Saturday, 9 December 2023
Almost every time I come to St Helens I go for a run at Winifred Curtis Reserve because it's just so pretty - see evidence below from another visit:
It's also delightfully flat, and if I run there on a Saturday morning I can buy a still warm loaf of sourdough bread from the local shop on the way home. So there are lots of reasons. I was thinking today that my Strava route around the area is actually bit misleading as it looks like I just run a loop:
when in actual fact, every time I come I spend at least 5 minutes just sitting here and taking it all in:
Coming up to St Helens by myself (and not in a hurry) allowed me to make a few stops at places I'd been wondering about for a while - the first of those was an old house we'd been driving past for years. There's something about the big sky and the graffiti that makes the house really beautiful even in its dilapidation (at least I think so). I'd love to photograph it during sunset or sunrise but for now this will have to do.
I also stopped at Four Mile Creek which I've been curious about for ages as we have never taken the 2km trip from the highway to visit. There was an amazing scandi house right after the turnoff complete with a Finnish flag and grass on its roof but it wasn't possible to get a photograph. Instead I managed to drive down the main drag and get a few shots from the end of the dead-end road. It is a nice little town - not too different from Falmouth.
I also stopped for a drink at a cafe called "me and mum's" which is normally closed when we drive past. It made me think about all the things I'd do with my mum, and opening a cafe would definitely not be on the list (and I think mum would be relieved to hear that). Anyway - it was nice to slow the trip down a little.
This is Bicheno:
and this is the main reason I am here - with the house booked out for the next month or so, it's the last chance for me to bring my beautiful bike home for summer.
Last weekend was the Christmas orienteering event. These events usually feature a novelty factor and I'd say the McComb family has had a heavy hand in organising the bulk of them for the much of the last decade. Through this time we've made participants (during race time) wrap a present, run through a maze, find a decorated christmas tree amongst sea of christmas trees, complete a bauble-and-spoon obstacle course, attempt to punch a control being dragged across the ground by naughty elves (you can guess who they were), and probably some other stuff that I've forgotten. So it was a miracle that Zali and I managed to come up with a new novelty event for this year - something we called - 'lay-the-table'.
Essentially participants had to recreate a Christmas place setting mid course before they were allowed to continue.
Due to the many colours and patterns that were featured in the original design it would have been hard enough but we added some extra difficultly by putting the original setting a good 30 metres away from the supplies and judging area and also having lots of dummy supplies the participants had to choose from:
My job was to stand at the original setting and explain the task, Zali's job was to judge the place settings. It was deeply amusing for both of us. Some (few <5) people managed to nail it first time, others required 5, 6 or more trips back to the sample to get it right. I'd say the median was about 3 trips back to check the original.
Thank fully everyone was pretty good natured about the task and seemed to enjoy it. When they got it right they had to pull a cracker with Zali (she must have done 70 that day) which contained the second half of their courses:
This feature had taken us hours to achieve the day before - we had to carefully open up and 'gut' cheapo Big W crackers, then insert our tightly rolled maps and gently re-seal them. It was a lot of work but a fun little thing that I think everyone enjoyed.
It's hard to believe that we got Jett from here (cute but unproductive):
to here (still cute and unproductive but able to run the Routeburn):
but we did and now he's finished school as well. When Zali finished her last exam I filled her room with balloons (going for festive yet irritating), so the challenge was to find something equally festive and irritating for Jett - and I think we managed it:
Zali did all the hard work hanging up the streamers and even though Jett arrived home from the exam at about 4pm, it took until almost midnight before he went into his room!
Sunday, 22 October 2023
One of the many joys of the big north facing windows of the St Helens house is the view over the garden that we've been working on since the house was finished. We've gone from this:
It's lovely. And it's not just the outcome, it's also the knowledge that this is the result of our hard work as well as the forced labour of many (most) of our friends and family - from planting to digging to watering to shovelling loads and loads of topsoil and mulch around.
We're having a constant battle with the the wallabies and the occasional deer - every time I decide a plant is mature enough to un-cage (they seem to mostly focus their attention on the supple new plants), they decide it's still delicious and nibble it down to the ground - they owe us $100s in nursery costs. The grasses seem to mostly have survived although there are a few they simply won't leave alone which is weird as to the naked eye they look exactly the same as the one beside it which is untouched.
Saturday, 21 October 2023
I've now decided that the long trip to St Helens is worth it as long as you get 1 full (non-working) day to enjoy being here.
As I don't work on Fridays my 'full' day was yesterday and it was lovely. The weather was great and despite having tired legs (I think I've still got fatigue hanging over from WA) I got out for a long jog-hike and some splashes in the water in the beautiful coves on both sides of Georges Bay - including a quick dip with Jon at the end of his working day which was lovely. We then settled down with pizza and the final episode of The White Lotus. It was just what I needed after our stressful trip up on Thursday night.
Today (Sunday) has started off a lot more gloomily (weather wise, not mood wise!) but we've both made it out for a nice run - Jon did parkrun while I ran in the reserve down at Scamander - then we went to town for a bit of a shop. We've done a few house chores and now we can relax and watch the rainy weather roll in.
Ideally St Helens would be around an hour closer to Hobart - close enough to get there in 2 hours, but not so close that it doesn't feel like we've gotten away from real life.
Jon and I try hard to avoid driving up here in the dark, but on Thursday the earliest I could get away from work was 6.15, so by the time we'd stopped for a pre-ordered kebab at Campbell town it was around 8.30 and quite dark as we turned off the A1 and onto the A4 which cuts through the Fingal valley and down to the coast. Moments after turning I was quite surprised to see someone waving us down from the middle of the road. I expected it to be some sort of emergency but it turned out it was just a hitchhiker called Sam who was desperate for a lift to St Helens. If it had just been me I would have just kept driving (once I realised it wasn't an emergency) as Sam seemed a bit dodgy but Jon reluctantly agreed and I didn't feel like we had a good enough reason not to take him - although I was extremely annoyed about his methods - he'd was just returning to St Helens after visiting mates in Launceston - it was not an emergency and definitely not cool to be waving people down on the road at night.
So we set off again with Sam in the back (and with me still a bit rattled and annoyed) and then almost immediately we hit a wallaby. In different (calmer) circumstances I might have been able to avoid it but I couldn't do any more than jam on the brakes and we still gave it a hefty thunk which was awful. If I was rattled before I was doubly rattled afterwards and spent the final hour of our journey being completely on edge and wishing we were there already. Thankfully the rest of the trip was uneventful and we dropped Sam off in St Helens and returned to our house to finally unwind from the trip.
It took half a day before I noticed that we'd really damaged the front and side of the car (poor wallaby). The light is smashed up and 2 panels in addition to the bumper bar and grill thingy are damaged. Sigh.
The long distance champs were quite a drive from our place at Alkimos, and with the early starts it meant a pretty early departure. We weren't complaining though - any attempt to avoid the heat was appreciated! We were all in the back end of our start blocks so the event was in full swing when we got there - most people were heading off to the start after having sheltered from the sun in the light bush canopy while they got ready:
Without doubt the absolute best part of my own race was crossing the finish line at the end - I had such a sense of relief that it was done as I'd spent time in the previous days fretting about what was to come and wondering how I'd cope in the heat. My course was only around 6k and took me just under an hour - I'm not sure how Jett survived his 10+ km course - it's very impressive. The bush was quite scratchy as it was filled with xanthorrhoea plants and other bristly bushes but it was quite pretty and there were lots of flowers around the forest as well. I only made some very small mistakes in the occasionally vague terrain which I was happy about so I was 2nd overall which was the best I could have hoped for given the quality of the competition that day - in fact I wasn't even sure I'd make the podium so I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Zali won her class by being her usual steady self, Jon was pipped by 7 seconds for 1st place and Jett had a respectable run, surviving the heat and the hills. This photo of the finish area gives some indication of how hot it felt - no-one wanted to occupy that space out in the sun!:
The next best thing about my day (after finishing), was having an icecream van at the venue - a rare treat for orienteering events as normally the most we can hope for is a coffee van. I reckon the operators had a good day although it could be argued that with that sort of weather they could have parked in supermarket car park and done an equally lively trade!
On the way home from the event we stopped at the lake that was definitely too cold to swim at the previous weekend and immersed ourselves for as long as it took to reduce our body temperature - it was lovely.
Back at our apartment we had time to swim in the sea before dinner then watch the sun set over the ocean which was pretty nice.
The next morning we were up early to pack up and I squeezed in one last ocean dip before we set sail south to Perth and the final event - the Aus Sprint Champs. I love a sprint event and this one was great - it had complex route choices, a bit of a stair challenge and a general fun vibe. I lost 30-45 seconds in the last few controls but managed a win anyway as I'd had a good first half and my closest competitor (with whom I was 1 second ahead of 2/3 of the way through) made an even bigger mistake on the 2nd last control. So I guess I was a bit lucky to get away with a win but I'll take it! Zali and Jett were both running in the elite classes and did fine while Jon was bumped off the podium by just a few seconds.
As all the competitors gathered together on the manicured private school oval for the final presentation ceremony the extensive and powerful sprinkler system suddenly came on and sprayed people, bags and the tech gear. The speed at which people raced to protect themselves and their stuff probably rivalled that of the race they'd just run. Some people heroically grabbed or stood on some of the outlets to hold the spray in one direction while others just saved themselves. Eventually the rest of the presentations were held under cover to the slightly soggy recipients.
After all that excitement we said a sad goodbye to Francesca our fantastic Italian orienteering coach who had been in Tasmania for almost a year and was flying from Perth straight back to Italy. Zali and I returned our hire car then rode the last few kms to the airport on the schools trip mini bus which had space for some extra passengers. Flying home with Jon and Jett finally gave me a chance to catch up on their news as we rarely crossed paths during the week as they were totally immersed in the schools team world. Jon had a fun time as well and felt it was a great way to finish off his 6 year dynasty of being the part of schools team.
And that was the end of our week. It was lovely to get away after a few stressful work weeks preceding the trip and I'm really happy with most of my runs and how the rest of the family went.
Friday, 6 October 2023
Thursday was the schools relay day - always the loudest and the most colourful of the schools events.
Whilst many of the state teams were beaten by the NZ teams, the Tasmanians did pretty well against the other states and Jett's team was 3rd state overall which was great for his final year.
After all the excitement Zali and I went out to run our final race of the 3-day just as it was getting really hot - so it was a bit of a struggle but still fun. Then we drove to our final accommodation place - a weird half dune-construction, half holiday villa suburb about 30 minutes north of Perth - possibly a bit like Dubai! I booked it as it looked like a complete change from all our other places - and I'm pretty happy with it so far! Despite being the cheapest per night its by far the most spacious and only 300 metres from the beach.
Ali and I started the last rest day with a dip in the ocean then breakfast outside which was lovely. Then (while Zali still slept) we drove about 15 minutes to a nearby national park where the Tasmanian team were busy doing a tree top adventure. After catching up with them all for a bit we checked out the Koala enclosure then drove to the Yanchep Lagoon - a place recommended by the person at the park entry gates - that tip was worth the $15 entry fee alone as it turned out to be really lovely:
If we get a chance I'd like to go back there - it was by far the most busy place on the coast (everywhere else seems weirdly quiet - even the national park). We had a quick dip then headed back to see how Zali was doing. She was up so I was able to drag her down to the beach where we spent a lovely few hours in the water then lying on the grass in the sun (That's Zali in the water in the photo below).
Tomorrow is going to be really hot (37) so I am already looking forward to the swim in the sea when we get home from the Long Distance Champs. The start times have already been brought forward by an hour but it's still going to be 30 degrees when we start so I'm not really looking forward to it!
Today is most likely Friday. Only a few days since my last post but it seems like we've been lots of places and done lots of things!
Tuesday was the start of the Schools Champs and a more casual 3 days of competition for the non schools people like myself and Zali. It kicked off with a sprint race at a nice college in Perth with a super fun campus. Jett was 8th Australian in the senior boys competition with about that many NZers in front of him as well - they've sent 2 strong teams over here and they always raise the standard and the atmosphere. Zali and I did the same course so I started 2 mins behind her with the intention of catching her before the finish but due to a succession of less than optimal route choices, she easily beat me home although not overall. It was fun.
After that, and because we didn't want to pay expensive CBD parking rates again when we could park for free if we returned to the city after 6pm, we went for a drive down to Rockingham - specifically Point Peron which looking interesting on the map. It turned out to be really interesting in real life too with some cool limestone rock features and pretty beaches:
Zali is actually looking at the Omeo Shipwreck here, just south of Perth.
There was an old battery out on the point but the biggest military surprise for us was that the area is adjacent to a massive Navy base called HMAS Stirling on a nearby island connected by a huge bridge. The bridge was filled with constant stream of Navy traffic coming and going - it was quite a surprise that there was something that big - apparently over 3000 people work there.
After a nice walk around all the trails and up to the lookout we headed back to Perth and killed our last half an hour back in Kings Park before driving back into the CBD to park in the clearway-until-6pm right outside our hotel. It's been fun staying in the city but the parking was a bit arduous.
On Wednesday we were up relatively early as we had a 1hr 45 minute drive out to the area for the Schools long distance champs. The parking was on an old airstrip and the terrain was sometimes nice and open, and other times thick and full of spiders in spider webs which freaked out the school kids a lot!
Jett was a bit disappointed in his run and his GPS tracking confirmed he made a few mistakes - he was 10th overall though which is testament to his strength in the forest and the hills.
Zali and I went out close to each other again and we crossed paths a few times but then she came across a de-pouched joey which upset her as there was really nothing she could do to help. While she was dealing with this I was on my hands and knees searching for my si-stick which was catapulted off my finger as I went through a bush. This is the 2nd time it has happened and because of the elastic it tends to have some velocity when it is caught like that. I eventually found it and continued on where I bumped into Zali who had skipped some controls to wait for me. We met up on a beautiful flowery ridge which was lovely but not for Zali who was still very sad about the joey which was so young it didn't have fur so unfortunately would have been unviable for anyone to save. We can only hope the mum came back once the forest had quietened down. Zali decided not to continue the course so I went ahead.
After the event we headed to the little town of Pingelly - one of the few places I could get accommodation for just one night. The event the next day was in the same location so I didn't want to do 4 long drives in two days. I'd been dubious about this accommodation for a while but it turned out to be okaaaay in a don't look too hard at the details way. We were the only people staying and many of the other units were completely stripped for renovations which seemed to have been going on for while:
We ate dinner in the pub down the road which was pretty busy for a Wednesday night.
Wednesday, 4 October 2023
It's Wednesday today (I think) and we're halfway through our trip to WA for the Australian Orienteering Champs. The competitions are actually being held all over the place, with a couple of events in Perth, then others up to 2 hours driving in various easterly directions. When I finally decided to go I thought I might be doing all the driving for myself and Zali, so I've booked a range of accommodation aimed at minimising the driving time - while a lot of other people have just settled in one spot for the whole week. As it turns out I can share the driving as our friend Ali is with us too.
After arriving in the afternoon of what seemed like an endless day (that started at 4.30am), we drove out to a town called Northam which was close to the first couple of events. The accomodation was in the car park out the back of a grand old hotel by the river. It was ok. I don't need to spend any more time in Northam though, as after doing the top 5 things in the trip adviser guides, we ran out of ideas. I'm sure we would have loved it more if we were into ballooning or doing the Avon paddling classic, two things the area is famous for.
my door was the red one on the left
views from the lookout over town
The orienteering areas were fantastic though - it's always nice to be able to just run unencumbered by bracken and bushes pulling at your legs. It was very bouldery openish terrain and I had a really good run in the Aus Middle Champs, making only one 45sec mistake and managing to win by 30 seconds after pushing myself pretty hard to keep going as fast as I could. That was very satisfying and I'm not sure I'll repeat that glory again this week! Zali unfortunately mispunched and Jett made a few mistakes but Jon also had a good run and won his class.
The next day was the relays and while I didn't run anywhere nearly as cleanly as the day before, our team finished in a good 4th place. Jett definitely didn't have his best run and his team just missed out on third, while Jon's team lead most of the day before faltering to third place in the end. The stand out was Zali's W20E team which was third despite Zali never doing any training and one of her team mates being a bit injured.
After the relays we drove back to Perth city to our accommodation for the next 3 nights which is in a cbd hotel which has been a change of pace! Perth city seems pretty nice and of course Kings park is just sensational up on the hill nearby. On the rest day Ali and I went for an early morning run up there and the flowers were amazing:
We spent the rest of the day actually resting and checking out the nearby shops and doing some admin work.
Saturday, 16 September 2023
We had always planned to come to St Helens on Thursday as we had a few small jobs to do before our next Airbnb guests arrive but even on Wednesday I was still finding it hard to imagine having the energy to drive there after work on Thursday.
After um-ing and ah-ing we finally decided to go and I'm glad we did. I didn't have to work on Friday so the day of relaxing and pottering around in such a nice place did wonders for my recovery. Today I did a lovely run then went for a walk while Jon did some technical training that I decided I didn't need.
Tomorrow it's an early start as we head back to Hobart in time to go orienteering then do the one zillion chores waiting for us at home.
Back at the Easter 3-day competition we received a flyer for the 2023 NSW Orienteering Championships. We wouldn't normally consider attending a standalone state champs (other than our own) but the photos of the pagoda terrain looked so amazing we couldn't resist booking flights.
Paul also felt it was unmissable so he tagged along with our plans which included Thursday evening flights into Sydney and a fairly horrible 6.30am flight out on the Monday morning.
Just a few weeks after booking we received invitations to Shirley-Annes 60th birthday party in Sydney. With the event a good 3.5 hours drive from the lunch party it looked like it was going to be do-able for Jon if he left our accommodation near Kandos first thing on Sunday. I decided I'd stay and run the 2nd day and then find a lift back with the kids so we could arrive in time for the afterparty on Sunday night. On paper it was already looking fairly complicated, then to add to the degree of difficulty our best car rental option by a long way was a fancy BYD Atto 3. Which was electric. Which meant charging stops - as even with a 460km range, it wasn't going to get us into the event and back to Sydney.
Everything went to plan pretty much, we stayed Thursday night at Tracy and Paul's place while Paul L stayed with Andy, then we drove out to Kandos the next day via IKEA and 2 charging stops at Lawson and then at Lithgow. We were lucky there was a free charging point each time we stopped. The Simpson-Troedson's, us and Paul stayed in an Airbnb which was only a few minutes to the event centre each day which was good, as on Sunday Jon left at 7 to make it home for the party, leaving Andy to shuttle us all to the event after we packed up. Jon had to go early as he had to factor in another charge as the car was only 1/2 charged when he left, due to our other complication - the Airbnb being off grid so we couldn't drain the house power charging our e-cars!
After the event on Sunday (we all did pretty well both days) Zali, Jett and I squeezed in with Tracy and Paul who very very kindly drove us all the way to the CBD (and their car was a petrol car so we didn't have to charge on the way home which helped - Andy sent us a message saying there were 8 cars in the queue at one of their stops!) . We arrived back in the city dirty and sweaty at about 6pm and we went straight to the afterparty venue which was a bar right on the water and very cool.
We were there until about 9pm catching up with many of the McComb family and lots of Tim and Shirley-Anne's friends who we had last caught up with at her 50th! It was really fun but we were all really exhausted so it was a relief to pick up the car from the Opera House car park where Jon had left it and drive out to our airport hotel at around 9. Of course the complications didn't stop there as I had to drop everyone off at the hotel and then drive to the international terminal to return the car (as the domestic car rental area is out of action at the moment). It was so late that there were no shuttles running back to the domestic terminal so after walking a few lengths of the terminal I discovered my only option was to jump onto the train which actually was pretty easy, but as the night got later and later everything felt harder and harder! By the time I'd arrived back at domestic then walked the15 minutes to our hotel I was pretty smashed and only lasted as long as a shower in our room which wasn't much bigger than a cabin on the Spirit of Tasmania.
The next morning we were up at 5am so we could roll our luggage the 15 minutes back to the terminal and check in - thankfully the flight was on time and after dropping Jon off at work on our way through town I was at my desk at home by about 9.30.
That night I was so exhausted I went to bed at 8 and didn't wake up until 7 - unheard of for me. I loved the orienteering and the party was great but it was almost as complicated as the campervan, train, ferry, water-taxi island trip we did in Sweden back in 2019 which still makes me tired just thinking about it - so it left me pretty drained all week.
I had 4 days in Melbourne the week before last. It felt pretty exhausting but part of that was because I then flew north to join the family for the NSW Champs (more on that).
I like working from the studio, and it's a nice treat to get uber eats every night, but I don't really love the running opportunities as I'm generally surrounded by at lot of traffic lights and pavements. Nevertheless I try to run a couple of times each visit and I can usually make it down for a short stretch along the waterfront:
The after hours highlight of this trip was going to watch the recording of Hard Quiz one night. It's been a long time since we used to go to watch Good News Week at Gore Hill, but not much has changed. I was lucky enough to get a behind the scenes tour of the control room afterwards as one of the workers also works for the studio.
Sunday, 3 September 2023
We've had some beautiful weather recently.