Twalk about rain…

Following up from a cold weekend down in Dunedin, TWALK was approaching, and the weather during the week was nice, sunny and warm…. unfortunately it was going to last until the weekend. Friday night the rain started, as I made up my costume in the lounge and packed my gear I heard the start of the rain. By the time Saturday morning rolled around I just about didn’t roll out of bed, but the excitement of TWALK and the commitment to my team mates played on my mind so I got up, got dressed and prepared to a battle against the elements.

Arriving at the carpark at the university, the mood was pretty damn compared to other years with better weather. Everyone was milling around inside, and no one from my team appeared to be there yet. Soon enough the rest of the guys turned up and without too much fuss it was onto the buses and into the unknown, the mystery start location. We headed inland and up to Porters Pass, over the pass and to Porters Ski field. The buses pulled up and pretty much everyone remained seated as it was raining fairly consistently out there. Some prompting was required to get everyone off, but once we were into the rain it wasn’t all that bad, just cold and wet.

Our team was named the “Department of Conversation” a subtlety I didn’t initially pick up on…anyway we each picked an idea from that and ran with it. We had a Kakapo, a Feral cat, a Weasel in a trap, a gate, and two big orange triangles. I, being from the Sneaky Weasel Gang, was the weasel with a cardboard box and some netting covering my head, actually pretty good at keeping the rain off me! It did have the dis-advantage however of being difficult to see anything and it was lucky there was from DoC triangles to follow as the mass start saw a chaotic bunch of weird and wonderful costumes make their way across the hillside to the first control.

From Porters Pass we made our way up and over the valley into the Acheron area. We had a slow start, the way TWALK always seems to go, and it was hard work for me battling along with the box on my head! I kept up OK, even finding one of the early markers which helped us surge towards the front of the pack. Up the hill the cardboard box started to reach maximum saturation and it was looking like it wasn’t going to make it. Now the challenge for me was to get it to the finish as everyone else with awkward costumes was starting to give up and pack them away. Once we had reached the top of the range and the highest point of the course it was now time to go down hill and it was pretty steep, slippery and bushy, all the more difficult to negotiate with the box/weasel trap on my head. Finally we got down and onto a track having taken over the lead. Unfortunately it was squandered when we couldn’t find the control even when it should have been fairly obvious. Moving on the box started to suffer from severe structural failure and was now collapsing around me. The running increased and now I was hanging on for dear life. Eventually we made it to the hash house and finally I could dump my costume!

Gathering before the start in the rain at the bottom lodge buildings of Porters Pass Ski Field

Heading out on the next leg, there was a good change of clothes, the addition of a fleece and a properly fitted jacket made life so much better. As there was still lots of daylight left and we were all feeling pretty good still all of us went out on this leg, which would hopefully make finding the controls easy…. or so we thought. First control we must have mucked around for 20mins half an hour before we finally figured it out, and it was only by a little bit of our own luck that we did not get caught back up. We had a sizable lead going up the hill and had pulled away from the other teams nicely until one quite ambiguously place control which we couldn’t find, so we skipped it, just as the chasers arrived. Then again we were stuck looking for essentially a needle in a haystack. Aaron, Matt, Riki and Emily must have slipped past us here, and we were left to hang out with Tom’s team for a bit. Once we got down onto the flat we all regathered in a swamp, then played poker face with each other, trying to work out who was telling the truth or what. Eventually we all decided to move on. I got pretty frustrated at this point, and made it known to the rest of my team too that I was a bit disheartened….although after some fossicking about I did find the next control.

Darkness came and still it was just constantly raining. Not much fun at all. Now at saturation level my jacket was not holding out much water at all and I was starting to get cold. Never the less we had a big climb ahead of us so, that helped to increase the body temperature a bit. Following the climb, we again had trouble with the next control and spent a good proportion of time searching in vain in the dark getting cold again. So we bailed down the side of the hill and into some thick as bush. Here we encounted teams going up the hill, some looking very cold, almost dangerously cold in those conditions. The wet bushes did not help the enjoyment levels considering we were already pretty wet, cold and miserable. Life went from bad to worse from this point on. Both Georgia and I got a bit grumpy and struggled to be bothered to even hunt for the controls went we got near so eventually mutiny was called and we headed back towards the Hash House via one more control (which I got!)

A wet and cold Lake Coleridge

Back at the Hash House, it was decision time. Matt and Greg were going to sit out, Dave was continuing by the sounds of things, Greig of course, so between Georgia and I we discussed it and figured if we were going out again, we had to do it now, rather than hang around and maybe go back out later. This time I did a full jacket and clothes change and life again was all that much better again as we headed out.

We started off well, I picked up the first control, Greig the second and then we bailed really early on the third. I was on fire on this leg, if I do say so myself! I proceeded to find at least 5 or 6 of the checkpoints. Now we were well into the night although, it wasnt as late as I thought when I ask Georgia the time…only 12:30am! Still a lot of night and rain to go… and we were back with Tom and his team again, which was nice, but also a little frustrating, that they were playing the poker game much better than us and finding them so much easier than us, or at least that’s what it felt like. We followed through some familiar terrain, the orienteering map at Acheron (which was supposed to be being felled?) then over a hill, down a steep scrubby slope and into a scrubby little creek too. Not much fun crossing almost waist deep, fast flowing, flooded little stream, thick in broom bushes in the dark, but we all survived, and made it back to the Hash House.

Chaos in the woolshed

Next up was the fourth leg. Georgia had bailed out, calling it midway through the 3rd leg so no chance for me to pull the sleep card and somehow I found myself back out in the cold and the rain, slightly unhappy if I was being totally honest. Greig wanted to move fast but with Matt and me in tow there wasn’t much of that happening. I wasn’t really into the map or searching at this point either, so we bumbled about for the first two or three controls. Then we finally had some success, Greig and I after being pretty stumped on where we were  and not seeing the control, we did some pretty good relocation, and spotted the control. Just as we did Tom and his team came roaring back over the hill towards us. This time Greig and I were pretty sly about finding it and even kept Matt in the dark about finding it, making up some reason to go back and navigate to the road to relocate. Next up was a horrible leg, it looked straight forward on the map but each time we got close, we were beaten back by thick thick scrub. It was all of this backwards and forwards, standing around in the wet bushes that I started to go downhill a bit further (figuratively). Eventually we gave up and ended skipping the control so now we had to go uphill. Going up hill was good for one thing only, it made us slightly warmer. However once up on the tops it was cold, and day light was still a couple of hours. We made quick work along the tops, and were back down the hill to the flat in no time where we made a quick pass of Tom and his team.

Once on the flat we executed our next plan, to ditch 3 far away controls in favour of picking up three controls on leg 5. So that’s what we did, Greig was doing a good job, pushing the pace, navigating most of the way well, while I was really just over it all. Dawn was on its way and made me feel a little better about things, but we still had a deep gully to bash down and a steep climb back to the other side before hitting the road, and finding a dejected looking team of Zombies. They got some inspiration from seeing us navigate straight to the next control and when back to try to find another one while we hit the road back to the Hash House.

The road was a nice change for all of about ten minutes when my Achilles started to play up a bit. Greig kept the pace on, until we made a little detour back to see if we could find the first control we skipped. In the daylight it didn’t get any easier, we clearly were not looking in the right place, but to made sure we had enough time to carry out our plan we headed back to the Hash house once again.

I was pretty much done at this point, I was going to throw the towel in, and even had a bit of a go on the tow line behind Greig who was still making progress like some possessed animal. When we arrived, Georgia was ready and waiting for us, but she didn’t have good news, and or plan was not going to pay off. The 5th leg was basically a complete write off, a wasted effort of planning really, even to get 1 control was going to take almost an hour and we were more likely to lose some points than gain any so our race was over. We were going to have to wait it out, and see how those other two teams behind us were going to do. I wasn’t all that unhappy about having to get changed out of sopping wet clothes and into dry warm ones an hour and a half early!

As we suspected we didn’t have quite enough points, and just got knocked out of 2nd position by one control which was a little annoying but that is all part of the game! TWALK is usually always a fun event, and mostly in hindsight it was pretty good, it was just a real shame about the weather, which really put a dampener on things!

Categories: Adventure racing, Orienteering, Rogaine


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