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.

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