Recent Outdoor Adventures

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October 20th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

Just over a week ago, I participated in a 24-hour regaining event, the 2014 Australian Rogaining Championships. There were over 450 entrants, with almost 100 university students since the event also served as the intervarsity competition. Four of us left Adelaide early Friday morning to drive down to Melbourne, arriving just in time for dinner. The competition was set to start at noon on Saturday and we decided to be competitive, meaning that we planned to be out the whole night and forgo sleep. We were encouraged by the full moon we saw, hoping that its light would be helpful for finding controls in the dark. Finally, the four of us set up our tents and retired early, trying to get as much sleep as possible.

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Saturday morning, we woke up for breakfast, got our map, and began planning. We marked out a shorter 15-20km loop to complete around sunset, and a longer 30-35km loop to do for the rest of the event. Our group started off at a fast pace, and we were able to get all of the controls we aimed for in our first loop while making it back for dinner around 8:30pm. After a much-needed rest, we set off a little before 10:00pm, prepared to stay out all night. We actually did very well in the dark and were able to find all of the controls we attempted. I was really glad that I had a little bit of experience from the previous 12-hour rogaine event. Since this was the Australian Championships, none of the controls were easy but instead were off-track, requiring capable navigation and map-reading skills.

Our main problems began as it started to get lighter out. For me personally, I started crashing around 5:30am, and I spent a good fifteen minutes fighting off sleep before I snapped out of it. The rest of the group also had their own crashes throughout the morning, as we were all tired from non-stop walking and lack of rest. We did get our first few controls without a problem, and even got to stop and appreciate the sunrise.

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However, our success started to fade as our pace slowed, especially when we spent almost an hour looking for a control to no avail. From there, we realized that we didn’t have time to look for some of the controls we had planned, especially in our fatigued state. Our team started the long trek back, hoping to possibly get in two controls that weren’t too far off from the trail leading back to the hash house. Sadly, we overshot a control due to our zombie-like state and lowered navigation abilities, but were able to pick up the last one with some help from other teams who were looking for the same one. Getting the last control before the hash house was a relief since it allowed us to finish on a positive note. We pushed through the fatigue for the rest of the walk back, driven by a burning desire get to the hash house so we could get lunch and finally stop walking.

Upon making it back, we all got food and immediately dropped into chairs, relieved to be off our feet. I ditched my shoes and socks to give my feet some much needed fresh air. Even with long pants, I accumulated what I would call a “dirt tan line” from all the bush walking. I also ended up with a gnarly blister on one of my toes.

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At the end of the day, all the effort was worth it. We got third place out of all the university teams, and covered an estimated 65+ kilometers. As proud as we were of our result, our performance paled in comparison to the veteran teams who took the top spots in the championship. To put it in perspective, we scored 1430 out of a possible 4170 points while the top team got over 3400 points. This is definitely a sport where experience trumps youth. All the groups that scored quite high were made up of older people (at least 40+ years old) who were both physically fit and extremely competent at navigating. As it became quite obvious, you can’t have one without the other if you want to do well.

After hearing the results of the competition, all of us immediately walked back to our tents and got a few hours of much-needed sleep. We then started the long drive back at 6pm in order to make classes on Monday. Overall, it was a very long, extremely tiring weekend to say the least.

In comparison, my weekend activities yesterday were significantly more laid back. I went with many other university students to the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary near Port Adelaide for a kayaking tour. It was amazing weather and the water was cool and refreshing. After getting set up with our kayaks, we ventured out into the river, hoping to see some dolphins close up. We were not disappointed, as we saw a few almost immediately. The dolphins were very friendly and inquisitive, swimming next to and even underneath our kayaks.

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Our guides knew many of the dolphins by name, as they were part of a pod that lives in the river. Based on the physical markings of the dolphins, the guides picked them out and told us personal details about them such as which dolphins commonly swam to together, which dolphins liked to wrestle together, and who liked to showboat for the kayaks. I was impressed by how much the guides kept up with the characteristics and unique personalities of the individual dolphins and how familiar they were with the intelligent animals. After spending a lot of time enjoying the dolphins’ company, we moved on to explore the mangroves along the banks of the river.

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Some of the tight turns required focus and careful maneuvering, but exploring the trees was well worth the effort. Our guide showed us the seeds that form on the trees. Hearing that it was edible and seeing my guide try one, I had to do the same. Sadly, it was quite bitter. We also learned more about the mangroves; for example, they are one of the few trees where the seeds germinate while they are still on the tree. This is because once the seeds fall off, they need to establish themselves immediately before the tide rises and washes them away.

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Once we were through exploring the mangroves, we headed back for lunch and a chance to relax. We finished the day by stopping at Henley beach to get ice cream before heading back into the city. That night, my arms were achy in weird places since I’m not used to kayaking. Overall, the tour was a great experience, and not nearly as exhausting as my activities the previous weekend.

Anyway, I’m planning to fill my weekends with amazing activities to make the most of this trip before I have to return to the states.

Until next time,

Michelle

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Melbourne Parkour Jam

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October 17th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

My trip to Melbourne was awesome! I know it was over a week ago, but this update is better late than never I suppose, right?

My visit was for the Australian National Parkour Gathering (NatGat), unlike my other two trips where I went as part of a tour. Although I didn’t have anything officially scheduled, I was always busy hanging out with people and training. One of my parkour buddies in Adelaide had arranged to stay with his friend who lived just outside the city center. When he heard I was trying to figure out living arrangements, he suggested I contact his friend to see if they had room for me. She had more than enough space, and by the time NatGat rolled around there were five people staying in her apartment: four of us from Adelaide and one from Sydney. I realized throughout the week that a large portion of interstate athletes were also being housed by the local practitioners. I was impressed by how welcoming the community was, as many opened their homes up for friends as well as complete strangers. All in all, I would guess that around eighty plus people showed up for the parkour jam. On Thursday when most people had arrived, the group met at a popular spot known as the rocks.

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From there local instructors took us around to some of the main training spots. It was a bit overwhelming how many amazing athletes there were, but I was able to find people around my ability level and work on jumps with them. Our main problem was dealing with security guards and cops. Just to clarify, we were not doing anything illegal. Nonetheless, at two different spots we were asked to leave by the security guards who said they didn’t want to deal with possibile liability issues. Everyone took it in stride and honestly, that kind of situation is a common occurrence when practicing parkour. A lot of us understand that the guards are just doing their jobs, and there’s always more spots to train at. On the other hand, the trouble we had at the spot called Chinese Gardens was a bit more intense. It turns out that someone had seen us training and called the cops. However, instead of just calling the regular police number this person had freaked out and called triple zero (Aussie version of 911). Five cops pulled up to the area, and a couple practitioners had to speak up for the group and explain what parkour is. After realizing that we weren’t doing anything illegal, the cops were more relaxed with our group, but still had to ask us to move on since people had called and complained. All in all, it was a fun day, but I think the large group is part of what attracted the security guards and the cops and led to us being asked to leave some of the spots.

Friday was also a busy day. Even though a lot of people had shown up by Thursday, Friday was the actually the official start of NatGat and the local instructors gave a short explanation of the event, ending with local instructors leading groups to various spots. Since a lot of us had already trained at many of the popular areas, most of our Adelaide crew and some of the people from Townsville split off into our own group to hit up the spots we liked the most from the previous day. We also wanted to avoid going in with the larger groups due to the situations on Thursday with the security guards and the cops. After jamming for most of the day, we ended with a game of capture the flag at the original meeting point. The game was intense due to the athletic abilities of all the players. As fun as it was, many of us started getting tired from the day’s exertions and after a few hours we left for home.

On Saturday, two of the Adelaide crew I was living with left for a special nature training session outside the city. Since I was quite sore from two full days of training, I took it easy and went to a local gallery with the remaining apartment mate from Adelaide. We got to explore an exhibit on digital culture and media, which was fascinating and a bit nostalgic. The two of us then met up with the rest of the group in the afternoon and trained late into the night.

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Finally, Sunday was bittersweet, being the last day of NatGat. After meeting up at the rocks in the morning, some of the locals took us to a new place on the south end of the city that many of us hadn’t been to yet. The spots had a great variety of challenges for people of all ability levels, and we spent a couple hours there before making out way to the Docklands for the farewell BBQ in the afternoon.

Overall, the Melbourne trip was fantastic, and I could feel myself improving even during my short stay. One reason I enjoyed it so much was the style of movement. In Australia, many of the movers are purists which means they focus on efficient movement. Back home, a lot of people train a lot of flips and tricking, with more of an emphasis on freerunning. Since I am more interested in the purist side of things and getting good at moving from point A to point B in the most efficient, fastest way possible, I loved training with all the Australians who had a similar focus as me. Instead of watching people throw crazy flips and tricks, I could learn from those who moved through obstacles with the ease and grace that I eventually want to develop. This jam invigorated my will to train, and I look forward to getting outside more in the coming days, especially as the weather improves.

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Get out and get moving!

Michelle

Flinders Range Trip: The Outback

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October 8th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

One week ago, I went on a trip to the Flinders Ranges. The tour mainly consisted of driving to various scenic locations around Flinders and getting a taste of the Outback. Our tour group consisted of around thirty people, and we stayed in a dormitory-type room at a central campsite area. The scenery was beautiful and we saw a multitude of wildlife including kangaroos, emus, and wallabies. However, the most interesting aspect for me was learning about the lifestyle of those who live in the outback, as well as observing how the cultural background of people on the tour impacted how they adapted to the outdoor activities and living situation.

At the start of the tour, everyone got extremely excited whenever a kangaroo or emu was spotted. The only time I had seen either animal up close was in a conservation park at the beginning of the semester, so whenever someone saw one I was straining in my seat to get a closer view. However, since we spent most of the time in the outback our group saw these animals quite often. Sightings became more akin to, “Oh look, another kangaroo.” compared to the initial “OMG, A KANGAROO! Get a picture!”

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I enjoyed becoming accustomed to seeing all of the wildlife and landscape. When initially encountering it, there’s a rush for the cameras, and desperation to get the perfect picture. Even in the Outback, much of the group had that hustle-bustle, fast-paced attitude. Seeing many kangaroos and emus, spending time away from the city, and being free from cell service or wifi eventually allowed most of us to relax and simply appreciate the beauty of the wildlife and terrain. For me, an escape into God’s natural creation has always been a fantastic to reorient myself and find peace and calm. After the initial excitement of the Outback experience, I became more introspective and realized how thankful I am for the chance to live and study in Australia and the many opportunities I’ve had for adventuring and exploring.

Although I loved spending time in the natural environment of the Outback, I don’t think I could ever live there. For starters, while I could possibly tolerate the heat, there’s no way I could get use to the flies constantly buzzing around, seeking access to sensitive areas like the eyes, nose, and mouth. However, during the trip I got to meet Karen, one of our awesome guides; for her, flies are but one of the few challenges she faces while living in Flinders Range.

Karen works in the tourism industry, and is known for working a lot with camels. Since we both had a love for the outdoors, we hit it off immediately and I asked her a steady stream of questions regarding life in the Outback. Even in the wilderness, there is no escaping politics. The aboriginals and whites in the area squabble over many issues in the area, even topics such as who will pay for the maintenance of a trail leading to old indigenous cave art. Any trouble regarding the stations (ranches) also affect those living in the Outback. Many people, including Karen, are dependent on the stations for food, gasoline, and other common household items. Other stores and cities are too far away to be able to rely on them for supplies. Karen disliked having to rely on stations so much, but admitted that it’s hard to be self-sufficient. I figured that a huge step toward self-reliance would be the ability to forage for food from the natural environment. However, Karen revealed that there aren’t many edible plants in the Outback. It is also wasteful to grow crops because of the lack of water.

This limited supply of water has many other impacts on the lifestyle of those living in the wilderness. People are very respectful of water and tend not to be wasteful, and almost all homes, ranches, and places that see a lot of people have rainfall catchers. Dishes are done in the style of one sink of soap water and one sink of rinse water in order to conserve the resource; there isn’t enough to wash individual plates and silverware with running water. Outdoors, ranchers strive not to overstock the land, and very few crops are grown since it is an inefficient use of the liquid resource. Although it is worse in South Australia with the wine valleys, there generally isn’t much danger of overdrawing water from underground aquifers due to the enormous respect locals have for water. I think that there’s a lot the West can learn from this approach since we are drawing an excessive amount of water from the Ogallala aquifer, especially for agriculture. It makes sense not to grow crops in areas that receive little rainfall, yet the U.S. does it anyway by relying on irrigation. I think much of the U.S. does not have a true appreciation for the value of water, especially compared to those who live in the Outback. Even in the city, Australia seems to be more aware of their respective water issues than people in the U.S.

Other people on the tour also did not seem to understand how vital water conservation is while living in the Outback. Although Karen explained the dual-sink dishwashing system multiple times during our stay, at least half our group didn’t follow it and continued to wash their dirty dishes using running water like they might have done at home. Growing up in a culture where water is readily available would explain an indifferent view of water supply.

Cultural backgrounds of some of the tour group members affected more than just their use of water; it also influenced how they coped with being in the Outback. For example, one of my friends from Singapore had never been camping before. It was the first time  she experienced the warm glow of a campfire, saw the Milky Way away from the light pollution of city, and woke up to see the sunrise outside of a city. For my friend, being immersed in the outdoors after living in the city her whole life was an eye-opening adventure. She seemed to love the trip, and admitted that it had increased her love and appreciation for the natural world.

On the other hand other group members, mostly girls from Asian countries, walked quite slowly during our hikes to avoid working out too much. In places such as China and Japan, being very muscular can be unattractive while slenderness and elegance is considered beautiful.  Finally, those who had participated in outdoor trips seemed less excitable or phased by the physical parts of the trip. During a hike that had a minor incline, a few girls from Europe, my roommate, and I were some of the first people at the top of the route. Many of the Europeans had hiked or camped outside before, and they seemed to have an easier time with the hike than those who spent little time outside cities. We were also more comfortable with small tasks such as cooking dinner on the outdoor griddle, putting more logs on the fire, and taking unwanted spiders outside.

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At the end of the day, the trip to Flinders Range was an amazing escape from the city, and it seemed like everyone enjoyed themselves, from the city-dwellers to the more outdoorsy folk. The wildlife was amazing and abundant, and the landscape was breath-taking and quite pristine. Most of all, I savored the opportunity to learn more about the Outback style and observe first-hand the powerful influence of culture in the way we react to life’s adventures.

Updates to my Melbourne adventure will come soon, but until then, adios!

Michelle

Cairns Vacation

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September 30th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

Since Adelaide is quite metropolitan, I sometimes feel like in I’m in another American city instead of Australia. I think that’s one reason why I was slightly disappointed when I arrived, since it wasn’t how I pictured Australia to be. In my mind, when I thought of Australia, especially the coastal areas, I imagined laid-back surfers hanging out at beautiful beaches in the hot sun, greeting everyone with a carefree “G’day mate!” That being said, I’ve adjusted to the hustle and bustle of city life, and I’ve had a blast exploring the city and surrounding areas with all the friends I’ve made. Deep down, I dismissed my picturesque beach image as a fantasy setting promised by Hollywood and tourism ads and focused on enjoying my adventures around the city. However landing in Cairns for my first holiday in Australia was like a dream come true!

My roommate Andrea and I came on this trip together, and since we had no tours the first day we simply explored the area. The town was tourist-y but beautiful, and it was how I had imagined Australia to be. The sea-side views were breath-taking, and much of the town looked like it was taken directly out of a holiday resort brochure. Here’s an example:

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During that first day, Andrea and I visited the harbor shops, walked along the coastline, bought fruit in a local market, and stopped by a cultural festival. However, the craziest part of the night came when we booked spots on a party bus, which was basically a pub crawl to five different venues where food was provided and one free shot was given out at each club. I don’t normally go to parties, but since Andrea was set on going and dinner was included, I agreed to come along. I didn’t order any drinks, pawned many of the free shots off on my roommate, and guzzled tons of water. As a result, I was sober and able to enjoy the ridiculous antics of those who got wasted and made fools of themselves. The games the party bus staff had for us were overwhelming and crazy, so neither Andrea nor I participated. Since it was my first pub crawl type event, I didn’t know what was “normal”. Andrea, who’s 25, has been to plenty of bars and clubs and was also surprised at how insane the games were. According to her, Australians were crazy and she normally didn’t see such over-the-top partying, especially as early as 7:00pm when the pub crawl started. While the experience was exciting and entertaining I definitely know that this type of crazy partying is not for me. I’ll just stick to parkour and rock climbing for the majority of my fun.

The next day, Andrea and I left early for the pier for our first tour. We were going scuba diving and snorkeling! The weather was beautiful, and we couldn’t stop grinning during the boat ride out to the reef with the rest of our tour group. As one of the first sets of people to go diving, we had to forgo snorkeling for a moment and suit up for the dive. Here’s a picture of us and the other two first-timers:

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After giving us an introductory briefing, we dropped into the water with our instructor, demonstrated a few mandatory safety skills, and started to submerge. It was initially very unnerving, and I had to force myself to breathe normally and relax. My parkour and rock climbing experience definitely helped me recognize my fear, overcome the mental obstacle, and calm myself quickly.

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As a result, during the dive I was able to relax and marvel at the beauty of the reef and ocean life. It also allowed my instructor to focus more on helping my roommate relax and clear water from her regulator as we started to sink deeper. During the dive we were able to get really close to the coral, and we even saw a shark, a stingray, and a clownfish! There was also a batfish that followed us around featuring a thin, disc-shaped body. While the dive was mesmerizing, it was over sooner than I wanted.

Stripping off our tanks and other scuba gear, Andrea and I quickly donned snorkel equipment and got right back in the water, eager to see more of the reef. We swam for over an hour, then headed back to the boat to eat lunch as our captain steered our tour group to the next spot. In the new area, Andrea and I followed one of the staff as he led us to some caves where sharks liked to hang out. While the first cave was a bust, the guide found a reef shark hanging out in second one, and many of us dived down for a closer look.

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After ogling the shark for a good twenty minutes, Andrea and I continued to explore the reef until we were called back to prepare for departure. At the end of the day, the trip was amazing and we crashed at our hostel to get some sleep for the rainforest tour the next day.

We were picked up early in the morning in colorful buses, and introduced to the rest of the group and the guide, Cousin Brad. He was a very eccentric person, and kept up a constant stream of humorous narration while bringing us around to various lagoons and waterfalls in the rainforest. The trip was clearly geared toward tourists, but it was a lot of fun to see the rainforest and cool off in the water. The tour was a great way to relieve the stress of school and spend the whole day relaxing. Cousin Brad made it easy to kick back and have a blast due to his laidback personality and carefree attitude. Here’s one of the beautiful lagoons we stopped at:

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The entire Cairns trip was a lot of fun, and it was also a huge learning experience. I had assumed that various parts of Australia would be different from each other, just like how it is in the United States. Cairns hosted people with a much more pronounced Australian accent compared to Adelaide, where locals tend to sound more like the English. The attitude of the locals was also varied. The tourist-y city of Cairns was very laid back and actually matched the Hollywood perception of Australia quite accurately. On the other hand, the metropolitan city of Adelaide was a lot busier and fast-paced due to the large business district. The carefree people in Cairns were also much crazier and more promiscuous than those in Adelaide, based on the experience with the party bus on the first night. All in all, seeing the stark contrast between the two places in Australia really hit home to me how the landscape and environment of a town can have a great impact on the attitude and lifestyle of the people.

Along with the Cairns trip, I also just returned from a tour to the outback, and I leave tomorrow for Melbourne for a national parkour jam. Keep an eye on this blog to hear about the trips, I’ll try to update it soon.

Live life to the fullest!

Michelle

How to Speak Australian – Initial Post

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September 19th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

I learned a new slang word this week, and I realized that I’m long overdue for a breakdown of some commonly used expressions and phrases I’ve been hearing in Australia. I won’t list all of them in this post, but I’ll add to my language log throughout my stay here in posts like this one with the heading that includes “How to Speak Australian”. I’ll also be traveling to Cairns, Flinders Ranges, and Melbourne over the next few weeks, so I hope to pick up some additional vocabulary there. My flight for Cairns leaves tomorrow morning! I’m curious to see which expressions are universal throughout Australia, and which are specific to South Australia or Adelaide. I’ll start this language log with a few regional expressions.

Adelaide is heaps good. People in South Australia use the word ‘heaps’ in place of ‘really’, ‘alot’, ‘very’, and other similar descriptive phrases. For example, I’ve heard people say “I have heaps of pasta at home”, “The food is heaps good”, and “You’ll have heaps of fun.” This is probably the most common expression I hear when I’m walking around the city. While other slang can be generational, this colloquial word is used by people of all ages and demographics. I’ve been told that this is mostly a South Australian term, but I’ll still be listening for it when I travel to other parts of Australia.

Another phrase I heard here is the word ‘floater’. This is not referring to any floatation device, and it has nothing to do with water. Rather, it describes an upside-down meat pie covered in split pea soup with a dollop of ketchup (tomato sauce) on top. One of the cafes famous for its floater, among a number of other foods, is Bakery on O’Connell. This is the actual name of the bakery which is *gasp* located on O’Connell street. I know, it’s not a very creative name. Many of the locals just call it the 24-hour bakery. This shop puts out an extremely good floater, and although I don’t like peas, the flavor combination of meat pie and split pea soup was quite unique, in a good way.

Speaking of O’Connell street, two cafes on this road have a rivalry over who has the best AB. This is another food item, and it is primarily an Adelaide regional dish. When I mentioned this meal to one of my teachers, it turned out that he had actually never heard of this food, being from Melbourne instead of Adelaide. The meal is basically chips(fries) smothered in yiros meat, tomato sauce, barbeque sauce, and garlic sauce. The story is that one night drunk university students came into a café on O’Connell street and ordered both yiros and chips, as they were unable to decide between the two. They ended up with chips topped with yiros and three different sauces. The term AB refers to the appearance of the dish and stands for ‘abortion’ or ‘after birth’. There are more polite terms such as ‘Atomic Bomb’ and ‘Absolutely Beautiful’, but locals know it primarily by the more crude names. Whenever an Aussie friend hears me mention the AB, their first question is always “Do you know what it stands for”? They are always ready with a grin on their face to correct me if I use one of the more polite terms instead of ‘abortion’ or ‘after birth’.

The Blue and White Café and the North Adelaide Burger Bar, located three stores apart on O’Connell street, have a long-standing rivalry over who makes the best AB.  Having been told by many locals that this is a must-try dish, my roommate and I plan to get an AB from each shop and compare the two after we return from our spring break trips.

This is actually the only regional terms I can think of at the moment, although I felt like there were more. I’ll update this post if I remember more later on. Many of the other expressions I’ve learned are common throughout all of Australia, not just South Australia. Stay posted for my next few posts, where I’ll share some more Aussie lingo and give you the lowdown on my first trip.

Until next time,

Michelle

Rogaining!

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September 9th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

 

This past Saturday I got to participate in a very Australian event called rogaining. It started in Melbourne in 1976, and the word is derived from the three of the founders of the sport, Rod Phillips, Gail Davis, and Neil Phillips.

In short, this is a lot like orienteering, where you use map and compass navigation and travel entirely on foot. Teams of two to five members are given a certain amount of time on the course to reach as many checkpoints as possible. Since the checkpoints are in different terrain and are worth varying amounts of points, route planning and as well as efficient navigation skills are a must if you want to maximize your score. The sport seems to be fairly popular in Australia, and I saw quite a few family groups participating.

The team I was a part of consisted of three novice members, Reuben, Anna, and me, as well as one experienced rogainer named John. We arrived on site at the central base camp around ten in the morning for our twelve-hour competition running from 11:00AM-11:00PM. We planned out a route before the start of the event, allowing for changes in length in case we got ahead or behind schedule. Finally, the timer started, and we were off.

The competition was long, being a twelve hour event, so I’ll just cover some highlights. Our journey started out rocky, as it was discovered that the first control point right by the central camp had been stolen. Luckily, many of us were informed by the roving staff to simply mark a triangle on our control card to get credit for the control point. The rest of our trek during the daytime was fairly uneventful, and we found all the controls we were aiming for. Here are a few pictures of what the controls looked like:

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 During our hike, our group ended up taking all the extra detours that we had set aside. While we got a lot of controls as a result, we were also still on “daytime route plan” when the sun started to set. I snapped a couple of pictures of the beautiful landscape during a break at one of the control points:

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We encountered our first problem at control 57, the first point we had to find in the dark. While some of the other points were near a landmark such as a stream or rocky outcrop, the description for this control was “head of the gully” which was not helpful in the dark. At the border of the possible area for the control, John took a bearing and counted his paces in order to estimate a hundred meters (radius of possible area).This was a tough task since the terrain was extremely thick shrub. However, his experience and accuracy got us within twenty meters of the controls, and Reuben was able to spot it before we gave up hope. This control was by far the most difficult to find. As we made our way back to the central base camp, also known as the “hash house”, we got the rest of the controls on our route except for the last one where we missed our turn off. Since we were tired and hungry, and control was one of the lowest point values, we skipped it and headed into camp around nine for food and a much-needed break.

The staff had food ready for teams anytime after five, and it felt amazing to eat a plate of hot food and a bowl of homemade pumpkin soup after the long trek. After forty minutes of refueling we still had an hour and fifteen minutes left, so we made a short loop on the other side of the hash house and picked up four more controls and finished with ten minutes to spare.

At eleven, all the other teams had come in as well and many set up chairs around the fire and socialized until the scores were tallied. The vibe was cheerful and confident, and there was a sense of camaraderie since we understood each others’ exhaustion and struggles, having all been through the same event. Finally the scores were announced, and our team was pleased to find that we got 14th out of 32 teams. Considering how hardcore and conditioned some of the other groups were, we were proud of our success and how much we had learned about navigation.

At the end of the day, the regaining event was challenging and unique, and I would definitely participate again given the chance. To finish off, here is a picture of our course map. The pink highlighted route was our initial planned route and possible detours, and the purple represents the path we actually took.

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All in all, covered approximately 34 kilometers in 12 hours!

 

 Until next time,

 Michelle

Climbing at Morialta

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September 2nd, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

I can’t believe it’s already September! So far, this trip has felt like a long, laid-back vacation with schoolwork every once in a while. Okay, maybe more than once in a while, but the workload is considerably less compared to Mines. Thus, I’ve had a lot of free time to hang out with locals and do sports.

Starting with my first full day in Adelaide, I’ve been doing parkour, rock climbing, soccer, and running. These photos are a bit late, but two weekends ago (the 24th) I went climbing with one of the locals. We went to Morialta Conservation Park, and popular climbing area for the locals. This spot was really nice in that you could set up all the routes for top-rope climbing. In most climbing areas that I’ve visited, the route has to be led (sport climbing) in order to be set-up for top-rope. The section that we climbed in was called Boulder Bridge, named for this geographical feature.

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 My friend Jack and I picked a great day to go.

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The weather was beautiful, and there were a good number of climbers at the crag: a great social setting but not overly crowded. One thing that stood out to me was how generous and friendly everyone was. There was a sizable group of older gentlemen climbing who had set up ropes on five to six routes, and we added one more rope to the mix. After the gear was set up, all the ropes were basically free to use. All we had to do was double-check with the rope’s owner that the line was ready to go and wasn’t going to be pulled up soon. Here’s some of the ropes we had along the cliff face.

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As I mentioned, the local climbers were more generous with the use of their ropes compared to what I’m used to back home. I think part of this was due to area being perfect for top-rope climbing, where the wear on the rope is a lot smaller compared to sport climbing due to the lack of big falls. Other than the rope sharing, the Adelaide community was akin to what I’ve experienced in Colorado. Technique and safety gear is the same as what’s used in the U.S. and the vibe I got from the group made me feel right at home. The differences were minor and related to terminology and grading. The ranking scheme is different from the U.S. system, with routes graded from one to thirty-seven versus the class 5 breakdown. Also, while I’m used to saying “there’s a small foot by your knee” or “there’s good feet out to the left” to describe foot placements, the Aussies referred to all footholds with “footer” or “footers”. Aside from these small distinctions, I felt right at home climbing with the locals. I assumed that this was due to the global spread of rock climbing, compared to other sports that vary regionally (such as futsal or handball).

Meeting local climbers this past month has given me more opportunities to climb outside. This upcoming week, I have plans to go out on Thursday and Friday with climbers I met at the local bouldering gym, both who are around my age.

I’m looking forward to these outdoor excursions, as well as my other adventures in parkour, soccer, and running. Hopefully I’ll post more about my other exploits if I stop jumping on things long enough to take a few pictures.

Cheers,

Michelle