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Monday, 14 July 2014

TWALK 2014

TWALK - the Canterbury Uni Tramping Club's annual 24 hour Rogaine. Back for another year. The weeks of speculation over the mystery location were finally put to rest as we watched the buses carry our team and 300 others into the Hakatere Basin in the great Rangitata valley.

All the teams came in flourishing costumes, including Cadbury Favourites, football referees, SWAT teams, and Star Wars characters. We put Tom Swan's territorials uniforms to use in our military formation of four: SEAL Team 6.

Saturday midday the great hooter sounded and we set off on Leg 1 out of 5 shooting into the lead, feeling the excitement and energy of the hundreds of rogainers behind us. Our enthusiasm was soon tempered by reality as we settled into a steady pace, knocking off the first 16 checkpoints in around 3 hours. The hash-house tasted good as always, fresh salad wraps filling us for Leg 2 and into the hills, where day turned to night. 

Fortunately our pace was sufficient to ensure we were off the steep gullies and hills by sundown, and onto the easier navigation of the swampy flats through the first hours of darkness. We turned to see a stream of headlights flailing around the hillside, quite aware of the added challenge that checkpoint searching in the night brings. We were glad this year the cryptic clues were reasonable to decode and quite cleverly led us to the controls.

The legs seemed seemed much quicker this year, by midnight we were finished with Leg 3 and flying into Leg 4 - the epic leg. As the winds of the early hours picked up, we ascended an unending ridge to summit Mt Barossa, and a long traverse of the ridge...

Now the sleep deprivation kicked in. The meagre visual stimulation of Christchurch's twinkling city lights in the distance and the faint headlamp beam lighting the way was not enough to support our heavy eyelids. Without committing ourselves fully to finding each clue, pulling every trick of navigation and cryptology out of the bag, we could end up searching aimlessly on blank hillsides with no reward... The added element of competition with some of the countries best rogainers provided the extra motivation needed to rise us from our slumber.

Patience and perseverence paid off. With each clue found, our spirits soared despite our lagging bodies. The ridge was incredibly exposed to the wind, and I copped the cold with only the thin nylon army shirts. But at the time, my body was numb to sensations. High on No-Doz through the night, I was wide-eyed focussed on finding each control, and nothing else really mattered.

Dawn came as we began a substantial descent back to the valley. Collecting the final clues, we staggered into the hash-house to an exciting morning scene of chaos and sleep-deprived souls. Thrilled, we realised our night's efforts had pushed us into a close 6th place.

After a breakfast of yoghurt and cereal (milk quantities were underestimated by a factor of 10), we set our bleary eyes on the task of Leg 5: we had two hours remaining to bag as many more points as possible. Emerging from the hash-house into the full brightness of day, we pushed aside the grogginess of the night to make every minute count. The thrill of the last remaining minutes returned us surprising bouts of energy as we desperately sprinted home to finish with barely ten minutes spare. 

As the final teams returned, some significantly late, the scores ended up being incredibly close with only 1 point between some of the top teams around us. Seal Team 6 was stoked to rock into 6th place and collapse after a mammoth all-night effort. The TWALK never fails to impress...

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