Geoquest Adventure Race 2019

Race report from Gen Nawrot

I made it!

It took almost 37 hours with no sleep and went for 162 kilometres but I finished!

More for myself than anything, I’ve written a race report for the 2019 Geoquest Adventure Race. If you are keen, read on!

It was very difficult to know how many clothes we would need, how much food we would use and which box we would need to put everything in to access at different parts of the race. Most teams in our section had support crews at most Transition Areas (TAs), people to make them food, transport their bikes and keep their spirits up. We were unsupported so had to wrangle lots of gear into 2 boxes and had to figure out where to buy/how to make waterproof bike boxes a few weeks out from the event.

It was a nice drive up north, leaving at 5:30 from Newcastle to get to the registration at about 1pm. The briefing was held at 3 where we got the rundown of the course, course notes and maps. Then it was full speed ahead for the rest of the night, sorting gear and planning our course and navigation choices. The weather report held rain for Saturday with skies clearing on Sunday. The coastal report told of 1.8m swells and advised coastal activities would be hazardous.

While initially allowing the Geohalf teams the opportunity to participate in Leg 1, a 20km ocean paddle, the race organisers decided to only allow the Full course teams the option. They realised that if all of us are crazy enough to participate in such an event, we would do everything it entails, even if that meant ocean kayaking in dangerous water with little sea kayaking experience. They realised that the life savers didn’t want to spend the entire time fishing teams out of the water so made Leg 1 a mandatory trek leg instead. We all breathed a sigh of relief and slept a little easier the night before the event.

At 5:30am we were up again to hand our bikes and gear boxes in and get ready for the 8am start. The we were off! Doing a mixture of running/ walking (mostly walking :P) we headed down the coast to TA1. The rain started down on us a little but generally we were in good spirits. The coastal tracks around the area are beautiful, with interesting rock formations and coastal vegetation. Unfortunately during this leg Amy started to feel pain in her hip which didn’t see to improve as we went along. We were never caring about which position in the race we were, so it didn’t bother us to enter TA1 as one of the last teams.

After assembling our bikes and refuelling we were off again, heading further down the coast first of all on wet, slushy dirt road. With everyone looking like they’d just had a mud bath we reached the river crossing where a small ferry awaited to take us across the river. Soon after that, a slide down a muddy embankment and we found our first check point! The we were off again on our bikes down a 4WD sand track, heading to Minnie Waters. Unfortunately for Amy, her hip was getting worse and it was painful to continue on the difficult to ride sandy roads. After a lot of painful deliberation she decided at TA2 that she would hitch a ride and meet us further down the line for the paddle, to avoid doing another long trek leg.

After slight difficulties at TA2 due to a missing bike box, Laura, Melody and I left TA2 after dark on Leg 3, another trek leg. It was starting to seem like endless walking as most was on beach, stretching out forever into the distance. We found CP3 and 4 with not much difficulty but really had to push ourselves on the walk down Wooli Beach. It was starting to take its toll on our mental stamina but we pushed through. The amazing feeling of turning the lights off and being all alone on the vast stretches of sand and the bioluminescence in the sand kept us on our feet and moving till we limped into TA3 at about 11:30pm.

Amy was brilliant, she’d set up our kayaks and had hot water on the go, just what we needed! After a dinner break we managed to get our kayaks down a very steep embankment and start Leg 4, a river paddle. This was a beautiful paddle in the dark, relatively uneventful save the fish jumping into our boat. CP5 was easy to find and we found the exit point on the river without much difficulty. Then it was an absolutely awful 400m portage of heavy plastic kayaks up to TA4.

We reached TA4 at about 3am and it took till 4:20 before we were restocked and the bikes were set up ready to go. Then we were off again, just Melody, Laura and I. The first section of Leg 5 was fine, muddy, sloshy and puddly but mostly rideable. The first really low point of the night was us struggling to locate CP6, at 5am and 21 hours into racing nothing seemed like it was in the right place. We struggled to figure it out for about half an hour, until I was ready to give up on it and just try to make it to somewhere where I could figure out where we were. Just when I was really worried, we practically fell on top of it and I was so relieved we weren’t lost I cried.

After feeling heaps better about CP6, we headed north to CP7. Little did we know that we were entering over 2kms of washed out, slippery clay, deeply rutted 4WD tracks that were impossible to ride and incredibly difficult to push the bikes up and down. For me, this was the real low point of the race, the inevitable thoughts of “why did I sign up for this” invading my mind. But there was no option but continue and continue we did, making it off that track just as daylight was approaching. We were all very much in struggle street at this time, it had been a very long night and we had hoped to be much closer to TA5 by now.

Still, there was nothing to do but plod along. And plodding it was, the coastal range road was constant gruelling ups, at least with many fun downs. We didn’t manage to find CP7 to our disappointment but at this time we were not the happiest of campers so we left it. The road continued up and down, up and down. At about 8am something amazing clicked in my brain. I suddenly felt fresh and awake, like I’d had a full nights rest and hadn’t already been racing for 24 hours. Nothing hurt and everything seemed great. I had been forcing myself to smile for the past 2 hours to try and get past the difficult patch, it must have just started my adrenaline off.

Laura and Melody were real troopers, they were hurting but continued on with grim determination. I was forever saying “just one more hill” and they didn’t grumble much when one hill turned into many.

It was well into the daylight hours when we were looking for CP8. After starting to look in the wrong place, I figured out my error and managed to find it fairly quickly. I also found a diamond python, thankfully asleep. I took a good look at him then took the long way round his sleeping spot.

To get us off the many ups and downs and get onto a very nice road, we dropped off the range and took the main forest road most of the way to TA5. It was so nice to ride and actually feel like we were going somewhere for a change. Unfortunately, the course organisers are sadists and TA5 was on top of the range road on top of the largest hill in the area. The ladies were going pretty strong but this last gigantic, steep, slippery hill was the last straw.

We made it to TA5 at about noon. We had been racing for 28 hours by this stage and it had been very tough going. Laura and Melody made the decision at this point that they would pull out of the race. Melody called the race organiser but to their dismay, due to the poor conditions of the road, they would have to proceed to TA6 as they had no way of getting them out from TA5.

Leg 6 was out of the question, the girls had no desire to go down the massive hill we had just climbed, only to have to come back up again later. It wasn’t a long leg, our route would have been about a 8-9km trek. So resigned, we skipped Leg 6 and headed out on Leg 7 to get to TA6.

Several kilometres out of TA5 we ran into another group, group 44, the “Blister Sisters”. They had been wandering around for several hours, getting geographically embarrassed while looking for CP9. This seemed to have taken the wind out of their sails, they were out of food and low on water. I led the way to CP9 and it was at this point they decided they would be calling it a day. They had a support crew who would come and give them a lift back to the start. Laura and Melody had been resigned to the bike back to TA6 but they made the hard decision to pull out at this point. They were wanting to finish but knew the going would be slow and I feel they made the decision more for me than anything. I felt guilty but I was not sure if I would be able to continue being so strong if the race kept going into the early hours of the next morning. There was one lady, Allie, from the Blister Sisters who was keen to continue so she and I paired up for the rest of the race.

Now we were team 42/44, not sure if we were the “Wonder Sisters”, “Wonder Blisters” or the “Blister Women”! We rode quickly out to the main road and made good time along the dirt and tar roads. We turned off on trail towards CP10, generally the going was good with a few hills that Allie powered up and I hiked the bike. CP 10 was easy to find and we headed off to CP 11. The organiser had warned at the start of the race that the last 5kms was shit, and sure he was right! We turned off onto a dune trail, deep rutted sand, overgrown vegetation, slipping and sliding around everywhere. Allie tackled it with confidence, I tackled it with fear and just mentally crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t stack it. CP 11 was not a hard find, then we were on the last few kms of the biking leg. We got to TA6 just before dark, changed and was on the water as quick as we could before we lost too much daylight.

We started off well but soon realised we were in low tide – there were sand banks everywhere! After navigating through and around them to get to the mouth of the river we thought we were going well – we should have looked at the compass more because we managed to get ourselves temporarily lost. We were 35 hours into the race by this time and both of us got into a dark place at this point. We struggled through though and managed to point ourselves in the right direction to get to CP12. We found the area just fine and knew we were in the exact right place however, someone had nicked the check point flag. After 30 minutes of fruitless searching we gave up and got back in the boat for the final leg. With only a few mishaps, slightly losing ourselves and needing to pull the kayak off the sandbanks, we were on the final stretch!

The big glowing finish arch was lit up on the beach and we made it to the end, just on 8:45pm Sunday night. While we were excited and proud, we were also very tired and cold, having just raced for almost 37 hours. After many quick hugs and congratulations my wonderful team mates bundled me into the car and took me home for a hot shower and dinner. I barely made it through my delicious laksa without falling asleep with my face in the bowl.

It was finished! I couldn’t have asked more from my team who kept going through loads of pain and sleep deprivation. They all did an amazing effort and despite not finishing, it is definitely something to be proud of. And thanks to Allie, her speed and confidence made me finish a lot faster than I could’ve without her. I was and still am quite amazed I could finish it! The total statistics recorded on my GPS watch was 162.01kms total distance, 1736m elevation gain and 1683 elevation loss. I am very glad I could finish it as I am already signed up for and paid for the next AR, Wildside AR Southern Highlands Edition. Only this time, we are signed up for the 36 hour event.
BRING IT ON!!!

Photo credits:
Some are mine, some are courtesy of the Geoquest photographers and the rest are from Amy Robinson.

More info about the race:
http://geoquest.com.au/
http://geoquest.com.au/race-results-and-reports

Aoraki: 2,300 steps and counting

We love this story from Kooee Kookaburra – Check out more of her tales of adventure at: https://kookaburra9.blogspot.com/

View of the majestic

Apparently Aoraki is often visited but not seen. High mountains are often like this, clouded, shrouded and mysterious. After finally convincing the Husband to leave his beloved Australia, there was no way we could miss seeing the highest mountain of New Zealand, even if it meant glimpses as the snow laden clouds drew apart for a second.

Camp Cooking

That night we slept only after we became acclimated to the rumblings of glacial melt reverberating off rocky cliffs. When we woke from our restful sleep  under the shadow of Mueller Glacier, we were greeted by Aoraki standing proudly in sunshine and blue sky.

Aoraki

Not content to view this omniscient mount from the relative comforts of camp, we decided to go higher to take a look, and more to the point, 2,200 steps higher.

When one lives many years in a small N.S.W rural village, one of the best things about doing-the-tourist-thing is the wonderful people you meet as you all congregate in unity sharing the warming experience of being awestruck at the grandeur of the world. Well walking up those stairs at my pace provided me with ample time to enjoy this diverse bunch of mountain viewers. Now as humans are typically hilarious with all their comings and goings, I had ample to chuckle about (mind you, this includes me!).

When faced with an overwhelming challenge, my dear husband and my year 10 art teacher (thanks Mrs. Jones) taught me to break it down, so 100 steps and then reflection time (well gasping and crying time mostly, interspersed with amusement).

So we started out, me counting my 100 steps, the others racing annoyingly ahead. Feeling a bit deflated that the hubby had got fitter, I determinedly plodded on. Then a slightly younger English couple came quickly up behind me, obviously wanting to get past me, I cramped aside at the next bigger step and nodded politely when they provided encouraging words of “you can do it”. This was extremely irksome as they had not even broken into a sweat and we were up to 150 steps already, and the lady’s lipstick was still as fresh as an English rose. They bunched their gym toned legs, leaped up the next 2 steps and said see you at the top! Deflated as ever, I took a humble pill and leaned on those walking sticks for the next 50 steps until rest time. By the time I had reached 450 steps, the English couple were well out of my head, I had moved on to much more interesting humans. However,  at this time, the English couple appeared around the cliff corner, walking very slowly back down. Hi I said, (too jovially I thought!) and tried to congratulate them on going all that way and back before I was even half way up. They said they hadn’t gone much further and realised it was just too far. Then I really looked, the poor lady’s lipstick was smudged, her hair messed, and sweat dripped unabashedly onto her designer hike tea-shirt. Yeah, I said it is 2, 200 steps, we are only at 450. They hobbled past, leaning on each other. I swung my walking sticks into gear and positively pranced up the next 3 steps.

The next interesting tourists were a gaggle of young European women (couldn’t place the language). They ponytailed past me with a plastic bag filled with chips and beer, a couple of small sleeping bags, and with smiling accented English informed me that they were camping at Muellers Hut tonight. I was gobsmacked and could only pray they survived. We all had a chuckle back at the camp that night when we saw them slink back into camp, ponytails between their legs. For those, like me that are unaware of Mueller’s Hut, all good, there are warning signs everywhere about what type of equipment needed to stay at the mountaineers refuge. And by the pictures on the interpretive signs, “mountaineer” doesn’t include climbing up a hill and taking selfies for Instagram in your best shorts, shirt and fashion mountaineering boots!

Back to those stairs and after the half-way celebration, my enthusiasm was slackening when I met an old Dutch man. He was using a slower (yes, true) pace than I and his doting son was with him chatting happily away. I was told later by the husband and daughter that they had made it to Mueller Hut, had lunch and were on their way back down! Now that is the type of support that gets you through hard times, well done Dutch son.

My beginning career as a free photographer started about 3/4 the way up the stairs with the first of many Asians asking me to take the photo that the 2 meter selfie pole mustn’t have been able to get. I loved the way that these young Asian couples were still immaculately dressed and hair in place. I didn’t love the over use of the camera, especially because it involved me and interfered with my important work of counting. They gestured very politely for me to move up and down the steps to get just the right angle. This left me trying to add and minus the stairs that I went up and down, and with my oxygen deprived brain, I was sure I made mistakes. This was vindicated when I arrived at the top having counted 2,300 steps!

A young Aussie family of Mum, Dad, and two sons rushed past at about the 7/8th point. Wow, they were keen! Dad had nearly EVERYTHING on his back, Mum had everything else and boys had energy. I could see they were determined that no children were going to stop them from adventuring! Hey they said as they buzzed past. About 15 minutes later, one of he sons comes running full pace down the stairs. What the… oh, as he wafted past I realised, a toilet or perhaps shower, maybe even a hose was needed and no amount of tissues was going to help. About 10 minutes later, subdued flushed parents and other son came along, head down, gritting their teeth.

Finally, I made the top and sat with the family having the most picturesque picnic ever imagined, interrupted only intermittently by my unpaid employment as Asian photographer. I mean seriously, why did they only ask me?

It was exhilarating so worth the effort.

Back at camp, just on dusk, we watched 2 young couples with supermarket plastic bags (the thick ones!) and 1 tent that you open the bag and toss it and it sets up. We wondered where they could put that up before dark on the never ending stairs? What made it OK was that the clothes that the women had on would impede their journey and they would be forced back to camp safety. This satisfied our anxiety enough to enjoy the spectacle. The women had hijab on and you could see tiny beautiful slip on be-sparkled shoes under the black. These alone would force them back, and not too long after our musings of “what are they thinking?!?” we saw them safely back in their hired 4 W Drive and heading to their motel. 

We ate to the sound of climate change.

References

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/canterbury/places/aoraki-mount-cook-national-park/things-to-do/tracks/blue-lakes-and-tasman-glacier-walks/

Going solo in Yuraygir National Park

A trip report from PJ’s 4 day solo hike in Yuraygir National Park

When: 1-4 November 2017

Where: Yuraygir National Park

What: Yamba to Red Rock Coastal Hike

Why: Needed a challenge to focus on

p[hoto1

Day 1 – Marra Creek to Red Cliffs campsite

18kms/4 hours

The National Parks guide recommends doing this walk North to South and I can understand why. The first day is pretty easy, the third day is hard.

This first day is mostly a dirt/sand track. Very peaceful,  easy to navigate and well sign-posted. It’s obvious where the track goes.

There is fresh water at the end of the day, but it’s an extra 2-3 km round trip. I just asked someone’s Nan and Pop in a camper if they could spare some, which they were happy to do.

Great spot for a swim and lots of kangaroos! You can have a fire there, but its BYO fire wood. I scavenged around the fireplaces for peoples left over bits and had some Firestarters with me.

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Day 2 – Red Cliffs to Illaroo

25 kms/6 hours

Mostly beach walking. Fairly compact, though it’s worth working with the tides, rather than against them.

I used an app ‘Map my ride’, which provided speed and distance at 5km intervals. On the beach I did about 3.5kms/hr in soft sand, and about 5kms/hr on hard packed sand. Knowing this helped me plan my water and food consumption.

I made sure I was up early, packed and walking by 6.15am. This made the most of the mild temperatures and meant my water lasted me the day.

When I did find opportunities to fill up my water, I made sure I took 10mins to drink as much as possible, often a litre, sometimes more.

The first water crossing is via a National Parks canoe, which was on the other side when I came through, but I asked around and a father gave me a lift in his two person kayak. You can’t walk across it as it’s too deep and fast.

Illaroo campsite is lovely and has a good beach. There is also a great general store at Minnie Waters, which is about 1km south of the campsite and does hot food, wet/dry goods, coffee and alcohol.

You can have a fire at this campsite and there is water 3 kms away, but you can also get it from the general store if you ask nicely.

Day 3 – Illaroo to Pebbly beach campsite

28 kms/8.5 hours

Beach walking- a lot of it. Especially Wolli beach, which I struck at high tide. It wasn’t fun but I found a rhythm and just kept going. I didn’t stop much on the beaches, because I found it hard to get started and sand gets everywhere when you put your pack down!

You need to book the water crossing at the end of Wooli beach. Information for this is on the websites provided below. The water crossing costs $10 per person and it’s the only way to get across, unless you happen to find someone with a private boat.

Then there is a 5 kilometre long ‘Rock Platform Crossing’. It is pretty challenging. The rocks are sharp and on awkward angles, which makes it strenuous. Look for the ‘goat track’ people have made up above the rocks. I used sections of this to make it easy, but it wasn’t a proper trail and you would want to carefully assess the risks. In a group, the rock platform would have been easier and less brutal I think.

There is a lovely beach at Station Creek. Nice for a swim and you can have a fire. No water there though, so make sure you take this into account or try to get some from another camping group. Plenty of people, families mostly when I was there and they were great. You MUST cross Station Creek at low tide. There are no formal arrangements for crossing it. But I got a lift by one of the fathers with a 4WD.

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Day 4 – Pebbly Beach to Red Rock

4kms/1 hour

As I did far more kilometres on day three, this day was just a stroll and a final water crossing. Again, you need to book the guy with the boat, but he was easy to deal with. At very low tide you could probably put your pack on your head and try to walk across, but there is a general store on the other side with great burgers… so you may not want to wait for low tide!

I got a mate to pick me up at Red Rock, but there is a bus service too. Check the timetable though because the buses aren’t that frequent. Alternatively you can camp at the Red Rock campground and have a hot shower.

The beaches in Red Rock are amazing and worth the effort.

phtoo5

Lessons learned

All the hard work for this trip was done in the preparation phase. You could do it without planning (meals, training, getting other peeps advice) but it would make things harder than necessary.

The trip restored my faith in people. There were several times when I needed some help, with water crossings or just extra water. I just approached people and they happily helped me. Maybe it was because I was a single female, but I think it was also that I was doing it solo and they appreciated the difficulty of it.

I looked up some blogs on solo hiking and there were a few gems.

Firstly when you encounter an unexpected challenge or something goes wrong-> STOP- Stop, Think, Observe, Plan. I used this several times to make decisions, when there was no one else to consult.

Also – one blog made a valid point, that you are not alone when doing a solo. You have your thoughts, memories and own company. This was a valuable piece of advice when I was doing hard sections on the soft sand or the rock platform crossing. I had some very funny moments and laughed out loud literally!

Equipment

  • 60 Litre pack
  • 2L Water (plus 1.5L emergency water)
  • cereal, long life milk, chocolate, high calorie CLIF bars, dehydrated meals, fruit, snacks
  • First aid kit
  • PLB
  • Tent
  • Klymit sleeping mat, summer weight sleeping bag +thermal liner
  • Jetboil
  • matches/fire starters
  • reading book
  • trip notes
  • iPhone with spare charging bank
  • sense of adventure and a positive attitude

Resources

Any questions – I would be happy to help. Comment below or get in touch via the Hunter Area Outdoor Women facebook group.

PJ Wanderlust

Always pack your headtorch

Here’s a tall tale from a couple of #haowomen who went chasing waterfalls along the Paterson River in the Barrington Tops:

dirtbaglawyer

I started drawing this “map” while I was bouncing around in the back of Johannes’ ute. The ute was zooming along Paterson Forest Road, towards Mount Allyn Lookout.

map

Johannes had heard reports of a spectacular waterfall and gorge on the Paterson River.  He wasn’t sure exactly where the gorge would be – so he hatched a plan to hike in somewhere above the gorge, then follow the river downstream until we found it.  We would abseil down the waterfall if we needed to. We’d take some happy snaps, then pop out of the river and hike back to our car.

Johannes knew it was going to be a big day.  He tried to warn me. But for some reason, I was convinced that we were going on pleasant little wander that would keep us entertained before lunch.  Alarm bells should have started ringing when he asked Jens and…

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