An Epic Southern Orienteering Week

This has been a long time coming but finally, and since I’m currently otherwise incapacitated, I thought it was about time for a recap just over 3 months later….

Back in the midsummer this year and just before Coast to Coast I had a pretty bad kayaking trip down the Waimak gorge. I really wanted to get back up and do it straight away but a week of orienteering beckoned around my original hometown of Wanaka! So the car was loaded up with orienteering gear, camping gear, then a whole lot of adventuring gear, and of course a Kayak as that is what I really needed to practice.  Gear loaded it was time to pick up my travelling companions, Georgia (in full on Godzone training mode) and Lizzie ( Pro NZ orienteer, on her summer holiday/escape scandi winter mission).  Some serious questions of our orienteering intentions were asked by Lizzie as we left Christchurch with a fully laden car of gear, bikes on the back and a kayak on the roof! while she was left wondering what she had herself in for….

I had set my self on a self prescribed “Chris Forne” training diet of kayaking, kayaking, and more kayaking basically every day, as I needed to improve my paddling strength and stability ten fold to ensure I was going to achieve my Coast to Coast goals. This actually delayed the whole leaving process on Saturday afternoon somewhat as I was out paddling that morning, before doing 100 other things before getting home to pack. That meant dinner was in a sea gull infested part of Tekapo before slipping into a difficult to detect camping spot somewhere over the Lindis pass in the dark.

Day 2 was meticulously planned out, with some orienteering training in the morning to get us in the game ( and partially to make sure Lizzie knew we were serious about orienteering!) then a scary trip to the supermarket with way too many tourists. After some much needed lunch away from too many tourists at Glendu Bay I had to get my paddle in on the lake, while Georgia rode her Mountain bike to Wanaka and back and Lizzie tried to do some strength training with out the “central park phenomenon” kicking in. With still some daylight left and the opportunity for some more training we headed up to Raspberry Flat for a short jog up the Rob Roy Glacier for some touristing in the fine weather. I was pretty tempted to paddle down from the car park to the Otago boys lodge (our accommodation for the night) but eventually I thought better of it having already paddled for an hour that day. There as a small chance to get a bike ride in to the lodge itself set back approximately 500m from the road.

Day 3 and the rain had set in early in the morning, things were not looking fantastic for some orienteering, but luckily we didnt have to go all that far to the starts as the lodge was the event centre for one of the best New orienteering maps in NZ.

Matukituki my new favorite/hometown orienteering map!

Matukituki my new favorite/hometown orienteering map!

Unfortunately I wasnt entirely in race mode, but really enjoyed the map and the terrain, it was amazing and I can not wait to get back there to race again. At the end of the day the sun came out for some control collecting, and then guess what a paddle! I had decided I was going to kayak down from the bridge just as we had done so in Godzone a year prior, but I needed some friends to paddle with too. All this talk of me paddling down the river got a few people excited and soon enough there was a flotilla of various boats paddling down the river. After some early excitement in the rapids just down from the bridge where we put in it was all plain sailing, a little bit too plain for the pack raft and the play boat! They pulled out an hour or so down the river while I continued on to West Wanaka.

Preparing for the paddle down the Matukituki

Preparing for the paddle down the Matukituki

A middle distance race on day 4 turned out to be a “Chris Forne” middle distance, ie multiday distance race. Quite fun but very scratchy when off track, and you had to be onto things in the technical sections to ensure you hit the controls nicely. Mountain biking was on the agenda for the afternoon for some of the others, while for me it was some more kayaking. This time from Bremner bay round to the outlet and the Albert Town bridge. Georgia went Mountain Biking while Lizzie went into town to escape the crazyness for a bit of relaxing at a cafe. A little bit intimidating on my own but I managed to survive ok. The evening’s activity was orienteering once again, this time a sprint race at the Wanaka schools map. Both schools I went to and the site of my first orienteering victory way back before the primary school was ever there! Try as I might though I was unable to replicate my victory from back in the day!

By Day 5 I was struggling with the motivation to paddle, and with two long-ish orienteering races ahead of me I took a break from the paddling… besides I had already arranged to paddle down the Clutha the following day with Al Cory-Wright! After Lara’s Birthday breakfast pancake feast it was time for some orienteering just across the road from our campsite. It was pretty intense, straight into the technical scattered Manuka forest. My race was not particularly great so heading into the chasing start that afternoon I was starting just a few seconds behind Lizzie! It was chaos after picking my map up there was people running everywhere quite randomly all over the place. I made a little break on my group, then later another small break before blowing it all out on the last control. Damn. I was not very happy at all. Eventually I got over it and myself and it was on to the next event, the rest day!

Chris and Emily were on their way through to Queenstown, moving into their new home town with all their worldly possessions including their double sea kayak. Unfortunately Georgia’s plan to camp up at the Brewster hut was looking less feasible due to the weather and Lizzie had decided to ditch us for the relative calmness of the Robertsons who were heading to Queenstown. So Georgia and I hatched a new plan to deliver Chris and Em’s kayak to Bannockburn via the Clutha and the top end of Lake Dunstan.

Early morning and the wind was up with it forecast to get stronger, so Al and I eventually made it onto the Clutha for my first trip of the week down the river. It was a pretty scary trip for me, there was some big wave trains and I felt quite unstable in places. The wind also made life difficult and I had a number of close calls wobbling my way down. I managed to stay dry but by the end of the trip I had pretty much made my mind up that I would revert to my trusty old eclipse for Coast to Coast. The afternoon’s entertainment was mountain biking with Nick Hann, we had a pretty fun but relaxing ride over Deans bank and along the tracks back to the outlet.

There were a few people jealous of our mission to deliver the kayak the next day. We had to make an early start to make sure we were going to get to the orienteering in Cromwell in time (4pm that afternoon). It was a fantastic morning when we started and less wind than the day before but more was scheduled to come later in the day…. the first part of the river was great, it was much nicer in a big stable boat. Then came what I think is called the washing machine rapid. In my unstable Sharp the day before I approached with caution, and somehow made it through fine, but this time I was in a stable double sea kayak, so no holds barred I stuck the nose straight into the rapid and we were through the wave train quickly. There was a big eddy to the right which opened up as we cruised on in and wham, before I knew it we were upside down in a double sea kayak! Shocked and surprised I popped the spray deck, and looked up to see an equally wet and surprised Georgia clinging onto the boat! Somehow we must have caught the edge when the eddy spun the boat and the wave train hit the side at the rear of the kayak. Anyway we floated down the river for a little while, attempting to get back in while in the middle, but didn’t quite get there in time before the next rapid. So we ran it holding onto the boat. There is a lot of volume and a lot of water in that river so it was quite an effort to get it to shore and emptied out. Ironically the weather turned a bit at this point too, it ominously got darker and a little cooler. The wind however had not picked up much by this stage, and it was still a long trip down the river the lake. The last few km’s was all plain sailing and then onto the lake we had about two hours to make the final 12km in Cromwell for the orienteering.

After a quick pit stop we were underway on the lake and the wind was building. We picked the close side early on…. not sure if this was a mistake or not but it definitely was the shortest route…. the waves started to build, thankful it was behind us. Then we started to surf the waves, and thing got pretty exciting. It was pretty good for a short while until the direction we were heading was some cliff’s… at this point I was struggling to keep the boat under control, surfing down the breaking waves. Things were not looking too good, I was panicking a bit, unsure what to do. Then I heard yelling from the back, “JUST PADDLE!!!” So in a very small lull, I managed to get the boat going away from the rocks while it was not breaking and then as soon as the boat caught the wave, it was turn and surf. Once on the wave the boat powered forwards quite quickly. The waves were quite short in there frequency, so when surfing the front half of the boat was well above the water, Georgia’s back seat was submerged and the rudder was sticking out of the water! This continued for what felt a very a long time…giving rise to the “why is it always like this!” comment, which became the catch cry for the rest of the paddle. It was a pretty harrowing ordeal and a huge relief to reach land after a total of 5 hours of paddling. It wasn’t just physically taxing but mentally taxing too as Georgia and I stumbled into the Cromwell camping ground to hitch a ride to the orienteering.

Not sure if this is the best place to store a kayak?

Not sure if this is the best place to store a kayak?

It was safe to say that the days events had taken its toll a bit and I had a good navigational race but a pretty poor physical race! Then it was back to the kayak for the final push for the camping ground in Bannockburn. Thankfully the winds were a bit calmer, but we did have the last few kms upstream to battle with. Finally we were done, one big day of paddling! Lizzie came back to join us again too, deciding that maybe we weren’t as stressful as her company for the previous two days!

We had made it to the final two days of the long week orienteering, and it was time for the long distance at Earnscleugh. I wasn’t really in the best of shape for this race so I suffered around the course with an alright time but still a bit of the pace. After the long drive back to Bannockburn I could feel a cold coming on so instead of paddling I opted to rest for the afternoon, so at least I would have an alright day at the Bannockburn Slucings.

The last day at Bannockburn

The last day at Bannockburn

The final day of an epic Southern O Week was another Central Otago stunner, super hot and dry with the threat of a thunderstorm looming. I raced hard and had a good time out there, I did manage to roll my ankle twice quite badly which slowed me a bit on a few controls. It was one hard slog up the hill to the finish. There were some pretty amazing fruit trees at the finish area which was a pretty satisfying way to finish Southern O Week 2016.

The week wasn’t quite over with the final orienteering race, there was time for one more paddle in the heat of the day before heading home to Christchurch! Mission complete one epic week of training, racing and Orienteering!



Categories: Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Orienteering

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