Saturday morning seems such a long time ago now. After dropping the girls off to their grandparents for the weekend we made good time out to the campsite and base of operations for the weekend. After checking in and picking up our maps and various other bits and pieces, we drove back to pick a site (most people had already been there the previous night) and get set up.
11:45am was the compulsory briefing. We were all set up at our site, however had not had a chance to cast more than a quick glance at the map. We dutifully attended the briefing and headed back to our tent to start planning our route. Ever optimistic, we plotted a route that potentially would see us at the All Night Cafe shortly before dusk or we could cut it short and head back to camp instead. Our aim for Saturday was to be back by sunset or shortly after, get a good feed and a decent nights sleep to keep going the next day.
A quick sandwich, our intention sheet filled out, port-a-loos visited and packs ready, we headed off to start our adventure shortly before 1pm. First goal was control 20 – near the hash house and not too far off the road. We reached the corner we planned to bear off from and put compass to map to line it up. I finally got to use my new compass! And my first time using a compass to actually navigate by, not just play around with. Throughout the event, we were both navigating and checking our bearing constantly and if we disagreed by too much, we rechecked until we were in agreement. While tiring to both be “on” the whole time, it worked well for our first real bush navigation event and we hit controls straight on nearly every time.
For being off trail, the ground was fairly clear and the going easy. A few checks of the compass and we made progress and found the first control with not too much trouble. Control 32 was next in our sights and we headed straight for the road – unfortunately there was a creek in our way, however a conveniently fallen tree provided us with a safe bridge to cross just where we needed it. Onto the road and we shortly came across another team or two who seemed to be stumbling around looking for the control as well. We didn’t feel that we were in the right spot yet, so made our way along a bit further and landed right on it, quickly moving on so as not to give away the location.
The ground was getting a little rougher now and we had to look a bit more carefully as to where we put our feet, the ground was littered with fallen branches ready to trip us up and small spiky plants constantly poked and scraped at our legs. The bush was otherwise easy to make our way through and visibility was excellent, so we continued on, putting compass to map. This control (43) took a little longer as the 10m contours and relatively level terrain made picking out features a bit tricky and we weren’t quite sure if we had gone far enough or too far. We kept at it and found our control not too far off where our line had taken us.
Being off trail was making for much slower going than we had expected, so the next one we headed for the road and stayed on trail for as long as we could. The going was much quicker and we could relax a bit and enjoy the day as we weren’t constantly taking bearings or having to pay such close attention to every step.
We had thought about going for 35 and 74, but with the late start and slower pace, crossed them off our list and moved on to 42. Round the trails we went and then cut across a small hill to hit the control at the same time as another group. Back on the trail again, however only for a short bit this time as we took a bearing to head straight off to control 93.
Oh boy – this one was interesting. The going wasn’t too bad, more scratchy bushes, a bit of a hill and on we went. Then ahead of us we saw a wall of scratchy bushes towering over our heads that seemed to go on forever. We started following some trails into the thick of it, hoping they would pass through or that we could push through a bit. Then we hit an impenetrable wall of scratchiness. We backtracked a little and found our way around the “patch” and were hopefully back on our straight line again. Here we saw a member of another team moving off at an angle from us, not looking very happy. Then, a cry from over the ridge of “It’s here! It’s here!”. They turned around and ran back to their team – with us following at a more sedate pace, happy to know that we were on the right path and it was close by. Very satisfying to get that one and some good points.
We then took a bearing to head for 56 and after a short way found a fallen tree to sit and take a short break. I tipped some Tailwind into the remaining water in my hydration pack, had a handful of trail mix while Nick did the same and then continued on our way. I don’t recall much about this one, so it must have been fairly uneventful. We crossed a trail, followed a watercourse and found the control easily.
From control 56 to 47, there was a decent gully in the way. Steep sides and on the approach it was covered in ferns and rotting trees. It was impossible to go straight down, and another team was standing there assessing things as well. We picked a tree on the other side to aim for, and started slowly making our way across and down the slope, hoping to be able to get through. A few slippery spots and we made our it down to another conveniently fallen tree to provide a bridge across to the other side. Once on the north facing slope, the going was a lot drier and easier. Back on the move towards the control again and up, up, up we went to the top of the hill and bang on target.
Next was control 66 and the way to this one looked a bit more straightforward. A quick exit to a trail, then follow the windings onto another trail, then a third and we saw another team heading out of the bush from the direction we expected the control to be. I think this was our first major disagreement about which way to go. Nick thought we were at the right spot to cut in, while I didn’t think we had gone far enough yet. But in we went anyway, I kept trying to steer us right, while Nick stayed stubbornly to the left. It wasn’t where it “should” be, so, in the end, we followed my hunch and fancy that, we found it!
It was 5pm now and a reassessment of our position was needed. The hills out to the road looked steep, but following the trail out would put us a long way from the All Night Cafe and more points. Our legs were tiring a little and we made the call to do the long climb out of the valley and grab two more 30 pointers on the way back to the hash house in time for some dinner. That was a long, slow walk up and out but the going was easy and we found ourselves on the road. The temperature was quickly dropping and I put on my long sleeved top. Control 31 wasn’t too hard to find. We took a bearing off a slight dip in the road and hoped for the best, knowing we had the right spot when we heard multiple other teams crashing through the bush nearby. An easy in and out there.
One more control to go – 34. There were a few more teams around now – not a lot, but definitely more than we had seen the rest of the day. The 8hr competition had just under an hour to go. This was possibly the easiest control of the day. Up a small side trail and the flag was visible from the path – it didn’t hurt that we were right behind another team that also led us straight to it! A quick stop while Nick put some warmer clothes on too and a couple of kilometres easy walking back to camp. It was getting pretty cold and we hit camp just as the sun set. Put on some warmer gear and headed over to get some dinner.
We probably only grabbed half the controls we had “planned” on getting and for 6 hours out on course had picked up a measly 430 points. But for our first real navigational/bush rogaine, on a championship course, while making sure we didn’t put all our energy into the first outing, we were happy with what we had done. We found every control we started for with very few errors in navigation. We had kept energy levels up and stayed hydrated.
No injuries, but a bucketload of scratches on any part of our legs not covered – I couldn’t have even begun to count them and I only had about 6 inches showing around my knees! They were really starting to sting now that we had stopped and we slathered them with Savlon several times. Four days later, I can still see over 50 small cuts and scratches on my knees.
Part 2 – Where’s the @$&! Track?
Part 3 – Do Pigs Know They Have a Tail?
Part 4 – The Aftermath