6 athletes (5 from VIC and 1 from Qld.) Are currently in Sokcho, Korea for the 19th ARDF World Championships.
In the usual fashion competitors made their way to Korea all at different times.
Jenelle and Ewen were the first to arrive, enjoying a week long tour of Korea before the event.
Peter and Kristian met up with Jenelle and Ewen just a couple of days before the event. As a team we headed on a tour to the DMZ and individual members enjoyed some of the historic and cultural sights around Korea.
On the arrival day Jack and Nelly met up with the rest of the team in Sokcho.
The following day we had training with 3 seperate model events which were held in the area surrounding the accomodation.
During the model events all equipment was tested and working except for one of the 2m beams had a broken BNC connector, but luckily there was a spare. (however the spare PVC beam exhibited a design flaw so no doubt a fault report will be lodged with the manufacturer on our return.)
The first event was the fox-or which was held today.
For each age category a different map was produced with only the required Tx’s shown. There were a total of 10 Tx’s (10mW) plus the beacon (3W) but the longest course only covered 8 of the TX’s (map shown below for M21). Each Tx had its own morse identifier and were numbered 1-5 and 1F-5F.
The frequencies for the foxes were 3520 kHz (1,2,1F,2F), 3550 kHz (3,3F,4,4F) and 3580 kHZ (5, 5F) with the beacon being on 3600 kHz.
All Australian competitors completed the course within the allocated time.
Jenelle and Ewen both finished 7th in thier categories.
Kristian finished 24th in M21.
Nelly finished 27th in W21.
Peter missed 1 Tx.
Jack missed 2 Tx’s.Full results can be viewed for todays fox-or event here:
The long and winding road from Moldova through Transylvania to Walachia (north to south)
From our rural retreat in Maramures we headed east to Moldova crossing the Carpathians by the Borgo pass road enroute to Bucovina. Egg painting is a competition among the villages at Easter time.
Lunch today was Mici, a rectangular meat pattie cooked on a BBQ and served with mustard sauce.
Visited two painted monasteries (orthodox). The first was for the local community (Moldovita) and used as a refuge in times of siege. Note the wall and the strong wooden gate.
The second was for the clergy (Sucevita). The outside walls of the church was decorated, one illustrating the difficult path in getting into heaven. Inside, the frescoes showed various methods of torture and head lopping. Again a walled garden and plenty of room for the local community to shelter in times of siege.
Next highlight of the road was the animal reservation with animals native to the area. One sad and lonely bear, a small herd of buffalo and several different species of deer.
We drove through the Bicaz gorge (river running down the side). Sampled some green nut jam. Walnuts cooked in a syrup halfway between golden syrup and malt extract. An acquired taste.
Our route took us past Lake Rosu, really a dam and then onto Brasov.
Brasov is also fortified. City square with Lutheran church – aka Black Church due to a fire. Johannes Honterus was
responsible for setting up the Lutheran church and the building of the first school (directly across from the church). The original school was wooden but suffered the same fate as the church and was rebuilt in stone.
It has been particularly pleasant having an evening stroll through the many pedestrian malls in our travels.
Fort on the hill outside Brasov. Spectacular view of the surrounding country.
Bran castle – summer residence of Queen Mary of Romania. No vampires in site. Apparently Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) was have seen it on his way through. The most interesting artifact was the scales of justice. Based on a person’s size and height, if they weighed less than expected they were considered apprentices of Satan and torture would commence. Hopefully you can read the information in the photo.
The most elaborate building in Transylvania is Peles Castle. Unfortunately only outside views, but obviously prime real estate.
Our guest house at Maramures is located in a peaceful rural setting apart from the chainsaws, angle grinders and whipper snippers. Hospitality here is exceptionally good.
Dinner was in an open air setting
Entree meat balls, soft cheeses, pork fat and tomato with onion bread
The lightest, fluffiest and tastiest donuts ever with blackcurrant jam
All washed down with Palinka and black currant “cordial”
Needed a sleep in after last night!
Late start, headed for the local market, plenty of “stuff” to buy from clothing, shoes, manchester and tools. Too late for the animal market. Probably a good thing.
Checked out a modern monastery at Barsana, beautiful wooden buildings and gardens, church with pictorial stories.
Memorial to the opponents of the communist regime, very bleak place.
In a complete contrast we visited the Merry cemetery at Sapanta with colourful wooden headstones with pictures of deceased in their occupations and poems about them (all in Romanian of course)
Spent a leisurely afternoon in the outdoor area. We have eaten so well the last few days Ewen has survived since breakfast on only one jam pancake.
We could not escape Maramures without a ride on the Mocanita narrow gauge railway at Viseu de Sus very close to the Ukrainian border. For the more ardent train fans it was a 1930s vintage steam locomotive that was used to transport timber down the valley. Originally timber was floated down the river, but after a dam burst the train line was built. The 21km ride to the turn around point was supposed to take just over 2 hours. It became pretty evident early on that at the current speed something was amiss and it would be a lot longer (3 hours eventually). Repairs were needed along the way and after much banging and crashing a bearing was suitably adjusted and we continued on our way. Included in the tool set was a most impressive oil can.
The track followed the river most of the way. Still plenty of logging happening here with some unorthodox methods of transportation. A large tractor pulling 10 -15 m logs down the river and smaller pieces being drawn by horse driven carts.
At one point the river narrowed with steep cliffs and caves hidden behind bushes. It was here that the German army had a first aid centre and stored supplies. It was also the point when they planned to ambush the Red army. There was a small museum at the turn around point and a picnic ground.
The return trip took only 90 minutes which was a relief. Sufficiently rocked, rattled and shaken for the complete trip.
There are a few obstacles along the roads in Romania, this cart was one of the smaller ones.
PS Jenelle is having a love hate relationship with the formatting!!
Our trip began with a short 20 hour flight to Bucharest. The most impressive building in the city is the Parliament House, second largest building only to the Pentagon. Ceausescu thought he would leave his mark by commencing this build, fortunately for the people of Romania he didn’t live to see its completion. It is a magnificent building inside, very tastefully decorated with high ceilings, marble floors and beautiful rugs and chandeliers. (no photos unfortunately as did not have a camera pass)
Another beautiful building was the auditorium for musical concerts. We chanced upon workers changing a light globe, quite an art in itself.
We visited the old town and enjoyed a drop of the local ale.
Many old buildings in state of disrepair, including this ruin outside our hotel window. (more interesting than a carpark) Taken from our room as there was a sign outside indicating no photos to be taken (left over from communist regime)
From Bucharest we headed west to the church (in white limestone) where the Romanian kings were buried. Lavishly decorated inside. Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) lived in the building behind this church.
This is one of the fortifications that the Austrian Hungarian Emperor sent German people to build in 12-13th century. It has suffered due to earthquakes over time. Opted not to climb the 1460 steps. Chose to indulge in a Romanian donut instead!
There was a very large dam (about the size of Hoover Dam) that needed closer inspection. Traversed the Transfagarasan Road (of Jeremy Clarkson fame), (perfect for road testing a corvette or similar vehicle) and then took a cable car for a less exhilarating ride.
Please excuse the erratic formatting. Only get to practice this once a year. Jenelle
Thank you for Kristian and Bruce for writing the blog during the ARDF competition while Ewen was doing his team leader duties and waiting for Jenelle to be rescued from parts unknown. All six of us are all bringing home extra baggage in the form of medals.
Facilities at Sanyo Hotel exceeded our expectations
In our rooms chaos reigned
Photos from the closing celebrations
We left the competition area in fine weather and sunshine (compared to the cloudy wet conditions) to be dropped off at various locations. Jack left before the rest of us were up, Greg was settled in for the long ride back to Tokyo, Kristian joined us for the train trip to Takasaki and was last seen running upstairs with his bag to catch his connecting train in under 4 minutes. (a fair indication of his fitness level). Bruce, Ewen and I continued our adventure and finally arrived in Matsumoto.
We spent some time in the Time Piece museum
and then devised our own street-o to various sites including shrines, temples, gardens and the icecream shop.
Choosing dinner is always an interesting experience, our choices so far have been most acceptable.
Yesterdays trek was along the Nakasendo Way (built during Edo period) commencing after a 20 minute bus ride from Nakatsugawa, and continued through Magome to Tsumago. At this point (after 3 hr 30 min of walking and lots of up and downhill) Ewen and I opted for the bus to Nagiso station. Bruce continued on foot and arrived at the same time as the bus.
We have sorted out our transport across the Kurobe – Tateyama Alpine Route and will head off today for the start.
Initial on land instructions, safety briefing, kitted out and out into the sea to practice paddling, and use of the rudder. Only one unscheduled swim from yours truly, unreal sensation. Paddled for about 2 hours to nearby cove (couldn’t call it a beach). Snorkelled, lucky enough to see some pretty little fish, a couple of larger ones that I tried to pursue but they could swim faster than me. Lunch on the rocks and headed back to starting point, Bruce, Kris and Ewen seemed to be quite proficient. As far as I was concerned steering the kayak was not second nature and invariably became unstuck at a critical moment. Arrived back at our starting point just as the afternoon storm broke. Almost didn’t need a shower to wash off the salt.
Transported back to Shimoda station, with just enough time to book tickets for the train to Tokyo. We journeyed together for part of the way. The last we saw of Bruce and Kris, was them scurrying along the platform to catch their connection in 4 minutes.
Our Friday in Tokyo, Ewen and Jenelle took a bike tour. Very exhilarating riding on the streets of Tokyo, not for the faint hearted.
Saturday trip to Mt Fuji
It took about 40 minutes longer than expected to get to Mt Fuji, bus travel is not the way to go in Japan. Passed an amazing fun park on the way.
Ewen, Mark and Jenelle joined Jack for a tour. We eventually got to Fuji 5th station (where the climb starts) about midday. The traffic was very heavy and crowds of people. Fuji was being coy, and only managed a fleeting glimpse as the fog rolled in.
Visited the lava forest, Shiraito Falls and Lakes and garden.
These activities seem quite tame after more recent events!!
From Kagoshima – Coordinating public transport is not without its dramas. Missed the only bus to the Samurai Village and had to take a taxi. Immaculately trimmed and maintained gardens, not likely to be replicated in Melbourne.
An attempt to visit the Kamekazi museum at Chiran was thwarted by heavy rain (big Queensland sized rain drops) and lack of time. We found a warm place (coffee & tea rooms to shelter) as we waited for a bus back to the train.
The second attempt to visit the Kamekazi museum was successful, but needed some fine timing to coordinate train-bus connection. Chiran was the site of the training airbase for young pilots. Old film footage of the servicemen working on aircraft brought mixed feelings (my dad having done the same in New Guinea).The photos of the families waving goodbye and the translations of the messages the pilots wrote to their families were quite moving. Proud young men doing what they thought was the right thing to do for their country and families at home.
The hot sand bath and hot springs were definitely worth a visit. Didn’t know the soles of the feet and heels were so sensitive to heat. It was rather embarrassing having a male voice calling CQ just outside the entrance of the women’s onsen.
We timed our return to Kagoshima perfectly and caught the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, speeds over 300 kph.
Day 1 in Hiroshima, began with a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum and Park.
Exhibits included diorama of the aftermath, remnants of clothing, building materials and household items.
The story of the paper cranes made by young girl in the hope that they would save her life.
Our attempts to fold paper cranes were pretty abysmal, and needed much help from the women to get the final result.
Entrance to Hiroshima castle (reconstructed)
Mid afternoon – visit to the Naka Incineration Plant, not your usual tour attraction, necessitated another run to catch the bus. It is well set up for viewing with a wide corridor down the centre, all behind glass of course, and scaled model explaining the layout. Apparently it is quite spectacular at night when it is all lit up.
Day 2 Hiroshima Today’s excursion to Miyajima Island went ahead despite some pretty ordinary weather. Arrived at high tide and the entrance to the Shrine was under water and not possible to walk to the Tori (gate). Opted to take the ropeway and climb to the top of Mt Misen. Unfortunately we only had a good view of the fog. Ewen and I checked out the waterfall route on the way down. Lots of granite steps and very slippery in parts. By the time we got back down the weather had fined up.
A visit to the aquarium. Penguin feeding (Humboldt penguins, saw none of these in Antartica), a sea lion show, colourful fish and various amphibious animals.
Glad to put our feet up at the end of the day. Dinner at a local bar. Very animated waiters. Lots of shouting and cheering. As my mother would have said, less of that and more concentrating on the job at hand. They forgot Bruce’s order.
Fleeting visit to Himeji to see the castle. Wedding cake castle. Seat of power here from 1400s. Castle has undergone several restorations over the years. Huge timber supports. Not a lift up window seat, but a defence mechanism for dropping of stones, pouring boiling oil & water on the enemy. Good view from top. (Photos in my next blog)
Getting expert at changing trains mid journey, successful at one connection, next trip has 3 connections.Let’s see how we go. Very successfully. Arrived at station, shuttle bus appeared, hotel on the coast, brilliant view, superb dinner, onsen, what more could you ask for.
Well, you’ve followed the excitement of JWOC, then the WOC, and the adventures of those in Scotland at the WMOC, then the magnificent gold in the WMTBO at the sprint by Angus R, and possibly even the Icelandic bike trek by Greg A and Gavin’s mountainous ramblings on the way to the WRC, so surely that’s it ? All over for the year ?
Well NO!! because there’s just one more, and we’ve of course saved the best till last !
The Region 3 Radio Orienteering championships being held in Japan.
I’m getting waaaay ahead of myself though, because we aren’t actually at the champs yet, just on the way. Some of us have actually made it to Japan though, so this blog entry will just recap the last few days.
[Those following/on Facebook may have already seen some of the photos, but I make no apologies, because they are some of the best, and we can`t have the blog missing out on those !]
We’re on the Southern Island of Japan at present. Not as far south as Yakoshima Island (refer Glaspoles), but nearly.
I’m writing this blog entry on the train b ask from Ibusuki, but let’s go back to the beginning :
First day, a bit out of it after all the flying etc, was a visit to Kumomoto castle.
The next day we hired a car. The excitement for the day was one of our number misplaced a handbag. I don’t have one and pretty sure Ewen doesn’t either! Luckily, being Japan, it was handed in to the police. However, since we only discovered the lack of said accoutrement on returning the hire car, two of our party stayed behind in Kumamoto to travel back to Aso police for the bag, whilst I headed on down to Kagoshima. I managed to convince the hotel in Kagoshima to not charge them a cancellation for the night though.
Had a slightly abbreviated walk at Takachiho Gorge, due to cyclone damage, and an even more abbreviated visit to Mt Aso volcano, where the cable car (ropeway) had been closed down temporarily, due to a level 2 volcano activity risk just declared by Japan BOM, up from level 1.
A bit rainy the next morning, but it slowed a bit later in the morning so I sent fit a walk around.
E & T arrive, so it’s off to the Samurai gardens <pictures may follow later>, and the next day the Peace museum south of Kagoshima.
Had to visit the Ibusuki hot baths, despite the humidity, on multiple recommendations.
It was an early morning departure for today’s adventure, the start of a 4 day trip around the National Parks to the east of Almaty almost to the border with China. The weather – some cloud and light and not too cold – just perfect for a long drive. Our vehicle, a six seater Land Cruiser, complete with roof rack and water proof bags on top. It was a neat fit inside, with limited luggage space and minimal leg room for those in the back seat.
Our driver Sergey soon had us leaving the peak hour traffic behind as we headed north from Almaty. The Kazak government is committed to infrastructure building and this is evident with all the road works, dams and power lines. It would seem they like to replace the roads in long stretches at a time. They still use train to transport freight and it is not unusual to see very long freight trains especially coming from China. We also came across ‘Las Vegas’ of Kazakhstan quite in the middle of nowhere. Apparently the local in Almaty has decreed there are to be no casinos in the Almaty city.
We turned off the main highway and headed to the Altyn Emel National Park, (approx 5200ha and 200 km long, running between a mountain range to the north and a reservoir to the south}. We also noticed several military installations along the way. (border security) We spotted a small group of wild horses and also some gazelles. The gazelles appeared in the distance on the southern side of the road and then proceeded to sprint right across the road in front of us. According to Greg the gravel roads are good, at this stage he was not sitting in the back seat and being bounced up and down and sideways. Another feature of note was the lines of small earth mounds that appeared. On closer observation they were they were the contents of a fairly deep channel about 1 metre wide and deep – the Kazak version of fences in National Park.
There were the official entrances to parts of the park, and if there were no response to the beeping of the horn it was simply a matter of driving around the small fenced area and out the other side.
We spent some time in one of the gorges viewing the petroglyphs (pictures etched in the rocks), mainly camels, deer and goats. There were also remains of buildings from the bronze age & some more recent finds. Then more bouncing up and down, we arrived at some burial mounds.
These were from the iron age, and set out in a precise manner. National park authority has built an example of inside the burial mound, wooden log construction (no nails) and reed roof. Apparently the real burial mounds have been plundered for their treasures long ago, so that all that remains is a large hole in the top.
Picnic at nature (provided by tour leader) was indoors because of the wind. Excellent food.
At this point, seating arrangements changed & a much smoother ride to the Singing Dunes ensued. Alas no singing today as the earlier rain had left the sand too damp. This turned out to be a blessing, so instead of one step forward followed by a step back, we could actually manage 2 steps forward to one step back. It was of the order of 150 metre high, but took quite some time to climb. The wind was fairly howling, and particularly unnerving as it affected your balance the closer you got to the top. No need for a facial here, plenty of microdermabrasion from the fine sand. The view was spectacular and well worth the climb. Once at the top the only way down was to toboggan. Good fun and lots of laughter. The only downside was having to empty 1/2 kg sand from each shoe and shake out the socks.
We eventually arrived at our accommodation for the next 2 night at the Altyn Emel Hotel – the only accommodation in town for tourists. A very spacious room with a spectacular view of the sunset.
Note: After dinner at the restaurant next door to the hotel, we had planned to have an early night. We discovered there was a wedding to be held the next day. Three of the hotel guests (2 dressed in police uniform) were socialising in the open area between our room and the bathroom. We spent some time trying to converse with them and had to find Dina our interpreter only to discover that we had been invited to celebrate / toast this important event. Only two vodkas later did we escape. Bruce conveniently was downstairs and missed the action and Greg declined an additional drink graciously.
Saturday 20 September
A relaxed start to today. Left the village at about 10 am and headed east towards the Chinese border. The road was sealed for a small distance and then we were back to our “good” gravel road. It was flat nothingness either side of the road with a mountain range to our left. We turned off the main road and headed for the Katutau Mountains (which translates as severe mountains in Kazak).
Definite red tinge to the mountains and as we entered further in it vaguely reminiscent of the Flinders Ranges. (Sedimentary rock with some volcanic extrusions). We spent considerable time climbing to the highest points and trying to capture the scenery with our cameras with limited success. We spotted a herd of fast moving goats in the distance, too fast to get a picture.
From here we headed to the Aktau Mountains, so called as “ak” in Kazak means white topped. We followed a small canyon / water course into the mountains, and proceeded to explore. Mountain tops to climb, and slide down. In parts it looked like sand but really sandstone. There appeared mud dried in bubbles, crusty on top and soft as we broke through the crust. Very difficult to describe all the features, best to look at the photos.
We staved off hunger pains with a banana at 3pm and eventually arrived at the lunch place at 4pm. Very idyllic setting with lake and large trees. Supposedly a 700 year old willow tree, the buttress approximately 1 metre in diameter. (I could be corrected on this). Obviously, it had succumbed to aging and needed some support. Supersized lunch of roast chicken pieces and rice, the usual tomato and cucumber, bread, biscuits and chai.
Arrived back in Altyn Emel about 5.30pm. Dinner was held in a small room in the hotel as the large dining room was being used for the wedding. As fortune would have it, it was too cold for them outside so their music was contained and had little impact on sleep. They partied long into the night.
This is Bruce’s 4th blog, but the staggering 14th overall. Hope you’ve all managed to stay with us so far, despite the amount of stuff landing in your inbox/facebook ! Actually, it’d be nice to know who is still with us, so make an effort to “Like” the facebook post or leave a blog comment or email. Sometimes it feels a bit like we’re sending all this off into the void 🙂
I’ll let the pictures mostly tell the story. This takes us out of the Altyn-Emel national park and eventually back to Almaty via the south east corner of Kazakhstan.
Here is also some random bits of >>video<< of various treks, including the singing dune, and Sergey’s shortcut through the mountains.
Here’s the rocket >>video<< again as many seemed to have missed it.
This is likely my last blog from this trip. We have one more day in Almaty faffing around, then Greg heads back to Melbourne, and 3 of us head to Perth for the Australian Orienteering Championships (& Sprints, & MTBO). It’s been fun !
As Ewen reported we arrived here in the afternoon and were collected by just one interpreter and a mini van driver. Our hotel is reasonably flash, with Bruce and I scoring a very nice room. Dinner was at a nearby venue which was closing at 9 and we arrived about 8:20. It was a cafe style with all the food on display and a group of microwaves to heat things in. We pointed our way to a pretty good meal and Ewen spied several counters full of nice sweet things that finished the meal off well. Breakfast was buffet style in the hotel dining area and had lots of fascinating stuff, one needs to be careful!!
Wednesday 17th September 2014
The guide and van picked us up at 10:00 and we started our tour of the city sights. Usually this is undertaken on foot but as we were retired (most of us anyway). They decided to take us in the van. This meant that we spent a lot of time driving and jumping in & out. Almaty facts: population about 2 million; started as a small village that was sacked by Genghis Khan, then the Russians built a fort here and that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1887. Russian power was established in 1918 and the city has been growing since then. It became the capital of the Kazakh Republic in 1927 and was the first capital of the independent Kazakhstan in 1991. Thus it is the business and financial capital of the country despite the political capital being moved to Astana in 1997.
Almaty seems more real than Astana, which seems to be built for wow factor. The streets are wide and there are lots of parks around. There are many grand Soviet era buildings and a large number of newer ones. There are still many Soviet era apartment buildings and from what I understand these are government owned, thus little maintenance seems to done. We have seen numerous new apartment buildings with many more being built.
Now to the photos and a look around! First was a park with an Orthodox Church (Ascension Cathedral) completed entirely of wood and no nails, bolts or screws in the structural section of the building. This was completed in 1907 and has withstood several earthquakes.
On the others side of he park the bath house was located we were informed that you get a Russian bath here where a guy with a beech broom sweeps you clean, there were no takers from our group!! After some more strolling in the park we came upon a monument dedicated to 28 soldiers from Almaty who volunteered to go to protect Moscow in WW2, none of them returned, there is also another’s WW2 monument showing unity amongst the USSR people.
Others buildings which caught our attention was a musical instrument museum we did not have time to look at but have it on the agenda for next week when we have a spare day back here.
We then had a look at the Green Market the array of food was Spectacular and very well presented, although there did not appear to be any refrigeration for the meat.
After looking around town we headed south east into the nearby hills on the way we passed a ski jump facility constructed for the Asian winter Games in 2011. Our destination was near the location of the ice skating arena built for the games. Above it is a special dam designed to stop mud slides ,which evidently are a common occurrence. The views in these mountains are fantastic as there are always snow capped peaks in the background. There is a flight of stairs from the arena to the dam wall. There was mention of a challenge to ascend this in less than 60 secs. Bruce did the last section in 45 secs so we claim he met the challenge!
Our next stop was at the top of a hill closer to town, more to the east. This has a huge television mast and restaurants. When we got there we found a small zoo a bit like Collingwood children’s farm and a carnival. The boys resisted the temptation of dodgem cars and the like and after examining a Beatles statue we retired to a yurt shaped building for lunch. Ewen did get a chance to look at the latest in Soviet cars and he could be considering it as a Magna replacement!
Lunch was horse meat, cha grilled veggies, soup and a sweet made from deep fried pasta and honey with berries. All washed down with tea.
We returned to the hotel for a rest, some taking a nap while others just listened to those napping! Then it was off on a excursion to locate a dining experience. On the plane Jenelle and Greg had read about wine making in the Assa Valley in Kazakhstan well, what do you know? We find ourselves standing out the front of their centre, so in we go for a tasting. The wine was pretty good and we think some will find its way home on the plane.
Diner was found at a sports bar and was a simple affair as we has a great lunch, then it was back to the hotel via the chemist where we restocked on “Kyrgzstan belly” medication.
Thursday 18th September 2014
Free time this morning so we were off exploring around the city. Yesterday we had noticed that there were water trucks washing the streets, mainly the gutters, and they would blow their hors to warn pedestrians of their approach, today we experienced this from the pedestrians viewpoint, jump back! Before you get covered in water and leaves, it’s autumn here. Reception had directed us to the post office and with some help we managed to locate it and sent off post cards to those that had requested them. The idea of looking for a red P did not help! We wandered through a couple of the parks and past the library or Tech College, or Tech College Library. And then back to the hotel to begin our afternoon trip to the mountains to the South of town.
We drove into the Great Almaty George on the way there were numerous restaurants and private homes in this very select area. Evidently it had been a famous apple growing area (Almaty is named after the apple) but has now been sold off. We climbed to 2600 metres there were snow capped mountains in the background, that you may be able to see in some of the pics. At the top of the climb is a national park, requires special permission to drive in, and a lake known as Great Almaty Lake, this provides water for the city and as Bruce found you are not allows too close to the water, an armed guard appeared to signal him back! The lake is 1.5 km across is nearly circular and 40 m deep in the centre.
Lunch was a feast at a restaurant on the way down and the proprietor plied us with his own home made “Cognac” which included nuts from local trees. It was very smooth and he claimed you could drink a ton of it and not be drunk the next day, something I was skeptical about. Further down the mount we stopped of at a hunting bird and dog farm. They had eagles, falcons and others birds plus hunting dogs. Evidently there is usually a display but due to a movie shoot on the mountain it was off.
So it was back to the hotel then a quick bite at the same restaurant we found Tuesday night. We have an early start tomorrow so off to bed for us it’s 10:15 pm.
Bus arrived as expected at 8 and we headed to Astana. I assumed we would go to the airport and then have to get a taxi to our hotel, but instead of going around the ring road we headed directly into town so we decided to see if the driver would take us to our hotel. We had the hotel address in Russian, but the driver spoke no English so I wasn’t hopeful, however after stopping at the railway station to drop off some Hungarians and Czechs we eventually stopped in a side street near our hotel. Greg had a city map on his phone which was very helpful here. The driver consulted some workmen and motioned us back into the bus and off we went, the wrong way down a very narrow street. Much “nieting” and arm waving convinced the driver he was going the wrong way and he then backed about 100M back to where we’d come from and headed off about 50m in the correct direction before stopping again. We were then about 50 meters from our hotel so decided to walk.
The hotel didn’t look so great from the outside, but the staff were very helpful and the rooms were clean, modern and comfortable. We’re out of the city a bit here and things not quite so glitzy. Still much building work and relatively new huge buildings however. After settling in we went for a walk, partly to find a place for dinner and also to get some lunch which we bought from a small supermarket in a huge apartment block. We were not far from the “circus” a large space ship shaped arena, the roof of which I lit by ever changing coloured lights. As we only found one possibility for dinner Jenelle did some goggle searching after we returned to our hotel which suggested we needed to be one street further west. We investigated this street later in the day and found many very upmarket restaurants which probably wouldn’t have been too happy to have jeans and T shirt clad Australians. Eventually found a small very nice small place to eat. (No English – just lots of gesticulating & miming)
14th Sept Race to the airport and worlds shortest bus trip
Ordered a taxi for 11, I thought, to take us to the airport. Went down the a small shop to buy some things for lunch and got back at about 10.45 and a few minutes later the taxis arrived. Two taxis as we couldn’t fit in one. Off we went at ever increasing speed. Fortunately the roads were very good. At first I thought the taxis were having a race but then it dawned on me that they probably thought we needed to be at the airport by 11. Faster and faster we went at one stage reaching 150km/hr. The speed limit appeared to be 70km/hr as a couple of times we slowed to 70 for speed cameras. We arrived in one piece at the airport, checked in and went and sat under a tree to eat lunch and let the adrenalin levels subside a bit.
Boarding time arrived and we boarded a bus to go to our plane. The bus moved off and stopped 20 metres later. We got off the bus and boarded the plane!
The flight to Kyzylorda was uneventful. We were met there by four people and transferred to the train to Baikonur which took about 3.5 hours. The third class tickets implied seats and not much space but we had two sleeping cabins so were quite comfortable. Also the carriage had a hot water supply so we were able to make tea to supplement our cheese, biscuits, beer and chocolate for afternoon tea. The country side was a bit like central Australia although there was some evidence of irrigated crops in one or two places. Very flat and sandy with low scrub.
We passed through several villages on the way and saw one or two tracking stations and other buildings in the distance. We were met at the station by only three people this time, a driver and two interpreters who transported us to our hotel. The weather is quite warm. Hotel is good. Baikonur is in Kazakhstan but is very much a Russian city. We passed through a check point on the way in and the currency is Rubbles. Temperature can vary from -40C to + 40C here during the year with cold winds but little snow.
Latish start then off to the space museum. With driver and interpreter. Joined by a “space” interpreter at the museum.
Many models of Soviet and to a lesser extent American rockets and other space objects including the International Space Station. Also saw a video of the inside of the ISS. Many rocket motors and other associated rocket parts. Many photographs of the Cosmadrome being constructed and other memorabilia also.
After the museum we did a tour round the town. Saw a Soyuz rocket, the Gagarin memorial, and an obsolete Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. The town has many parks and open areas. Our hotel was on one side of Lenin square which you can imagine has seen its fair share of military parades. Buildings are generally typical Soviet era with new buildings on the outskirts of the town.
After lunch we visited the “space” school. Essentially a secondary school dedicated to those who will work in the Cosmodrome after going to university in Moscow. Many student built model rockets, some of which had been flown, and aeroplanes, gliders etc. Were shown a video of Soyuz launches. Here there were also many rocket motors and associated parts. Quite impressive although not many computers obvious. Visit ended with our launching a couple of model rockets. Link to rocket video – http://youtu.be/n4LsC4uMQfY
After dinner went for a walk to find a supermarket to buy some water and the necessary ice cream. Many people out enjoying the cool of the evening.
According to our guide there are very few, perhaps 20 per year, English speaking tourists visiting Baikonur. The population of the city is largely Kazakhs, looked after by the Kazakh government and Russians, looked after by the Russian government, with the Russians being better off which can cause tension between the two.
We were taken to Turotam station in good time to catch the train however the train only stops for 5 minutes so there was a bit of a run to get to our carriage, especially as the train arrived one platform further away than expected. We only had one cabin this time but still enough room.
A rather delicate operation decanting water into our water bottles in a rocking train. Were collected at the Kyzylorda station, only 2 interpreters and a driver this time and taken to lunch, which was good. Arrived at the airport early so had some time to fill in. Plane left on time for the 1.5 hour flight to Almaty, where we were met by our guide for the next part of the trip and also a driver. Countryside from the plane looked fairly desolate but there were a couple of large rivers flowing through it and some areas looked like they had been cropped.
Almaty is close to the Tien Shan mountains which we saw in Kyrgyzastan and are high and snow capped. We will explore this area more in the next few days.
I went for a walk around the lake yesterday afternoon as it was so nice that the sun had come out, as it seems to about 4pm.
Last night was the 2nd lot of presentations, including the team results for both ARDF competitions, and the Sprint presentations. Now if you’ve ever been to a World Championship of some sort you’ll know what to expect here. We stood for the Russian, Ukranian and Czech Republic national anthems rather too many times. It’s a relief to occasionally get a look in from Germany, Hungary, Slovakia or Sweden. And yes, there was a pretty big team from Ukraine after all. Often they shared the podium with a Russian.
The only Region 3 team to make the podium was a Korean Bronze team result in one of the older men’s categories.
This morning it was up at the normal time for the trip to the Fox-or. This didn’t go quite as planned. We drove and drove through the national park. I even spotted some potential tape in the forest at one point, but no, driving and driving on. We ended up in open plains. This just doesn’t look right, I thought, as the line of buses eventually pulls to a halt. My guess turned out to be right as the first bus then completed a U-turn and the rest followed suit. Driving, driving, back the way we’d come, turn off, driving, finally another stop. Our bus driver gets out for a smoke !? People drift off the bus to have a pee break; after all we’ve been traveling for an hour or so. The Czech team leader wonders if perhaps the real organiser of these Kazakh championships is Sacha Baron Cohen…. We jerk into action again for yet another U-turn, and retrace our steps to yet another new junction. Bit like a 6m foxhunt really.
Eventually we stop at a group of tents, only to find that’s the finish location, and off we go again to the start. Luckily, all this scenic detouring only delayed the FoxOr start by 15 minutes.
Overall we had a pretty good competition day today. FoxOring is a more simplified version of Radio Orienteering. The circle, just like an orienteering control circle, denotes a spot where you can (hopefully) hear a nearby very weak transmitter, which you then run towards and punch the SI control (no flag).
FoxOr map for M50
Greg wisely dropped off a couple of his more remote controls, and managed to stay in contact with the map. Greg declares he’ll need a bit (a lot?) of training if he is going to go to Japan Region 3 championships next year. Ewen found all of his allocated controls in time (very estatic Ewen), as did I. It didn’t start well for me, with a long run to the very remote L3 (see map), not yielding any discernable FoxOr signal. After some time faffing around I decided I must be in the wrong spot somehow and had to just get on with it. I then ran to all my other FoxOrs in turn. Some of them I heard, others I had to see what other competitors nearby were doing to get a hint. My 80m sniffer simply isn’t adequate for this event it seems, despite some improvements made since the last time. When I got to my final F4 control (which was faulty and only emitting a continuous carrier tone), I saw I had about 50mins before my time limit was up. I estimated the distance back to the other end of the map and L3 about 5km, and decided to give it another bash. After a long run down the main road (again), I carefully navigated into the control circle. Yep, I recognised some features from last time. Still no signal, and noone in sight, as before. Using Dennis Mews ever increasing circles technique I eventually spotted the transmitter bag on the ground. Then I heard it ….. Now the long haul back to the finish beacon, the tone of which was wandering all over the place. I estimate my long detour took 22 minutes all up, but at least I had the satisfaction of finding them all. The team (and that horn) welcomed me back.
Jack had a bit of a wander around the course today, finding a few transmitters here and there. Jack admits navigation is not his strength, but Jenelle was determined to do better than in Serbia, and did very creditably in her very competitive class. She says her first control choice was L5 (see map; I didn’t have to get that one hence the cross through it) involved an obscene quantity of contours to attain. Frustrated she didn’t get F4 due to it’s defective state, but happy otherwise.
The power went off in our hotel shortly after our return, a trip that took considerably less time than the morning’s journey. No power also meant no water for showers. Eeek ! Luckily some of us managed to get one in before the crunch.
The presentations for the FoxOr (in the building conveniently next door) were running late again, so competitors started to avail themselves of the nearby banquet, and of course the free grog. This continued through the presentations. Women’s classses subjected us to way too many Russian national anthems, but a Norwegian win in W60 broke the monotony. The men’s were a little bit more diverse, but you find yourself cheering a bit more when someone new gains a place.
Many were asking us about 2018. Will Australia be running the World ARDF champs then ? The situation is this. It has been decided that a country in Region 3 can run the 2018 championship (the next in 2016 is in Bulgaria). Japan is running Region 3 championships next year, but may have also put in a bid for the world champs. Korea has put in a tentative bid, but they ran a world champs fairly recently. China has also expressed interest, but they need to gain permission from their organisation & government as yet. China ran a world champs in 2000, the first ever held in Region 3. Both China and Korea have shown they are able to run a good championships. So that leaves Australia, who have now also expressed interest, albeit only even hearing about all this when we had already left the country. Australia has run 3 Region 3 championships, but never a world champs !
Much more to be heard & discussed on this topic.
All in all a solid performance from the small Australian team at these championships. No disasters, no overtimes and a very credible performance from our two championships newbies, Greg & Jenelle (though Jenelle did have a prior try at the Serbian FoxOr). To do better we’d need much more training in classic ARDF, significantly more in ARDF sprints, and simply more competitors to make up teams. For FoxOr events ? Probably just better 80m sniffers would go a long way.
Note re Tuesday 9 from Jenelle: We opted to skip the tour to Astana and chose to do reconnaissance around our village and the lake. The morning trip to the village netted a new water heater to replace the one I cooked. There was much effort in repairing it, but decided it was a lost cause. Afternoon trip along the lake, the boys did what they usually do – climb rocks.
Wednesday 10 September
Jenelle: Apart from the inclement weather it was not a good start. We discovered a mouse in our room, actually in Ewen’s bag eating his licorice allsorts. For those of you who know Ewen well, this did not go down too well. We are all not looking forward to 2 metre event, there were problems on Sunday on training with some of our blue boxes not auto ranging. Knew the steps to do it manually, but it was just another unknown in the equation.
Note: The team leader’s lot is not a happy one. We sense Jack is getting a little fed up with team leader meetings. He needs all the accolades he can get. He is doing a stirling job.
Jack: Now let’s forget about meetings and get into the second classic event, for all of us it was 2m. Weather was cold, overcast and wet not great weather for ARDF. We arrived ( rugged up) at the start location and after settling in discovered that the start list had changed. For some reason I did not get an up to date start list handed out the night before. I will endeavour to make sure this does not happen again.
Note from Jenelle: All that double checking at work has paid off. Having trouble remembering 2 digit numbers today, so I thought I better check my start group again. Oops my start time had changed, and so had everyone elses. Frantically checked for Greg’s and discovered that he was starting nearly an hour earlier. Breathe!!!
Jack: I was first off again followed by Bruce. Next was Greg then Jenelle followed by Ewen. As there was some time before the last 3 members start they were allowed to wait on the bus. The course was wet, steep lots of trees and very rocky. Ewen, Greg and I only had to find TX 1,3,4. Jenelle was looking for 1,2 & 4 and for some reason Bruce’s category had to find all 5 where as the rest of us only needed to find 3. As expected the 2m transmitters played havoc with our receivers. All except Bruce were forced to use manual attenuation to get good df’s. I spent too much time looking for the first transmitter but then settled down and had a reasonable course for the next 2. Bruce did well to find all of his transmitters in a reasonable time but got one out of order and it was only luck he was able to collect it on the way to one of the other foxes. Bruce finished before me and we both went to the finish chute to cheer on the others. Greg and Jenelle (all 3 txs and under 2 hours) had a good course and were happy with the times. Ewen was not happy with his result and was looking forward to the next event to improve (needs to approach finish shute from the right direction). Looking at the M60 results to be in the top 10 you need to be extremely fast for example UA3BL Cherman from Russia took out first place with a time of 32:23 with our times in the 80 minutes region we don’t stand a chance. I expect our best on this course would be in the high 50’s still way off the mark.
Note from Jenelle: It was always reassuring to know the team was waiting at the finish for you, well in advance. At one point the finish beacon went off and Bruce improvised with the trumpet sending MO (morse for the beacon)
After tea was the awarding ceremony and although I like to see people receive awards it was hard to listen to all of the national anthems in some cases many times. This ceremony went on until about 23:00. By the time I got to my room sorted out some things for the event in the morning and then checked the results and start list for the next event I finally got into bed about 23:45.
Note from Jenelle: Getting elevation seemed to be the key to today’s event. This worked extremely well and the quads and gluts are not complaining. Happy vegemite today. Met up with Vita from Lithuania, gold medal winner in W35. Stayed for that part of the ceremony. It took a long time to start. Presentation to a visiting dignitary of a special Kazak robe. We also have a very charming translator, Anton who was very keen to have a photo with an Australian team member and flag. How could I refuse? We were planning an early night tonight, but hotel staff arrived after we had gone to bed with a mouse trap complete with cheese. Hopefully this will net a positive result.
Thursday 11 September
Jenelle: Another bleak and chilly start today, and to make matters worse the mouse has taken the cheese and not set off the trap. This was not the only hiccup for the day. The local council has decided to cut a large trench right across the road which necessitated a 1.2 km walk to the other hotel to catch the bus to the start.
It was much the same routine to start the event. Link to website with today’s sprint map – http://ardf.darc.de/contest/14090812/14090812.htm#map140910.
Today it was the sprint, in other words hunting by numbers (frequencies). For me it was transimitters 2,3,5 on 3.51 MHz (slow), spectator beacon (S) on 3.54MHz, then transmitters 2,3,4 on 3.57MHz(fast) and then the final beacon on 3.6MHz. Managed to locate only No 3 of my slow ones, found 1 & 4 but they were no use to me. Taken on the advice of the more experienced hunters,” if you can’t find it where you are, go somewhere else”. Unfortunately that took me straight across the marsh and with only 20 minutes left of my 60 minute time I headed for the spectator beacon. Lots of cheering and photos here from the officials (no public spectators) , which made you feel like you were an elite performer – NOT!! Time was moving on as they say, so sensing transmitters 2 & 4 (fast) were reasonably closer made a desperate attempt to find one of them. I felt like I was being shadowed by 4 other competitors. I knew I was close, and then the gods smiled on me. A piece of red and white hazard tape flapped in the breeze. A ha No 4. Nine minutes left to get home. With trusty sniffer set to 3.6 MHz, I headed for the final beacon and the finish shute. I could hear Bruce’s trumpet in the distance and sensed the urgency. Not much run left in the legs today, but managed to finish with three minutes to spare. Not a great result, but as a first attempt I was happy to get back in time. Ruth from USA and I seem to be winning the quinella at the wrong end. The other Aussie team members had varying results. Both Greg and I are happy to have completed our first sprint events within the allocated time.
Bus trip back to the hotel was quite illuminating. Met a visitor with the Hungarian team, apparently the next World Championships are in Bulgaria in 2016. Will have to put my leave application in when I get back to work.
Flew from Bishkek to Astana. The contrast between the cities is so great I thought we must have slipped into another world. Bishkek is a bit tired and run down. Astana near new, much new building work, a mall about 200 metres wide and 2 km long with immaculate garden beds and fountains which are lit with multi-coloured lights at night. Some of the tall buildings are also lit with ever changing patterns of light.
Eventually arrived at our apartment on the 37th floor of the hotel. Magnificent view of the city. We then spent some time trying to find out when we would picked up and transported to the competition area. After several garbled phone calls and a few SMS’s we determined that we were to be collected at 10 AM the next day, from the apartment. We then went for a walk along the mall and investigated a few restaurants for dinner, eventually picking an Italian style place where we had a good meal later in the evening.
As we expected to be collected at 10 we slept in a bit and were just starting breakfast when there was a knock at the door and two people appeared to collect us. A taxi driver and an interpreter. We asked them to wait for a few minutes while we scoffed a bit of breakfast and packed. The car was a Toyota Camary, which is not designed to carry 6 people, let alone with 4 large suitcases and miscellaneous small backpacks, however with 4 across the back seat and Ewen’s large case we departed for the airport where we spent 2 hours waiting for other teams to arrive. Eventually we all packed into a minibus and after 3 hours on a 6 lane tollway we arrived in Burabay. The country side is generally flat for as far as you can see and appears to be used for cropping. Our accommodation is spacious but the bed is horrible. Food is generally OK. I won’t mention the team leaders meeting.
Off to the training area to get a look at the country we will be running in and to check the equipment. This revealed major unexpected problems with our two metre receivers. Of the ten we have only two work correctly. Possibly 2 more will be OK but we didn’t have time to check them. We have a work around but nobody is looking forward to the two metre event. The 80 metre equipment worked well.
After training and lunch we headed off to the opening ceremony. We arrived a little early and found the children still rehearsing their dancing routines, accompanied by rather too loud music and directed by a screeching lady. Ewen resorted to ear plugs, much to the amusement of the people seated either side of him. The speeches were short, even though they were translated into Russian and English and the young kids put on a magnificent display of singing and dancing. A very good opening ceremony.