. Never mind.

Straight through the park to the south east, and past the invisible swamp. The description is 'Illegible Exercise Equipment Sign North of Track' - I am beginning to feel information overload already. I am accompanied by boys from Camberwell Grammar School, but there is no sign of my son, Mark, who teaches there. I trot on round to 18 and then stagger up the hill to 19. I meet a man walking his dog in the park. "He won't bite you." Why do they always say that? I leave this small park to the north and go right at the crossroads to the next park. This is really nice.

I head for the culvert at control 2 and then cross the track heading for 16. We had been warned by the organiser not to stray from the paths in this area, but one look into the thick undergrowth is enough to warn me away. If anyone goes in there, they'll never be seen again. I find the vague path along the rear of the gardens and then head uphill to 17. Should have gone down and round. Never mind.

I finish in less than half an hour, so I clearly could have done a bit more. I shall promote myself to the D course next time. Pat is not due for some time, so I amuse myself by revisiting controls 2 and 16, and then go and have a look at 20. I am surprised by several people following me, even though I'm just wandering really. Back to the finish and Pat returns glowing, with five minutes to spare. We compare experiences and eventually head off home.

I really like these daylight evenings trotting through the parks, even though my legs are struggling a bit. Two runs in three days is definitely a bit much. I shall have a few days rest, then get out there again at the weekend.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Doncaster Heights

There have been no orienteering events to go to for a few weeks, and we've been busy moving house, and my legs are dodgy anyway, but we decide to do a street event just round the corner. When it's a warm evening and you only live a few minutes away, you should walk, but we don't. The car park is overflowing as we arrive with 10 minutes to spare. The nearer you live, the later you get. It's not even dark, as Pat and I register for the Score event around Doncaster Heights. I don't like the sound of that name.

Darkness falls at 7pm prompt and we're off. Soon the clocks will go forward and the torches will be put away. Across the footie field, lit up like daylight, I turn off my head torch. I pick out the 5 high scoring controls and link them together to give us an hours walk. I don't know why, but I always seem to prefer a clockwise route. Which way would I go in the northern hemisphere, I wonder?

Looking up, we pick out the stars of the Southern Cross in a cloudless sky. A garden pole flies a patriotic flag with the same pattern. It is 20 degrees plus and I feel overdressed in T-shirt and shorts. 17 - 8 - 12 - 20 is my first plan and then 6 - 18 - 11 - 13.

There are more barking dogs than usual tonight. Perhaps their owners have shut them out to enjoy the evening. Determined to collect 19, we stop by 3 on the way. I must get some solar lights for the garden; they are everywhere. Time is running out now and we head for home via 7 and 16.

Despite the warmth, not a bead of perspiration has dampened my shirt. Nevertheless, my legs are wobbly and cramp sets into my aging joints. I still haven't got the hang of the climate in Melbourne. I resolve to carry water next time, and even to drink it.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Canterbury Trails

Pat and I jump in the car to go to the Canterbury night street event on Wednesday, and jump out again four minutes later. It's only round the corner. We decide to walk the course together, a 65 minute score event, taking in as many controls as we can in the time allowed. Double digit controls are good, since those score more highly than the others. A throng 100-strong gathers as mass-start time approaches. My mini head torch will be quite sufficient to read the map as we march round the local streets.

The start signal is given and a quick scan of the map suggests a clockwise route, controls being bunched in groups of three. 5-20-10 come first, then through the little park to 15-9-19. Rain starts to patter down at this stage and I begin to regret not bringing a map case. I stuff the map under my shirt to keep it dry. 4-18-14 come next and we then head for 8, trying to decide when to cut and make for home. We decide we should have time for 13 and then 17. The streets have gone quiet now, the runners probably already heading for the finish triangle. We reach our final two controls and make it back with a couple of minutes to spare.

I am grateful that my legs made it to the end. Pat is made of sterner stuff and has no worries, as we say round here. The street of Melbourne are as quiet and peaceful as always, excepting the hithering and thithering of itinerant head torches. It is very good exercise, cheap and cheerful, and extremely convenient to home. The navigational challenge is quite simple with these events but, given the grid-pattern nature of Melburnian streets, perhaps inevitable.

Soon, we will advance the clocks as summer gets nearer and then these events will be sunlit rather than torchlit. Maybe the navigational challenge will increase with the lengthening of daylight. Legs permitting, I know I'll be there.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Kokoda Memorial Trail

Several injuries have come and gone (for now) and my legs declare some semblance of fitness. Newly invigorated, we decide to head for the Dandenong Ranges, about half an hour away, and specifically the 1000 Steps Walk - otherwise known as the Kokoda Memorial Trail - up to the top of One Tree Hill. What we didn't know is that a thousand other folks would have a similar idea. We arrived at ten and the car park was already full, on a Tuesday!

Undaunted, we parked where we could and marched purposefully up the track. It steepened, and steepened, and then steepened some more. Eventually, the path gave way to an unbroken line of steps twisting their way upward through heavy foliage, following the line of a quiet creek down below us. We heaved and panted our way up, stopping frequently to read the plaques at the side of the trail dedicated to the Australian soldiers who fought against the Japanese army on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea. This was our only excuse for a rest. as dozens of people a third of our age trotted past us, some going up, many already descending.

One passing girl said to us, "Is this your first time?"
"You mean people do this more than once?" I replied.
"Oh yes, this is my second time up - this morning." With that, she was gone.

Eventually, after much brow-mopping, we reached the top and slumped onto a thoughtfully provided bench. A drink and a snack helped and, after some minutes, we continued on, heading downwards to a tarmac road. Next time, we'll drive up. Then we realised that the world had become silent. The lycra-wearing step runners had vanished, presumably back down the way they'd come. We had the woods totally to ourselves.

We walked on, down and round One Tree Hill, a definite misnomer if ever there was one. In the next hour, we saw only three other walkers, but heard hundreds of birds, tracking our progress overhead. We stopped to examine a bleeding tree, a red gum tree which had been scratched by an animal. The gum was now solid, the animal long gone.

Suddenly, my phone rings, reminding us of the world we'd left behind. Time to head back to the car. The car park is half empty now. My legs are wobbly, but previous ailments are forgotten as we sit by the car, sucking on a pear. A challenging walk, but not one we shall be repeating anytime soon. And when we do, we'll make it later in the day, shall we?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Victoria Relays

I join forces with Steve and Liliya and head off to the Victorian Relays in Bendigo, a couple of hours north of Melbourne. We allow plenty of time and arrive early, in fact before most of the event helpers. Nevertheless, all is ready on time, and I take possession of my spangly new Bayside Kangaroos orienteering top, albeit of the Xtra-large variety. Well, normal size is a bit figure-hugging. A sense of urgency overwhelms me as I drag it on.

I'm on first leg, handing over to Killian who will hand over to Liliya. All teams on all courses mass-start together and we trot a lap of the assembly field before we even reach the start triangle. Predictably, all the young guns go storming off, leaving me trailing in their wake, only to come to an abrupt halt as we reach the start. I jostle through the throng and trot by on my intended route. Most are going up the slope to my left and I resist the temptation to follow them. Well, almost, because I come out at control 8, way to the left of where I need to be. I quickly relocate and press on taking a straight line to 2, then go round by the paths to 3.

The route to 4 loses me some time (maybe a minute), as I first follow the red line, then the paths to the west and above control 4. Maybe a lower route might have been better. Similarly, I play safe to control 5 using the westerly path around the top of the valleys. A more direct approach would have been better. That's another minute. It is only after the event that I realise the map has 2.5 metre contours, instead of the more usual 5 metre, and so the ground is not as steep as the map might suggest. Of course, relays always call for a more reserved approach, being mindful of responsibilities to the team.

Control 9 is a spectator control, which I could have done without to be honest, and then two more flags lead me to the fence corner before touring the field for one final lap of the assembly field. I take Killian's map from the board and hand it over the fence to him. Now I can collapse in a heap of quivering jelly but I do recover quickly, especially when I see that I've come back in a close-up fourth place. Now it's up to Killian. And Liliya.

I do not realise that Killian has serious M12 credentials, nor that Liliya is an accomplished orienteer. They return in short time and we find ourselves at the top of the leader board. We are the winners! We receive polite applause at the victory ceremony - nearly everyone has stayed - before packing away the club gazebo and heading for home. The freeway back to Melbourne is straight, fast and quiet. Predictably, I'm asleep before long, which is OK because Steve is driving, and he delivers me home in no time. Thanks, Steve. And also a special thanks to Killian and Liliya.

Monday, 6 August 2012

You Yangs

An hour's drive west out of Melbourne, we come to You Yangs Regional Park. Hills rise up 300 metres from the surrounding plain. Matthew Flinders came up here in 1800 so the highest point bears his name. The car park is already filling up as we arrive. Looks popular.

Pat enters the D course and I opt for the B, 4.1km with 14 controls. Giant boulders are everywhere so it should be interesting. The sun shines down on us as we go our separate ways. I set off from the start and, immediately, the ubiquitous kangaroo hops across my path. I follow the road up the hill towards the first control and then fight through some green stuff to get to the flag. First lesson, stay away from the green! Straight down to 2 and 3, using white woods where possible. Use the compass to steer a course and then out onto the road to the south. I had thought my running was improving, but you'd never know it along this stretch. I'm blowing hard when I turn north through the green, looking for 4. The flags are generously hung, which helps a lot. 

I'd seen the track up to 5 while on the way to 4, so was able to confidently head for it direct. I'd been advised at the start line to avoid the green where possible, and with this ringing in my ears, I decide to approach 6 through the yellow semi-open and it works well. 7 is done straight, using compass and pacing. My route out is conservatively south-west to the road and, trotting past car park and crossroads, I manage to spot the indistinct path into 8. I now decide to go straight to 9, spotting the building before my control through the trees. 

9-10 looks like being a potential crippler, so I head east, round the green and try to follow the indistinct path heading north. I decide, if all else fails, that I can relocate on the forest road junction north of the control. I hear much crashing to left and right of me as I soldier on up, my eyes stinging with sweat. Suddenly, and just in time, the path becomes clearer and I spot the control, breathing a sigh of relief. I trot along the forest road to 11, trying to follow the bends in the road. Suddenly, two enormous rock pillars appear and I spot my flag. Straight down now all the way to the finish. I find 12 by going east along the road to the bend, then back along the road to 13, down the re-entrant to 14 and in to the finish. Pat is waiting for me, obviously having finished her course some time ago.

I put my result on the DIY display and head back to the car for a much needed drink. Later I find that I'm 4th out of 38 on my course. Pat introduces her trainers to Aussie terrain with an easy 6th place. Technically, the course was more generous than I was expecting, with generally good visibility and flags hung high. This is the last event in the MelbushO series, which has been a brilliant introduction to local orienteering, but it now looks like I will have to venture out towards Bendigo and Ballarat to get my weekly orienteering fix.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Woodlands Historic Park

The sixth MelBushO event is at Woodlands Historic Park, near the airport. My new satnav, complete with Aussie accent, picks out a good route around the north side of the city, and we're there in 45 minutes. The constant drone of aircraft taking off and landing tells us we're at the right place. On a Sunday morning as well - is nothing sacred?

This is my first revisit to an Australian orienteering area, although it has been 6 years since I was here last. I remember kangaroos and rocks, and not much else. On arrival at the park, the largest group (a mob, I believe it's called) of these iconic marsupials is there to greet us. There must be more than 50 of these bottom-heavy beasts gathered round a waterhole. They eye us with (understandable) suspicion and edge away.

I register for the B course, all 5.6 kilometres of it, possibly the longest course I've done for some years. We are told the terrain is fairly benign. Yeah, right. Fill in the form, pay your money, go when you're ready. All very civilised.

I trot down the path towards the first control. Birds screech overhead - or is it Virgin Airways? My flag is visible from the path and I punch gratefully. Compass and pacing gets me to control 2. Straight route uphill to 3, getting puffed now. Easy running to 4. So far, so good.

However, excessive confidence has caused me to lapse into my old run-and-hope technique and end up north of 5 and lose a minute. Nevertheless, I persist with this idea. I am in the area of control 6 quite quickly, where there are lots of lumps but no flag. It takes me some time to realise I've stopped short of where I should be. A whopping 4 minutes later, I punch at 6 and head off straight through the wood to 7.

At this stage I am joined by kangaroos bounding through the wood, keen to show me the way to control 8. In my enthusisam, I bound right by it and, 2 minutes later, have to backtrack. 9 is the other side of a deep ravine and a fast flowing stream. 2 more minutes evaporate as I flounder about here. This is the last of my difficulties. The remaining controls take us over Gellibrand Hill, which seems to be a good aiming point for landing airliners. I finish, happy with my time, although keenly aware that I could have got here a lot sooner.

After changing, Pat and I head inside the Woodlands Historic Homestead for very welcome coffee and scones. This is one of the oldest surviving houses in the state, having been flat-packed here from England in 1840. We stare out of the dining room window, much the same as Burke and Wills did on their ill-fated journey to the Top End in 1860. We are told that the magnolia trees out front are the oldest living European trees in Victoria.

Refreshed by our dose of history, as well as the delicious scones-with-jam-and-cream, we return to the car via the results display. Many younger legs have overtaken my effort. Well, I hope they're younger anyway. I can't compare myself with those of similar vintage, since, inexplicably, age classes are not recorded. Nevertheless, my twice-weekly outings are making me fitter. If only my orienteering technique would keep up.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Wellington Chase

It is not the warmest this morning, possibly less than 10 degrees, as Pat and I trundle off down the Burwood Highway, heading east to Lysterfield. This orienteering area has been out of use for a couple of years due to storm damage, so it should be a good turnout. 45 minutes later, we turn off the tarmac and head steeply uphill on a dirt track. This is ominous. I must get one of those fancy 4WD machines.

We drive in to the carpark as a wallaby lopes across in front of us and hides in the bushes. It is cold, almost thermals weather, but I determine to man up. A nylon top will suffice. I choose a course of 4.5km with 225m climb, which should be about right for me. Pat has not brought any trainers and resolves to repeat her success of last week, wearing her street shoes.

I start, and head into a technical section immediately, with boulders and bare rock - tricky. Control 3 gives me most trouble and I lose a couple of minutes while I thrash about. Running along the side of a marsh between 4 and 5, a chorus of frogs greets me from all sides. They silence as I approach, which immediately reminds me of radio orienteering. I toil up a steep hill to 8 and then stumble down again to 9. Avoiding the green, I head for the path to the north. It works, but it's tricky.

10 is at the top of a large hill and I decide to climb early. I meet two kangaroos, larger than me, who eye me curiously and then hop silently away. Straight down to 11, crossing a boggy open space. I find a path through the green up to 12 and continue on up past a pond to 13. This is hard.

Pat greets me on the run-in, so I try to make a bit of an effort. It has been a physically testing course, with some tricky technical controls. Pat has wet feet but has done well. She is fifth, I am sixth. A very good day out!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Plenty River

Pat and I drive half an hour north to Plenty River for this week's MelBushO event. Yesterday morning, I'd scraped frost of the car windscreen, so we are in no rush today. At least a dozen kangaroos greet us as we drive in to the carpark, but the morning remains cool.

 Pat decides that the time is right for her Australian orienteering debut and registers for the short course, while I opt for something slightly more muscular.  I am getting to know one or two people now. One kind lady offers me home-grown rhubarb from her garden, gratefully accepted and already consumed as I write.

I set off on my course and enjoy the easy running, conveniently overlooking the fact that the first five legs are all downhill. What goes down, of course . . . .  The first half goes well and I reach control 8 inside 25 minutes. Something is sure to go wrong. I don't have to wait long. I overshoot number 9 and have to retrace my steps back to the path to relocate. This costs me about 6 minutes. I should have pace-counted from the attack point, but complacency knew better.

Kangaroos are everywhere. I must have seen several dozen by now. They glare at me suspiciously and it occurs to me that they may have heard about my meal last night. Perhaps it's the same ones following me. I slip away unmolested, but promise myself to leave kangaroo off the menu in future. Calm is restored and I press on.

Nearly at the end now. 13 looks easy. Hang on - I've passed it, surely. I turn south to search, but in vain. After 7 minutes of relocating, I find it on the correct path further to the north. I'd been on the wrong path. Getting tired now, I slog uphill to the finish and receive a time of 68 minutes. It could have been so much better.

Pat greets me and shows me her result. She won! My result puts me in 8th, so we go home happy, having enjoyed a great area and an excellent event. The organiser even managed to get Pat and I in the same photo while on our separate courses! What are the chances of that happening?

Saturday, 30 June 2012


Warrandyte Park is just outside Melbourne, famous for being the site of the first gold find in Victoria, and the start of the 1851 gold rush. Today is the third MelBushO event, a series which attempts to bring orienteering closer to the 4 million people who live in the city.

It is a cold morning (about 10 degrees) and the roads are quiet as Pat and I drive north. There is a threat of rain but we may be lucky. The satnav sends me wrong a couple of times, but we still get there in half an hour. We arrive early and are parked right next to registration. I choose the 3.6km 'B' course and get changed ready to run. Pat settles down with the Sunday paper and I set off into the wood. Clear paths, clear contours, clear vegetation, visibility a bit low in places, but the controls pop up on cue.

I take 4 - 5 straight and begin to regret it. The going is a bit slow in places and the hills seem steeper now. I get there but it takes a while. I take the paths from 5 - 6 and this seems a sound choice. Another runner goes straight but he ends up behind me. A couple of kangaroos cross the path in front of me and bound away effortlessly and silently. It is now raining gently and my glasses are foggy.

9 - 10 is steep and jungly but I stagger up to the pit, carefully inspecting the bottom for gold nuggets. I follow a woman to 11, and this is where things begin to go pear-shaped. I go down the wrong re-entrant and thrash about in swampy jungly stuff for quite a while before returning to the track and starting again. Easy this time, but I estimate a whopping 7 minutes are lost. On to 12. Visibility is low and, again, headless-chicken mode takes over until I relocate on the path and try again. Easy this time. Another 4 minutes. 

The rain is heavier now and I'm grateful I have avoided most of it. Pat greets me at the finish and helps me fill in my DIY results slip. I would like to blame my errors on itinerant kangaroos or foggy glasses, but the truth is I allowed myself to follow someone. When will I ever learn?

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Wattle Park street event

There is no Sunday event this week, so I head off to nearby Wattle Park, just 6 minutes from my front door, to dip my orienteering toe in the very popular Saturday afternoon Melbourne Metro street series of events. These events are held round the city on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, the weekdays events being after dark.

The event is a Score event of 20 controls with time limits of 60, 50 or 40 minutes. I decide to opt for the 50 minute class. High control numbers score well, lower numbers are not worth going far for. I guess that I can reach about half the controls in the time allowed, so plan a course via 18, 19, 17 and 20 to maximise my points score.

We set off on the mass start signal and almost immediately I find a boggy path and my shoes get wet. A loud squeak develops in my left heel, although it is silenced when I raise a trot. Walk and the squeak returns. Only one thing for it, I suppose. I head out into the streets around the park, using the grass verges to protect my hip replacement. The streets are very quiet. Most folks are huddled indoors in the 12 degrees of a Melbourne winter.

The control sites are easy to find and I punch my card carefully at each one. After 20 minutes, I turn and head for home. It looks like I will reach the controls I'm after. I punch the finish flag with a few minutes to spare and my score adds up to a satisfactory 44 points.  An excellent training run of about 6.5km with 100 metres of climb. Turn up with 20 minutes to go, pay $4, and away you go. This brilliant scheme brings orienteering to where the people are. Hopefully, in time, some will want to travel to more challenging events further afield. I can't wait for the next one!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Porcupine Ridge

We take the Calder Freeway north towards Bendigo, through heavy rain showers, as kangaroos graze in fields alongside. Several unscheduled diversions make us about an hour late, but no worries. We drive deep into the forest south of Castlemaine, seeing neither cars nor people for almost an hour. By now, the rain has been left behind and the sun is out. The tarmac ends and a dusty, rutted track takes us to the event assembly.

I pay up, change and walk to the nearby start. A kind lady comments on this blog. I'd better make it good. I start and head off on a direct route for my first control. The forest floor is littered with dead wood and pitted with the work of gold miners from 150 years ago. I run (and stumble) straight for the first couple of controls, but take a helpful path to the north to help me on the long leg between 2 and 3. The contour lines steepen and slow me to a walk. Direct routes work for me most of the time.

Over the second half of the course, I encounter deep gold mining gullies which have to be crossed. Difficult. I'm a little disappointed to find no gold nuggets littering the forest floor. Someone's had them all. I lose a minute here, a minute there, but nothing major goes wrong. I'm happy with my time but know that good runners will beat that easily.

We return to Melbourne and meet the rain halfway home. Rainbows greet us and we drive towards the foot of a particularly vivid one, but no gold for us today.

Sunday, 3 June 2012


A short ten minute drive from the house brings me to Eaglemont Tennis Club, the parking venue for this week's MelBushO event. This may be the shortest distance I have ever travelled to an orienteering event.

After the modest success of last week, I decide to opt for the B course, the second longest of the four on offer. Eaglemont Park edges the banks of a winding section of the River Yarra, wide and deep at this point. I set off from the start, after waiting for a brief shower to abate. Crossing the river by the footbridge, I decide not to look down into the watery depths below. On the 1:7500 map, the white is very runnable and the green patches help navigation. The high and noisy dual carriageway is ever-present. In fact, I pass under it no less than six times.

No exotic fauna to report this week, except for many mountain bikers, runners and walkers. The park is busy today. I lose time at control 15 when an unmarked path catches me out. Otherwise, no real navigational dramas. Physically, it's a bit of a struggle. My legs feel quite heavy and wobbly. Quite a reasonable result though. I manage 3.9km in 39 minutes+, about 10 mins/km. Fastest I've done for a while - about 10 years, in fact.

Next week, I will head for Daylesford and my first State Series event. Glenluce was used for the World Masters Championships some years ago, so it will be challenging. Should be fun!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Plenty River

I follow the SatNav half an hour north to the outskirts of Melbourne for the first MelbushO event of the season at Yellow Gum Park on the Plenty River. This is one of the principal tributaries of the River Yarra, which flows through the heart of the city. I turn west off the highway and follow dirt tracks for a couple of miles until I emerge at the Yellow Gum Park picnic area, complete with toilet block and orienteering gazebos.

 I am greeted with warmth and understanding, as I explain this is my first event south of the equator. Discretion is called for in unfamiliar surroundings, so I opt for the C course of 4.2km, 150m climb with 11 controls. I change and head for the start, clutching my UK dibber and Southern Hemisphere compass, lent to me by Robert Vickers many weeks ago. I start my course, running slowly through eucalyptus with little ground coverage. Raucous birds jeer at me from the branches above. A gentle downhill start is followed by climb to 3 and 4.

All is going well, until as I approach the 6th control, I spot a large kangaroo (with joey) cross the track in front of me and effortlessly hop over a four-foot high fence. Of course, I overshoot control 6 and lose time hunting for it. Tiredness is setting in now, and I struggle to negotiate several barbed-wire fences late in the course. I save a bit of energy for a big finish. The terrain has been very runnable although the contours remind me of my age and lack of fitness.

The results appear on the MelbushO website very promptly and I'm pleased to see my first foray has produced a satisfactory result. I am 3rd out of 35 starters. Next week I should try the B course perhaps?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Orienteering in Melbourne

I arrive in Melbourne on May 11th and this blog will record my antipodean excursions.
More news soon!