Yes, I’m one of those SARA volunteers who loves to teach novices how to rogaine. At the Asthma Foundation rogaine on the Saturday in Kuitpo Forest I was one of the ‘experts’ assisting teams understand what a rogaine was, and assisted one of the top fund-raising teams in their route planning.

I always tell novice teams to ‘look carefully at what’s around the control. Look at the contours, any tracks, creeks and high points. And don’t forget that the control is in the exact centre of the circle.’ Great advice – you’d think I’d remember to take that advice myself, wouldn’t you?

So… Sunday afternoon found me with map in hand, confidently striding along with my daughter, Lauren (who is a relative novice). We were on a high, having easily found our early controls and were now leapfrogging another team. They’d beaten us to 47, but we found 94 just before them and then chose the easier way around the dam at 50. Both teams were heading for 40 – and yes, I can see in hindsight that the centre of the ‘circle’ at control 40 is just east of the little dam, but as we came over the hill I become fixated on the big dam west of 40. The other team stayed high on the hill, but we dropped in low and headed for the big dam…. Good idea hey?

Big mistake. Once I realised the error of my ways and went to head east to the little dam instead, we discovered there was about 30m of very thick, deep, cow-churned mud between us and the control. The mud wove its way between very nasty, prickly gorse bushes. Mud or gorse? I chose the gorse and Lauren chose the mud. Neither of us were happy and the other team gained around 5 minutes on us.

Oh well, we shook off the disappointment, and mud, and easily nailed our next few controls.

Deep in conversation we headed up the hill to 91 saying g’day to all the teams passing the opposite way. Lauren commented at one point that we’d walked a fair way and shouldn’t we have seen the control by now? ‘Nah – we’re still climbing and the control’s on a knoll’ I confidently answered. Ten minutes later we reach the other end of the track. Damn – where was that control? How did we miss it?

My brain then goes into overdrive and I assume the control was hidden off the track – after all, it IS worth 90 points, and if I was setting, I’d hide it off the track. So we start bush-bashing, looking for the control. Hmmm, still can’t find it. (Lauren at this point is still tentatively telling me it has to be further back on the track, but my brain’s still in overdrive and not functionally particularly well.) At about this point another team passed by us and in desperation we tagged along after them.

Yep, 10 minutes later, through a saddle (why didn’t I see that on the contours earlier?), there’s the control, RIGHT ON THE TRACK. A good 30 minutes wasted. If I’d had a barbed whip in my hand, self-flagellation might have been the way to go…

So to those of you who look at the so-called ‘experts’ (and no, I certainly don’t consider myself an expert – I still have waaaay too much to learn), take heart, because some of us still monumentally stuff up. But there’s always next time to put into practice that advice.

See you at Peterborough. I’ll be the one looking VERY carefully at my map!

Jo Powell