Welcome to DrongO

Welcome to the DrongO website. We are an orienteering club for past members of Cambridge University Orienteering Club. Join DrongO online here.

JROS Hawkshead Results

20-Nov-21

DrongO provided results service to the Hawkshead Night Sprint Not-Relay.

Results are here

Dunnerdale fell race

16-Nov-21

Jeremy decided that he wanted to escape from London and go to a better part of the country for the weekend. Fortunately our government doesn't work on some Fridays* so he was able to be in Lancaster at a suitable time to head to the pub with John. Some beer and burritos were consumed and by the time they returned home Helen, Paul and Andrew had arrived.

On Saturday everyone went to Dunnerdale for a fell race. There were at least 6 DrongOs taking part and it was Jeremy's first fell race. The weather was surprisingly nice for November and it was warm enough to walk around in shorts and tshirts. Paul finished 3rd and everyone else finished. Jeremy was very tired at the end and sprawled on the ground. He was shortly revived with a pie and pint.

On Sunday, Jeremy went to visit his friend in Ulverston, John went for a run in Yorkshire and everyone else went to some horrible orienteering.

*other days may also apply

November Classic 2021

07-Nov-21

On a classic weekend in November, DrongO went to the November Classic. It was a classic weekend of orienteering, held in November.

On Saturday it was the Salisbury city race. Ben, Zuzka and Rowan met James near his house on Saturday morning for a lift, and Tom D and Richard drove themselves there. The start was right next to the cathedral and the courses had quite a lot of climb on them. James had an exciting race after getting caught by Ben Mitchell by 1 minute. He did well to hold on, but a late mistake involving an uncrossable fence led to Ben M gaining another minute to take the overall win. Ben W then slotted into 2nd having seen almost nobody on the way round, but James still holding 3rd place. when talking through maps, for the second time in 2 weeks, Ben W was told by Tom D that he'd gone out of bounds, and for the second time in two weeks the organiser/controller said it was fine (we secretly know that Tom is right, but it's the organiser's decision after all).

After the race Richard headed off to visit his brother and the rest of us went to get some late lunch from a combination of Gregg's and M&S (we were surprised to find a Gregg's this far south) and then tried to do some tourism. Salisbury cathedral was quite expensive to go into considering it was going to close soon, so we settled for looking around the courtyard. We then wandered around and saw some other not-that-historic buildings, before going back to the cars via Aldi to get food for tomorrow.

We stayed at a scout hut organised by UBOC (Bristol uni) and they already had a campfire going when we arrived. There were supposedly 6 beds which we said the drivers could have, but they were so terrible everyone opted for mats on the floor. We figured out how to turn on the hot water then walked into Burley to have dinner in a pub. Everybody failed at guessing what everybody else was going to order. The food was good, although the four-layer chocolate fudge cake, with a description which included the word "chocolate" no less than 7 times, left Ben and James feeling very much like Jeremy. Luckily neither of them stooped to his level.

Back at the scout hut we rejoined the campfire and refused Bristol's offers of spare veggie chilli as we definitely couldn't manage it. Impressively the water was indeed hot for showers now too! Ben and Tom played on the rope swing and with the help of a watch established that the rope was around 10m long. There were marshmallows, although the skewers to cook them on were quite short and Rowan employed a "no pain, no gain" cooking strategy when holding his skewer close to the fire.

After a good long sleep we got up to a sunny Sunday morning and packed up. Tom discovered two of his tyres on his recently acquired car looked quite flat, thus begun Tom's woes of car ownership. James had an electric pump to pump them up, and they seemed to stay hard so we were fine for the short term at least, so we headed 10 minutes down the road to the November Classic.

It was 2k to the start, 2k back from the finish, and 13.9k Black (M21)/9.9k Short brown (W21) - so quite a good day out. The area in the new "forest" was almost entirely open, and generally very fast running except for some areas of thick heather. In the men's Ben W was 3rd in 77 minutes, just managing to stay ahead of Meg Carter-Davies by 50 seconds, which Ben Mitchell stormed around to win 5 minutes quicker. Tom D was 14th, 33s ahead of James in 15th, with Rowan 21st and Richard 29th. Zuzka came 62nd on Very Short Green according to the results, which is strange, because she ran Short Brown.

Next we ate food and sat in the warm car for a bit like classic British orienteers (we had to, because it was a Classic event). James left to go on holiday in Cornwall, and everyone else drove a short way to go for a walk in an actually forested part of the new forest. There were three walking trails, a 2 mile red, a 1 mile blue, and a 0.5 mile yellow. Naturally we did all of them. There was a deer watching platform, where a local guy said he's only seen deer twice in 30 years. It's almost like deer avoid places where there are lots of humans, as we saw plenty during our Blue loop!

Tom then drove Ben, Zuzka and Rowan back to Newbury, where we sampled the local Wetherspoons before getting the train home.

Cambridge City Race 2021

30-Oct-21

At the end of October 2021 CUOC organised their 7th biennial city race around the streets of Cambridge. A large group of DrongO also turned up to help and run. Once the start clock had been set correctly by trial and error, everything was ready to go!

The assembly area was based outside a pub on midsummer common which was very convenient, and all the organisation went very smoothly. There was no access to any colleges this year (the colleges had a very convenient, but also rubbish, excuse to say no). However unlike the O*ford city race, the Cambridge race was still interesting without the colleges, and still went through several university sites.

As there was no prize giving, spot prizes were given at download using the spot prize giving algorithm, which was made up by whoever was manning download at the time. Prizes included buffs, ice cream vouchers, and a few bottles of Lachlan's home made cherry liqueur - if you weren't one of the lucky ones you can order some here

Controls were collected within 7 minutes of courses closing and then people headed in various directions - most went for a walk to Grantchester, some went back to Rowan's for a shower and some went to a church service.

We reconvened at the Anchor pub at 7pm for some drinks and then went to Zizzi's for dinner. Some people then went back with Richard to Stevenage for a comfy sleep in real beds, while the rest went for ice cream then went to sleep onto Rowan's floor in Milton. Rowan's initial estimate of 6 people fitting on his floor turned out to be too small, as two people managed to fit in only the space under the stairs, leaving plenty of spare area.

Most people stayed around for the whole weekend. Rowan and Tom went to the Norwich city race, and other people made their way to Ely by various combinations of walking and running. Rowan actually made his way there via Norwich. Phil and James ran there in heavy rain, while everybody else was sensible enough to delay starting for an hour, when the sun came out.

We got the train back to Cambridge and people went their separate ways. John was staying with Jeremy in London on his way back to Lancaster, so Ben joined them too for an easy quiche and vegetables dinner at Jeremy's.

Paul's House Go To France

20-Oct-21

A long time ago, Paul's housemate Andrew (AIRE/PLOD) decided he wanted to go on holiday at least once in 2021. At the time, it seemed that covid might be over by the autumn, so did some searching and found out about a week of racing in Larzac - 'every French person's favourite terrain'.

Months went by and we made plans. We all really liked Andrew's car, so decided that it was a good idea to spend as much time in it as possible. This is how we found ourselves leaving Leeds on a Friday afternoon to drive to Languedoc.

The evening's drive was uneventful, except when we arrived at the French border. Due to recent geopolitical disasters Helen, Andrew and Fay (AIRE/AROS) got stamps in their passports, which was incredibly exciting. Paul was disappointed to miss out, but then remembered he's able to live anywhere he wants in Europe and it suddenly didn't seem like so much of a loss. After spending a while in a tunnel and some more driving, we arrived in a nice forest at about 90 past Bedtime. We set up camp and settled down for a good night's sleep, interrupted only by some weird wild pig noises.

The next morning we got up and left before being discovered, bought some baguettes and pain au chocolat, and drove a long way. After driving a long way, we stopped in the New bit of Old Orléans for some flunch, then drove a long way. Another long way later, we stopped off to run around a very big Virgin on a hill and ate some dinner. Then we drove a long way, found the house and went to bed. While driving down, we had lots of entertainment, including the entire soundtrack of Legally Blonde the Musical, a podcast about a man who stopped someone from shooting the USA President, and finding out to our disappointment that the region of Pas de Calais does not in fact mean Not-Calais.

Sunday morning was spent recovering, shopping and looking round the local town. We decided to have a competition to see how could cook the most French meal, which meant looking at lots of recipes in French. One of the recipes had seaweed and tofu in it, but Super-U Lodève wasn't as veg-friendly as 'Assiettes vegetariennes', so we had to get lentils instead.

In the afternoon we headed to a big hill to go for a run. Only one short walk and one run made this the one of the most restful days of the trip.

On Monday we went to pick up some training maps for the week. The first training was quite difficult, because they had forgotten to print any white or dark green on the map. It was only after racing on the adjacent area the next day that we realised just how much had been missing. The terrain was really great - fast running rough open with lots of limestone rocks. Scrubby box bushes everywhere made visibility poor, but were easy to push through so didn't slow you down much.

We stopped for lunch at the top of a cool hill, then had a look round one of the trainings for the night race, in the hope that if we saw it in the day first we'd get less lost in the dark. We went for a walk up another cool hill, and then went to see Fay's friend Audrey for dinner. We were warned in advance "I hope you like cheese", so it was just as well that Paul's veganism was also having a holiday. When we turned up to the Tous Azimuts Douai chalet, we were greeted by a big pot of potatoes, a raclette grill, and 3 tons of cheese. We melted more cheese than any of us had ever though possible onto our spuds, then washed them down with apple crumble - our best attempt at a 'British pudding' that didn't involve suet or boiling for 4 hours. The French liked our food and we liked theirs, and so we did our part in keeping international relations cordial.

Tuesday was the first race, on the adjacent area to yesterday's training - the unpronouncable Bousquetnnous. This was really good fun - more fast running with lots of tricky rocky bits. All of the colours were on the map, making things easier than yesterday in places. Helen was 1st and Paul was 7th, despite multiple mistakes related to an inability to read control descriptions.

After a nice walk round a big valley, we headed back to the night area to do some different courses, but this time at night. The area was a bit different to earlier - more open areas, less box, and much bigger rocks. As one might expect, it was more difficult in the dark.

Wednesday's training was at Sainte Eulalie de Cernon, which was thorny and seemed to have a lot of gratuitous climb. The rocks were big though, and we got to run on a railway line, so it all balanced out. Afterwards we had a look round a cool village with a castle in it, before heading off to the biggest geological highlight of the entire week.

A 350m high hill doesn't seem particularly imposing when you're beside it. There are lots of 350m high hills and we run up them all the time. A 350m hole is another matter. The Cirque de Navacelles is ginormous. There's a hill at the bottom which is at least 50m high, and it looks tiny. It took about 10 mins to drive from 'ground level' all the way into the hole, but we reckon you could easily run it faster, because straight is great. It would be an interesting race to pit road cyclists, mountain cyclists and runners against eachother in a race from one rim to the other. It would be an even more interesting race when the gendarmes turned up to ask what you were doing to their special conservation area.

We spent a while walking around the bottom of the hole, then drove up the canyon a bit to walk to some watermills. This was the first swim of the week, as limestone plateaux don't have much in the way of water. It was quite cold, but very refreshing.

After heading home for another French-style meal we went to do our second night training. This time there were loads of other people around, getting in some last minute practice for the championships tomorrow. It was more of the same - lots of big exciting rocks with fast running in between.

On Thursday we didn't need to get up early to go orienteering, so we got up early to go to Carcassonne instead. This turned out to be a good idea, because it rained in Larzac. On the way down, we stopped off at Les Marcassins for a training in some of the weirdest terrain of the week. Red rock bare earth, cut into huge gullies by dried up streams, interspersed with the thorniest of thorny bushes. Steep, spiky, and surprisingly difficult, we spent about twice as long as we expected to, before heading off for the main event of the daytime.

Fans of walled cities or board games will know that Carcassonne is a famous walled city, named after a famous board game. In the game you place tiles with walls and roads on them to try to build walls and roads, and get points for various things. In the real life version, we came several hundred years too late, and all the tiles had already been placed, making it a less interactive visit than we might have hoped. In France, EU citizens aged 18-25 get free entrance to lots of historic places. UK citizens do not. Our token EU citizen also forgot his passport, so what was planned to be a free day out was looking quite expensive. In a stroke of genius, we booked our tickets online and assumed they wouldn't check IDs. Act of fraud committed, we headed inside. The castle was built over the course of several centuries, then fell into ruin but was restored in the 1800s, so is now mostly intact. One sign told us that when it was under siege, Lady Carcas used up all their remaining food to fatten up pigs, which they launched over the walls at the attackers. Seeing that the castle clearly had enough food to last years, the enemy gave up and went home.

We left Carcassonne, stopped off briefly at the house, and headed out again for the French Night Champs. It wasn't raining anymore, which made things a lot nicer to run in, and it was warm enough to just wear normal o-kit. Andrew's combination of wide angle headtorch for mapreading plus bike light strapped to his head for looking at the terrain did a good job. Helen's tiny petzl did even better, lighting her way to 4th, behind well-known Frenchwomen Tereza Janosikova and Eva Juřeníková. The course either tracked up or there were some big trains out there, because all the late starters had very fast times, even compared to early starters Lucas Basset (WOC silver medallist) and Paul Pružina (former East Anglian Champion).

The next morning we had a lie in, only getting up at 0830. We only had one orienteering session planned today, making this the rest day. The race was a 'forest' sprint, in similar terrain to yesterday morning. This time the gullies were less deep and the bushes less spiky, making running a lot easier and orienteering more fun. Andrew was out first, and came back telling Paul he should probably win. Helen and Paul both decided to take this advice. Afterwards, we decided we hadn't seen enough rocks this week, so went for a walk at the Cirque du Mourèze to see some more. These ones were the biggest so far, and very similar to the rock gardens of Český Raj - a paradis français.

The last day of orienteering involved an early start. We had packed and cleaned on Friday night, so just had to get up and leave the house at 0630 to head to Béziers. The French sprint champs are a little more serious than the British, with bigger fields, more good people, and quarantine before the races. We arrived in a school playground a few minutes before quarantine closed, and had a 90 minute wait before our starts. The Qualification races were good fun - starting off in a park before heading around some old town streets. The top 10 French people, and any foreigners in the top 10, qualify for the final. Andrew and Helen qualified comfortably, Fay snuck in in 10th, and Paul came 11th, cursing a 10s mistake that put him the wrong side of 10th.

As the others headed back to the school playground for several more hours of waiting, Paul got the chance to see the sites of Béziers, including an indoor market selling tasty olives, 155 steps of the Cathedral tower, a visitor leaflet written in first person by the Cathedral itself, and a cup of thé in a salon de. Eventually the wait was over. Fay was the first through, soon followed by Helen, and by Andrew half an hour later. The finals were broadcast live on Mont Blanc TV, and in total we had about 10s of coverage, mostly in the background of French runners they were trying to film. The courses this time were entirely in the old town, visiting a lot of the places Paul had been on his walk, but without being allowed to stop for thé or glace.

When everyone had finished, we stayed to watch the speediest men speeding in, before heading back to the car.

Béziers is not quite by the Mediterranean, and we thought it would be a bit silly to drive all the way here without even seeing it, so we drove about 20 mins to get to the beach and go for a swim. The waves were big and fun, but no one else around seemed to think so because they were all staying on dry land. We had a dinner of bread, cheese and houmous and then began the long trip north.

After a few hours of rain so heavy we could only drive at 80, we arrived at our luxury 1 star hotel in Clermont Ferrand. We spent the next morning driving up to Fontainebleau, where we didn't go orienteering, and instead looked at lots of cool rocks. Andrew got out his climbing shoes and did one boulder problem, but the rock was quite wet so no one else could do anything in normal shoes. We continued the drive up to Amiens, were we went to a Breton restaurant for dinner, getting galletes followed by crêpes, a highly recommended menu.

On Monday morning it was time to go. When we arrived in Calais, the French border guard made fun of the British for needing to get their passports stamped, and then the British customs queue took so long to check a caravan that we missed our boat and had to wait 90 minutes for the next one. When we eventually got to the less fun side of La Manche we drove some more, taking special care to drive on the left and go round roundabouts clockwise.

Larzac was a really amazing place to orienteer. The terrains were fantastic, the October weather was warm but not too hot, the maps were good, the competitions were great, and none of the French people laughed too much at our less-than-perfect French. Everyone should go orienteering there.

DrongO at the Czech Night Champs

18-Oct-21

On 16/17 October a weekend of orienteering was held featuring the Czech night championships, which Ben W and Dan S went to. The weekend started in classic DrongO style with Ben and Dan meeting at a pizza place on the outskirts of Prague, also joined by Johanna, who was quite new to orienteering and had just run a nearby training with Dan. Unusually, the score was pizza 1, DrongO 0, as DrongO could not finish the pizza and had to take it with them.

Next on the itinerary was a concert by a band called Timudej, whose most famous song is called "Banana squaish". Dan went home to have a shower whilst Ben went straight there, and was met by Dan's brother Seb. In the queue Seb almost managed to even up the pizza score. Just as we'd reached the front of the queue and shown our tickets, Dan appeared behind us which was confusing given the size of the queue. It turned out Dan thought the queue was a queue to buy tickets and had walked straight past it, skipping the covid check and getting straight in. The concert was fun and included glowing balloons being thrown into the crowd to be hit around. The band don't meet very often, forgot to bring their own merchandise (as Dan discovered at the end when he tried to buy some), and occasionally they messed up their own lyrics. Ben held the pizza box for the entire concert containing the final slice which nobody wanted. Seb finally put it out of its misery at the end. Then it was back to Dan's flat for some sleep before orienteering!

On Saturday morning we got up in time despite Seb's "wakes up everyone in the room" alarm failing. We picked up another guy (Fanda) and drove to Plzeň for a lunchtime sprint race, in which Ben came 7th and Dan had an almost perfect run but was outrun to finish in 22nd, just over 5 mins down on the leader.

Next stop was a face-stuffing self service supermarket restaurant at Globus, in which we managed to buy too much food. Dan made a moody waitress moodier by asking when more food would be ready. Ben was defeated by boiled potatoes and had to takeaway a gherkin, and the shared cake between Ben and Dan also got taken away.

When the face stuffing was complete, we headed to the accommodation in a boarding school to check in. We were doing the check in for the 17 members of Kamenice (Dan's Czech club) who had entered the race weekend. They insisted that we complete the addresses and passport numbers of everybody, but everybody wasn't there so Fanda spent an hour "remembering" this information. It then turned out that a subset of the club had come earlier and "remembered" their details differently, but fortunately nobody seemed to care. As a result, there was no time left for some Plzeň tourism, but we did drive round the town square which featured fountains of lambda, pi, and tau.

We then headed back to the Globus car park for the Czech night champs. People not registered with Czech orienteering aren't allowed to run the night champs, so Ben got demoted from 21E to T4, a 4k training course. Dan had a clean run and finished 41st, partly fuelled by anger at the start officials, who told him he might get disqualified for not having a covid wristband. It turned out we were supposed to show vaccination certificates in exchange for a wristband in the car park, but we may have not read every bit of the final details. Luckily they let us show them at the Sunday event and all was good. The assembly area was amazing, indoor, heated, and nice showers.

After enjoying the showers we headed back to the accommodation for bed. Dan took one for the team by being first to discover that the toilet paper was stored outside of the toilet cubicles so you had to plan ahead, but a clubmate rescued him.

In the morning we packed up quickly had a Lidl breakfast, where croissants are approximately free. It was foggy and frosty and we were about the 10th car to arrive in the car park. In contrast to yesterday's rules, Ben was the only person who couldn't get demoted from 21E to 21A, since foreigners are assumed to be good. Ben managed not to embarrass himself and finished 27th of 37, 9 minutes down on the leader. Dan finished 52/68 on 21A, 13 minutes behind the leader. The standard in Czechia is definitely higher than in the UK, and there were so many young people at these races! We had dršťková afterwards, a kind of soup with cow stomach in it. It was slightly strange.

Then it was time to head back to Prague. We ditched Seb for Johanna in the car and drove back. At Dan's flat we discovered that Ben didn't comprehend why Friday's concert had started like it did, with a man in a full head mask ha-ing random songs (ha-ing is like humming, but instead of saying mmm you say ha). He was meant to be a character from a French film called Fantômas, so we watched that. It includes a vehicle chase involving everything from a motorbike to a submarine.

Then there was just time to squeeze in some dinner and beer in a pub before Ben went back to the airport. Dan brought his scooter to use for getting back home more quickly and scooted out of the pub when we left, complaining that the only good surfaces for scooting are those which are forbidden to scoot on.

BOC 2021

07-Oct-21

On 2nd October the British Long Distance Championships were held on Braunton Burrows on the north coast of Devon. Ben W, Ben S, Rowan and Zuzka assembled (in that order) at the exciting location of Sixt car hire North Wembley to begin the trip. First stop was a very efficient 30 minute stop in Oxford to pick up Tom D, but more importantly to eat the tuna bake he'd prepared. We decided this was his pre-house warming so that when we finally have a proper one it won't be too freezing when people first arrive. We also established that the pasta bake was marginally more expensive than the brand new plates we were eating it off.

After a long journey involving a rather strange service station which looked like a converted supermarket, we arrived at our AirBnb in Bideford, which was very luxurious by DrongO standards.

There was plenty of time to lie in in the morning, and Zuzka made pancakes. We played a slightly annoying game where you aren't allowed to use the word "yes" or "no" in answer to questions, by which time it has started raining and it was time to go. Upon arrival we were directed to the backup backup car park, which was actually quite good.

The area was difficult and there was a lot of stuff on the map - not just complicated sand dune contours, but also various patches of dark green vegetation and marshes. The final details had done their best to set low expectations of the map quality, and as a result everyone was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The courses were long (hence the name of the competition) and were a bit like a black course and a middle race stuck together, with the final third having plenty of shorter legs to catch you out when tired. The M21E course had a fantastic route from the penultimate control to the final one involving a 15m descent of a large and steep sand dune.

Ben W gained his first ever BOC medal, coming 2nd on M21E after managing not to make any major navigation mistakes (and a large number of team GB being away in Switzerland might have helped). Ben S had some exciting head to head racing for a large portion of his course, getting dragged round in the earlier part and then doing the dragging towards the end, to come 7th overall. Tom and Rowan also got round successfully, finishing 18th and 23th, with Zuzka 11th on W21E. There was also a DrongO medal win from Mary Ockenden with bronze on W60.

After the race we thought about going to the beach, but everyone was quite wet so we went shopping and back to the house to "cook". "Cook" because Zuzka voted that we should have an Asian ready meal feast, featuring Thai, Indian, and Chinese, and everybody else abstained from the vote. We also made crumble with a cinnamon DrongO on top, because we felt it was the right thing to do. Our ideas of doing some tourism in the town didn't really materialise by the time we'd eaten and played a few games. We also enjoyed a bottle of red wine delivered by Nick Barrable to Ben W. It was Ben's prize from the Rome city race, brought via Stockholm, and it took around 2 years to complete the journey.

Sunday morning was more of a normal getting up time, leaving at 9.30am, at which point Ben W discovered a parking penalty notice on the car. The pay and display ticket had slipped down and was still visible if you looked at the correct angle, but was not "clearly visible". Luckily they decided not to charge us once sent some more photos.

There was a middle distance race on the same area as yesterday. This time we were only sent to the backup car park so it was 2.7k to the start. The weather was windy and sunny, with very short but very heavy showers. Some people were lucky to stay dry whilst running and some were not. Ben W picked up his prize from yesterday of Devon Chutney and a Terry's chocolate orange (which was rapidly consumed during the journey home).

Once everyone was back we headed over to Saunton Sands, a massive, sandy, very shallow beach where there were lots of surfers and kite surfers. The Bens and Tom went for a swim and Ben W drew a string course in the sand and sand dunes to be used for warming up again after swimming. Rowan indicated the edge of his personal space with a line in the sand and Zuzka got trapped inside a circle drawn around her.

We just made it back to the car within 1 hour of parking and started the journey home. We dropped Ben S at Cheltenham Spa and got some pizzas to have DrongO pizza at Tom's on the way back past Oxford. We were also worried about petrol because we had to bring the hire car back full. After filling up in Devon, then Cheltenham, then Oxford (with progressively longer queues, lower availability and higher prices) we made it to London with the guage still showing full.

We dropped Rowan off at Hillingdon only to get a call from him a few minutes later to say there we no trains, so we went to get him again (there may have actually been trains, ask Tom if you want to find out if there were). This made it very tight for him to get the last train to Cambridge, but Rowan soldiered on, easily making his train with plenty of nanoseconds to spare. Ben W and Zuzka dropped the car off but spent a while trying to find the box for key drop, because Ben couldn't remember where it was. After taking some photos through a crack in a window (which turned out to be a toilet, not a key drop) they found it at the entrance to the compound just in time for the next train home.

Thanks everyone for another fun DrongO weekend, see you at the Cambridge city race!

Gigasecond Weekend

01-Oct-21

Once upon a time* DrongO wanted to go to the JK in Yorkshire. But alas, a plague came and it was not to be. The DrongOs** had already parted with their gold for a bunkhouse in which to stay, and so it was that the booking was postponed. Twice upon a time*** Ben was nearly 30 and thought celebrating in Yorkshire would be fun. The MMM happened one week earlier, but alas the plague struck again. Do not fear, said the DrongOs**, the JK in Cornwall is cancelled. So the DrongOs** decided that next time**** they would have a weekend in Yorkshire instead. But alas, the plague still hadn't finished its last strike, and the DrongOs** thought they'd try again at a later date*****. But what to call it? Ben's 30th had passed long ago, and he was now nearer****** to 1 billion seconds old than 30 years. So it was that the Gigasecond weekend was born.

* 10-13 April, 2020
** Ben, on behalf of the DrongOs
*** 25-28 September, 2020
**** 2-5 April, 2021
***** 24-27 September, 2021
****** The actual Gigasecond is at 4:55am on 6 July 2022

Two cars travelled to the Hole of Horcum on Friday morning and went for a walk, which included some token bracken bashing, a ruined tower, and a view over the steam railway. We could also see a super secret military triangular prism, but we don't know what it is. We got to the bunkhouse at about 5pm and put up tents (because there were more people than would fit in the bunkhouse) and waited for the other three cars to come, one of which had the food in it. Luckily the food-containing car was first to arrive, with the final people finally making it sometime after midnight. Food was a zero-chopping veggie chilli with wraps, which involved throwing everything in a saucepan, waiting for it to get hot, then eating it in wraps. Helen O and Paul presented Ben with his Gigasecond present - 1000 millions carefully counted out. There are 986 of them left currently.

On Saturday morning it was day 1 of the October Oddysey on sand dunes near Redcar, with a view over an offshore windfarm in one direction, and a view of a steelworks in the other direction. DrongO had managed to roughly double the number of entries on the Brown course. The brown was "won" by Ben W, but later it was discovered that two M18s had run the JIRCs quicker (same course, but in the afternoon). Here are the full results. We also had two relatively new people to orienteering with us - Andie (Rory's partner), who somehow ended up with a map for the Yellow course, but control descriptions for the White course. She rigourously stuck to punching the correct codes as shown on the descriptions, and quite impressively completed the White course despite not having the map for it! Tom Weatherby also ambitiously entered the Brown, and completed it successfully, beating at least one person in the process!

Once everybody was finished we had a picnic by the dunes and then went for a walk on the beach. However, upon reaching the beach many people decided that it would be more fun to bury Jeremy in a vertical position, so some people went for a walk, and some buried Jeremy. It soon became apparent that building a pile of sand as tall as Jeremy would be very difficult, so once it was up to his waist he sat down and the Jeremy-encasing sand castle was completed. Meanwhile, Ben S went for a swim and came back reporting that he had almost been dragged out to sea by the current! A lucky miss, so after the sandcastle some people went wave jumping without getting too deep.

We then went back to the bunkhouse for some quick showers, before heading back out to a pub for dinner. Contrary to John's prediction that "nowhere is going to have space for 17 people on a Saturday night" this place did indeed have space for 17 people on a Saturday night, thus proving John incorrect. It was an enjoyable meal, culminating with dessert (as meals usually do). Jeremy and Rowan shared the "sharing sundae" - which Rowan ate his share but Jeremy needed help, deepening his reputation for being too full.

On the way back home two cars stopped off at Goathland station (which was Hogsmeade station in Harry Potter) - as part of the "steam Gala" which was happening that weekend, there was a beer festival. You could choose from around 30 beers and drink them on the platform, and a couple of steam trains came through with their fires giving an impressive red glow in the darkness.

On Sunday it was day 2 of the October Oddysey, but starts weren't until about 1pm, so some people stayed around the bunkhouse and played board games in the morning, and some people went for some short walks on the moors. Ben W, John and Jeremy walked up and jogged down a nearby hill, stopping at a nice-looking pond on the way down for a quick swim. Unfortunately the pool turned out to be not so nice, and actually just a good mechanism for swapping a sweaty body for a muddy one.

Everyone met up at the race, which was on the same sand dunes as yesterday but a bit further south, and was middle distance. It included a couple of legs where you could choose to run along the beach, and some fun sand dune descents if you took the right route! As yesterday, this was followed by a sunny picnic at the assembly area, and then another trip to the beach. More people went wave-jumping today, and a scale drawn in the sand showed that the sea had moved up the beach by around 14m whilst we were in the water. We couldn't leave without doing a bit of sandcastle building, so some smaller castles were built a further 10 metres up the beach until the sea destroyed them. Miranda and Tom's car had left us at this point. The rest of us went back to the bunkhouse to cook some curry for dinner and spend the evening playing games.

On Monday morning it poured with rain for around two hours, so we got up slowly and played some more games whilst waiting for it to stop. It did indeed stop, and the sun even came out a little bit, so we packed up and drove a few minutes do another moor walk. The walk crossed the steam railway which led to much excitement at being able to walk on the railway tracks. After the walk we had a picnic lunch and then just had time to return to the tracks to see a steam train go past at close range.

Rory's car then headed off, while Richard's car and John's car went to York on the way back for some more tourism walking round the city walls. Thanks everyone for coming!

MMM 2021

14-Sep-21

The Mourne Mountain Marathon (MMM) took place on 11-12 September. Various people arrived at various times and The Spreadsheet was used to ensure they all made it to the Pružina household on Friday night. The Pružinas had prepared some tasty baked potatoes for us, which were made tastier because we had recently discovered that not only is Ireland famous for potatoes, but Comber, the Pružina's town, is famous within Ireland for its potatoes. Sadly these potatoes weren't from Comber, but whatever. An unknown boy with long hair was also staying with us, and we still aren't sure who he is.

On Saturday morning it was an early start and everyone made it to the assembly area in time for their starts except Jeremy and Ruairi, who fancied a lie in. Their lateness was further compounded by the assumption that Ruairi's parents were both doctors and therefore the required first aid items would be found around his house, however nothing as simple as a bandage was available, only complex doctory things were there. They eventually started 3 minutes after the start officially closed.

It was a lovely day as the clouds lifted and gave way to semi-blue sky, and gradually everybody came into the overnight campsite. For once, nobody wished they were like Paul because he had banged his knee and so his partner Phil ran the course unofficially on his own, accompanied by Ben for the final bit, who was spectating/taking photos because 4 hours is too long to run for if your Achilles hurts. There were, however, some non-injured people on the elite course: Matthew+John leading over a mixed pair by less than a minute, and Heather+Helen just over an hour behind in 6th, and 1st women.

Jeremy and Ruairi came in from the C course a bit later in the afternoon - Jeremy's housemate Ruairi had once told Jeremy "mountain marathons sound interesting". Jeremy promptly bought him an entry to the MMM as a birthday present! Helen and Zuzka arrived with Zuzka feeling sick any time she ate anything, but they made it! Richard and partner James Roberts (also from Pembroke, and almost new to orienteering) came in from the B course just as the sun was setting, coming in quite cheerfully after a huge 10 hour effort! We also discovered a CUOC pair were there - women's captain Sarah Pedley and Dom Dakin (who is about to start Cambridge, but is already on the CUOC committee!).

The afternoon/evening was spent eating and talking. Conversation topics included "would you eat the baby?" and "can you get waterproof trousers for a horse with taped seams?". Ben, Phil and John went for swim dressed very naturally while Matthew spectated. Jeremy ate multiple desserts, so we can confirm that he is, after many weeks, no longer full from pancakes.

Sunday morning was chilly and grey, but dry, and still very sweaty once you got running. The courses were generally slightly shorter and also more runnable than yesterday. Matthew and John had a good day to win the men's elite, while Heather and Helen we're 5th on elite and women's winners. Phil would have virtually "won" but his watch deleted the activity, which ruined Phil's day and erased all evidence of his virtual win. Dom and Sarah were also 5th on the C.

Once everybody had arrived back and helped to consume some of the spare sandwiches (nobody wanted a peanut butter wrap through), one car headed off for a swim in the sea and the others went back to the Pružina household for showers and more tasty chilli. Then it was time for some people to go home, and some people to stay a bit longer to explore Northern Ireland!

Coast and Islands

26-Jul-21

Day 2

After the sprint in Ullapool the previous day, everyone was excited to go orienteering in some real terrain. Everyone got stuck in some roadworks on the way to the race and missed their start times. Start times were not adhered to for the rest of the week. The terrain turned out to be a horrible thick green forest with lots of spiky bits at eye level, trippy bits at foot level and scratchy bits at all other levels.

We'd parked on the playground at Lochinver Primary School which was next to a lochan. John and James went swimming, and John got covered in ticks from some grass next to the water. We headed into Lochinver village to investigate the pie shop. Unfortunately there was a massive queue, so we got the picnic bag out of the car and ate the emergency tesco pork pies instead.

In the afternoon we went for a walk up Stac Pollaidh. The cloud was down and we didn't expect to see a view from the top. Shortly before the summit we broke through the top of the cloud into glorious sunshine. There was some fun scrambling along the ridge and working out which was the real top. We camped on some dunes above the beach at Little Gruinard. The beach was a good spot for dinner and stayed relatively midge free.

Day 3

We had late afternoon starts for the orienteering, and decided to spend the morning doing a warm up. Jeremy decided that the best way to do this was by doing some more paperwork for renting a house. John and James decided that was not active enough (and had no paperwork anyway), so decided to run up some Munroes instead. They were originally planning to do an out-and-back run from the road, but Matt told them that the route was best done as a circuit including some scrambling. There was a 5km track run in before the climb really started. The bedrock at the lower slopes was quartzite, and this changed to a red sandstone on the ridge. The ridge sandstone was made up of lots of lobes - a bit like a stack of unfinished pancakes. John and James scrambled along the ridges and came across a herd of goats. The Munroes: Sgurr Fiona and Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill were fairly unremarkable, but visiting them nearly doubled John's Munroe count. Back at the road, everyone sat around a picnic table when a cyclist stopped and looked strangely at us. It turned out to be Pippa, who had been cycling on the Outer Hebrides and was on her way to Fort William. We invited her to join us for lunch, and realised most of the lunch was still in the other car, parked a few km along the road at the start of the run.

In the afternoon we went orienteering at Poolewe. There was a section of woodland at the start and end of the courses, but mostly it was on the fell. The car park was surprisingly midgy and we escaped to Gairloch for dinner. The pub was full so we joined the long queue at the chippy. The wait was rewarded by large portions of chips, and Jeremy once again failed to finish all his food. Fortunately hungry cyclist Pippa was around to ensure nothing went uneaten. We found a partially constructed 5G phone mast to camp under, and as the rain started everyone drifted off to sleep with sweet dreams of covid conspiracy theories.

Day 4

It was still raining in the morning and there were lots of midges stuck inside the tent outer. We went to a cafe for coffee and second breakfasts, and stayed there for quite a while. Pippa left on her bike and we went to the orienteering. The rain stopped by the time we arrived. The area was the best of the week, a fellside with lots of rock detail and reasonable underfoot running. John caught up a few minutes on James and spent the rest of the race trying to get away, ultimately making a mistake and letting James get ahead again. Jeremy also had a nice time.

We went to Shieldaig for lunch. James had not done enough exercise in the morning and went cycling around Applecross. He returned in a cold, soggy state a few hours later. We found a nice spot to camp on the area for the next day.

Day 5

The toilets in Kyle of Lochalsh charged an extortionate fee which we realised we shouldn't have bothered with anyway, because we then went to a cafe for second-breakfast. Tom Dobra has been complaining for years that no-one plans red courses anymore, but one had been planned for us. The area was very green and the best way between controls was always to go round on the paths. Matt skipped part of the long course and found out at the finish that he had managed to do the correct controls for the short course.

In the afternoon we went for a walk up Belig on Skye. It was very steep and the summit was in a cloud. Matt left his bag a short distance before the top, which Jeremy then moved. On the way down Matt was deep in conversation with James and walked right past his bag. Jeremy shouldered Matt's bag and continued walking down the hill. John and James tried to keep the conversation going, but eventually Matt realised that he'd forgotten his bag. It was quite possibly more funny at the time.

In the evening we got separated whilst trying to find a place to camp. No-one had any phone signal which resulted in quite a lot of sitting around and wondering what the others might be doing. Eventually everyone converged on a lovely beach, which had also been found by several other orienteers in campervans.

Day 6

The orienteering on the last day was at Armadale Castle on Skye, although no-one is actually sure if there is a castle. The course was in the wooded hillside surrounding the supposed castle. After the race, everyone went for a final dip in the sea. John and Jeremy headed back to Lancaster. The journey was mostly uneventful apart from Jeremy nearly destroying the clutch in John's car, and stopping for an excellent pie, mash and peas. James was still not tired, so stayed on Skye to do some more exercise.

DrongO explore the North Coast 500

23-Jul-21

The trip began with an eight hour train ride to Inverness for Jeremy and Natalie, where they met up with James, who was driving from Aberdeen. Arriving at the hostel for the night, the receptionist was surprised to discover Natalie was female, as James had listed her as male on the booking. After a pub dinner and a quick trip to buy last minute camping supplies, it was time for an early night.

On the recommendation of Ben and Zuzka, we took a trip to Wild Pancakes for breakfast. Opting for the large option as it was only slightly more expensive, Jeremy was unfortunately unable to finish even half of his meal. Natalie managed around 2/3rds and James finished his whole plate with ease. Once the car was packed to the brim and a large food shop was complete, we were finally ready to head off on our epic road trip! 15 minutes later we stopped for beer at the Black Isle Brewery. In the afternoon we took a walk up to a monument with a surprisingly depressing story behind it, then had a late lunch on the beach. The sea was fully of jellyfish, which we discovered were much firmer to the touch than you might expect. Finally it was time to find a camping spot for the night. A spot was found but, within seconds, swarms of midges descended. This meant dinner had to be eaten whilst walking up and down the road, and beers had to be drunk in the “party tent” – utilising an airlock system to avoid unwelcome midge guests. Jeremy wasn’t able to finish his 10% ABV porter, probably because he was still full from pancakes. At bedtime, Jeremy bravely lead all the midges into his own tent using his head torch as a lure, allowing James to get to his tent safely.

Campsite pack down was quick and efficient as we hurried to escape the midges. It was noted the Jeremy’s midge net didn’t seem to be doing a very good job, which made a lot of sense when Natalie recognised it as a mesh laundry bag. We briefly stopped at Whaligoe steps but were put off by surprisingly violent messages on the fence. Instead we headed to Old Wick Castle for a lovely midge-free breakfast and coffee. Natalie went for a short jog and Jeremy claims he saw a shark. Next, we drove to Wick harbour, got out of the car, and promptly got back in again having decided that Wick was the most depressing place on earth. From there we headed up to John O’Groats to take the obligatory tourist photos, then on to the Castle of Mey. James and Natalie made friends with some seals down at the beach while Jeremy tried to vain to get enough phone signal to sort out renting a house in London – a very sensible thing to try and do from the Scottish highlands. We ate a late lunch at Dunnet beach, were Jeremy finally got some phone signal, and Natalie and James managed a 20 second swim in the sea. Finally, we stopped at Coco Mountain for some incredible mochas. That night we camped at a stunning view point and enjoyed the rest of our Black Isle beers, along with a kilogram of custard - split roughly 5:4:1 between James, Natalie and Jeremy (who was still full from pancakes).

James started the next day with a 7 mile run, while Natalie went for a wash in a loch and Jeremy had a lie in. After breakfast, the boys were convinced to also have a wash. Three RVs showed up just in time to provide an audience. The previous day’s left over mocha was finished by James, as Jeremy was still full from pancakes. Next we burnt off the kilo of custard by ascending Ben Hope – 900m climb in 4km. Natalie had to turn back early due to illness, but James and Jeremy made it to the top, with James heading further along the ridge for an extra run. We then all cooled off in a very slippery waterfall – our second wash of the day! We found another beach for a very late lunch stop, were James and Natalie decided they needed yet another wash and got in the sea – lasting maybe a minute this time. After a quick stop to restock on beer and cake, and visit the interestingly named Smoo Cave, we headed off to find a camping stop for the night. Turns out there weren’t many good spots around, but we received a tip about a beach campsite nearby with toilets (luxury!!) so drove on to Shegra. It was very scenic but somewhat noisy. We played a game of ‘clean your dishes in the sea without getting your feet wet’ and failed.

Turns out that saying the campsite ‘had toilets’ was a slight fib – there were public loos, but they were 2km up a massive hill. Natalie made it half way before accepting a lift for a kind stranger. Before leaving, James and Natalie took a quick dip in the sea, while Jeremy decided that he’d rather not get hypothermia. After a coffee break at a well-signposted ‘secret garden’, and lunch at the gorgeous Ardvreck Castle, we made our way to Ullapool to meet up with John for the first race of the Coast and Islands series. The race was as sprint through a mix of urban and park terrain. James performed well and came in 5th place, and was then asked to run some more so he could be filmed for an official video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI7_94nMvuo). We spent the night in another beach-side campsite, this time with actual toilets, and even warm showers! We cooled off on the beach with ice creams and a swim in the sea, then drank very sophisticated gin and tonics (which John stirred with his finger), and had an enlightening conversation about Jeremy’s relationship with midges and Natalie’s past embarrassments.

On Monday Natalie had to head back to London, but the others probably did some more orienteering or something.

Natalie and Rob get married!

10-Jul-21

A chance finally came for a larger group of DrongOs to see each other as Natalie Holroyd narrowly escaped restrictions to have a proper sized wedding with Rob Laidlow on 10th July 2021.

Natalie and Rob have been together since undergraduate at Cambridge, although she never managed to persuade him into coming to a lot of orienteering - however, we discovered that Rob had heard from Natalie pretty much every detail of every DrongO trip she'd been on, and he still thinks we're a fun bunch of people, so we hope he'll join us on some more trips soon!

The wedding was at a castle. Because not quite all restrictions had disappeared, the original plan for all guests to come for pizza on Friday evening wasn't allowed, however conveniently, people who were camping a the castle, which included all of DrongO, were still allowed. So we came and had some swimming pool fun. The pool had a narrow ledge to balance along, and Jeremy's favourite thing was the log-shaped inflatables. There was pasta and sauce for dinner, but it appeared to be running out so Ben and John were tasked with an Aldi trip to top up. Returning with 5kg of pasta and several jars of sauce, it then turned out Ben was the only one who hadn't had any food yet!

Saturday morning dawned and James was off for a run whilst everybody else was still having breakfast/sleeping. A shorter running group set off a bit later to enjoy the local nettles and brambles, through which a footpath led to a rather muddy sea. Everyone except Tom D had a jog up a grassy hill with a view over the sea whilst waiting for Tom D to finish picking his way through the vegetation. We tried to visit a cave but couldn't quite get there, and returned via a much less brambly route.

Then there was time for a quick "shower" (heat water on a camp stove and splash yourself with it) before getting dressed up for the wedding. The ceremony was outside in the castle grounds, followed by confetti throwing. DrongO then went off to buy and eat a luxurious (actually not even sarcastic) Aldi picnic in the castle grounds, before heading off for a walk on some less brambly paths with three dogs in tow - it was our task to tire them out whilst day guests were at the main meal! The walk included a game of how many DrongOs can you fit in one tree (the answer is many).

We arrived back just as the speeches were finishing. We thought there might be time for a quick dip in the pool before the evening festivities began, but it turned out the pool had to be closed on wedding days because pools and alcohol don't mix, so ironically instead of going swimming we went and started on the beer instead!

There were some really excellent musicians playing who were friends of Rob and Natalie, one of the advantages of Rob studying music! A pizza van soon appeared and DrongO proudly got straight to the queue first, although we did let Natalie skip in front because it was her special day or something. There was also a lot of cheese and biscuits laid out, and rumour has it James H is now living on cheese for the rest of the summer after much of the remains ended up in his car. The rest of the evening was more outdoor music, a DJ, whiskey tasting, and sparklers by the fire pit. Music ended at midnight and those who remained wandered over to sit around the fire for a while longer. DrongO almost won the party, but we are told that Natalie's brother was the true winner.

In the morning we had another DrongO run/jog and another session in the swimming pool, as well as helping with a few bits and pieces of clearing up, although Natalie and Rob's groomsmen, bridesmaids and families were so efficient that we weren't tasked with a great deal! The weekend finished with a picnic on the beach a few miles away, where we ate cheese with various things, and played some stone-throwing games. There was also a huge outdoor "marine lake" just around the corner, which Fiona swam around for at least an hour, and Tom D also spent at least an hour getting in.

DrongO HQ Celebrates Valentines Day

14-Feb-21

The two couples living at DrongO HQ each celebrated Valentine's day 2021 in their own way. Ben and Matthew went for a cycle tour of the Bakerloo line, taking a photo with the most Valentine's day themed thing they could find in the flat outside each of the 25 stations, while Zuzka and Fiona did various activities such as painting, revising, running, and talking. In the evening Matthew provided some Saxophone entertainment whilst Zuzka and Fiona allowed Ben to join their Cluedo date.

Cross Country Skiing 2020

23-Feb-20

In February DrongO went for their second cross country skiing trip to Czech Republic. Most people arrived on Friday night, except for Rowan and Jeremy who were enjoying the time between university and having a job, and therefore went early for some surprisingly warm sunbathing before heading to the snowy mountains. We caught a bus from Černý Most but were there an hour early, so we went in search of the Black Bridge which the station was named after. We didn't find the bridge, but we found a large shopping centre rated 4-star by Belinda from Southport, and a playground with trampolines.

On Saturday we walked a few miles to a ski hire place, then set off for a day of skiing. Mark and Blanka and their kids also arrived, although they didn't join us for the skiing today. We got straight in there at lunch with blueberry dumpings, although Dan's attempted efficiency at going ahead and buying them in advance didn't really speed us up in the end. In the evening Ben and Zuzka went to the local village theatre which was a Czech fairy tale where, not one, but three couples lived happily ever after. Presumably everybody else stayed at the accommodaiton and drunk beer or ginger tea.

Sunday was another day out along a different route. Jeremy had two meals for lunch: duck and blueberry dumpings. Some others were jealous of the duck which looked very good. Zuzka's dad Dan joined for a bit and did some helpful coaching, but some people still fell into a ditch, and everybody had their highlight of the week when Zuzka fell over. Ben W's foot was hurting so he hired a bike with massive tyres and cycled on the snow. In the evening we had probably the best DrongO singalong so far, lasting about 3 hours with piano and guitar, and all range of songs including an excellent rendition of Do TrailO.

The outing on Monday started with a long uphill which everybody liked, because it was difficul to fall over. Surprisingly this was followed by a down, which people liked less. It was the same place for lunch, but sadly the duck wasn't on offer today. In the evening Ben W, Zuzka, Helen O, Miranda and Jeremy went downhill skiing on a floodlit piste. It was Helen and Miranda's first time and coach Zuzka did a good job of getting them started! Unfortunately it wasn't quite good enough, since when the slope closed at the end of the evening they were at the top, and ended up being chased down the slope in the dark by a massive snowplough.

The next morning the main group did a trip out to Jizerka, while Ben W and Jeremy made use of still having skis from last night to do some more downhill before driving to meet the others. We had lunch in a very small place with the entire ceiling covered in bells. They served HUGE blueberry dumpings, and also had a cat, which was eating the paper straws on top of the bar. We left Jeremy there and brough Miranda, Richard, and Ben S back in the car since they had to catch a bus back to the airport.

Ben, Zuzka and Mark worked from "home" on Wednesday, Blanka and the kids went for a short outing nearby, and Jeremy, Rowan and Helen O went skiing. It snowed all day! Zuzka was unhappy that the internet was too slow to download a 4GB file. In the evening we drove for an hour round trip to a downhill ski slope which was open, but had no ski hire place so we would have had to go up on the lift and then walk down, which didn't sound like fun. However,we did have fun sledging down the road outside the accommodation instead. In the evening we played games and Zuzka recognised a photo of Helen because it "looked exactly in the photo with the snake".

Thursday was the last chance for getting out in the fresh snow for Jeremy, Rowan and Helen before they flew home that afternoon/evening. Ben W also joined them on the bus to Prague and went to a Prague pub for a couple of hours before the flight. In the evening Ben and Zuzka did one of their wedding presents - a meal in the Prague TV tower. It was very posh and one cocktail was included. However, they decided they would branch out and also order a bottle of watch, which turned out to cost about 6 pounds!

Blanka, Mark and the kids stayed until the weekend, and Ben and Zuzka returned to the mountains on Friday lunchtime along with Dan and Bara, who were also "working" and working respectively.

On Sunday it rained all day and Dan, Bara and two of their friends who had also joined drove to some higher mountains where they did find some snow. Ben, Zuzka and two of their friends who had also joined went for a slushy walk. We all drove back to Prague in the evening and had an exciting moment when we realised the two cars were in the same traffic jam (due to a fallen tree, it was windy!) and that we could easily hand Dan's bag back to him which he had left behind!

And so came the end of another fun trip, just in time before travel started being restricted! Look out for next year, or perhaps there will be some more downhill fun!

Madeira DrongO "Honeymoon"

21-Jan-20

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Results Day 1 | Results Day 2 | Results Day 3

A large DrongO trip, peaking at 15 people, headed out to Madeira for Ben and Zuzka's wedding present, a week-long "DrongO Honeymoon". Most people arrived on Saturday evening and we went to our accommodation, a large and rather nice building with a view over the sea in one direction, a view over a go-kart track in the other, and a massive bear-rug in the cupboard. We went out for dinner because noone could be bothered to cook to food we hadn't been shopping for. Jeremy had stupidly arrived a day too early but was able to recommend the Espada fish with fried bananas.

On Sunday we walked out to the tip of the peninsula on the eastern end of the island. It was very volcanic, and we found a good swimming/jumping in spot, and Dan didn't have any swimming clothes so he didn't wear any. Monday started off as a short walking day and morphed into a long walking day - Ben and John walked back to the cars to pick up the rest of the group, but they then decided to carry on and walk all the way back home! Meanwhile James had arrived and was running our walking route, gradually catching up.

Tuesday was supposedly good weather so we drove up to 1800m altitude for a walk to the highest point. Instead, it was misty, windy, and raining quite a lot. However, the path was very exciting with tunnels, arches and parts carved into vertical cliff faces. It was topped off with some amazing Brocken Spectres at the summit or Pico Ruivo. We warmed up with some very good hot chocolate in the cafe back in the car park and went back to cook in the evening.

Wednesday turned out to be absolutely beautiful weather, although we were also moving accommodation. So we packed up and drove up to Encumeada and Phil was slow because Google maps didn't have a 2-year-old tunnel on it yet. We set off walking and learning the lyrics to "Do TrailO" made the climb seem smaller. After lunch, where Phil had an arousing encounter with a stick, Ben and Phil went off on a power walk to Pico Ruivo from a second direction (this time with perfect views), chased by James who had come later after going go-karting with Jeremy, and picking Natalie up from the airport. The rest of the group continued to Pico Grande in a circular walk. Most of us finished just after dark, and Ben and Phil didn't quite manage to catch up with the walking group again after their diversion. In the evening we arrived at our new accommodation which had a heated swimming pool and a bar, and a view over a nicely lit motorway bridge. Jeremy got many plus points for his accommodation booking skills.

On Thursday we went for a walk to the "25 Fontes". We named three of then Arial, Helvetica and Comic Sans, but then got bored of thinking up font names. We eventually arrived at the 25 Fontes, which turned out to be one waterfall and not 25. John managed to go for a quick dip in the pool below it as the group left, hoping to run to catch up to warm back up. However, he caught us very soon as we were having races with objects floating in the lavada parallel to the path. Unfortunately the path short-cutted the lavada by about 800m. After some pacing and maths, we ascertained that Richard's guess of 0.5m/s water speed was rather correct. Next we drove down to the north coast for a swim in some "natural" pools at Porto Moniz before heading home.

On Friday morning Miranda wasn't feeling so good, and it took a few hours to realise it was food poisoning and not a hangover. We went on a car trip to a viewing point which was 600m almost vertically above the sea. After dropping some people back to rest at the accommodation, some of us went back to the hills for another walk up Pico de Serradinho which also had excellent views. In the evening there was a night sprint orienteering race in Funchal, which was interesting to see the city but not that difficult navigationally. James ran fast to win men's elite.

Saturday was another orienteering day in the afternoon, but in the morning some of we drove up to Pico do Ariero again in the sunshine above the clouds, and did a (relatively) short walk along the ridge to Pico do Cedro, during which John successfully scared Helen and Bara by diving out of some very thick bushes as they passed. The orienteering was much nicer than the map made it look, with various types of forest involved. In the women's Rona came 2nd and Zuzka 3rd, and Paul just missed out on a 3rd place by 4 seconds. Phil somehow mispunched on a loop control which he had already been to! Harriet managed to get her photo in the organisers' report! In the evening, Ben and Zuzka got sent to a restaurant for a honeymoon meal, and were forbidden from inviting any more DrongOs to come. When they returned sometime after 11pm, Ben predicted that at least one person would have gone to bed, but was wrong as many people were dancing and a last night/second last night party appeared to have formed, since James and Richard were leaving the next morning. James, Natalie and Jeremy, who all appeared to be winning the party, all managed to fit onto the shelves behind the bar.

Sunday was our last full day and at 6am James went back on his word 3 hours before that he would get up and go for a sunrise run. The rest of us headed off to the third orienteering race in another very steep, but generally quite runnable, forest. Again Rona came 2nd and Zuzka came 3rd in the womens, with Paul 2nd and Phil 3rd in the men's. Overall, Zuzka and Natalie got on the podium with 2nd and 3rd, with Paul 2nd overall in the men's. After the orienteering we did a lot of driving, and also some activities. First we climbed the highest point, Pico Ruivo, from the third direction, allowing most people to get a sunny view from it at last! Next we split into two groups with one group going to some caves, and one group going swimming in some different natural pools at nicely named Seixal. While it was sunny at the peak, it appeared to be raining on the whole north side of the island, so it was a rather wet swim, which of course didn't matter because swimming is wet anyway. In the evening we had tricolore spaghetti, which Ben and Paul decided should be cooked and served as three separate colours, and therefore with the help of Phil and Rona separated a kilo of tricolore spaghetti into its three constituent colours.

On Monday we packed up and went for a mooch around Funchal centre, had very very large 2-euro ice creams for the second time, and headed back to the airport.

Thanks from Ben and Zuzka to everyone to contributed to this trip, it was a really really amazing "honeymoon"!

DrongO new decade

06-Jan-20

Some DrongOs went to the Isle of Wight to celebrate the arrival of the new decade (or end of 2019). A few were lucky enough to arrive on the hovercraft thanks to some Hovertravel appreciation vouchers provided by Zuzka's parents. Richard made a delicious cheese fondu dinner and we played board games for several hours. Sometime before midnight we headed to the beach and built a fire. We cooked bread dough and had an excellent view of the mainland fireworks at midnight. Some silly people went for a swim in the sea which was very cold.

After a lazy morning we headed out for a new year walk which included visiting a windmill. After walking to Shanklin we took the train back to Ryde. Tom was very excited by the antique train carriages. Everyone else was less impressed by the suspension and smoothness of the ryde. Jeremy, not realising that New Year happens on the boundary between 31st December the previous year and 1st January the following year, arrived in the evening hovercraft and we walked back to the flat. Walking back from Ryde all Jeremy could think about was visiting the pub, which turned out to be closed when we walked past it anyway.

For the following two days, some people stayed in the flat to do some "work". This was made more interesting by running/cycling and unplumbing a dishwasher. The others visited parts of the island including the zoo.

Jeremy, not realising that the weekend is the most fun part of the week, left again on Saturday morning, while we went orienteering on Ventnor Down (the VM area). The map colours had been fixed but the gate symbols messed up. In the afternoon we walked along the downs to the Needles, got the bus back to the car and then went to the pub.

No garlic farms were visited in any way during this trip, as it should be.

DrongO HQ warming

16-Dec-19

Matthew moved to London (abandoning Scafell) and into a flat with Fiona, Ben and Zuzka. Unfortunately the heating wasn't working very well and they decided to heat it up by inviting over their DrongO friends.

Matthew had planned a bearings exercise in Hyde park and a streetO course near Lancaster Gate. Visiting the controls allowed runners to take in the sights of the Paddington bear statue, Harrods car park and the Czech embassy. Warm runners brought the temperature of the flat to a toasty state.

The temperature of the flat was increased further by cooking an enormous amount of food to feed the runners. We were treated to the traditional veggie-chilli but with rice, toast potatoes and pigs in blankets.

Training Tour

15-Dec-19

Tom, Paul and Jeremy headed to the Gower to join CUOC for this year's training tour. The highlights included some tough night training on Broughton Burrow, improvised flaming of a Christmas pudding with vodka, and Tom singing his Sinterklass poem, which was a TrailO parody of Let It Go. A CUOC website report was written for each day, although using a different numbering system for each report for reasons only known to the CUOC captain.

On Friday Tom disappeared off to a super fun TrailO convention in Birmingham. Everyone else went to the Tour Champs on Blakeney Hill, where they met Ben, who stupidly arrived a week late, and Zuzka, who had been working. This was a very fast forest area with a few contours, which made a nice change from Cambridge. Paul and the CUOCers then headed back to the North, whilst Ben, Zuzka and Jeremy headed to Goodrich Castle to wait for it to get dark, so they could go to a 60 minute night score event at Woodchester in the north Cotswolds. Unfortunately, despite having planned to do this night event well before they packed, no one had remembered to bring a headtorch. Thankfully Jeremy had realised this, so gratefully borrowed Tom’s headtorch as his TrailO conference was not exciting enough to need it, whilst Ben and Zuzka decided to run the course as a pair using Jeremy’s handheld bike light and Ben’s rubbish emergency back up torch. The score was in some slippy woodlands, which was fun in the dark. It was also very cold, but thankfully there was free mulled wine at the finish left over from the NGOC Christmas party, so everyone agreed this was the best event they had ever been to, especially Ben who was driving.

The DRONGOs then went to Jeremy’s parents house for the night, as it was halfway between the Cotswolds and Leceistershire. This was useful, as an event was being held at Cademan in Leicestershire on Sunday morning. All three DRONGOs ran the 5.6km brown, and all three DRONGOs made mistakes early on, with Zuzka mispunching the first control, Jeremy attempting to go straight on leg 4 and spending 10 minutes fighting his way through chest high spiky plants and a swamp, and Ben inventing his own number system and going from control 8 to 9 via 19. Despite this Ben still came 3rd. Ben’s parents provided an excellent post race lunch, before the surviving DRONGOs headed to the DRONGO HQ to prepare for the upcoming housewarming party.

Rome City Race

04-Nov-19

Photos by Ben Stevens

At the start of November quite a small DrongO trip, consisting of Ben W, Ben S and Harriet B, went to the Rome City Race, which is a race in the city of Rome. There were actually three races, the first one being a night mass start in a park in Rome's suburbs. Ben W came in joint second, getting caught on the run in after thinking he was safely ahead. Ben S had a flying start to the race, but then went round the wrong butterfly loop first and was left behind. Harriet's dibber was blue which meant it had space for all the controls in it, and she was pleased with her pace of 6:64/km. We then went back into the city centre and spent the evening looking at old illuminated things, including the Colosseum which Harriet thought was "big with lots of holes in it".

On Saturday we got the train out of Rome, then an event bus, to an area of ancient tombs and rocks. The courses alternated between quite technical orienteering in the rocks, and very fast path runs between them. Ben W finished 9th having lost 4 minutes to the M40 winner, Allesio Tenani, with Ben S just behind in 10th. Harriet's dibber was blue and she was pleased with her pace of 6:64/km. After the race we got the bus back to the station, then walked about 6km to go to the sea. It wasn't as cold as it looked, and once some small Italian children had given up on shouting "shark" at us, we all swam for at least one second, and Ben S stayed in for several minutes. Next we went to a beach cafe where Ben W ended up paying 9 euros for a "non-alcoholic cocktail" (i.e. fruit juice), while Harriet's tea was only 2 euros. Ben S decided to go for another swim because he wasn't shivering enough. We then caught a bus back to the station which we thought wasn't going to turn up, but then it did, making it the best bus journey of Harriet's life. In the evening we went to look at more old illuminated things and seethed at people who didn't press the pedestrian button while waiting to cross the road.

Sunday was the main city centre race, although it wasn't very technical and was mostly just about running. Ben W came in 2nd only 5 seconds behind the winner, with Ben S in 12th. Harriet's feet were pretty much made of blister by this point, but she was nevertheless pleased with her pace of 6:64/km. Once we'd finished we had a quick look around a park whilst waiting for the prizegiving, because Ben W had come 4th overall. Then we went back to the accommodation for a shower. Harriet encountered her worst part of the trip when the shower was cold for her, even though the two Bens enjoyed nice hot showers straight afterwards. Next we went back to see more things - entry to everything was free because it was the first Sunday of the month! We went for a tour of the Colosseum, which we just made the start of, having run a whole 50m from the ticket office. We then wandered a bit more and went to a castle, and it started thunderstorming. Ben S very enthusiastically continued and kept taking photos of all the sights, while Ben W and Harriet ran between sheltered bits of the castle. After this we had possibly our 5th pizza of the trip (we lived on pizza, pasta and ice cream basically, as you should in Italy), and then went back for a slightly earlier night before morning flights (and the train for Ben S).

Some other things happened in Autumn 2019

01-Oct-19

Since the DrongO Captain wasn't at any of these things, he doesn't really know anything interesting that happened at them, so here are some reports. If you were at any of them, please send me something :)

British Sprint+Middle

Some DrongO people went to these races. On Saturday they sprant, and on Sunday they middled. There were some results for the sprint and also some results for the middle. Everybody had a lovely time in the Midlands.

London City Race

Some DrongO people went to the London City Race, which clashed with the MMM. The raced around a city called London. Perhaps they had beast pizza afterwards or perhaps they didn't.

Cambridge City Race

CUOC organised the Cambridge City Race, which was very successful. Some DrongO people were there running around a city called Cambridge, and also helping our student club with running the event.

Mourne Mountain Marathon

23-Sep-19

There was a large DrongO turnout at the MMM this year with some choosing it over the much closer London City Race. Ben's plane was delayed so Matthew and John watched lots of other planes whilst waiting for it to arrive. Once again the Pružina family kindly provided overnight accommodation.

The next morning everyone travelled to Newcastle and after a fairly lax kit-check headed for the start. John and Richard set off and were going well. After about an hour, disaster struck with the front of Richard's shoe starting to come apart. It quickly became apparent they had nothing to prevent further disintegration. They continued round the rest of the course but at a walking speed

Paul and Phil dropped down to the one-day score course which they proceeded to win. This prompted questions as to whether Paul was really injured

At the campsite the organisers were able to provide shoe mending materials. Richard's shoes were reassembled but still didn't have much grip

The second day started with heavy showers of rain, and many chose to don their waterproofs to mark up their maps. The next few hours were misty and showery but the weather improved during the day and was dry as we were finishing.

Ben and Matthew were second on the elite course.
Helen and Heather were first female pair on the B course
Everyone else managed to finish and received the classic T-Shirt and car sticker

An amusing account of the weekend can be seen in the following videos:

Raphaelle and Cedric's Wedding

31-Aug-19

A small DrongO group of Ben W, Zuzka S, Dan S and Bara Z were at the wedding of Raphaëlle and Cédric, which was held on 31st August 2019 near Courville-sur-Eure, a village about an hour from Paris. Having seen from Ben and Zuzka how great it was to have your wedding in a place where animals used to live, they went for a very nicely refurbished sheepfold. DrongO could of course be relied on to find suitable accommodation nearby - there was a campsite in the village which was ideal, so the DrongOs assembled there on Saturday before the wedding. It was very hot, much too hot to wear a suit, so Ben and Dan delayed getting fully dressed for as long as possible before reaching the wedding. The ceremony was a series of very nice speeches by friends and family, and then there was a very long and very delicious meal (you can rely on French cooking to be excellent), and then dancing!

Scottish 6 Days 2019

31-Jul-19

Results

Various DrongOs made it to the Scottish 6 days, held around Perth. People who entered under the correct club were Ben S, James H, John O, Jasmine G, Ben W and Zuzka S. Overall results for those who actually came to all the days were Ben S 13th and John O 19th in M21E, and Jasmine 14th on W21L. Ben and Zuzka came with bikes for the second part of the week and cycled between the races with tents, while the others stayed on the event campsite and drove/got lifts/buses. It didn't rain very much, which was dry. The author can't really remember what else happened since it was 6 months ago now.

Archive News

For older news items, see the archive news page.