Sunday 15 August 2021

My new 'Find It Checkpoint Challenge' event

I saw my cousin Roland a week ago when he passed through on his way to surf at J'Bay. Years ago in Jo'burg, Roland ran in a number of my Metrogaine - night-time, urban street orienteering - events. He naturally asked if I was organising any events here yet.

My answer was no, but that I think about course planning all the time! 

I've known about World Orienteering Day coming up in September for some months and I've had an activity in mind. Roland's enquiry was just the trigger I needed to make it happen. Every night this past week I've been working on the elements for the map and control locations - the dogs have been companionable location scouts. 

A big discovery came earlier in the week when I found the MapRun6 app, as recommended by the British. In fact, the concept of how the app works is nothing new. I recall Alec Avierinos' Nevarest app had the function - ahead of its time - of being able to use your mobile phone's GPS to pick up and log when you pass a control location. This was really quite revolutionary when Alec created it. At that time in my life I wasn't planning anything so I never really put it to work - although, we did load waterpoint locations one year for Forest Run (and, as I recall, it worked well).

MapRun6 is now a few years later and has been developed specifically for orienteering-style events with map overlays, KML and KMZ imports, and built-in scoring for line, score (rogaine) and scatter courses.

I started with a map that I'd already begun building a few months ago. I stitched captures from the Mapbox Satellite (with contours, 10m intervals) imagery from the Trailforks website, which I use all the time. I re-drew the tracks from Trailforks and added those not shown but that I know are totally traversable on foot and bike. The Mapbox imagery is, I think, not quite as recent as the Google Earth imagery, but it has contour lines, which is what I need.  George Municipality has 1m contour overlays on their aerial images, which is overkill. Mapbox is 10m. I'd like 5m, but 10m it will be. I didn't feel like re-drawing the contours and as I don't have the contour files, I'm using what is there.

It took me a while to figure out the map and course creation on MapRun6. It really is quite clever. I've created a map that only I can access for now. I used their 'CheckSites' function today to check that the app was working properly and that the locations I have planned are being detected. It is working very well. During this week I'll get admin access. I've been in contact with MapRun and I'll be the first content creator in South Africa. Yay!

My plan for the Find It event is that the course will be open for the duration of World Orienteering Day. This annual celebration used to be one day only but is now held over one week. The dates are 8 - 14 September 2021. 

I won't be in town between 8-13 September as I'm heading upcountry for a special friend's wedding, but this is an event that runs itself because people can access the course at any time using a downloaded map or the app.

I will put orange flags out on the course  to mark the control locations. Although this event can be run virtually using the app - with no location markers, I'm a bit old-school in that it is nice to actually find something out there, especially for those using the download-and-print map. In fact, it will be a win using a map but running the app at the same time to log your finds, tracks and results. I always worry that my flags will be taken so I'll put 'Event in Progress, please do not remove' tags, with relevant dates and links, on the flags.

This event is free and is open to anyone - on foot, bicycle or kayak. There are 8 controls on the dam that are only accessible by kayak. What I'm hoping is that the paddlers will use the marked exit sites to get off the water, collect some controls on land and then return to the water. 

There is quite a community in George to promote this event to - from trail running, mountain biking and paddling to similar groups on the Mossel Bay and Wilderness-Sedgefield-Knysna sides.

I've created a Find It Checkpoint Challenge (currently reads Find It Challenge, awaiting the name change) page on Facebook and a Find It Checkpoint Challenge event listing on Facebook. The tag is @finditcheckpointchallenge and the hashtag is #finditcheckpointchallenge. I'll start actively using these by the end of the week.

I've got a few elements to tie up over the next few nights - final print map layout, MapRun admin access, checkpoint testing and event instructions. Most of the really challenging tasks are done.

As for the name 'Find It'... I play a game with Rosy where I hide her ball while she patiently sits in the kitchen. I return to her and then tell her "Find it" and off she goes to find her ball. She loves this game and I thought it to be a fitting event name.

Sunday 8 August 2021

Paddling the Goukamma River

It is about time that I paddled the Goukamma River! 

I parked at Goukamma SANparks - great location - and paddled upstream from there. It is a good spot for an after-paddle picnic and there are ablution facilities for changing.

While the river lacks rapids, channels and islands, it does have meandering bends, pretty scenery and good birdlife.

Out on the water I saw many cormorants, darters plus Egyptian geese and ducks. I also saw a pied kingfisher and some or other birds of prey (at least three types). I always hope to see some of the brightly coloured kingfishers and I was treated on the return route when a half-collared kingfisher flashed his brilliant blue as he flew from one side of the river to the other - right in front of me.

For this scenic out-and-back route, I clocked around 16km.

Flat and still when I headed out. Had some headwind on the return but also protected in places.

Cormorant drying its wings in the sun.

Still and pretty.

End of the 'road' - as high up the Goukamma River as I could paddle.

Leftovers for breakfast on the water.

River Deck, near the N2, is a great spot on the water for brunch or lunch. There are a few accommodation locations and towards Buffelsbaai and the sea, there are options at Cape Nature to picnic, hike and overnight.

Lovely morning out. I'm glad that I got out to paddle this morning. Goukamma is about a 50min drive from George.

Friday 6 August 2021

Take a dog to work day

While the world discovers working-from-home, I've gone the other direction. For the past 20 years, I have primarily worked from home. Until six weeks ago

Our office space at the factory was recently completed and it includes an office for me. In mid-June I moved into my office. I'm there most days during the work day and it makes things a lot easier and more convenient that I'm based there. On days where I have work to crunch that needs my undivided attention for chunks of hours, I stay home. 

I'm adapting and while I don't quite have home-work separation because I often still work later at home too, it is nice to have a place that is not at home for files and work stuff.

What I do miss are the dogs.

Rusty and Rosy spend their days at home with my mom. This really is a big change for Rusty who was with me almost every day and out on almost every errand with me for 3.5 years. When I first moved down here, she did absolutely everything with me for two-and-a-half months. She loves doing things with me - and I with her.

Rosy is an exuberant personality. She thinks Rusty is just the best. But she can overshadow Rusty's more chilled temperament. Rusty has recently been not-quite-herself so I thought that I should do some only-Rusty activities with her.

Today, we spent the day together. We started with international courier sending at the shops in the morning. Then we went for my haircut, a 30-minute stop before hitting the factory. I'd packed in a cushion for Rusts, which I put on my office floor for her to lie on.

Shortly after we got there the rain came tumbling down. A bit later in the morning we darted in the rain from one building section to the other - that was exciting. We also walked through the factory, we met with a guy who came to fetch a compost tumbler, we packed some stuff for courier sending, we worked on our computer and saw people (lots of action with people coming and going). 

Then we darted home to pick up her dog school stuff and made it to school just in time. She was a star in class. 

Photo from Teacher Nics. The dogs have to stay while we disappear out of sight around the corner. Rusty is very good at this from coming to the shops with me. 

Back home, we had a usual chilled night. Rosy was beside herself with delight to have her Rusty back. 

It has been a good day. 

I've got some routes that I want to do which won't be for Rusty (she is not a youngster) but which Rosy will love, so I'll do some of that with Rosy. And then we've got their separate dog classes (they always have been separate but now on different days) and I'll do odd office days with Rusty. She doesn't really mind where she is as long as it is with me. 

Having Rusts with me today just made the whole day better.