Thursday, June 30, 2016

Day 4 Long distance, Roman empires, late night swims and a trek across the country.

Starts were a bit earlier today (10am), so we had to get going a bit earlier and pack up our bags before we left. Jan Erik was a bit too keen and woke up at 6:30 to the bemusement of his tent mate- Tim.

He then preceded to go for a jog/walk to the store to buy some fresh bread and jam, only to find out that it only opened at 8am, so ended up arriving back empty handed.

Tim and Michael were off 1st with Anton a few min later and Jan Erik a couple hours later. Roark wasn't feeling great, so he decided to sit this one out.

Tim had an okayish run, just having a shocker 1st control and losing 6min on that as well as 3min on #8.

After the race we chilled at the event centre for a bit looking for Coni who would take us through to Zug (near Zurich). This turned out to be a bit more difficult than it would be in SA with over 1000 people at the event.

We eventually found each other and a short while later were on our way to Zug. Halfway into the drive we stopped to do a bit of sightseeing at an old Roman amphitheatre and took a look at the castle. This was the perfect opportunity to snap a few pano's while learning a bit about the Roman empire's many provinces. We then hopped back on the road and soon found ourselves at Coni and Stephan's apartment just in time for the footy.

After the German's crushed the Slovakian's and we created a similar fate for the mid-game snacks we moved over to the table for dinner. We were then treated to Raclette which is a Swiss specialty where you melt your own cheese to smother the potatoes, pickles, pineapple and veg.

We then whipped out a choc-chip cake that we had bought in St Cergue to go with the ice cream Coni had, which made for a pretty awesome dessert.

Andrea (their daughter) had the brilliant idea of going for a swim in the lake so we all jumped onto bikes and took a leisurely ride down. Roark found his playful side while Tim and Michael experimented with filming on the go.

At the lake we took a couple pano's and had a lekkkkker swim while watching the sun slowly set behind the snowy peaks. Not only was the water incredible but the pink sky was gorgeous too.

We then hopped back on the bikes and followed the canal back to our new home, all the time videoing our ride. We even managed to find a cool little bicycle ramp along the way.

After that we were left alone to exploit the WiFi and post our first blog as our hosts went to bed. A couple of hours later we sunk into a deep, oh so gloriously soft sleep which was much appreciated after 3 nights camping without a mattress.

Quote of the day:

Michael talking about the soccer ref: "he's one hunk of a man"

Moment of the day: Jan Erik trying to cuddle with Tim thinking he was someone else (a certain Swiss meisie)

Roark falling of his bike.

Illegal activities of the day:

Not getting off our bikes to cross the pedestrian crossing. 3*R500

Not signalling when making turns on the bikes. 3*R500

Potential Fines: about R3000

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Day 3 Middle

Woke up in the early hours of the morning to the pitter patter of rain on the tent and had a short moment of panic that we were going to get soaked, but luckily the tent held out and a few more hours of sleep were attained.

Got to registration ages before our starts and took a bit of time trying to communicate with non-english speaking si card hander-outers (luckily we had Anton and Michael on hand to translate)

We also managed to find a couple other jwocers (U.S., Australian, French and New Zealand and ex-Swiss).

We wasted as much time as we could before jumping on the busses to the start.

Tim, Anton and Michael ran the H20 (M20) (4.9 km) course whilst Roark and Robbie (a Canadian) ran a slightly shorter (4.6km) open course as they hadn't pre-registered.

Whilst Tim and Roark both could have had good runs, their many clean controls were offset by a few horrendous ones. Looking back at the races it irritating to see how close we were most of the time.

It rained most of the race and continued for a couple of hours after so the wait for the bus after the finish was quite cold. Tim decided the wait was to much and ran the few kilometers it was back to the competition centre.

After showering at the competition centre, Jan Erik, Michael and Roark trudged through the rain to the shops to get supplies that would last us until we left.

We then all walked to the train station to catch a very short train ride to our campsite. We sprinted the last 50m thinking we were about to miss the train but it turned out to be the train going in the opposite direction.

Back at the campsite we were to scared to investigate our tents in fear that they were soaked through so we decided to use the communal area to dig into some lunch. While we ate the rain cleared so after lunch we headed out to play boule's. Once again Anton was on form but the game never really got anywhere as the rain soon hit again. We all piled inside and soon Roark was playing chess and Tim started writing the first day of our blog.

The rain soon stopped so we headed back outside to play boule's and kept on playing sporadically between WiFi, soccer watching (unfortunately Switzerland lost..) cooking, dinner and when it finally got too dark to play, we moved inside to play some cards (cheat), which eventually ended somewhere near midnight.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Day 2. Frenching it up

We woke up bright and early (9:30am) and discovered that Michael (who had arrived the evening before), had gone to the shops to buy fresh bread+jam+yogurts, so breakfast was quite an improvement on the previous night's dinner.

After a lazy morning, we finally got going and headed out to another middle distance training in a nearby forest. Once again it was about 4km to the start, so none of us were particularly keen on running hard. We instead decided to break the course into about 3/4 controls per section and met up after each section, alternating between running  sections slowly and then at race pace)

Walking back Tim bravely decided to walk through a herd of cows but soon abandoned that idea when they slowly started surrounding him. We then decided to run back to the campsite to reduce time on the legs. Soon after we took turns showering to cool down from the excessive heat.

We then took a nap in the shade while Jan Erik disappeared into the forest to set up his hammock. He returned a few minutes later to inform us that it was a two person hammock and he was lonely, but no-one took the hint. (Though he might have been referring to a certain Swiss meisie)

It was then unanimously voted upon that we should go for a quick visit to France (a 15min train ride away) to add a country to our lists. We ended up walking into the next town to go buy some groceries (which were almost half the price of in Switzerland) and then having to take a bit of a jog back to make the train.

After getting back, we went to the field to play some boule. Roark took the lead at the start, but Tim soon caught up until the scores were tied at five a piece. At this stage Michael and Jan Erik were a couple of points behind and Anton was on a seemingly pathetic one.

We took a break for a dinner of pasta with ham, melted cheese and sauce. Short on plates we amassed all the tupperwares we could find whilst Roark got to use the pot's lid.

After dinner we all sat down on the bench outside, probably because it was the best place to find WiFi. Anton, fired up from the dinner break thought it would be a great idea to play boulle's from the bench. Before we'd blinked Anton had scored a good couple of points and was well in the game once again. The game to ten culminated rather surprisingly with a round that scored Anton an incredible 3 points in which the boulle balls were left to the mercy of the trampoline.

It was then time for some dessert and then bed.

Quotes of the day:

Jan Erik: Your balls are bigger than mine... it's so that they don't bang each other.

Jan Erik: I don't need a backup girl, but if I did, I could get one easily.

Jan Erik: I could've chosen anyone girl I wanted

Anton: That's a Ferrari coming. 2min later, oh wait- it's a train.

Lesson of the day: Don't steal cake from Jan Erik (as Roark and Anton found out)

Illegal activity of the day: Buying half tickets to France (and none for the way back..)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Day 1. "Training"

 Almost 20 hours of travelling we arrived in Geneva.

As a South African passport holder, Roark was treated with the utmost suspicion and made to stand in the rather long "other passport" queue while Tim finally got to experience the advantages of having an EU passport.

(Not that it helped much as Roarks bag still came through 1st..)

Roark was then sent to go purchase train tickets while Tim waited for his bag. Unfortunately Roarks pronunciation of the town we were going to was "un-understandable" and he didn't manage to get tickets in time, so we had to wait 30min for the next train.

After 20min on the rather hot train (but with a pretty decent view of lake Geneva and mont blanc), we arrived in Nyon where we met up with Jan Erik (Canada) and Anton (US/Finland/Switzerland) and preceded to do a bit of sprint training.

The sprint training was a bit more technical than we are used to and we often missed the little alleyways and underpasses. After the run around the town we were all overheating so we crossed the road for a short swim in Lake Geneva.

The town of Nyon was really beautiful and the fountains of drinkable water were much appreciated.

We then wandered back to the train station, on the way stocking up on the cheapest food we could find.

The train ride to St Cergue (our home for the next few days) consisted of multiple changes between train and bus, luckily Anton (our local Swiss/Fin/American) was able to guide us through the process quite seamlessly.

Our campsite in St Cergue was extremely close to the train station which was much appreciated by all as we were carrying in excess of 25kg.

A short while later, we had set up our tents and had a quick bite to eat, so were ready to head off for our 1st forest training in Switzerland. A longer than expected walk to the start (about 3-4km), and rather warm temperatures (30degrees) meant we were already pretty tired before the session began.

Anton and Jan Erik decided to be lazy and just did part of the course (They had however been doing a lot more training than us in the last couple of days), while Roark and I headed out to do the full course (only 6km, but over quite rough terrain and rather hilly). Both of us managed to complete the training without too much incidence (Though Tim did run straight into a barbed wire fence).

A walk back to the campsite and a dinner of sandwiches and we were ready for bed. (10pm and still pretty light).

After 2 hours of sleep in the last 40hours or so, it wasn't a surprise that both of us were very soon asleep and dreaming of Swiss forests.

Moment of the day: Losing Roark at the Geneva train station and wondering if he'd ever appear again (especially considering he had no idea where we going or what we were doing)

The Swiss train raining on Tim

Illegal activities of the day:

Anton and Jan Erik not managing to buy tickets in time and riding the train without.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Day 10 of Youth Squad Tour in Sweden

Not much has happened today considering that I am writing this at 12:00. We did a different kind of Orienteering event at Hellasgården just over the road from the clubhouse. At the start, we played a game of Uno and you would run the 0,9km course when you have no more cards, just as you would do in a normal game of Uno. 


Matthew got rid of all his cards first, then me, then Carl straight away, then Andries, Rory,  Sarah and last and not least Heather. Everyone went to the wrong place at first (except for Carl) for the first control (due to the very small scale of 1:1000) which caused a major hiccup in the ending results depending on how fast everyone realized that they were in the wrong place.

The final results were as follows: Matthew, Carl, me, Rory, Andries, Heather and last but not least Sarah. At the end we got two chocolate, marzipan Swedish cakes. Heather wiped out on the first dock by number 14 and she got a major scrape on her thigh.


Written by James Hancock

Closing remarks (written by everyone)

Memorable moment

AndriesThe time Heather and I was running along trying to find one control and we stepped in mud, me losing a shoe. The mud had pulled my shoe straight from my foot. There I learned how to tighten your shoes properly and that while going through swamps you can lose shoes sometimes.Another memorable moment was the Gamla stan orienteering map and the guillotine in the middle where they hang people's heads when they were killed if they disobey the law.

After running through the old town we got back and two little kids were playing on it. Luckily the view was amazing and we were awed by the entire scenery.

Sarah: Going through the old town roads, alleys, river and cathedral  as it seemed distinctively European and it was historic and beautiful.

Carl: The whole of the tour was a memorable moment in itself. Probably one I won't forget is during our last event Matt and I were the last two people to finish. Otherwise it would be running through the old Stockholm town.

HeatherI don't have a memorable moment because there were so many, so instead I will say my most memorable thing which is making names for each stupid thing we did eg. Doing a Carl is getting very lost, Doing a James is forgetting your bus ticket, an an Andries is losing your shoe in the Marsh. A Matthew is closing your eyes for the photograph, a Sarah is rolling off your mattress and sleeping on the floor and a Heather is going back for seconds (or thirds) when some people are still busy on their first helping

James: The most memorable moments from an Orienteering perspective were doing the three events and running through the first forest behind the clubhouse because that was the first time that we ran in a proper forest. From a non-orienteering perspective, the best moments were going through the Old City, seeing the Royal Family up close (my mom was so jealous), Seeing the different sights that a different country can offer and bonding better as friends.

Rory: It was all memorable

MatthewLearning that they start orienteering at about 10 years of age.

But my best moment was when Carl and I walked a course because we learnt so much about our skills and that trusting your skills are important.
Tania: Having the pleasure of Nick Barrable acting as our guide, coordinator and coach. It was wonderful listening to his stories about the areas we visited and events we were participating. One particular story he shared is the history of the 10mila, and the occasions when OK Ravinen won it. Through his contact we then had the pleasure of meeting Lina, who was one of the clubs stars when they won the trophy. We then had a gentlemen at the Luffarligan bring us a newspaper from the 70s with the story of how the club won it. He explain to Nick,( who translated for me) that he wrote the poem for the wooden message in the year that OK Ravinen won the trophy!

Bev: I loved seeing Sweden from an orienteering perspective - walking through forests, marshy areas, parks, school grounds and the Old City. We experienced snow, sleet, rain and finally sun. We met friendly locals - at club events and competitions. We traveled by air, train, bus and car. We were fortunate enough to see the Royal Family up close ( it was the King's birthday so the Palace was closed to tourists). All in all everything was memorable. Andries singing " everything is awesome, everything is cool when you're part of a team..." will always be a good memory.

Favourite map/ area

Nearly everyone: The map of the old Stockholm town. It was absolutely amazing to run through the old town through the alleys, around the palace, around the cathedral and the Noble museum. It was equally historic and beautiful.

In addition to the old city, I also enjoyed the second map of day two across the road from the club house, as I found it easy to read the map and predict what the circle would look like.

All of the maps were fantastic and especially todays 1:1000 map scale really fooled us. But as a favourite I would choose the map near Gudo on day 4. The map had a huge amount of marshes so you had difficult route choices to make. It also had the widest range of features.

My favourite map was the map we did with the gymnasium school on day 4. I enjoyed the mix between urban and forest terrain and found it very fun to run in.



The map around  the old city and Hellasgården were especially fun, but the map that we did at the last event (day 9) was by far the most beautiful and the most technical.

Day 9, the long event was very scenic and the best terrain I ran in. You could get going fast once you got on top of the hills between the marshes, with great visibility, but you still experienced Sweden, having to plunge knee deep through a  marsh to make the best route choice. Although the coldest day, the map for day 7 at Lissma was also fantastic. The soft, obvious contours were easy to read and there were fun patches of really interesting spongy moss to bounce through.


Orienteering lesson/s
Rory: Learning that the features (e.g. boulder) are drawn differently in SA

SarahI learnt how to read the European mapping style and about reverse attack points. This is where you have an attack point to leave the control, to make sure you are going in the correct direction.

Heather: The thing that I learnt on this trip was that Swedish forests and all other European Forests are very different to South African forests. For one, they aren't plantations but natural wilderness and also there are so many features they only mark a few/ the very big ones. The contours are also a lot more complicated and this helped me to further my contour reading ability.
James: The most important lessons for me were that no matter what country you are in, the map and the mapper will always be different in comparison to what we know. You just have to deal with it, be brave, find your way and determine the difference between a knoll and a boulder.

Another very important lesson is how to orienteer on the offensive and not the defensive. Defensive orienteering is looking at your map constantly unsure of what you have to do, and trying to find the features on the map as you go past them. Offensive orienteering is having a plan on where to go and to know which features you are going to go past before you get there. This technique greatly helped at the last event after I remembered about it after control point 5.

Matthew:  A very important lesson for me was how to orienteer on the offensive and not the defensive. 

Carl: I learnt to rely on and use my skills more. Like using my compass constantly and relocating in an area which was a completely different area from what we are used to.

Andries: These one and a half weeks taught me how to read contours, to just keep going, to not stand still for more than 30 seconds. When you are lost you must keep moving, otherwise you just keep on staring at the same features and your mind can't process anything new. Further,  I also learned how to orienteer while running, Lastly, I have learned that all maps mapping styles and terrain differs all over the world.

Special Thanks to:

Nick Barrable, our Swedish based coordinator and coach, and the generosity of  Ok Ravinen and its members. Without Nick and his club the tour would never have happened!

Tania Wimberley, the local coach accompanying the team.

Beverley Holmes, who ensured our tummies were always full.


2016 Youth Tour Sponsor

Buff SA for sponsoring polar fleece Buffs and keeping us warm.
 Run Bag SA, so we had a place to put the cameras to take all the pictures
 2016 Youth Tour Sponsor

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Day 9 of Youth Squad Tour in Sweden

Our training time is almost over and we did a long race today. We started by doing a retake of the traditional jumping photo. Note the sun was finally out!!!

When we arrived at the event there were so many people it looked as if we had showed up for a concert.

Carl, Tania and I ( Matthew) had the late starts around 12:30. Carl and I "decided" that finishing in 3 and a half hours ( the cut off was 2 and a half hours) would be a great idea. I speak on behalf of Carl and I when I say they we were not lost, we just could not find the control because they had already collected them.

When Carl and I got back to our "home" we did not have enough energy to shower so we sat on the floor and showered like that (the lazy man way).

Written by Mathew Siepman

So today we got up at 7:20 making ready for the race. Tania, Matthew, James and myself made our way to Sikla Alle by bus. We waited for about five minutes before Glen, our lift, arrived. We arrived at the event and saw Rory already walking to the start. 

We made our way to the finish and sat down for about half an hour under the South African flag being proud. Heather and I made our way to the start, where again the people were standing in their masses.

 I waited about ten minutes alongside Heather and then she went into the start block and I was alone entering only a minute behind. At the start I found my map and started running like the wind towards the start control, stepping in both streams along the way. I got there first out of my group of  starters and felt confident running toward control nr.1.

H18 long -7.5 km

It was quite easy to find the first control after I followed Nick and Tania's training: "Just keep moving." The scale of the map threw me off entirely, but I managed to adjust. Control 2 was a very long leg and I decided on a route choice that best suited my skills, running the field. It took me a while to find the field, again the scale thing, and I thought I was honestly running in the wrong direction, but "just keep moving" helped and I ended up eventually finding the field and running the nice 1,5 km to the road. I contoured along and found the light green motorhome park. From there I went up the hill and overshot the control by 10 meters. I turned around and found the control just down. I basically ran over the cliff not looking down and luckily another person finding the control pulled me towards it.

From 2 to 3 I dropped down and ran along the light green going uphill when it stopped. I found the hill easily, using the knoll to the side. From 3 to 4 I almost messed up thinking I was running from four to five. I just kept moving forward and luckily I was not that far off. I saw someone trip and fall hard. I saw an opportunity because I was really lost and the map made no sense. So I asked him where I was and he showed me and I realized I was on the long leg. I quickly corrected and kept going my direction and found the marsh. From four to five I ran down the slope and back up on the other side and dropped down again and up and so on until using the marsh with the boulder at the east side to find my control just going up the re-entrant.

From 5 to 6 I just used my compass and ran South as straight as I could. I found the cliffs and contoured around finding the control easily. From 6 to 7 I ran a compass direction using the power lines junction to find my way. I used the marsh and just went around over the hill and found the knoll easily. At the top of the hill there was an animal waiting there. Later I learned it was a grouse but I described it as a black thing with wing making a circle thingy with his head straight up and making weird sounds like "mawamamwanalagaga..."

From 7 to 8 I just used compass and went straight through the marsh and hit the control dead on. From 8 to 9 I went over the hill and jumped the dry ditch between the two big marshes running around the greenish stuff and running through the dry marsh. I was at the control site but ended up being pulled to the left. The mapped started making no sense so I turned around and went to stand back on top of the hill where I was and found the control. From 9 to 10 I ran to the field and ran through the field making a stupid mistake, running over the hill where I might have gone around. I found a photographer and saw the control 50 meters away. From 10 to eleven I dropped down the cliff and again I was 10 meters away from the control when I turned around and went searching back up. I went back and got the control easily after I realized my mistake. From 11 to the finish it was basically following the smiley faces ( from the kids string course) around the river and to the finish. In summary the race went quite good for the state I was in. I was started getting sick yesterday with a runny nose and a cough and felt it in my lungs. Looking at the results I realize how much improvement I need to make in the future. We have great coaches and this tour has taught me a lot. We have improved significantly from where we were just over a week ago. 

Written by Andries Swart

(picture with Lina, who kindly lifted us, and waited for Carl and Matthew)

(most people had left by the time the boys finished)

(still had energy for frisbee, just couldn't catch it!)

Day 8 of Youth Squad Tour in Sweden

This morning we slept in, waking up at around 8 am, because we were only going to have one training session. Breakfast was the mince from the previous night warmed up and ladled onto a piece of toast.

After breakfast we traveled on a bus and a train to Hökarängen, south-west of the OK Ravinen Clubhouse in Hellasgården. We had to travel via the train station in Slussen, to the north-west.
We set up a base camp in the centre of the park. We could hear the trains on the Väsby line to the south-west. The park was the smallest area we had run in. It had many hills and knolls, with large gravel paths in between. There were fewer marshes in the park, so we managed to avoid them all.
We were told by Tania to take one kite and find one control feature to set it up by.

There were eight of us (including Tania), so we each took one of the compass points and set out to find a feature. Cliffs were popular, as four were chosen. When we got back to the central point we showed each other where our control was placed, and provided a control description for it. 

We set out in the opposite direction to which we had first set out, and then completed the rest in a clockwise direction (e.g. I set up my control in the west, so I started with Matthew’s control to the east, and continued to Andries’ control to the south-east). We set up the course before 11 am, and collected the kites just after 12 pm.

After the training we set off South-East towards Farsta, following Heather’s directions. We had lunch in the Farsta Centrum shopping centre. Some of us had Reindeer wraps whilst others tried a variety of tapas.

We left Farsta for Gamla Stan, the Old Town, to visit the royal palace on the North-East corner of the island. We circled around the palace clockwise from the East to the South-East to find an entrance. We were unsuccessful, as the palace was closed that day. However, when we finished the circumnavigation by arriving at the main entrance, we were told to step aside, and we were treated to an unannounced departure of the royal family. They were leaving for an unknown function in a black car with a crown on its registration plate, led and followed by three other black cars filled with security personnel. We were told by a Swedish bystander that we were very lucky to see them.

We decided to head for the palace armoury, which had been converted into a museum in the 70s and 80s. Inside there were three levels of exhibitions. The top floor was a temporary exhibition, and presented exhibits relating to the death of a member of the royal family. Crowns, sceptres and keys of previous monarchs were on display, we found the last razor that one of the kings had used before he had died, and attire from the funeral procession was worn by plastic figures. There were pictures and video clips that showing the exhuming and autopsy of the royal corpses, whose names were predominately Eric, Gustav, Magnus, Karl or Carl. They were found to have met their end in numerous ways, from strokes and cancer to a bullet wound to the head. At the far end of the floor we found a few costumes which King Carl and Guardsman Andries put on.

The ground floor was a permanent exhibition, and it displayed various royal outfits for special functions. There was set of clothes worn by Carl XI when he became king before his fourth birthday, and a military uniform of a more recent king. Suits of plate armour for infantry and cavalry were displayed alongside maces, rapiers, great swords and almost every conceivable weapon from medieval times.
The cellar housed the royal carriages, along with lifelike horses. A child sized carriage and an Austrian sled was shown in the cellar. Information and images relating to the raw silk trade route was shown behind them. After the museum we popped into the Cathedral with its impressive organ.

We then headed for the train station, but we were distracted by an enticing sign advertising Exit Games ( ). The seven of us went inside to try rescue Grandma, while Tania and Bev stayed outside to drink some coffee. We had sixty minutes to complete all the puzzles, which mainly consisted of working out the permutations to padlocks through codes, patterns and helpful hints. The lady at the counter described the puzzles as similar to ones in 80's video games. We managed to free Grandma two minutes past the deadline.

We headed home, and while Carl, Bev and Tania refilled their SIM cards with data, we found a geocache under a bridge south of the clubhouse, played cards.

Written by Rory Ellis