Tuesday, 4 February 2020
The last day of the Sprint the Bay competition started with a lot of packing up. In a house full of knick knacks it's hard to tell if you've left something (or someone) behind. But we managed to get everything loaded into the van by 8 so we were up at the event centre on Te Mata Peak by 8.15. All my start times have been very early, which has been good as it's meant I've mostly been able to get photos of everyone else.
Te Mata Peak features the map called Sleeping Giant - which is the shape of the ridge when seen from a distance - it's a pretty good resemblance actually!
The final hill climb leg on the course that counted was the finish chute which wound it's way up the hill on a concrete path. The organisers gave us chalk to write messages of support on the ground like in the Tour De France. Most of the messages were positive like 'Go VIC' or 'Keep Going!' but I did notice that a few were vaguely threatening such as 'Emma - You'd better still be running!'
While we were there we also got lunch.
Zali's crash (see later) cost her some time but otherwise we all had good runs although Julia sacrificed some time to make sure of an overall series victory in the hill climb. Jett and Riley finished within seconds of each other - they've both had ups and downs through the series but also some really good battles between themselves! At 14 they are both the youngest competitors in their class which goes up to 18year olds so they've done really well. Julia and Zali have had some results to show that they can mix it with the faster runners in their class too.
Aside from the heat, today was a day of injuries. In the morning Riley fell and smashed his hip against some wood and he had to walk the rest of the course. He's got some good bruises from that. In the afternoon Zali failed to clear a lowish chain fence (which even I managed to jump over), and she crashed onto the gravel, scoring lots of grazes and a few bruises. And in the most ridiculous injury of all, during the afternoon race Jett went to wipe some sweat off the bridge of his nose but he forgot that his thumb compass was attached to his hand. The pointy part of his compass went right up his nose and he instantly gave himself a bleeding nose. I saw him run into the finish chute with a bloody face and I though that he'd hit a pole, or a person, or maybe even a car on his run around the village of Havelock North. The truth was far more hilarious!
We still had a 4 hour drive to get back to Hamilton for the night, so as soon as the presentations were over we headed off, stopping in lovely Taupo for dominoes pizza on the way. We arrived in our dodgy motel at about 9pm which wasn't too bad.
Saturday, 1 February 2020
The morning's race was standard campus fare - nice and flat and lots of turns as we navigated through buildings and around gardens. Jon and I won our classes again, although Zali beat me so I was keen for the revenge in the afternoon. Everyone else had solid runs.
Back at the House of Knick-Knack (this is just a small selection)...some is this stuff is sort of explicable, the feather covered foam balls are not.
Anyway we had a relaxed lunch at home..
and we set up our own knick-knack displays:
then further relaxing before forcing ourselves to go and admire the art deco buildings in the Napier Town Centre - about a 20 minute drive away.
The buildings were nice, but we were all pretty exhausted so we didn't spend too long walking around in the heat before heading home to gather ourselves before the evening event.
The evening event was at a golf course - so we couldn't start until the golfers finished at 6pm. It was head to head racing, which meant you started at the same time as the person closest to you on the overall result list. I was out to beat Zali's time, so I raced off and promptly lost 90 seconds on the second control - forcing me to chase down my start buddy. It took me 11 controls to regain the lead but then I managed to put 2 minutes into her by the finish so I was happy about that. I wasn't happy that both Zali and Julia whipped my butt on the same course though!
Riley finished well up the order despite having to correct some controls he ran in a funny direction. Unfortunately Jett missed out a control so he is out of the overall standings! Zali had a fast run and finished at exactly the same time as her starting buddy who was ahead of her in the overall standings. And most excitingly, Julia has taken the lead in the polka dot jersey - meaning that she has won the most hill climb legs on her course! Hopefully she can hold on to that tomorrow. Jon and I are still leading the overall standings in our classes.
Afterwards we had fish and chips in a park and were home by 9.
We have a big day tomorrow with packing up then two races followed by a 4 hour drive to Hamilton.
Friday, 31 January 2020
We're back in the orienteering groove again with the first two events of the Sprint the Bay done and dusted. I'm pleased to say that no-one mispunched today which is great.
We had a mass start for each age class in the morning. Jett and Riley ran hard in a tightly packed bunch for the entire race with Riley finishing 5th - only 7 seconds down in a large and fast field. Jett was just another 13 seconds back. Julie and Zali also had good runs but were a little further off the pace. Jon finished 2nd and I was first.
There's a little video of the morning event here
The mass start for the junior boys and girls class.
I've moved down to W40 for this event as the W50 courses looked too short, but the competition isn't quite as strong at this event and I had two pretty easy wins today. The upside is that I am now running the same course as Jon and the girls, so I can compare times and splits to them.
It was a hot day today. So in between races we went to Splash Planet which is a big water park.
Aside from the slides it also had lots of shady spots as well as mini golf, bumper cars and other fun things. It was a nice afternoon!
The afternoon race had normal starts and it was quite a tough sprint race with a fair bit of rough and hilly farmland to get through as well as a school campus. Jon got a good win, Riley made a few small mistakes while Jett was more consistent and wasn't far off the leaders. Julia and Zali both ran well but both lost some time on various controls.
It was even hotter by the time we finished so they were handing out icypoles to all the finishers.
As usual we didn't get home until quite late and weren't eating dinner until 9pm! Tomorrow is likely to be the same as our second race doesn't start until after 6pm.
Thursday, 30 January 2020
We started the day bay packing up our little house in Taupo. It's been a nice place to stay and quite the opposite style of the house we are in tonight (more on that later).
Once we left our first port of call was McDonalds as it had an actual retired plane attached to it which looked pretty cool.
Actually the kids went and checked it out while Jon and I went to get him some coffee.
Then we went to a souvineer shop where I failed to prevent Jett and Jon buying some NZ themed 'comfort' socks..
Next stop was the Craters of the Moon geo thermal park - which was a bit like what we saw yesterday only a bit less spectacular and a fraction of the cost.
Then we went to a spa pool place - De Brett's Thermal Spa. It was ok, but only 1/2 as good as the one we went to in Hamner Springs a few years ago. It was a nice way to soak our still sore muscles while the kids did waterslides as well.
Next stop was the supermarket for lunch supplies followed by Aratika Rapids. The attraction of Aratika Rapids is that the dam above it releases water every two-ish hours so you get to watch a fairly benign steam become a raging torrent in a matter of minutes. I took the before photo on the left but the after photo on the right is from the website because my phone went flat at the critical moment!
After that we ate our picnic lunch in the carpark then jumped into the van for the 2 hour drive over to Hawkes Bay. This was uneventful but nice easy driving (particularly compared to some other roads we've been on so far) - and it was interesting to see the sheep filled hillsides give way to vineyards and orchards as we got closer to the east coast.
We're now at our AirBNB here in Havelock North - just south of Napier. Zali and I found it really hard to find anywhere to stay this weekend as there is a Michael Buble concert on - so we were lucky to get this place even though it's not really our style - it's filled to the brim with arty nic nacs so that we're all in fear of breaking something or spilling something or even just mistaking something decorative for something useful and accidentally using it. Nevertheless it's a lovely place and it's got an excellent deck that I'm sure we'll get to use over the next few days.
Before dinner we walked down the the registration to pay our entry fees and check out the local village. It's very quaint and we'll be racing through it on Sunday.
Wednesday, 29 January 2020
Rotorua was on the agenda for today's rest (ha ha) day. After a cooked breakfast thanks to Jon we set off on the hour's drive just after nine with the Luge on the top of our to do list. It seems that many of the NZ schools are back, so the Luge was the quietest we have seen it, which is a good thing too as we all bought 7 rides which would have taken a while to get through on a busy day!
(one idiot in this photo doesn't know where the camera is!)
After our rides we did a quick-ish stop at the supermarket then headed to the Redwoods Forest for a picnic lunch and a shortish (4k) walk. We reminisced about the last time we were here for orienteering in 2017 when we had to crash through the ferns thick forest and pop out of bracken onto tracks in front of unsuspecting and shocked tourists!
By the time we'd finished walking it was around 3, and for a moment we feared that we were going to be too late to get into the Thermal Wonderland place - Wai-O-Tapu but luckily it was operating on a summer schedule so we were fine. It's actually the first time we've visited a commercial place with craters and mud pools - previously we have just gone to the free ones around the parks and in nearby forest. Not surprisingly these were much easier to get a good look into and it was all very impressive.
By the time we left it was almost 6pm so it was time to hit the road again for our journey back to Taupo. After about 7ks of walking all up it wasn't a rest day but it was certainly a fun day out!
Tuesday, 28 January 2020
When we arrived back at the house at 12:15 the kids were finishing off lunch. I had expected them to still be in pyjamas so I was impressed with their activity and general vertical-ness.
Shortly afterwards we left for our first tourist activity which was a 90 minute cruise around the lake taking in some Maori rock carvings and a fishing 'demonstration'. The cruise was only 1/2 full so we had plenty of room to spread out and relax on the boat which was great for those of us with tired legs!
The carvings were cool. They would have been more cool if they had been more historic, and less 'done-in-the-70s-with-scaffolding' but hey, who are we to judge!
After the carvings we moved on to the 'fishing demonstration' part of the tour. Taupo is renown for trout fishing but NZ has outlawed all commercial trout fishing - so only licenced people can catch fish. The licenced person on the boat dropped two lines in and a few minutes later (and despite the fact that Jon and I normally jinx any sort of fishing activity), both lines had fish on them! One of the other guests pulled in one of lines, and I pulled in the other, revealing a large angry rainbow trout who I elected to return back to the lake once we'd taken the photo. The other fish wasn't quite so lucky and will be served up to tomorrow's guests on the cruise.
Back on shore (note it was pretty warm in Taupo today, unlike where we were in the morning), we drove to the Spa Thermal Park and found a great spot to go for a swim in the Waikato River where a thermal creek was entering the river, bringing with it delightfully hot water! It was pretty awesome.
After a while I foolishly half suggested, half insisted that we walk the 3km trail down the river to check out the Huka falls which claims to be one of the most visited natural attractions in New Zealand. I dare say most of the visitors are driving to the adjacent car park, and not schlepping 6ks up and down the dusty riverside trail with desperately tired legs!
The falls were nice enough - not what I expected - they were more horizontal than vertical, but still nothing you'd want to ride in a barrel.
We walked back down to the swimming spot and rewarded ourselves with another swim. By this time Jon and I had walked at least 27ks, so the warm water was really lovely.
Then it was home via the supermarket for BBQ stuff. Dinner was delicous and ample -the perfect end to the day.
We don't have quite such firm plans for tomorrow but I can guarantee that nothing we do will involve getting up at 4.30am!
Today definitely feels like it's been two days crammed into one, so I'm breaking it into two parts.
Jon and I started very early. Both my camera and my eyes were blurry when I took this photo.
We had to drive 1 hour from Taupo to get to the end of the Tongariro Crossing hike by 6am. We left the van there and took the shuttle to the start of the track. Then we got going at almost exactly 7am.
Now I must backtrack a little and say that barren volcanic landscapes aren't really my thing, but as this 20km hike is raved about by everyone we know who has done it, as well as the entire internet and the NZ government itself, we thought it would be fun to take this opportunity and see what all the fuss was about.
I must also say that since we have been in NZ this time around, we haven't had a single day that has gone as the weather forecast has suggested it should go. We've had rain on days forecast to be dry. 30 degrees on days forecast not to go above 23, and today we started with low cloud instead of clear skies.
After a farewell from the shuttle bus driver (and a reminder that we we're going to have good weather) we started jogging up the largely flat valley, past hundreds of people who managed to get up even earlier that we did. In fact I'd say we were moving at an average of twice the pace of walkers and we didn't pass our last one until 5kms from the end - unless they'd been walking all night they must have started at 5am.
We got a good 4kms of easy running before the trail started to head upwards, and the rain started to come downwards. We didn't run any uphills on this hike but we were still moving up to the pass pretty quickly compared to most of the other walkers who were freezing their butts off either in inappropriate clothing or just because they were moving so slowly. The wind was trying to blow us off the trail and we stopped to put on our rain jackets, beanies and gloves. Being Tasmanian (and also forewarned), we were prepared for adverse conditions.
The wind only increased the higher we got and by the time we made it to the highest point there was nothing to be seen (but wet hikers). Not quite the views we'd been promised! We slid our way down from the peak and to on to one of the major photo stops along the way - Emerald Lakes. The other famous ones - Red Crater & Blue Lake - were completely obscured by the cloud.
Thankfully we were mostly protected from the wind after the top so although it was still wet, it was much more pleasant hiking and running. It was a shame not to see the views until we were much lower down.
With about 5 k to go we descended into nice trees and other vegetation - there was even a waterfall! I really enjoyed that bit!
We made it back down to the car by 11 - so we took just under 4 hours all up. It was a fun adventure despite the crappy weather. We had a quick lunch by the side of the road (since we had breakfast at 4.45am we were getting hungry), then headed back to Taupo and the kids.
Monday, 27 January 2020
Today the racing was just 5 minutes from our house, so we had time to sleep in a little before packing everything up and returning the keys. It was quite a nice place to stay but it had a tiny kitchen which made cooking for 6 quite a challenge with next to no benchspace!
The relay today was a two leg format - Jon and I were running together in our class while Julia & Jett and Zali & Riley were competing in the MW16s class. Jett and Riley were not looking forward to the mass start but they both said afterwards that it was fun - it certainly looked fun as they all came steaming around in a fast moving pack! They were both within sight of the leader at the finish after a hectic 25 controls including some loops and many many twists and turns! Riley sent Zali out in third place with Julia heading out just behind her.
I went out a few minutes later in about 3rd place on my course after Jon came back about a minute behind our course leader. I probably had my messiest run of the weekend but I was still able to get to the front and finish there. Along the way I almost cleaned up both Julia and Zali in seperate running-around-blind-corner incidents! Luckily they managed to avoid me.
Zali and Julia both ran the 2nd leg really well, getting first and second fastest times on that leg. This meant Zali was able to get to the lead, and Julia brought her team in third! It was a great effort and I was so pleased that none of us mis-punched as heaps and heaps of people did due to the excitement, the huge number of controls and the complex course. Yay us!
The other bit of excitement today was this...
Yes - it's Jon and his luggage! We picked it up from the Airport on the way out of New Plymouth after the event - if we hadn't got it then I doubt whether it would have been able to catch us in Taupo as it took 4 days to get to us in New Plymouth! It's great he's got all his stuff back but it does mean he won't be as instantly ready to go places as he has been!
After that we drove pretty much straight through to Taupo. I had originally entertained thoughts of going via Mt Taranaki and doing a few short hikes there but the prospect of arriving really late in Taupo scared me off in the end - it would have added an extra 2 hours to our 3.5 hour drive. We did stop for lunch but I have to say it was at a spot which would have fitted right in on our European Trip - i.e. not that nice!
Arriving at our nice house in Taupo was good. We rested and relaxed before hitting the supermarket for dinner supplies. Well Jon and I did, the others continued with their resting and relaxing!
The rest must have revived them all as as I write this they are all outside in the park across the road playing on the play equipment! And I know they aren't just sitting their looking at their phones as none of them have any coverage or data. Amazing!
Tomorrow they'll get to sleep in as Jon and I are leaving at 5am to do the Tongariro Crossing which will be good fun. We will be back to bother them with other tourist activities at lunchtime.
Sunday, 26 January 2020
Today we were based at the Taranaki Race Track for the day. We had a race around 10am, and another about 2pm so we spent the middle time relaxing and playing cards in the shady grand stand.
Both races were through the adjacent Pukekura Park which has a network of tiny tracks and trails and cute little lakes and bridges. I thought both races were really fun and quite different from the normal campus sprints we're used to in Australia.
I had two good enough races to clean sweep the series which was nice. Riley hit the front in his morning race only to immediately lose his lead with a big mistake on the very next control which was disappointing but he made up for it with a really strong race in the afternoon. Jett had two consistent runs to put himself firmly into third over all. Zali moved up the field to be within 10 seconds of third, but couldn't quite grab that in the last race, and Julia continued to have some really good splits but is just a little behind Zali overall. Jon was much better than yesterday and dragged himself up the ladder to finish 3rd overall. It was pretty impressive that all of us managed to finish all the races without mispunching or skipping any controls - well done us!
Mt Taranaki in the background on both my prize and in real life.
After the races we went home via the waterfront to check out a sculpture park.
Then we feasted on mexican prepared by Zali and Julia.
Once it got dark we headed back to Pukekura Park to check out the festival of lights that happened to be on..
It was pretty cool but what was also amazing is how I missed all of these giant light installations as I raced through the park twice earlier in the day! I guess because they were mostly up in the air or otherwise not on the map I just couldn't see them when I was focussed on track junctions and bends and finding controls!
Tomorrow we have one last race here - a relay, then we head to Taupo for 3 nights.
Saturday, 25 January 2020
The Lonely Mountain Sprint event is named after Mt Taranaki which we can see out our dining room window.
Today was the first day of the series. We had two races, one at 9ish, then another one at 4ish. In the middle the elites were carrying on with their knockout sprints which meant they had up to 4 races each.
I thought both events were really fun. The morning was a park & school campus, the afternoon was around an old cemetery and then into a school campus again. I had two pretty good runs so I'm sitting on top of the leader board in my class - I just need to hold on tomorrow (easier said than done). Everyone else had some dumb moments which cost them some time although everyone except Jon was significantly better in the afternoon - Jon still doesn't have his luggage and he had to deal with the pain of sweat pouring into his eyes due to not wearing his contact lenses (they are in his bag) which may or may not have contributed to some particularly dumb mistakes he made in the afternoon.
After 2 races there are only 8 seconds separating Riley and Jett - Riley was 8 seconds faster in the first race then they dead heated the second.
Julia and Zali are less close but I think they both have a chance to get third overall if they can be fast and consistent tomorrow.
and as for Jon - while he is enjoying living a simple life - one uncomplicated by possessions or even changes of clothes - it is starting to affect his performances. Today he had to run with an old SI stick so he was the only one not able to use air-punching which is significantly slower after 25 controls especially when the organisers put the finish punch 5 metres further than the finish line everyone else just had to cross. And of course he had to run with glasses rather than contact lenses which is not his preferred option!
Jon in his bought gear + old shoes.
After our 2nd race we settled down to watch the final of the elite race. By now they were whittled down to 6 in each class and we could watch the tracking on the screen as well as live as they ran in and out of view. It was very entertaining. In the first race the clear favourite (Lizzy Ingham) took an early lead only to have it all come asunder as she got to the 2nd control and realised she couldn't punch as she hadn't cleared her SI stick before the race. oops. In the mens race the clear favourite and leader by a fair chunk blew it all at one of the last controls as he made an inexplicable mistake - allowing 3 runners to come flying by him and have a pretty exciting finish.
Back at home Riley and Jett made dinner (rice paper rolls) and we had Zali and Julia's cake for dessert. Tomorrow the roles will be reversed so we're looking forward to the girls 'mexican and whatever the boys come up with for dessert.
I'm hoping we get a chance to do a few more touristy things tomorrow as our races will be over a bit earlier in the day. I spied a sculpture park on our way to the event today, and there is talk of a light festival somewhere nearby.
I'm writing this now as we listen to the JJJ hottest one hundred while everyone else plays bananagrams.
Friday, 24 January 2020
Today we woke to steady and completely un-forecast rain. We decided it would be good to skip our first activity, the Adventure Forest - except we couldn't as we booked and paid for it the night before! As it turned out, the rain had eased by the time we arrived so it was fine.
At this point it's worth noting that our schedule today was:
We were the first customers to the Adventure Forest when it opened at 10, so we were quickly shown the ropes (heh heh) and set off to negotiate the 8 high ropes courses. As usual it was good fun - I like the challenges of swinging around logs and walking along wires - all while attached safely with a harness high off the ground!
Time flew by and before we knew it it was after 12:30 and we hadn't left yet. We realised we weren't going to get to do the final course (which was fine by me as I was getting a bit weary!) so once Jon and Julie descended we headed back to the car, then to a supermarket to get lunch and dinner supplies.
We ate lunch in a random gazebo by a random lake in a suburb outside of Hamilton. By then it was almost 30 degrees - so we were glad of the shade.
By the time we finished lunch it was around 2pm, and we really hadn't made much of a dent in our 350km journey southwards, so we set off with a new resolve to eat up some miles, only to stop about half an hour later when it dawned on us that if we didn't buy Jon some new clothes now, he'd be running in what he was wearing the next day. So after confirming with our insurance that he had a $250 allowance, we diverted to Rebel Sports where he bought some shorts, socks, undies, 2 shirts and some sunscreen. K-Mart would probably have been a better option but we couldn't find one and we were still entertaining thoughts of maybe getting some running shoes - but they didn't really fit the budget.
By the time we left (it took aaages!) it was really getting on in the day! Determined to REALLY make some progress we immediately stopped at Mitre Ten to buy a cheap Chulli Bin (eski) as we had already noticed our stuff was getting a bit warm in the van! Armed with the bin, some ice, and some bottles of L & P, we were finally ready to go.
And go we did. When we finally left suburbia the coastline and country side looked really cool and authentically NZ-ish with steep hillsides and unrecognisable vegetation. We drove a fair chunk of the way but an hour away from New Plymouth I spied some cool looking rock features called the Three Sisters which we simply had to stop and explore.
They turned out to be a 15 minute walk away, and we could only do it at low tide, which due to our extremely delayed schedule it actually was! - yay us!
By the time we'd finished checking them out, it was really really late. I contacted our AirBNB host for the zillionth time with a new ETA (there goes my good review) and we eventually arrived in New Plymouth at 8.45pm! Needless to say we had well and truly missed registration and the model event. We can sort it all out tomorrow though.
Our AirBNB place is nice and comfortable for us all - we've got three nights here which will be nice. We've got a lovely view of Mt Tarenaki which I'm sure we'll get closer to in our time here.
Thursday, 23 January 2020
Ok - I'm the first to admit that we don't really deserve another fun trip as we only just came back from OS - but hey here we are!
We're here for 2 weekends of sprint orienteering with some fun activities jammed into the middle days. This time there are six of us - the four McCombs plus friends Julia and Riley - which is great as after 8 solid weeks of Europe as a little family unit it's nice to mix up our group. As I write this I can hear them all playing cards together upstairs.
The flights over were uneventful. Sort of. We only just made the Auckland flight from Sydney and Jon's luggage didn't make it at all so he's just working out how he can buy some Nike Vaporflys with his delayed luggage allowance although I suspect a compass and e-stick might be more of a priority if his bag doesn't turn up soon - in fact his bag will need to chase us down as tomorrow we head 4 hours south of Auckland.