MelBushO season is here again, the first event being a 45 minute trip to the airport and the gentle slopes of Woodlands Park. If you get lost, look up and head for the roar of the jet engines. Sundays seem as busy as ever – is nothing sacred?
We navigate to orienteering registration and then retreat to prepare for action, Pat on the C course, me on the B. Paul tries to shame me onto the A course but I resist. He was right of course. These events are designed to be simple for newcomers and organisers. I will appreciate this in June when it is my turn to produce an event.
A benign area, electronic punching, a colour map and split start times. Proper orienteering at its best. I trot off down the track towards my first control, remembering this same leg from 2006, which was my first orienteering experience on Australian soil. What happened to those eight years? The fence appears on cue and I head up the hill to my second control. Is this getting steeper or am I getting older? Don't answer that. A path appears ahead – not what I was expecting at all. This map/compass/control is wrong. Later analysis of my gps trace shows none of these to be true. After thirty years of practice, I have lost the ability to follow a compass bearing. I turn left and find my control, heading off downhill as parrots overhead hurl vocal abuse.
I hesitate at control 3 in the low visibility but eventually trip over it and press on to 4. A woman walking her dog looks at me in alarm. Do I look that bad? Probably. The route to 5 then 6 follows the fence as the sun smiles down on me. A mob of kangaroos bounces away in alarm as I approach. A sentry hangs back to observe me but I avoid eye contact. It's a bit jungly and slower going near control 6 but soon I head off up the hill, following the red line towards my next challenge. A towering rock keeps me on course as I spot the flag long before my body can get me there. A fox charges across the open on a mazy defensive run. Over the hill and down the other side. I do like downhill finishes.
My watch measures the journey as 5.4km with 70 metres of climb in 40 minutes. The openness of the area means that I am able to redline most of the course. I'll settle for 7.4 mins/km. Now, if only I could run up hills, but I'm not a young man. Paul was right though - I could have done a bit more. Maybe the A course next time. Pat returns from her course in triumph, recent orienteering walkabouts on this area but a distant memory. As we change, we count the planes takeoff and land, then head home for lunch. A great morning out.