Eltham Lower Park, only ten minutes drive from our house, is already busy as we arrive early for this week's MelBushO orienteering event. Trailered ponies drive in as families wander over to check out the miniature railway. A hive of activity, and it's not yet 10am. Mark and Susi are already here, and we take the children off their hands as they prepare for the challenges of the B course.
We head off to the pony paddock, then the woodland walk (with troll bridge), then the playground (with children's party), then the steam railway, then back to the car. Phew, that's 45 minutes taken care of. Returning to the orienteering, Max and Claudia immediately spot the cakes and biscuits as their parents, all pink and sweaty, return. Which would you rather, cake or Mummy? No contest.
We prepare for our courses, I opt for the A course while Pat chooses the C. I trot across the oval and down into the green stuff, spotting my first flag from some distance. Then leg it south along the path and down to the small bridge. Crossing the Yarra river by the footbridge takes me into Candlebark Park, dodging the mountain bikes on the wiggly trails around the hill. Power lines help a lot with controls 5 and 6, do they need to be on the map?
Heading down to number 8, I recall a previous visit where I lost a lot of time here, so I simplify by using the lakes and all is well. I encounter a young couple, he with map while she, long-faced, follows. I do hope they come again. I bound down the hill from control 9 as kangaroos scatter before me. Over a stile, under the power lines, looking ahead to the 10-11 leg. Is there a route without running on the road? I spot the small path to the east of it and stagger up the hill, sweat-soaked bandana slipping over my eyes.
I am getting tired and the map doesn't fit the ground any more. Nothing seems right as I bumble my way into the finish. Later analysis of my Clever Watch shows that the map is fine and the controls are correctly placed. Must be something else. I haven't lost any substantial time with my navigation and I am pleased with my final time of 56 minutes, well inside the hour for 7.1km actual run with 185 metres of climb. The results show only one competitor (I think) of similar vintage ahead of me. Happy with that. Why can't results show age classes though? Then we can compare ourselves with our peers.
I take more than a passing interest in the organisation and planning, since it's my turn soon. The flags today were hung generously, I must remember that. Pat has returned earlier and is pleased, Mark and Susi enjoyed their course and the kids took a trip on the miniature railway. Everyone's a winner.