Sunday, 18 August 2019
Our last day started with a bit of hectic final packing and tidying before breakfast and dropping Paul at the train station (he was feeling too ill to go to the event), and me to a Jury meeting to complete the verdict on the previous night's protest. From there it was onwards to the event centre where we all went out for a run.
The summer house at Sponvika
There have been about 1000 competitors doing the spectator races each day - it's fairly relaxed - no chest numbers and no real hassles if you are late to the start or anything. Today there was an option of a free horse carriage ride to the start! Jon took his camera out with him so he got some great photos of the forest. I think I've enjoyed the actual orienteering at this event the most of our 4 orienteering weeks.
In fact at one stage during my course I unfolded my map and suddenly realised that I only had 2 controls left - our fantasitc trip was all but over. I felt pretty sad for a few moments but it didn't take long to cheer up when I thought about all the fantastic times we'd had. Also I still had to focus on finding the last controls !
About an hour after we all finished the WOC runners started their middle distance final - with the fastest runners starting last. Both the mens and womens races were really close and not decided until the last runner crossed the line. It was the prefect spectacle and I think the organisers and TV producers (it was live to air on the Norwegian equivalent of the ABC) would be pretty ecstatic with the production!
Harald and I watching the big screen
Aside from a fantastic viewing arena the food on offer at the event was all locally sourced and pretty Norwegian. There were moose burgers and sausages in waffles. It was also pretty pricey so we all had packed lunches and local chocolate which was nice too - I had my old favourite of brown goats cheese on bread every day - It's so sweet it's like caramel and I was a bit addicted to it in my Au Pair days.
There's a great expression in Norwegian that they use for when you have a nice time with something - like bar of chocolate or a warm towel from the dryer, or a good book. "å cøse meg" - "to cuddle/comfort myself" would be the direct translation but there's really no English equivalent. Anyway it would have been the perfect expression to use for the good half an hour I had holding little Ada, the 2nd daughter of Linn, one of the lovely Verde-Thon children who are all grown up now. Linn took Linda's map and went out and had a run while her other daughter Lea did the Small Trolls course with Linda.
Once the event was finally over (and the time limit for protests had expired) we were free to start our final journey up to Oslo. Harald very kindly drove an extra few hours so he could drop us off at the airport hotel where Paul had already interred himself since noon. Our room was not much bigger than a cabin on the Spirit of Tasmania, but with breakfast thrown in and only a few minutes on a shuttle from the airport it was pretty good for our early morning departure.
After a long day and night of flights I am writing this from our very last flight. Wow what a fantastic holiday it has been. We've been so lucky with weather (in hindsight the crazy heat was probably better than constant rain would have been), and we've all had a fantastic time together. We've been looked after by great people in Norway, and it was nice to have Paul with us for a while (until he could no longer keep up with our pace and went down like a sack of potatoes a few days ago).
Friday, 16 August 2019
Today we drove to Fredrikstad for the orienteering. It a little urban forest map (like Knocklofty or Waverly Park), but of course with plenty of Norwegian tricky details and much flatter. The map probably needed a few track updates, and the courses had to complete a boring 1.5km stretch in the suburbs near the finish but otherwise it was fun. Despite bumbling around a bit I finished 4th again which I'm happy with. Everyone else made similar mistakes but enjoyed it (at least until the last part!)
After the orienteering (no WOC spectating today), we dropped our bags off in the car then wandered through the old town. I was pretty keen to go there as I've watched a Norwegian reality style TV series which had competitors living in the old town as per 1776. They had to complete challenges using old style tools and techniques, such as glass blowing, black smithing, masonry, baking (With just a fire). It was good for my Norwegian practise but also fun to watch for the craft factor! The most impressive thing about the old town are the canals around it - making this cool star shape. The streets were nice - I was surprised to see cars driving around which took away from the atmosphere a little, but people are clearly still living in the town.
After the Old Town we headed out to an island via a series of bridges connecting rocky island to rocky island.
In fact I think we would have island hopped about 15 islands along the way. Most of them were a lot more bare of trees than the ones outside of Stockholm, but still covered in holiday houses and regular houses. It was a cool sight. I had wanted to go out there anyway but I also had an invite to a VIP orienteering event which was being held on the outermost island. I wrangled invites for the rest of the family so we were all able to run in this fantastic bare rock island area. The course setters clearly decided to have some fun as aside from running over flower covered coastal rock terrain we had to swim from one island to the other!
This was actually Zali's dream event - she's always wanted to do a swim-orienteering course - although I suspect in there dream there would have been a longer alternative to the swim leg - in this case there definitely wasn't! The water was surprisingly not-freezing though, and it was just good fun!
some controls were between and under boulders, and half way down rockfaces!
Once clear of Sarpsborg we drove the 20 minutes home (where we finally caught up with the Verde-Thons who had been chasing us all day but we kept having to leave places as they arrived!) - we set about creating a BBQ feast for us all plus some Australians living down the road who gave me a lift out to the event a few times when our car was full. It was really lovely and delicious as Linda also went to the trouble of making me my favourite Norwegian dish - Rommegrot (with two norwegian o's there but I can't find them on my keyboard).
Thursday, 15 August 2019
Two days will have to merge into one as its almost 11pm and of course we have another big day planned for tomorrow.
Yesterday was the first time I ran in Norwegian terrain since 1992. It was fantastic - I made mistakes but it was just so enjoyable that it didn't matter. Jett really enjoyed his course as it was more challenging than the ones he has been doing in Switzerland. His age group get quite a range of difficulty - in Norway and Sweden they tend to be harder which Jett prefers.
After the races we went across the border to a supermarket positioned to get all the Norwegian shoppers who want to pay the slightly cheaper Swedish prices. We have hopefully done most of the shopping now for the rest of our trip.
In the evening I had to participate a jury meeting which was exciting and resolved satisfactorily for those involved I think.
Wednesday morning I went for a nice walk around our local area. Sponvika has a big history as it faces Sweden and has been in an important strategic position. It's been completely razed by the Swedes and occupied by the Germans at various times. Now it is a mixture of old and new holiday houses with boats and jetties.
Then we went up to the big World Championship Arena. We got to run our specator races first - which once again was just great fun, then we settled in to watch the final off the Long Distance Event. It was fantastic. We had big screens with GPS tracking, lots of cameras in the forest, commentry, and quite exciting races in both mens and womens. Thankfully there were no protests, so I didn't have to do any Jury work. All the Australians did really well I thought.
Tomorrow is a rest day for the WOC athletes, but not for the spectators. I'm looking forward to running again, then we will do some more touristing before I have to attend a team official's meeting in the evening. I can't believe we only have 3 more nights before we head home. Noooo!
Tuesday, 13 August 2019
We might have less than a week to go in our awesome holiday, but we are finishing in fine style.
Today we had a leisurely breakfast in Drammen with the Verde-Thons, then we went for a walk in the forest behind the house. Aside from admiring the view..
we also checked out the lake Jon and Bjorn swam in when we visited in winter 2015. It looks a lot more inviting now:
Then we packed the car that Lars-Henrik very kindly lent us, and drove in convoy down to Sarpsborg, the centre of the World Orienteering Championships. We've got a series of spectator races to run here, and today was the sprint. It was fun but it had lots of long legs and was without many technical challenges. After Switzerland we all appreciated the open forest sections and the flatness!
We're using the other electronic timing system here. It seems very clunky compared to our usual little SI units.
Much to the kids delight we had pizza in Sarpsborg after our races.
Then we checked out a bit of the opening ceremony for the WOC athletes.
Now we're 30 minutes drive further south in a little community called Sponvika. Our house (booked by Harald), is amazing. It has an indoor swimming pool, spa and sauna. More photos to come of this later.
Monday, 12 August 2019
Yesterday was another transition day, We had to get up at 5.45 so we could leave by 6.30 and (avoiding tolls and motorways), be back at Geneva airport in time for our 11:15 flight. We had to go via Brussells so we finally arrived in Oslo at 5pm.
Sunday, 11 August 2019
After a hot day, last night was punctuated with loud cracks of thunder accompanied by the sound of pounding rain on the roof, so today was always going to be muddy!
When we arrived at the event we sat next to a small paddock with alpacas and horses. It was interesting to note that the horses were indifferent to the action that was going on around them, whereas the alpacas were beside themselves with curiosity - I don't think I saw any of them stop staring around them all day (they are in the distance to the right of Paul's knee).
and again later (below) - note they are still staring! BTW The person standing next to us is Eric. He and his family are making us look like holiday lightweights, as they've been travelling since January and won't be home until next January! Their next stop is Munich for a month, where they will take a break and their son will catch up on some school work.
Today the event centre was 1.5km walk from Gstaad, and as a special treat we got to take the chairlift up to our starts. Unfortunately we all had early starts so it was still raining intermittently and pretty foggy as we prepared to start and headed up the mountain.
The top of the chairlift
The foggy start
When it's raining my glasses get both foggy and rain covered, so I can see neither the terrain or the map. If I take off my glasses I can't read the map, but I discovered today that I still can at least follow a compass bearing which was helpful! It was still really difficult, and I had to go fairly slowly as a result (stopping frequently to clean my glasses, take a quick look at the map and continue), but overall I was pretty happy with getting around the course when I was legally blind for most of it. I managed to be 17th today and 13th overall which is ok given my various navigational blunders during the week.
Everyone else seemed to go well and we're all sorry to see what has been a super fun week come to a close.
After the event Paul and I decided to take the chairlift back up the hill past the start and hike a stage of Switzerland's Via Alpina trail, which traverses Switzerland from east to west and is 390km long. We did about 13 kilometres of it, up and over the Col De Jable (which is actually a language border, so if we had been able to, we would have switched our conversations from German to French).
Unfortunately we didn't see a scrap of view from much of the high portions of the trail as the cloud was so low. It's a shame as the mountains above us would have looked awesome. We heard a lot of cowbells, and walked past a lot of small farms with farmers tending their small herds of cows.
The Col de Jable
We finally started to see a bit more as we descended towards the Cheese Cellar we stopped at on the rest day. This was also the end point of the stage and conveniently a short drive for Jon to come and pick us up.
Despite the lack of visibility it was a nice hike and I'm glad we got one last taste of Swiss terrain (hint - it's steep, and sounds like cowbells).
When we got home I could see that Jon had been busy..
While we were hiking he'd dealt with our extremely gross orienteering shoes, sorted the clean washing, and took the kids to the rubbish and recycling station. He's the best.
We're now back at our chalet, waiting for our suitcases to pack themselves.
They'd better hurry up as we've got a very early start tomorrow to make our plane to Oslo via Brussels.
Here's the event video from today
Saturday, 10 August 2019
Another day, another crazy train carriage - this one looked like it was out of the murder mystery. That rich old guy on the right looks like the likely victim.
..and another beautiful assembly area. This time we took the train to Rougemont - about 11 minutes away, then walked for another 10 minutes. We had late starts so the event was in full swing when we got there.
We all had about 2 more kms to walk to the start - mostly uphill, which meant some hellishly steep and muddy downhills on all of our courses. I had a better run technically today, and my uphill split times were pretty good, but I (and the rest of us) just can't keep up with the people who are clearly flying down the hills! Nevertheless everyone was pretty happy with their runs except for Zali who mispunched.
It was pretty hot today so afterwards I insisted we drive 40 minutes to a lake I kept seeing in the tourist brochures. We could have walked there but no-one was keen on the 10k hike, so we drove instead. The road was narrow and windy and stunningly beautiful. It got down to one lane wide for the last 4km, but luckily we were tailing a bus who was forcing oncoming traffic to reverse until the nearest passing point. This photo is from before it got narrow - I'm pretty sure that's a glacier on the mountain ahead of us.
The lake was certainly worth the drive - although like the other lake we've swum in, the bottom is very squishy and muddy. Still it's either that or a glacial lake that would be so cold we couldn't dip our toes into.
The photo below is when I reminded the kids that the original plan was that they would be back at school by now:
Paul had no comment.
After a nice swim and lie in the sun we retraced our steps and headed back to our chalet for a BBQ dinner.
We're going to be sorry when this event finishes tomorrow and our delightful Swiss lifestyle comes to an end.
Luckily we've still got Norway and the world championships to look forward to.
Friday, 9 August 2019
It's a good idea to push your nephew face first into a Swiss cow pat. It teaches resilience in the face of adversity. While your nephew might not thank you immediately, later in life he will assuredly look back and thank you for your efforts.
Today I once again failed to show the good people of Switzerland that I am a competent orienteer.
I just can't seem find any controls once the visibility gets low. Today I did well apart from the only difficult control on our course were I lost nearly 8 minutes - dang! Nevertheless we all had a good day out. Everyone else seemed to go ok although Jon complained that he just couldn't see the controls once he got close to them. Here's the video from today.
Anyway this morning was really foggy so it was fun to be taken right up through the clouds to the clear blue sky on the other side! The views from the top were fantastic. Look at that sea of fog below us, compared with the view when we came down later in the day
From the chairlift we had a 10 minute walk to the event centre, then I had a 2km walk to the start along a beautiful flat trail with amazing views, and goats! We're certainly getting our money's worth of amazing views at this event.
So many cows. Today I practically had to push them out of my way as I raced past them - they aren't bothered by humans.
We all had early starts, which meant we had to get up at 5.45am and leave the house at 6.15am. The benefit of this was that we were able to complete some of our failed excursions from yesterday. Firstly we went to the chocolate factory and did the tour - it was really good and there were ample samples to be had. We also booked ahead so we didn't have to wait.
On that train note, we've been on Swiss trains 8 times now, and I reckon we've had 7 different styles of carriage. We got to sit in first class today as the 2nd class train was full !
Once we'd finished at the Chocolate factory we headed back to Chateau D'oex we picked Paul up (he was hiking down the valley to meet us) and went up to play frisbee golf. Once again the views were fantastic. The golf was fun, the only bummer was that Paul managed to beat us all despite having had 3 beers while he waited for us! It was close though, another few holes and I'm sure we'd have had him - either that or he would have laid down for a nap in the sun.
Thursday, 8 August 2019
We've had lots of rain at night during our trip, but today was the first wet day we've had in over 6 weeks - pretty amazing! It was perfectly timed to be the rest day so we avoided getting soaked.
We didn't have a very successful tourist day though - after a delicious breakfast we headed down to Chateau D'oex to visit the Musee du Vieux Pays-d'Enhaut. This area seems to be big for intricate paper cutting type art, and the museum was billed as a museum of papercraft so I was thinking we'd be seeing old and new paper craft stuff. Once we finally found it, it turned out it only opened at 2pm. It was only 11am so we decided to come back to that and head to our next destination - a cheese factory in the nearby district of Gruyere - about 30 minutes away. When we got there the huge car park was at capacity and the queue just to get a ticket for parking looked to be about 20 minutes long, so after a quick look through the doors to confirm our worst fears we decided to head to the nearby chocolate factory instead.
Gruyere Parking and Gruyere Castle
We should have realised this was foolish - since when would the queue at the chocolate factory be LESS than the queue at a cheese factory? When we got there we were informed that the wait for a tour was four hours long.
So then we decided to drive back to Chateau D'oex and bring forward one of our plans for tomorrow - frisbee golf! It was just drizzling intermittently by then so it was looking good for a game. We had to hire frisbee golf discs as we only have one frisbee between us, so we dropped by the shop which rented them and discovered that they were closed until Thursday. Sigh.
Thoroughly beaten, we decided to shelter for lunch in a gazebo thing which was being set up for an outdoor concert and wait until 2pm when our very first visit failure would finally be open.
We still had a few minutes to spare after lunch, so Jon and I wandered through some nearby streets. It doesn't take long for urban to turn to rural in this country!
Finally we shuffled into the museum. And it wasn't really what I was expecting. Instead of being a collection of old and new paper craft, it was a museum of lots of generally old stuff (locks, tools, keys, furniture), setups of old rooms, and lots of very traditional paper cutting art. It was impressive, but also a bit disappointing because I was hoping for more. The cowbells were amazing though.
With nothing really achieved we decided to stop on our way home at the Cheese Cellar that we drive past every day. It looked like it had a bit of a viewing place so we thought that might be good since we didn't get to the cheese factory. And it was ok, but not amazing. The only really good thing was that we avoided paying the $15 bucks entry fee per person because we accidentally wandered through an unlocked door straight into the information centre place before we discovered you had to pay. Once we realised our mistake we beat a hasty exit, but we'd already learnt a bit about the local cheeses - a small victory for us today!
Continuing home we had our other small victory, and that was discovering that the sunroof on the car actually opened! Our road to home goes along the side of this very narrow and deep gorge. Busses meeting each other have to back up to an appropriate space before they can pass. We've noticed that we are not alone up here, there are at least two other orienteering groups staying very close by.
After a bit of a rest from our failures, we played a bit of frisbee before settling down for dinner and to get ready for tomorrow - we have a very early start and a chair lift to take us to the arena.
Wednesday, 7 August 2019
Today we were back at the same arena, with the same 20 minute hike straight up the hill to get there. We seemed to make all the train/shuttle connections a bit better today, so the overall travel time was thankfully a lot quicker, and without the bonus gondola trips we got home closer to 3 than 7pm.
Our courses were shorter than yesterday - although some of us managed to make them longer anyway as the navigation was much trickier, some of the controls were small depressions in the midst of rough, thick and steep forest which made it easy to lose lots of time (which I did). Doh. This is the day's event video.
These photos are from the event web site - below is a good example of the visibility in some areas.
It was a beautiful sunny morning so I went for a swim in the lake after I finished which was great. Then I went and bought a new compass as my brand new silva compass has a bubble in it that's so big it needs its own compass. This makes the needle swing around constantly, which in turn makes it very hard to navigate to the bingo control sites hidden in the almost impenetrable forest. I bought the cheapo brand, but it will still be much better.
And everyone else was very happy with my purchase simply because they wouldn't have to listen to me whine about the bubble any more.
Jon bought a nice running top, and the kids got new small o-gear bags. Speaking of shopping, Switzerland is very very expensive for food shopping (and probably other things, but we're mostly looking at food). A modest supermarket shop costs us well over $200 dollars, and of course it doesn't help that the exchange rate is so bad at the moment. At least we won't get such a shock when we get to Norway next week!
As I write this we're having a thunderstorm, and earlier this afternoon we had our zillionth hailstorm of the summer. Tomorrow is the rest day, but the forecast is equally terrible. We have modest plans to visit a few indoor locations after a sleep-in and leisurely breakfast.
Tuesday, 6 August 2019
Phew that was a big day. We left the house at 8am and arrived home just after 7pm.
We started with the short drive down the valley to Chateau D'oex, then we took the train to Gstaad.
From there we waited 10 minutes for a shuttle bus which took us 30 minutes up a valley then wound up a hill (through a series of hairpin bends which queasy Paul loved!) right up to the bottom of a gondola.
From there we took to our feet and climbed a further 140m (vertically) over 1km up a goat track to reach the spectacular arena (the elderly and infirm were able to get a further shuttle bus)
By the middle of the day this lake was filled with orienteers cooling off (photo from SOW facebook page):
We weren't done with the climbing yet though. Jon, Paul and I had a 45 minute walk to the start including another 240 metres climb. This seemed like a lot but it wasn't close to Zali's task - a 75 minute walk to the start including 400 metres of climb. And even then she wasn't done as she still had another 150 metres of climb to cover on her race! She did really well today and finished happy after about an hour. The rest of us were ok, although Paul was a chump and took the wrong map, so after finding the first control of the M55 course, he returned to the start to swap it over. The views on the course were simply spectacular - in fact you'd pay good money just to do the walk to the start - it was incredible! Needless to say the courses were really hard work as the terrain was so steep.
This is the video of Day 2
Afterwards we walked back down to the gondola station and used our free passes to ride the two gondolas to the very top.
Far below we could see the arena and even the starts, including Zali's which was right on top of a very high ridge!
The very top (which I'm assuming was over 3000 metres) had a cool suspension bridge across to a lookout thingy:
The free ticket on the 'Glacier 3000' pair of gondolas was also so that we could visit the first ever orienteering course held on a glacier! To get there we had to take a chairlift from the top down a bit.
It was just a little maze-o, but it did have a twist - it was a match-race, with two people starting at once and each course mirrored in the symetrical labyrinth. It just took a few minutes but it was super fun skidding across the slushy snow. I think Jett pipped Zali, Jon thrashed me, and Paul had a triumphant victory over a 10 year old.
From there we made our way back up the chairlift, down the two gondolas, onto the shuttle bus (after a 25 minute wait), onto the train (after a 15 minute wait)..
then to the supermarket, then home - exhausted and hungry! I made delicious green thai curry for dinner then we had the only dessert which suited our amazing day in the Swiss countryside:
Monday, 5 August 2019
What a fun day we had today. We raced the only (unfortunately!) sprint race we'll have as part of this week, held at the event centre (and very expensive town) of Gstaad. For us this meant a drive down to Chateaux D'oex then the 24 minute train ride. The view from our local train station was pretty nice:
All the trains and other transport is free for us as participants, and the train that happened to come along was a ye-olde type of train, with wooden panelling on the inside and quaint little lamps on all the tables. We have about 5 stations between us and Gstaad, so along the way we picked up more and more orienteers which was fun.
The race was held all around the town - thankfully most of us started up high and worked our way downhill to the finish. I had an ok run - a bit messy but not too bad. Jon and Paul made a few decent sized mistakes, and the kids were pretty fine although Zali lost an expensive minute on one of the controls. Nevertheless we all really enjoyed it! They had to practically shut the town down to cars all day which was impressive, but we still had to dodge legitimate tourists in the streets. This is a the organisers video wrap up of the day
We got home by 2ish, so we had time to relax and play cards in the afternoon. Paul went out for a long walk, and I went out for a very short walk around our local streets. The weather in the last few days has been sensational.
I stopped to chat to some Swiss bird watchers who were standing quite near our house. They come from Geneva and own a nearby chalet so I mentioned that they were very lucky to live somewhere so beautiful. They said 'Oh - Tasmania is beautiful too!'. It's pretty impressive that so many people have heard of Tasmania. They also mentioned that they had noticed we 'made some laundry today' - I said yep, we'll probably be making it every day! They were amazed we were on holidays for 8 weeks. It is amazing and it's hard to imagine that we'll be home in just two weeks!
Sunday, 4 August 2019
So it turns out that Geneva Airport straddles the France - Switzerland border. In fact you can exit the airport into either country of your choice. So this morning we took our Swiss bus back to the airport, walked to the French side, put our gear in our French hire car (much cheaper to hire from the French side), walked back to Switzerland, met Paul, then walked back to our car which was still parked in France.
Note we had a sign ready in case we didn't recognise Paul or vice versa. We made it hastily from boarding passes in the hotel room, which turned out to be a genius move as we actually needed those boarding passes when we went from the Swiss to French side of the airport. Phew!
So while it wasn't as relaxing as the train would have been, the drive up here was pretty nice, all along the edge of the lake (where we stopped at a French supermarket and then for lunch).
We continued past zillions of vineyards, then finally up into the mountains which are the absolute cliche of Swiss countryside! After unpacking we checked out the nearest town so we knew where we had to get the train from in the morning.
Then we settled down in our chalet for dinner. This is the view from our house (below), and two old derros who seem to live nearby (bottom)