October 20th, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,