The Australasian Rogaining Championships were held on 11-12 February near Waikaia, in the Southland region of the South Island of New Zealand. My sister, Karen, and I flew into Queenstown, and took the two-hour bus ride through verdant rolling hills to the Hash House site, nestled between very large hills (small mountains?) dotted with sheep.
After a drizzly, foggy Friday night, Saturdays early morning cloud dissipated and it turned into quite a warm and moderately humid day. The map, 1:40000 with 20 metre contours, was understandably large and encompassed the western mountain range of the valley we were camped in. We decided to head to the southern area of the map, where we determined there was less mountain climbing and fewer beech forests (and therefore less sand flies!)
The navigation was not overly difficult, there were some nice track and fence handrails, but concentration was still required. The vegetation ranged from low grasses and sphagnum moss on the highlands, to swishy swashy grasses (and swamps) of the streams, to open beech forests, to absolutely impenetrable scrub, to scattered scrub that requires some struggle to navigate through. There were stunningly taut and well-maintained fences EVERYWHERE, including 8 foot high deer fences, but a plethora of gates and thankfully no electric fences (and only two barbed wire fences).
Beef cattle, flocks of coughing, glowing-eyed sheep, deer, a horse which frightened the heck out of us in the early hours of the morning, an owl on the track, and huge grunting possums were encountered, plus a couple of hedgehog carcasses. Lots of little birds (thrushes?) and some lovely birdsong in the morning serenaded us.
The topography was exceptionally hilly/mountainous, as youd imagine in NZ. After puffing and panting our way to the very top of the first range, we rethought our route and wisely chose not to climb to the top of the range again. The streams were also full of water (and often had marshy areas around them), and although we tried very hard not to, our feet ended up wet for most of the rogaine. A perfect environment for the formation of blisters – as the rogaining medic would attest to!
Controls werent reflective (oh how I love SAs controls!!) and were allegedly able to be seen within 10m – IF you approached them from the correct direction. One control was placed directly above a small, hidden waterfall – we came up the exceptionally steep watercourse and hit the waterfall then had to figure how to get out and around through the scrub to the control. The waterfall did provide a very nice refreshing drink though!
We came 35th out of 54 teams, which we were very pleased with. It was our very first 24-hour rogaine where we stayed out the full 24 hours – we bivouacked out on the course for an hour – and we were surprised at how well we coped with the lack of sleep. We were physically shattered by the end of the rogaine though, from all the mountain climbing we had done.
Well done to NZs Grieg Hamilton and Chris Forne who came first and used the rogaine as a training run for NZs GodZone Adventure Race next weekend. Australias David Baldwin, Julie Quinn and Gill Fowler came second.
Oh – I have to also mention the Hash House food. It was spectacular with venison, roasted pork legs, baked potatoes, loads of interesting salads (including some yummy spiced carrots), beautiful fruit salads with icecream and some home-made cakes. Yum! It made us regret not coming in to the Hash House for dinner during the event!