“In fairness,” chirps Dani a couple of metres ahead of me as we scramble through the thick Old Man’s Broom, “at least we’re not in that prickly Matagouri.”
We have named ourselves team Around The Clock, (team74) and we’re navigating our way across the gully to Checkpoint 71, via some thick scrub we’re hoping to skim around the side of.
Wind the clock forward an hour.
“In fairness,” I chirp, a couple of metres behind Dani as we scramble through the thick Matagouri bush, “at least this time we’re on track with where we want to go.” The compass assures us of it.
Oh the power of positivity.
Dani is a weapon on the navigation and with the compass, I’m in awe as she still manages to work out roughly what ridge we’re heading for.
Wind the clock forward to 2am.
“F*ck this,” we say in chorus, as we bash through a combination of the both elements of scrub, down by a stream we end up wading through.
Our legs are bleeding, we’re bundu bashing hard and even suffering the odd tumble down a steep bank. Incredible how you can be skimming along the top of a pile of branches, then within a split second you’re basically underground. Well under scrub.
Our Positive Cup is empty. It’s 3.30am.
We reach Bush Camp up by the access road. Soaked through (water goes up your sleeves when you’re swinging from branches in thick scrub), cold and shivering and bit fed up, and desperately needing something hot in our bellies. Our spirits lift as we’re greeted by the chirpy Search and Rescue guys and volunteers who are there to make life comfortable for just a few minutes.
Inside the hut is a war zone. Casualties are huddled by the fire and sleeping, their minds and bodies too hammered to continue.
The rule here is simple. “If you go inside by the fire, you’re declaring you’ve finished.”
Not the case with us. We still wanted to add a bit more discomfort to our adventure.
A quick change of clothes and about four hot drinks later, our discomfort subsides enough to head off once more. The rain has not subsided, the wind has picked up, and the need to keep moving to retain some core warmth is vital.
Welcome to the scene in the thick of the small hours at the NZ 24 hour Rogaining Championships in Hanmer Springs, North Canterbury.
The name of the event is grandiose. But simply put, Dani and I are there as part of a fun adventure weekend away with friends and collectively we think we are due a challenge.
The challenge is delivered in spades thanks to a southerly blast that shakes the muggy low pressure system out of the way just before midnight.
When we kick off at midday on Saturday things are great. We boost up a few peaks gaining well over 1000m in altitude pretty quickly, steadily punching our CPs we’ve marked on the map. The back blocks of Hanmer Springs are beautiful. Life was good.
At 8.30pm, on point with the weather forecast, the clouds started to spit at us. On goes an extra layer, the wet weather gears and the headlight, pocketing one more CP as darkness falls.
The birds start to chirp as we leave the relative haven of Bush Camp at 4.30am. Mentioning a sunrise is too generous, but the sky starts to lighten after a while. We’re mindful of nearby CPs, but also battling to stay awake. That battle is occasionally lost as we both start to sleepwalk as we hike down the access road. It’s quite funny and we laugh out loud as we both take turns at momentarily losing consciousness while our legs continue to operate. The SleepMonsters have fun with our minds too, I see police cars ahead while giant birds fly towards me. Complimentary hallucinogens hell yes.
The rain turns to sleet and the wind picks up more.
We opt for a technical trail for further CP seeking to get us off the exposed tops.
Before long, a couple of hours are chewed up. We punch in a couple more CPs, then high five and call it a day.
Even as we navigate the last hour home, we’re not out of the woods with battling the conditions and it’s important we keep moving as our body temperatures battle.
It’s 9.30am, and we arrive back at camp. Where it all began, 21.5 hours ago. We tag ourselves in.
Hot soup and bread and we are out of the elements.
Back at the house our friends slowly return home too from their adventures.
The place is a bomb site with wet clothes and muddy shoes and mushed up race food that never got eaten.
Slipping in and out of warm naps throughout the afternoon, we gather our thoughts in the early evening and head to the pub for some goodness.
Between the six of us we mow a couple of kilograms of steak and sink a few pints.
Life is good. We grin. We share stories.
Tomorrow is Monday and we’ll be heading back to the real world.
But for two days we escaped life, gave our minds and bodies a good auld shake up, and replenished our souls.