Well, this post is labelled Orienteering, as that was the actual reason for the travelling, and certainly our whole programme and timetable centred around the 7 races which were part of the event; however, to say we were only there in order to compete is a gross misrepresentation of what was happening.
Although I wanted to compete myself (I have neglected to mention that the event was the Australian Orienteering Championships – perhaps an indication of where our priorities lay), I was primarily there for Gussy: to help him gain valuable experience for the future – to help him see new maps and terrains, to have some of the routine actions of orienteering become automatic, to gain experience in running through the bush, to help him meet other like-minded juniors his age, and to help him learn what is an appropriate race pace.
It’s hard for a kid who is good at cross country running to choose a pace that is appropriate to reading on the run. It takes experience and the making of errors to be able to know what constitutes an appropriate speed. It also takes experience to look away from the line to features on the map and in the landscape that will help with navigation. I felt that if he wants to be any good later, this was a very important age to be learning some of these lessons. Gus said he’d like that, so off we set.
Meanwhile, luckily for both of us, my friend, Bonnie, wanted to be there to support her son, Isaac, who had just made his first Tasmanian team, but who was only in Grade 8, and Western Australia is a long way away. Much nicer for all if she and his siblings were there to share the experience.
All of that serious stuff does not mean we were just going to be race focused. Bonnie and I were both adamant that the young ones should enjoy the whole experience. I think our programme of enjoyment was possibly more energetic than the races: nearly every shot of the kids depicts a huge smile (inter alia), so I think we reached our target.
So; what did we do apart from racing? We went to Yanchep, saw the WA coastline; spent a few fabulous hours in the trees, swinging safely from wires and negotiating obstacles; used the flying fox at Mundaring Sculpture Park ad infinitum; walked the Cockatoo Walk near Crystal caves; explored (ig)Noble Falls; visited the wildflowers in Kings Park twice, and, not on the agenda as we didn’t know about it in advance, but spent many happy hours entertaining and being entertained by the puppy, Ruby, “child” of the owners of the Wooroloo. farm on which we stayed.
In addition, another unpredicted and last-minute decision, but one that I really enjoyed, we swam along with many of the teams at Lake Lechenaultia after a very hot, long race, in which the kids enjoyed trying to tip the pontoon and throwing each other and coaches off into the water, whilst others of us swam and chatted at a safe distance from these frivolities.
And last, but certainly not least, our day on Rottnest Island was a huge highlight for all: cycling, swimming and seeing darling quokas.
And somewhere in there, we did go orienteering – even successfully.
I am now home, and have edited my 950 photos and reduced the number brutally, I have had time to reflect further on the trip, and, as well as all the above, and the fun of navigating through strange terrain and seeing parts of Australia that are normally both unknown and inaccessible, I know that I also enormously enjoyed catching up with old friends, and sitting driving for over an hour most days with Bonnie and the kids through Western Australian farmland, just enjoying all the differences in the terrain, and the unfamiliar warmth at this time of the year.