Event Reports and Stories

Barkley’s Australian Champs Adventure

2014 Australian Championships, 11th Oct 2014
Benita Sommerville, posted on 17th Nov 2014

I really enjoyed my trip to Victoria for the Fossicker’s Dream, 2014 Australian Championships on 11-12 October 2014. I joined Benita Sommerville and Matthew Hollingworth in their mixed team – so knew there was not going to be any running involved, but I might need to pack my orange sleeping bag for those chilly 10 minute sleeps in the middle of the night that Benita likes to do!

We pondered over the map long and hard – and finally decided it really didn’t matter where we were at night as it all looked about the same. We plotted a conservative route and got down to the start for the pre-event briefing. At the start I caught up with the many ACT friends at the event. They were all super-excited too (see all the photos in the ACTRA gallery!).

Then we were off! My teammate, Benita, made a tactical error in the first five minutes by rushing to get across a creek near the Hash House. She slipped and wet feet followed… she would come back to curse this mistake later. Another error followed as Benita and Matt chose to follow their nose to the first control and realised they were a little off course. Luckily the zap from the only electric fence we encountered on the course brought them to their senses and they were much more careful from then on. A rookie mistake!

The team did well through the first part of the event heading to the northern section of the course. We all carefully sipped our water as it seemed much hotter than the 24C temperature would indicate. We knew it would be a good 9-10 hours until we hit the water drop. We met up with Jean and Ron from the ACT who took our picture – but we soon parted ways as we took different routes to the next checkpoint. This part of the course was my favourite – some lovely ridgelines and trees and some tricky navigation which kept us on our toes. There were some steep hills though and we had to keep an eye on each other to make sure we were coping with the heat. While I nibbled on some gum leaves, Benita took out her mandarins to help stave off the thirst. A few strategic 2 minute stops helped us all get through the steepest section – but we were 45 minutes ahead of schedule so felt good!

We were keen to hit the waterdrop as we had timed our water consumption perfectly and took our last sip 500m away. However on our arrival we found it was dry! Four other teams were (im)patiently waiting for the water to be refilled – one team had been there 1.5 hours! Heavens! Lucky for us, the refill arrived after 5 minutes. We were so glad to be able to take a deep drink of water again rather than measly sips. It was at this waterdrop that Benita realised that her mistake in getting wet feet at the start was going to be a massive one – while she thought her feet were simply sore, she had blisters all under her toes. A bit of first aid tried to stem the damage, but oh she wished she had a dry pair of socks. She remembered Julie Quinn saying she always carried a spare pair with her!

Still – we all headed off into the darkness to do the midnight – dawn part of the event. The first bit went well and we nailed all the controls we went for as we carefully stayed on our bearings (the joy of no undergrowth!). We had a short 10 minute kip at the next waterdrop, but Benita found she needed one more after getting the next control as the track walking took its toll (the mind was not active enough to keep the eyes closing!). We dropped to the ground near the track and used our packs as pillows.

We then headed up a creek section when we were all nearly scared out of our wits with a loud animal noise! While Benita and Matt thought it was a feral pig, I knew better and realised it was one of my koala cousins saying hello. It was soon after that the wheels started to fall off. We had got our 90-pointer and feeling all cocky we headed up the creek to the 70-pointer but despite our pace counting could not fully locate our position. We spent too long fluffing around and finally decided to bail – changing our course to take a direct west bearing to hit the road and relocate. As we did, we hit a dam and realised we must have been within 100m of the 70-pointer all along. Oh the shame!

It was about here, daybreak, that Benita’s feet decided they were broken. The blisters had multiplied and a long bit of road walking was the final nail in the coffin. We decided to call it and head back the fastest route to the Hash House. Unfortunately this ‘fastest’ route involved the only thick-scrub checkpoint in the event but we eventually made it back, limping in at 10:15am.

While we knew we could have got more checkpoints, we had still walked over 60km, had a good time and saw some lovely country. The very yummy hash house food made up for our early finish and we really enjoyed talking to all the competitors at the end, as well as applauding our ACT colleagues who placed at the event. I can’t wait to go in the next Australian Champs this time next year in NSW!