Mukamuka Munter (training)
The Munter is such a great name for a run. It reminds me a little of 3rd form, "you munter", but more of jokey understatement shared between outdoors people, "yeah it was a bit of a munter". The course traverses the wild south Wellington coast from the Orongorongo river past Tutaekirai head and onwards for 12 kilometres only hanging a left just before you get to the Wairarapa up the Mukamuka stream. The Mukamuka stream is choked with gravel and you plough up this under the shadow of Mt Matthews, the Rimutakas highest point, before entering a small bushy gut and climbing steeply to the south saddle. A dangerously fast descent gets you down into the headwaters of the Orongoronga, and its speed demon terrain down the open river, then single track down to Catchpool.
Mick, Casper and I had arranged a Thursday afternoon trip. Its great to have friends to share Thursday afternoons with. But it wasn't until 2.30ish that we were heading around the coast. The light was fantastic. I hadn't been through here before and it was awesome checking out the boulders and regenerating coastal scrub from the cruiseness of the flat farm track. Apparently Tutaekirae Head is a hot bed of Lizards, skinks and geckos - herpetofauna that is - and you can sort of see why. There are plenty of different environments from the coastal zone to the steep terraces with all sorts of niches for things reptillian.
You can see the mouth of the Mukamuka, framed on this day by sunlit farmland slopes, from about 10km's away, and you are just starting to get tired of the view when you get there. There is no relief though because you turn the corner and plough straight into Wellingtons notorious northerly. It channels down a wide flat bottomed gravelly valley. There is nowhere to hide.
As efficently as possible I ran up the valley, waiting from time to time for Mick and Caspar to catch up. Every now and again there was a river to jump, or a fallen tree. As the valley narrowed we had to look for the best lines to run on the gravel terraces away from the jumbled rocks of the active creek bed. Finally the track entered the bush through the narrow gut and twisted its way up a little creek bed. Despite appearances it is quite fast going as long as you stay on track and will provide little rest from running during the race. Only the last ascent is really steep and you pop out on the saddle with little warning to to the full blast of the wind. It is awesome though looking down on the heavily forested headwaters of the Orongorongas and back down the valley to the ocean with the bushy arete of Mt Matthews arcing up to one side.
We had intended to climb Mt Matthews (since you don't in the race) but were running flat out of light. Its just a contour to climb towards the summit then you hook onto a sidling track that heads to the main downhill. Caspar is a good downhiller and was up for some excitement, so we terrorised it and ourselves. Theres nothing like the feeling of having to commit yourself to the air in lieu of identifying, or even being able to see a landing zone. There are nasty drop offs from time to time and once the track got so steep that we had to back off a bit, but it wasn't long before we were waiting for Mick in a grove of gravel killed trees at river level.
It was torches on here too, and with Mick feeling the squeeze I ran ahead to jump on my bike and pick the car up. The silty Orongoronga felt like a much bigger river than it is crossing it at night and I started feeling it a little running down the sweet single track into Catchpool. In comparison the 20 minute bike ride with the northerly at my back was a joy, spinning into the feeble light of my L1 and relying on the reflective powers of my new super orange fleece in lieu of a back light.
The boys weren't too far off when I got back and it was fish n chips in Petone to finish off a good mission. It doesn't matter what garbage you eat when you stress your system like that...
I had been trying to convince Penny to do the City Safari for months, but she wasn't keen. So a week out I emaiiled the organiser who is a friend and told him I wasn't up for it. His response was for me to race with a special guest, three times World 24hr rogaine champion David Rowlands of Australia. David was great, an irredeemable rogaining/orienteering geek that you would spot in a crowded supermarket, but as tough as rusty old nails in a four by two.
The City Safari is an urban rogaine around Wellington Central and extending as far as Johnsonville, Karori and Miramar with the hills around. Its point of difference is that you can use public transport; trains, buses and (if running) the harbour ferry to Seatoun. This year it became New Zealands biggest ever rogaine with over 500 particpants. We started off with a prologue, 10 minutes sprint orienteering on the Wellington waterfront. I just picked up the map and ran with David following. Probably in retrospect not the wisest move. We went relatively smoothly through the checkpoints but got stuck on a relatively low scoring loop and then were back a minute late. We ended up ceding 30 points to our closest rivals which over the next 6 hours we were only to pull back 10.
We headed off on the train to Khandallah first up, and kept to the streets, running round the flattish plateau up there and looping back to the train track, for a one-stop ride down to Crofton Downs. From here it was a foot rogaine, through Wilton Bush, Tinakori Hill then up onto the Skyline trck, Karori, Wrights Hill and around the Sanctuary Fence and down through Brooklyn to the finish. My highlight of the day was a succesfull adoption of the lightweight approach, relying on scavenging water, which I did with a Mizone froma s hop in Khandallah, a drink from a stream in Otari and someones hose in Karori! Yeah go lightweight!
It was a great day out, enjoyed with all the others who we crossed paths with out there, with a friendly wave...and lots of new tracks explored too!!