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Posts tagged ‘orienteering’

Natural affinity for squirrels

My legs are killing me.

Today we went orienteering at Shank’s Pony near Kaukapakapa (that place is still easier to write than to say. Barely). Husband doesn’t mind the orienteering, but is not fond of getting out of bed. While I registered, Husband worked on his enthusiasm with a cup of coffee in the car.

Last week at Stag’s Roar, we did the 3.8km Orange course. This time, I was looking forward to something a bit more challenging.

“The red courses are quite technical,” said the woman at registration. “I would recommend a beginner’s course.”


Could she not see my rugged mien, feel the accumulated years of navigational savvy, smell the faint scent of Irish 1980s woodlands on my skin? Could she not sense my natural affinity for squirrels?

There was evidently something wrong with the woman, but I wasn’t about to turn down such a blatant challenge.

“Red 2, please,” I said.

“Are you sure?” She eyed me doubtfully. I was outraged, especially since she was wearing a pair of clogs.


“How much?”

“Have you orienteered before?”

“Of course!” I snorted. Could she not . . . <as above>.

“The terrain is quite tricky and there’s lots of climb-”

“GOOD! I love hills! More the merrier, that’s what I say! I hope they’re REALLY VERY STEEP!”

Aaand that’s how we ended up doing the 5.0km Red 2 course.

It took us 20 minutes to find the first control – see Friggin Fig 1 below. The line of trees off the north of the track was obvious, yet for reasons that will remain classified we followed the track west to its conclusion and splashed around in the stream for a while. Or more precisely, around 15 minutes.

Friggin Fig 1

However, we hit our stride and charged down checkpoints 2-6. Husband and I were on fire, heartbreakingly in synch with each other and the universe.

The leg from checkpoint 6 to 7 was a kilometre long, which was when I started to wilt. It crept up on me spontaneously; one minute I was hurdling a fallen tree, the next I was negotiating with my legs for every step.

“Come on Niamhie!” bawled Husband, sprinting up a field. “This bit’s flat!”

He ran out of puff around checkpoint 9. I could tell, because when he found the control he kind of whimpered, instead of waving his arms around roaring: “OVER HERE! IT’S OVER HERE!”

Technically, this course was much more advanced than last week’s. There were few giveaways; you had to be right at the feature to access the control. Some of them were stuffed down rabbit holes and one was half eaten by a cow. We finished the course in just under two hours and have been subdued ever since.

To your right! Look! Over there!

Action shot: Husband tears off towards the finish. All right – he balanced on one leg for this photo, but you’ve got to admire his beauty and grace, like a constipated gazelle

Husband channels Chariots of Fire: note the proud chest, the splayed arms, the agonised grimace. Unfortunately, some of the essence is missing due to Husband’s trying to run in slow motion. Really takes it out of you – and I should know

Stag’s Roar – photos

Here are some pics from the orienteering event at Stag’s Roar last Sunday – photos courtesy Haze – thank you!

The Team: Haze, me and Husband – sweaty yet triumphant.  Rare image of Husband almost smiling.

Husband demonstrates his internal compass, thankfully with his arm. It looks as if I’m biting him, but I’m not.

Me, pushing in on the tree’s photo op.

John orienteering.

Fungus: mushy

The difference between John and me

On Sunday we went orienteering with John and Hazel at Stag’s Roar. Well, Hazel did the course with Husband and me, while John felt navigationally compromised and read his book under a tree.

A few things have changed since I last orienteered. No more twaddling around with clear contact; control cards have been replaced by electronic ‘keys’ which are inserted into a reader at each control. No more huddling by master maps waving your arse in the air; the courses were pre-printed on the maps. No gaiters, but I think that’s a cultural difference. There appear to be less brambles to whip the shins in New Zealand.

And there was blazing sunshine. Perhaps it’s inverted rose-tinted glasses, but orienteering events in the Irish eighties seemed to always be accompanied by gale force winds, horizontal rain, knee-high mud and puddles of ice.

Husband’s sense of direction continues to be purely instinctive. I was gutted when he hit the third control before Hazel and me. Still not completely recovered from it.

Afterwards, we all went to The Carriages for brunch.

The following exchange illustrates the fundamental difference between John and me.

John: Went to the movies last night.

Me: Oh cool! What did you go see?

John: The Painted Veil.

Me: The- what?

John: The Painted Veil. Edward Norton-

Me: I love Edward Norton. Great actor.

John: Yeah, him, and that babe – what’s her name again-

Me: Liv Tyler.

John: No-

Me: Halle Berry.

John: It’ll come to me in a minute. Anyway, it was excellent – much of it was set in China at the turn of the nineteenth century, in the cholera epidemics. It was really interesting.

Me: Sounds . . . nice. We went to the movies too.

John: Really? . . .

Me: Yes! We went to see IRON MAN!

John: Oh, with Harry Connick Junior.

Me: No, Robert Downey Junior. He IS Iron Man – he totally rocks! Awesome actor. And Iron Man is such a great superhero – I mean let’s face it, Spiderman is great but Peter Parker can be a bit whiny. But Iron Man, you know, he’s pretty single-minded and you gotta admire that in a superhero-

John: I’m not convinced.

Me: What? How can you not be? Iron Man has compelling motives, an engaging character arc, and he blows stuff up and flies!

John: Mmm

Finely honed athlete

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

Tic infestation

Husband flew into Dublin in the early hours of a morning and I met him off the train in Rathmore. I got a bit teary; I hadn’t seen him for six weeks.


Now, holidays with Andrew can be a bit fraught; he’s barely out of the airport before he’s muttering about how bored he is. Maybe it’s how he relaxes, but he drives me bonkers.


This time, I had A Plan.


After dropping his stuff at The Rectory, I took him a way out the road where, according to the trusty Ordnance Survey map, there was a lake about 2 kilometres off a track.


Now, Andrew’s version of the story might go something like: Once upon a time, I was totally jet-lagged, and my wife dragged me out on a walk and for a while it was quite nice but then Niamhie insisted on going around a forest when there was a path that went straight on, and I tried to tell her; I said: “Niamhie, this path probably goes right up to the lake,” but she wouldn’t listen and forced me to walk through a whole pile of crap and it took HOURS and it wasn’t nice at all.


My version is totally different and paints me in a much better light. Hmm, actually it isn’t much and doesn’t really – BUT – there’s always a ‘but’ – Andrew’s story is lacking context. Because around about the time he said: “Niamhie, this path probably goes right up to the lake,” he also said: “Hey – you hear that? A wild goose! And where there’s geese, there’s water. Came from over there <pointing 90° in the wrong direction>. That must be where the lake is, let’s go.”


And when I said, “That’s not geese, it’s a raven,” he said: “Nonsense! I’m an expert on wild geese.”


And when I said: “Ok, but the map, it says the lake is this way, not over there,” he said: “Well, it’s wrong. It’s an Irish map, what d’you expect?”


You know I once orienteered for Ireland? In other words, I’m reasonably good at navigating. So whereas I’ve always sincerely admired Andrew’s ability to talk absolute crap with complete assurance – to the extent that I frequently go along with him and even feel disappointed if it doesn’t work out – I have more faith in the OS than the mating calls of ravens. (Please note how I avoided variations on jokes about wild goose chases. You’ve got to give me credit for that; it took HUGE reserves of willpower.)


Anyway, there was nothing wrong with my estimate of the lake position to the nearest millimetre. Unfortunately, the route I chose (around the forest) was somewhat rugged. We waded through waist-high heather, fought through thickets of gorse, plunged down bog holes and sloshed through boulder-strewn drains. But we got to the lake, where Andrew had a three-second swim after half an hour of coaxing.


Over the next few days, we worked out a system whereby I had veto power on directional decisions. Whenever Andrew struck off briskly up some cliff face – “Screw the map! It’s this way, I can feel it in my waters. Let’s go,” – I would respectfully say: “Andrew, I respectfully exercise my veto power. Step this way, please. Now.”


After a few days, I was sporting various midge, horsefly and family inflicted bites. Seems I still retain my fatal attraction for biting, stinging insects, along with flesh-eating goats and used chewing gum. DID YOU KNOW that scratching could be better than sex?


Oho yes.


One morning, I woke up covered in tics. After Andrew assisted me in banishing the buggers, I asked him if he’d like me to perform a similar service. A look of distilled horror accompanied the realisation that he was probably hosting tics himself. When I found one on his shoulder, he executed a little foxtrot on the spot and squealed:


“Get it off, get it off!”


He clenched his teeth in mental anguish as I picked it out. I don’t know what he was carrying on about; a couple of days later, a friend of Anne’s told us with morbid relish about some bloke who had an infestation of tics on his perineum. If you don’t know where the perineum is, you really should look it up. An INFESTATION. Apparently, he rubbed tea-tree oil on the area and the tics dropped off

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