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?