Monday, April 18, 2011


Over the weekend I went rogaining with some friends of mine. It was six hours of striding through the Australian bush... then trotting, then walking, then finally plodding, verging on staggering, all while trying to navigate by map and compass. I wore some old hiking boots that turned out to be less than appropriate for covering 17kms of rough terrain, and now I have so many blisters that it's like walking around on bubblewrap.

But at least I got out into nature. Wildflowers, birds singing in the trees, the babble of brooks...

Or not, as the case may be. It was 34C (94F) degrees. Despite the fact that it's mid-autumn, there was no water whatsoever, and the watercourses on our maps were dustbowls. There were no flowers at all. In the moments when my party stopped moving and talking, there was no birdsong or even insect chirping; just a dead, empty silence. I saw a single bird in six hours.

As I left in the evening there was something like a fine mist drifting through the trees, which looked wonderful and evocative until one remembered that it was actually dust thrown up by the cars. The sand is so powdery that it's more like a gas than a solid, hanging in the still air for minutes after it's been disturbed.

Still, for all the heat and dust and dry lifelessness, it was an interesting experience. Rogaining is part science and part art: being able to use a map and a compass and a timer, but also being able to read the landscape to tell where one is from the rocks and the foliage. All I have to do is get some shoes that don't turn my feet into water balloons. And maybe wait for spring.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like the activity which attracts helicoper searches from time to time.

9:25 AM  

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