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Wintry Winds Whisk Wanderers at NSW Champs

The weekend of September 10 and 11 gave us the last two events in the State League orienteering series, doubling as the NSW Championships. Both days were a couple of hours drive west of Sydney near Lithgow. On Saturday afternoon the Central Coast Orienteers gave us a top course on what is an amazing location for orienteering in the Ben Bullen State Forest. While the drive in proved adventurous for those of us in our low-slung city-favouring jalopies they were quite passable (albeit with a bit of careful weaving), and on arriving one could feel the excitement in the air! Only that morning had ABC 702 been talking about the sandstone pagodas in this state forest area and how they are unique in the world. Read on...

Having not been able to find any pictures on the Internet I was quite keen to see what all the fuss was about. With the start placed a good five minutes up the hill the first pagoda came in to view. "Your first control is on top of that" someone joked to me. Thing is, they weren't half wrong! The course had us jumping between the giant platforms like spring lambs. "Woo Hoo!" I yelled aloud as I bounced around! There were many steep sections and you had to plan well how you would navigate around and over the huge stone monuments. At times it was a little tricky to place yourself amoungst the mass of grey on the map! With a nice downhill sprint the course finished oh so soon and we were back at the event centre drinking soup and eating corn off the cob, thanks to the NSW Junior Squad.

After returning to our respective motels for a shower and a nanna nap, Bennelong Northside reconvened at the chinese restaurant in Wallarawang to further refuel and make game plans for the following day's tournament. After dinner it was time to embrace the cold. The nasty weatherman had warned us it may snow overnight in Rydal. Indeed it may have tried, but with those winds it would have never touched the ground. Terry and Cheryl were camping at the Rydal showground that night, as Terry was the controller for the event and needed to be up and out early. We wished them good fortune and they put on their deerskins and snow shoes and headed off into the hills while the rest of us dialed up the heaters in our cars and drove of to more modern accommodations.

On Sunday morning we were all glad to discover that Terry and Cheryl hadn't blown away in the previous night's winds. The NSW Long distance Championships were being hosted by Big Foot Orienteers on the Rydal Showground map (previously known as "The Place"). The venue put us right in the middle of the Great Dividing Range, and in the middle of a cold front. It certainly was a chilly walk over to the old cemetery where our courses would begin. We started in the south-west part of the map, being the highest (and windiest) point. The map was predominantly featureless; mostly white with a bunch of brown contour lines. Tracks built by mountain bikers squiggled around the bottom corner of the map, with the main feature being a valley and creek running north to south straight down the middle. Most navigation here had to be done using contours. With often over 500 metres between controls and being relatively new to bush-O I found this a little challenging. There wasn't too much opportunity to use rocks and termite mounds to correct directional error, but the excitement when you get it right makes it really worth it! Rydal Showground was a great facility for the event, with sheds to block the wind and rain, the old bar to function as the download station, and a big flat parking area. It also put us in Rydal for the daffodil festival, with hundreds of yellow flowers in every garden bed.

Being the NSW Championships event there were plenty of badges to hand out and Bennelong Northside got our fair share. Well done to every one on the team for such a stellar effort. Big thanks to all those who put the events together, including the clubs, cartographers, course setters, controllers, organisers, caterers and participants! What a great pair of events to finish the State League series on!

Saturday's results can be found here, and Sunday's here.  

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