Orienteering Western Australia 2023

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.

Flying fox fun, Mundaring Sculpture Park

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.

After the first race, the children roared around, playing with flying foxes and constructing an obstacle course, on which they did repeated time trials, trying to break their records.
Time trials

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.

Tree top adventures after the first two races
Tree top adventures
We loved the natural environment for our adventure. The wallaby was amused.

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.

Sprint race. We dd throw in some competing amongst the other frivolities. Sprints are held on campuses rather than in the bush. The maps are technical!! This campus (Aquinas College) was magnificent.
I believe this is Anigozanthos preissii … and hope my ID is correct.

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.

Actinodium cunninghamii Albany Daisy. Kings Park
Wattle bird, Kings Park

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.

Shell Boat races, Rottnest Island
Cycling Rottnest
Please don’t touch the quokas … but they touched US.

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.

Galah in the grounds of Christ Church Grammar for the final day’s sprint competition.
Banksia coccinea
Eucalyptus rhodantha

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.

Orienteering Women’s training weekend

I had read that there was an orienteering women’s training weekend happening at St Helens, but entries had closed when I went to join in. On the Friday, however, I got the bright idea of seeing if there’d been any cancellations. Weee. I was in.

Bush scenery from my weekend

First session was in 3 hours, but I had made dough and needed to bake the bread or my efforts would be wasted; I had to pack, of course, and drive 90 minutes to the venue in the Fingal valley. Hm. Rush rush. I threw gear into a bag (without a great deal of thought) while the bread was cooking, threw food with equal haste down my gullet, and set out for the location, Rajah Rocks.

Dawn Bay of Fires. I decided I didn’t want inside accomodation.

Here we practised a Middle distance course in a fabulously rocky area. I had already been training that morning, not realising I would be accepted into the camp, so was pretty tired as I drew near to the finish. As I headed further east to the coast, I witnessed the most wonderful sunset, but needed to keep driving, so hoped there would be more over the next two days. After a fun activity after dinner where we had to build a tower made out of spaghetti and string (and perch a marshmallow on top), I left the 32 or so others to their warm, comfortable accomodation and went to the coast to pitch my tent in the dark.

My tent, my happy place

I wanted to camp, and near the coast, as I love the sound of waves lapping against the shore while I lie in my sleeping bag. It’s a pity I packed my old 1980s bag in my haste: it wasn’t very warm, but I survived, and the beauty  of dawn next morning drove away any thoughts about relocating to standard-type accomodation.

Orienteering day 2. Waiting for things to get underway.

The Saturday contained lots of training sessions and even more camaraderie than that. Our fabulous coach, Francesca, had to design courses for total beginners through to former international representatives, from people who struggled to run to people who were very fit, and with ages from 14 to over 80, and she pleased the lot of us.  Perhaps her biggest problem was to get us to stop chatting and laughing, and get the next session started.  We did relocation in pairs,  compass only (HELP – I decided I was actually a shocking orienteer in this session), and contour only courses, where I was allowed to slightly revise my opinion of myself.

Bay of Fires. Dawn day 2.

On the final day we did a longish course practising long legs. I was stunned that I still had legs left to do this, but once I’d got going, somehow all was fine. It was very lonely out the far end of the long course; I think most took the shorter option for this session.

Tiny Orienteer

I was too busy orienteering (or chatting or eating) to photograph orienteering in action, but I did want to share the beauty side of our weekend, so here it is. As it is a post about orienteering,  I will finish with a shot of one of my very favourite orienteers taken recently rather than this weekend. She’s not quite a woman yet, but I’m sure she’ll join in such a camp one day.

Eaglehawk Neck and more

Eaglehawk Neck is not a place that thrills me, in that it has no high mountains and no lush rainforest, but I do like beaches and cliffs, so, as my camera club had a weekend there last weekend, I decided to join in.

Sunset Tessellated Pavement

It would be fun to see the Tessellated Pavement under different lighting conditions, and spend some time at the beach. I have always found the paths to be too tame and manicured for my particular tastes, but the tourists like them, and they need some spots, so this one does the trick.

Aurora, Tessellated Pavement

As it turned out, I hardly saw my club members at all, but I made some lovely friends instead, and they gave the trip a pleasant flavour. In particular, I had fun with Daniel and Sarah from Sydney while we waited in the cold for the moon to set so it would be dark enough for aurora spotting. I had delicious coffee on the hill with them next morning, but had to do the 1 a.m. shift alone, as nobody else seemed to want to get out of bed at that hour. I received a small aurora as a reward.

Happy dog

Tessa, my dog, mostly lived in the car, as my accommodation was a “pets not allowed” place, but Tessie is fine with that, as she knows I keep popping in to visit her, and that she gets several runs and walks each day. She feels secure in the car, and does not suffer from the normal separation anxiety that has been her lot since Bruce’s death. We both adored the Neck beach, where dogs are allowed to romp and play. She dashed in and out of the surf with joy. It’s so great to find a beach that lets dogs have some fun.

Happy dog

On the day I left, I popped into the Springs on kunanyi, and made friends with Sharon; we had fun walking trails together and talking heaps.
The next few days were spent admiring the wonderful Gussy and Abby, and watching gymnastics, waterpolo, chess club and the regional Primary School Athletics Championships –  photographing Abby’s gym and Gussy’s Aths races.
Shown here are some highlights from the trip..

Start of the bell lap, 800ms

February Plains Basil Steers Huts

This was only my second visit to the beautiful February Plains. I tend to always want to go up things, or else down cliffs in search of waterfalls. The February Plains involve almost no climbing at all (who counts two hundred metres?) , and no cliffs. You just amble your way through often very open forest – at best, myrtle forest – or along wide, flattish glacial valleys with ankle-high vegetation.

Basil Steers Hut 1

It is nice to have a goal for one’s ambles, and February Plains provide several excellent ones, part of which is a visit to the old huts of possum-trapper and snarer, Basil Steers.

My friends tell me that this is the biggest cushion plant in the world. Who am I to dispute such a claim?

On Wednesday, a small clutch of us visited the two huts left standing, as well as two ruins, where we searched for scraps of tin to indicate that a hut had once been there. We also navigated ourselves to the old Innes Track, where bits remain, which we also examined. We could manage to follow it for a little, before signs of its former existence petered out. This was intended to be a long track, from Liena on the Mersey to Rosebery and the mines on the west coast. The idea was no doubt good, but the reality of the terrain and the distance, inter alia, held the trump card. It was a failure, but by no means because of the excellent surveying done by Innes. The Innes Falls are also named after him: what a beautiful place to be remembered by.

Sue climbs a tree to get a better shot of the cushion plant. Hope it worked, Sue.
Such devotion to a good shot.

As we headed down to Sardine Creek, right near the end, someone said: “Look. Little Horn.” You wouldn’t believe how close it appeared to be. On this day, it was still covered in white from last Friday’s snow.

Basil Steers Hut 2

Somehow or other, we managed to clock up nearly 16 horizontal kilometres plus 277 ms of climb. That was very inventive of us. And right near the end, we got another aspect of interesting and important history. Brian O’Burne, one of the small group I was in, had been part of a blockade trying to save the February Plains from the destruction of Gunns. He showed us various aspects related to the struggle and amused us with tales of being put in gaol and taken to court for daring to protect an area of stunning beauty. I’m so very glad they won. Once you kill an ancient forest, it is gone forever.

Some of the forest we walked through.

It is hard to believe, looking at barren Afghanistan, that it once had beautiful forest. The Russians cut down trees at the rate of 200 trucks of timber per day, following their invasion of the country in December 1979. Their destruction of this neighbouring country seems very similar to what they are currently doing to a different bordering neighbour, this time, Ukraine. The world around us seems threatening and in turmoil. How wonderful to retreat into the wilderness. Even a single day refreshes us and reminds us of the healing powers provided by a retreat into a realm of calming green, open spaces and rugged wildness.

Garden: Family Easter 2022

As I explain every time I post on cultivated nature, such as my garden, rather than wild nature (wilderness), my love of nature is not restricted to bushland and forest, but also encompasses beautiful gardens. This year, as I photographed the family Easter egg hunt, I was in my element, enjoying the colours of autumn, the profusion of glorious trees that I have planted, (which my neighbours hate!) and the thrill of the chase.

Gussy in the chase
Abby in action
Ah ha. There’s one by the BBQ
Fletcher finds one high in a tree
Rush rush

I was also fascinated, not so much by the joy of the children – Easter is a fun family time – and a life force here symbolised far more by activity than the chocolate eggs they were hunting, but by their exuberance in the hunt. The images show rushing, urgency and the thrill of the chase.

Another one for Fletchy. His first Easter.
Indefatigable Gus
Go Abby
Just for the heck of it
Not slowing down

But what if I explain to you that they are just running for the sheer pleasure of it? The rules in our family are that you rush to get eggs, sure, but not for yourself. No. You get the eggs for everyone and you put them in a communal basket. There are no prizes or rewards for being fast, or faster than someone else, for finding more or bigger. Later, after all the eggs are gathered, we take it in turns to take an egg from the basket until we feel complete, and then opt out of any more taking. If only society at large could operate like that!

He didn’t get to taste chocolate, but he liked finding eggs anyway. Letting go into the basket was a challenge, but he got there.
Don’t you just love her style? Textbook. She’s six.
Round the corner for the next one

So, all that running that you see here is just movement as an expression of joy; movement as an end in itself rather than a means to it.; movement as an expression of the wonder of partaking in life.

Time for babies to enjoy leaves

Meanwhile, the children ran like that for nearly forty minutes: 8.37 until 9.15 is the range of times in the photos’ metadata. No wonder they do well in beep tests, cross country and orienteering. No wonder it’s not a big issue to climb a mountain with me.
Probably 17 photos is a large number for a blog post, but I had real trouble culling it down to that!! I hope you forgive me the indulgence.