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?