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?