Written by Jo Powell
“An Australasian Rogaining Championship in Tassie? Count me in!” was my initial response when I first heard about the rogaine in the picturesque north-eastern corner of Tasmania in the Bay of Fires Conservation Area. I teamed up with Evelyn Colwell after her usual rogaining partner, husband Craig, was sidelined with a dodgy knee.
The first challenge was deciding on what clothing to take, especially after driving past fresh snow on mountain peaks only 50km away on the Friday, and forecasted rain for Saturday. Gloves, beanies, merino layers – how many? – raincoat, rain pants? Can’t fit it all in my pack. In the end, the rain stayed away, the overnight temperature was a pleasant 8C and we even had blue skies and sunshine late Sunday morning.
The next challenge was planning our route. The event site was 17km x 9km with the Hash House on the far eastern side, and an All Night Cafe that was more central but difficult to get to due to out-of-bounds areas, a large river and swampy land. We plotted a ~65km course that included lots of high-point controls, with plenty of options to head back to the HH if time wasn’t on our side. Evelyn was very confident about tackling some tough navigation through the night – I was less sure, but trusted her better navigational skills.
“Vegetation, fight” was identified along the watercourses, but most of the map was marked as runnable open forest. Hmm, Tasmanians’ idea of runnable was definitely different to my idea of runnable! Large swathes of the Conservation Area was in fact thick bracken, often 3-4 foot high. Other areas had fairly open vegetation, but large amounts of fallen gums, branches and leaf-litter. And the “vegetation, fight” was indeed a fight. After tackling the first creek’s “fight” flora, we rapidly chose to navigate through the narrowest areas of marked veg, but there seemed to be some black magic at work as we continually felt like we were struggling through the widest areas. When you have to constantly look at your compass to determine what direction you were heading, as you struggle through close-set tea-tree saplings, around button grass clumps, through duelling sword grass that wraps itself around your legs, and through head-high bracken blanketed by some other vine, you know the vegetation is thick. Thankfully there was no blackberry, gorse or kangaroo thorn in the mix.
Controls were well placed, easily seen if you were in the right place and often picturesque. No ruins, windmills or water tanks to be seen anywhere, but lovely big granite boulders (sometimes not so lovely…), some stunning coastline views, and a scenic river were enjoyed.
Our rogaine started off well, we were nailing the controls, until the wheels fell off at our 6th control. We’d battled through the vegetation along a creek, walked up a spur and started looking for control #79 in the myriad of gullies. It was no-where to be found. We reoriented ourselves off the high point, then saw some other competitors heading towards a control. What?! That wasn’t where the control was meant to be. We sheepishly went to the control to discover it was not the one we were searching for but was #37. We had managed to miss #79 by 1km! Hilariously, another SA team, Greg McCloud and Wayne Chettle, were sitting by #37 when we walked up and they’d also stumbled on #37 after missing #79!
The rest of the rogaine passed in a blur of bushland, fallen trees, rocks, spurs and gullies. We had aimed to hit the coastline by 6am, but reached it at 7.30am, and that was after dropping a 90 pointer to take it easy on a track, instead of battling the scrub. Weary from much bush-bashing, we cut our losses and chose a route back to the Hash House that netted us the most points available, without prolonging our time in the heavy-going under-growth. We were very happy to see the finish line, and finished with 13 minutes spare.
Evelyn and I managed to come 3rd Women’s Vets and 37th overall. Paul Hoopmann was the best performing South Aussie, coming in 2nd Male Supervet and 21st overall with his partner, Bert Elson from Tassie. It was a well-planned and executed event – our thanks to coordinator Peter Tuft and his team for putting on a stellar rogaine. I will return to Tasmania, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, but I’m not sure I’ll ever want to see that scrub so intimately for a very long time to come.