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On Wednesday 19th July 2006 the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers held their inaugural Socialgaine. This is similar to a competitive rogaine, only with the emphasis more on having fun. Club committee members Sandra Kelley and Kynie Evison had spent a lot of time researching the checkpoints, making up the questions, and preparing maps and prizes. 31 members of the club arrived at the Nowra Information Centre at 9.00am on a sunny morning to sign up, form teams, go through the map and formulate a planned route. We had until 10.00am when the event commenced. We would have to return by 2.00pm. Teams would have points deducted for every minute they were late. I was in a team with Brett and Karen Davis. In all there were quite a few teams, ranging in number from three members to six. Teams were also categorised into age groups with the defining age based on the youngest team member. The age groups were; Under 50's, 50-60, 60-70 and 70 plus.
As soon as our team was registered and we were handed our map, Brett, Karen and I retired to my car to decide on a route while we enjoyed morning tea. Each checkpoint was numbered from 10 to 90 with each checkpoint defining how many points you would get for each correct answer. For example, if you correctly answered the question for checkpoint 26, you would receive 20 points, checkpoint 31 = 30 points etc etc. We decided to attempt a route that would gain us as many high points as possible and planned a long haul that would bag us mostly questions in the 50-80 point range. The map showed the townships of Nowra, Bomaderry and North Nowra, but we noticed that most of the high scoring questions, and for that matter, the bulk of the questions were situated in the Bomaderry/North Nowra area north of the Shoalhaven River, so we planned our route along Illaroo Road in North Nowra, returning to the Bomaderry Creek walking track, then, if time permitted, grab as many checkpoints in Bomaderry as possible before making a last 10-20 minute dash across the Shoalhaven River bridge back to the gathering point at the Information Centre.
At 10.00am we made a dash for our answer sheets, pegged to a fence on the boundary and we made our way across the bridge to Illaroo Road. Our first question was on the north bank. We had to write what words were written on the pink fish market wall. Then under the bridge on the cycle way to answer the question based on the graffiti written on one of the bridge pylons. We now ascended up Illaroo Road until, after about 50 metres crossed onto a reserve. We had to locate a black man-made object just west of the power lines. We could see nothing. Searching, we descended a scrubby slope onto a small bitumen lane and were quickly ordered off private land by the irate owner. Back up the scrubby slope we found a small track leading through the overgrown prickly lantana and discovered what we were looking for - a large tractor tyre. We now made our way back to Illaroo Road and answered two more questions before we attempted our next checkpoint.
The next checkpoint was a house in Daley Crescent. The question being - What type of playground equipment can be found in the back yard of the two storey house? Well, Daley Crescent shows only the front gardens and we could not see through to the back yard of the two storey white house. Were we expected to sneak through to the back yard? Obviously not. Obviously there was a reserve behind the houses of Daley Crescent, but how do we get there? There seemed to be no pathway between any of the houses. Were we supposed to access the reserve from the Golf Club on the river bank? That would mean one heck of a back-track, just for one question. Karen came up with a solution, and quite bold it was too.
As we reached the far end of Daley Crescent we noticed a vehicle coming out of one of the driveways. Karen stepped into the road and stopped the vehicle and spoke to the driver. Next thing we knew, Karen had gained permission to "Trespass" through this person's property to the reserve at the back. Yes, Karen has a good attitude when it comes to rogaines - win at all costs. All we had to do was knock on the door, introduce ourselves to the housewife, and inform her that her husband has allowed us to cross their land. Would she mind showing us to the small track at the back of their garden? This was no problem and soon we found ourselves descending a narrow track and scrub bashing our way down to the forest floor.
We now had to make our way through the bush to the spot behind the two storey white house. Trouble was, in the thick scrub we could not see what colour house was above us. We spent what seemed like wasted minutes with each foray, only to be thwarted time and time again. Was answering this question worth the 50 points on offer? Eventually the narrow pad brought us to the 4th Tee on the Golf Course, behind which was a narrow road. "A-ha" Obviously this road was not marked on the map, yet it passed by the back yard of the 'Two Storey White House' and revealed a diverse array of playground equipment which we duly marked down on our answer sheet. After all the questions answered today we had to agree that this was the biggest waste of valuable time.
We now followed some power transmission lines across vacant land to arrive at Paruna Place and answer a question about the number of letterboxes in front of a multiplex. We then moved on to Yarrunga Drive and answered several questions about some of the residences on this street. Now we descended onto the Grotto Walking Track which held the bulk of the checkpoints in this area. The Grotto is a popular walking trail on the northern bank of the Shoalhaven River which has recently been extended into quite an interesting trail. Much of the trail is below some impressive looking cliffs that include some interesting cave formations and a small section of rainforest. During this section we bumped into other groups from the club who seemed to be going better than we were. Had we wasted too much time behind Daley Crescent? We scrambled up to a very impressive cave to gather a checkpoint, the rest being scattered along the trail on the river bank. We continued to follow the track all the way to the Ski Park as there was an 80 point checkpoint situated here, worth too much to ignore. It was a fair distance, but we put on a pretty good pace and didn't waste too much time.
With the big checkpoint gathered we now ascended steeply to the far western end of Yarrunga Drive and headed back towards the spot where we had entered the Grotto. There were more checkpoints along this stretch of road which we gathered with ease. Time was now getting on. We noticed it was almost midday. Instead of stopping for lunch we ate on the run. We now had a long walk back to Illaroo Road Shopping Centre and a quick pace was called for.
We crossed Illaroo Road and followed Jamieson Road, answering more questions on checkpoints here before following a track that descended into the bush near a small intermittent creek. Down here there were more checkpoints, one of them being under a rock overhang to the east. As we scrambled up the incline I first slipped on a rock slab, then jammed my shin painfully on a fallen tree branch as we scrambled through the scrub. The last thing I needed was to slow my team town with a damaged leg. A quick check of the shin revealed broken skin and some blood, yet despite a lot of pain I was able to continue as before. I wasn't allowing this to slow me down - no way.
As we reached the overhang we found other people in attendance. At first we thought they were other club members on the rogaine, but they turned out to be rock climbers, the cliffs here providing very good climbing walls. The question for this checkpoint was "What is written in green on the rock wall?" When I saw the answer I was sure there must be some mistake - or perhaps Kynie and Sandra had a sense of humour. The word written in green was short, rude and began with an "s". Did we have the right spot? Well, Brett wrote it down anyway and we moved off to the next checkpoint.
We crossed the small intermittent creek and found ourselves under a very impressive rock overhang. What a great campsite this would make! A pity it is just a few hundred metres from busy civilisation. From here we had to work out the bearing of a house in the distance, a house with a distinctive grey terracotta chimney. We think we got the right one, over to the south east. We now followed a footpad out of the bush to the edge of an old tip to get the dimensions of an old abandoned water tank. So where to from here? Do we back track back to Illaroo Road? No, we took a bearing to the east and set off through the bush and soon found ourselves descending steeply to the Bomaderry Creek walking track and several checkpoints on the creek before we crossed the creek and ascended the the other side to the Princes Highway.
A check of our watches revealed we had just under one hour left. We reckoned it would take us 10 minutes to walk from here across the bridge over the Shoalhaven River and return to the Information Centre. In the streets immediately to our east were a range of 40 to 60 point checkpoints and we decided to have a crack at these, putting on a strong walking pace and grabbing as many as possible and leaving the bare minimum time to return. I was now thankful for last weekend's 4 day Budawangs hike which had provided me with some decent walking fitness - I certainly had no problems keeping up with Brett and Karen today. Throughout the back streets of Bomaderry we paced, grabbing as many of the checkpoints as possible while I kept a regular verbal count on how much time we had. Eventually we crossed Thurgate Oval and Bolong Road, grabbing two more checkpoints. That was it, time to return to the starting point, we had just under 10 minutes left and we really paced ourselves crossing the bridge, detouring on the southern side to grab another checkpoint (worth just 20 points) underneath the bridge.
As we arrived at the Information Centre we found we still had 4 minutes left, enough time to grab one more checkpoint nearby. A couple other teams raced us to the checkpoint, then it was back to the information centre with a minute to spare as we handed our answer sheet to Kynie and Sandra, the judges. We now spent the next 30 minutes nervously awaiting the results, laughing and joking with the latecomers who would be deducted points for each minute after 2.00pm they were late.
We found out that every competitor would be receiving a certificate for completing the day's activity. A team of over 70's was awarded the Runner Up prize for an excellent 910 points gathered, very impressive, considering the oldest group outscored every team in the club bar one. This, for us, was looking good as, while we were waiting for the judges, Brett did some quick arithmetic and deducted that, should we have got every question at each of our checkpoints correct, we would finish up with a grand points tally of 1340 points.
We were somewhat surprised to find that our score was actually only 950. Something was dreadfully wrong here - surely we didn't get that many questions wrong. It turned out that one of the judges had failed to collate a full column of scores on one side of the sheet. Our actual score finished up with a very impressive 1230 points, Giving Brett, Karen and myself the title of overall winners for the day's activity. We only got 3 questions wrong. Yes, "S@#t" was not the correct word on the Climbing Wall - we had arrived at the wrong overhang.
Overall, it was a great and successful day, enjoyed tremendously by every member who competed. It is hoped this will become a regular annual event for the club.
Full results are available here.