I am a former Irish Orienteering Champion. At the age of 8 in Ballyhourigan Wood, I crushed the field of opposition with grit, determination and a finely honed athlete’s instinct.
There wasn’t much to crush, since there was only one other girl in my class and she didn’t finish the course – but hey, a victory is a victory. It’s the winning that counts. Nobody remembers who came second.
Now, I haven’t fondled a Silva Expedition since the late ‘80s. There wasn’t much opportunity for orienteering in Dubai, since the only features on the landscape outside the city are sand dunes and camels, both of which are prone to roam. Since this is in stark contrast to most of the city’s inhabitants, it’s little wonder that orienteering never took off in the Middle East.
I was looking forward to taking up the sport again in New Zealand. Orienteering, I felt, would be hugely popular in a country full of people who never walk where they can run, and never run where they can scale cliffs with one arm and jump off the top.
Last night I found a website that lists all orienteering events in the country. By chance, there was an event on today up the road in Hobbit Woods.
Sunday is a working day for Husband and, since the clocks went back last week, he now starts work at 3:30pm in conjunction with the Dubai Office. Additionally, he has been in rancid humour the last few days. So I wasn’t too hopeful about getting out to Hobbit Woods to check the quality of exploding mud.
However, at 11:00, Husband materialized in the kitchen at the smell of hot cross buns, and asked if I’d like to go for a drive. It transpired that Husband’s offer was not wholly altruistic; he wanted to check out the dirt bike track in Woodhill Forest, which is right beside Hobbit Woods.
Still, I recognize an opportunity when it licks my ear. I suggested taking the Surf, since I figured we would be driving gravel and forest roads.
“I’m taking the MR2,” said Husband in the same sort of tone he would use to say: “That’s my motorbike you’ve just trashed, Punk.”
[Aside: I’ve just remembered a discussion Emma and I had once, where we were talking about the nature of love.
“Yeah, Husband doesn’t believe in it,” I said. “He thinks love is a myth perpetrated by the movies for the purpose of keeping the masses subservient. Like The Matrix. Or something. He doesn’t think it exists.”
“Hmm,” said the lovely Emma. “Tell him: ‘You know that feeling you get when you look at your motorbike? THAT’S love.’”]
ANYWAY, off we set. At Woodhill Forest, we had to drive along about 10km of forest roads. Husband basically surfed through the forest on a wave of gravel. I was MORTIFIED when we reached the registration area in the MR2, Husband revving excessively to scare off any wildlife or rabid orienteers: the forest road was thronged with 4x4s and Volvos and station wagons with ROOF RACKS.
Despite my method of transportation, I was looking relatively rugged in a jerkin and hiking boots, so I went to hunt down the organizer. While Peter Swanson and I chatted about orienteering and upcoming events and the AOC and my glorious career as Irish Orienteering Champion, Husband stood some distance away kicking a tree.
Although I was itching to get out there and run a course, we went home in a dénouement that – you can trust me – was more an anticlimax for me than for you