Wednesday 3 January 2024

Big 5 O Week: Day 5

 The last day of the Big 5 O Week (  and Big 5 O Week on FB)  took place in my home town of George. With this event being in my back yard, event director Nicholas Mulder asked if I would be the controller for the event.

Every event has a course planner and a controller, where the controller is there to cast an eye over the courses, give it a second look and suggest any improvements, if needed. As this was a sprint event with World Ranking, we also had Paul Wimberley as the WRE advisor.

Being in such esteemed company, there was not much that I had to do in an official 'controller' capacity as both Nic and Paul are leagues ahead of be in course planning experience.

What I did assist with was organising marshals for the road crossing and to keep an eye on the control flags in the public section of park, and also putting out the control flags and timing blocks with Paul.

As soon as we were done with Day 4's event, Paul and I headed back to George. We started putting out the controls in the Botanical Gardens, which is a safe, fenced property with no chance of our flags going walkies overnight. For the public accessible areas in the forest and park, we put out only the metal stakes. We did this between 5pm and 7pm and unless you know where to look and know what you are looking for, the stakes are not very visible. With 68 controls out there for this event, it takes time to get them all in.

We were up at the crack of dawn on the morning of Day 5 to get the flags and timing blocks out. We were done with this by 7am. Paul then did a quick run through the Botanical Gardens to check that everything was still in place. 

My friends who volunteered to marshal were absolute gems. Etienne arrived early and he was tasked with keeping an eye on the flags at the bottom of the park, which would be the most at risk between the time of being put out and the first runners coming through. Johann stood at a washout section that would be more difficult for the older participants to cross. Zelda, Talita and my mom Liz were at the road crossing, stopping cars to let the participants run across without losing time. The participants so appreciated all of them and were very complimentary. Thank you friends.

The weather was overcast with low cloud the whole day so the participants did not get to see the beauty of George with the mountains keeping an eye on the event area.

This is what Paul and I saw on Tuesday afternoon while putting out controls in the Garden Route Botanical Gardens. There was not a mountain or forest to be seen on Wednesday.

As soon as the last runners were through, we started picking up control flags in the park. With help from Etienne and Michelle, we quickly cleared the park and made it to the finish in the middle of prize giving.

I was delighted to hear that I won the age category that I competed in - W35. We got together for a photo.

Stephanie (left, 3rd) was one of the organisers, putting a huge amount of work into the social functions, trophies, prizes and a host of important elements. Jacori (right, 2nd) from Cape Town beat me on Day 3 with a cleaner run. I was only just ahead of her on Day 4. 

This has been a wonderful week. Exciting news is that SA Champs is down this way in late September, using these new maps. This will be more Plett side, using the Day 1, 2 and 4 maps. It would be well worth going through to the Western Cape Champs in Cape Town - this is probably in late April or there abouts.

Now that we have a superb map in George and excellent maps nearby - plus a number of orienteers now living in the surrounding area - between The Crags, Plett and George, it is about time that I got organised to run some navigation training sessions and then a local event or two. We have an old Saasveld map that I can update and a few fabulous schools that would make for good venues. 

Three cheers for more orienteering in 2024. I am very, very thankful that Big 5 O came down here this year. The next one will be end of 2025 in the Cradle of Mankind area on the highveld.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Big 5 O Week: Day 4

Day 4 at Big 5 O was a decent, clean run for me. Listed as 6.6km as-the-crow-flies with 180m of elevation, I ran 9.5km with 199m of climb. 

After Day 3's mess with Control 1, I took it steady and focused to the first control, not wanting to mess up. This now only wastes time but also messes with your confidence if you don't hit the first control correctly. I had a good one to Control 1. Big sigh of relief.

I could have run or moved faster on sections, and there were parts where I could have taken the tracks a little more - but I straight-lined to challenge myself. But with the exception of my rout from 8 to 9, I was pretty happy overall with my choices and progress. 

This was a map-flip course. When I got to Control 14, I turned over my map for the next part of the course. 

Strava route in red with what I think I did in pink. It is a fun 'game' to try to remember afterwards exactly where I went, past which features, for each leg of the course.

This was my last participation event - four of the five. For the 5th, I'm controller and will assist with putting out controls. 

It has been amazing to be doing orienteering events after so much time away and also to see the people in the orienteering family. I am friends with many on Facebook but haven't seen a good number for many years. It has been wonderful to be with them again.

Monday 1 January 2024

Books I read in 2023

The number of books that I read this year seems awfully low, but there we have it. As always, there are a good number that I start and don't finish. I've been through a phase of these this past month - maybe four that I started, attempted to read for a few nights or even a week, and then discarded.

These are the books that held my attention.

From five of these six, I remember that Loop was about wolves and cruel people (and good people) and V2 was about the V2 rockets. The other three were entertaining fiction reads. The absolute stand-out book was 'Rise of the Rocket Girls', which I listened to as an audiobook. This was superbly researched and written about the women, the first computers, who did that math that got missiles and rockets up and men on the moon. I think there is a film adaptation. Highly, highly recommended.

A fine collection of books here. De Ruyter's 'Truth to Power' is terrifying and astounding - about the electricity and political issues that De Ruyter faces head on during his three years at Eskom.

'Burchell's African Odyssey: Revealing the Return Journey' by Roger Stewart and Marion Whitehead is magnificent. I started it in about October last year and finished it when I was away for a few days in July. I've had an interest in Burchell since I first learned about him from Kevin Davie, a touring mountain biker who spoke at one of my FEAT events. Kevin cycled Burchell's outward journey from Cape Town and into the Northern Cape. Burchell wrote about and documented this journey - and the specimens of plants, animals, reptiles and birds that he collected on the way. But he didn't publish anything about his return journey, which Stewart and Whitehead have pieced together. Burchell travelled along the Garden Route on his way back to Cape Town, stopping in George to make camp where the Botanical Gardens is located. There is a bust of Burchell and his sketch of the mountains, as viewed from his camp, in the Gardens.

I attended a Zoom talk by Roger Stewart, hosted by Kirstenbosch Gardens, about the writing of this book, collecting documents and photographs and drawings, and piecing together Burchell's return journey. The pictures in the book are as fantastic as the content.

'Swell' by Liz Clarke I listened to and thoroughly enjoyed her sailing adventures. The book covers about five years that she spent sailing from when she first set off. The book covers the people that joined her, the places they sailed to, the people she met, the calamities and challenges of living on a yacht, the ocean and environment, and everything in between. Very, very interesting.

I selected an audiobook 'Teasing secrets from the dead' by pathologist Emily Craig, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I've had an interest in pathology for more than two decades. Craig studied and worked under another pathologist whose books I have. This was an excellent and interesting listen.

Then, Ryan Blumenthal was a guest speaker at an Exploration Society (ESSA) talk. I attend these talks on Zoom on the first Tuesday of every month. A friend there got me Ryan's books and sent them down. Very interesting. I really m a nosey parker at hospitals (I like to know what has gone wrong with people medically) and if people die, I'm just as interested in the how. This was a good triple whammy of pathology.

I read the first four books when I was in the Seychelles in November. I hadn't read a Stephen King for ages (I've been a fan since my teens) so that was delicious holiday reading. 'My perfect daughter' was earlier in the year - enjoyable fiction (I can't remember what it was about.

'The History of Scientific Medicine Revealed through Biography' by Sherwin Nuland was superb. This was a free audiobook and it was a superb listen. Interesting, captivating and fascinating. It took me about two months on and off to complete it. A journey well taken.

These two excellent books wrapped up my year. I interrupted the listening of 'A most remarkable creature' to listen to Dan Ariely's 'Misbelief'. I first encountered Ariely maybe 15 years ago through the TED Talks that he presented. He is a behavioural economist and is totally captivating. Because of Dan, I did an online course in Behavioural Economics through an Australian universitya number of years ago (it was brilliant!). I've read two of his other books and I enjoy catching his posts.

'Misbelief' is interesting and eye-opening. Ariely artfully pieced together the puzzle that is misbelief. We can all think back to covid and the surprising beliefs that popped up from people we've known for years and years; and we questioned how they can suddenly believe the untruths they believe and propogate. Ariely goes into all of this, dealing with misbelief and conspiracy theories. Brilliant, brilliant and brilliant.

For me, the only flaw with the audiobook is that Ariely did not narrate it himself. The narrator is excellent but because I know Ariely's voice and accent and intonation, that is what I was expecting an missing. 

'A most remarkable creature' by Jonathan Meiburg (and also narrated by him - superbly!) is about a bird of prey from South America called the caracara. When I saw this book on a 2-for-1 sale list from Audible, I leapt at it. I've seen a Southern Crested Caracara with my own two eyes - back in 2016 when I was in Chile.

My photo from 2016 from the Puerto Varas area of a Crested caracara

Back then, I wrote this "Not far up the road we encountered this bird of prey. He was strutting up and down next to the road. We watched him, took photos and then drove off. He was totally unconcerned. What a great sighting to get such a good look at him. Mane identified him as a Southern Crested Caracara, known as 'Carancho' or called 'Trado' in Argentina. Caracara plancus is his scientific name."

This bird so captured my attention and I've thought of it often. The audiobook is an interesting 10 hours of tales, adventures and discoveries about these intelligent and curious birds, the places where the different species reside and their behaviour. The book is also about history, geography, people, palentology, human interactions and nature. 

This book is beautifully written, superbly narrated by the author and has been captivating; a fine book to round off 2023.