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.

DrongO wins the JK


This year the JK returned to Cannock Chase and luckily this time it did not snow. The sprint was held around Loughborough University, a tricky course which required a lot of concentration. Depending on when your start time was, you either got completely soaked or enjoyed lovely sunshine. There were some complaints about the value for money of the relay, with Paul having the worst value and having to pay an extortionate 95p per minute for his run.

Afterwards we all went back to the bunkhouse at Beaudesert via a roundabout route to avoid the flooding. The bunkhouse came with a huge apple crumble tin, so we happily made a huge apple crumble only to find that the tin was slightly too wide for the oven.

Our accommodation was only a short walk away from the start, however the organisers wouldn’t let us walk there (something about embargos and trespassing), so we had a 20 minute drive to get to the event, though there was at least a fun quiz on the way to the event. And despite staying the closest to the event, various DrongOs missed their starts. The orienteering in the forest was good fun, except for the brambles and control 14. A few DrongOs went to try biathlon, which consisted of running round a field and then shooting a rifle, which was a good laugh but caused Zuzka to have very violent thoughts.

We then had a quiet afternoon discussing the placement of control 14 and playing some codenames, secret hitler and poetry for neanderthals.

On Sunday we had a second day of orienteering in Cannock Chase. Control 14 was back on the course again, though this time in the right place. With the women’s elite results and half the men’s elite course from Saturday voided there was everything to play for.

DrongO’s Luke Fisher had a very strong run, winning the Men’s Elite Long by enough to also win the overall JK Men’s Elite. In the evening the DrongO’s went down a local pub for a nice meal, then came back for an Easter egg hunt around the bunkhouse kindly provided by Paul.

On the Monday morning the DrongOs got up early to drive up to Stanton Moor, to the nicest terrain of the weekend, even if it was a little wet. DrongO managed to field three teams, with squaDRON GOld coming in at 13th place.

Overall it was a great weekend, though we kindly request fewer brambles next time!

Finland Ski Trip


Day 1

After months of somewhat disorganised planning the trip departure date arrived. Jeremy received a surprise Finnair upgrade which meant that he was able to watch Barbie on a larger screen than Tom, from a more comfortable seat than Tom. The upgrade didn't include the bag loading on plane option and Jeremy's bag did not arrive on the carousel at Helsinki. John received three bonus KLM sandwiches from passengers who left theirs on the plane. He wondered if this was due to the taste, but also considered that anything tastes good after a day skiing.

Jeremy and Tom went shopping to buy some emergency bog-roll and emergency boxers. After meeting John they bought some emergency beer and headed to the train station to board the Santa Claus Express. Due to spending too much money on his expensive hobby (Finland Roaming In Different Areas), Jeremy had booked us in the cheapest sleeper carriages. This didn't include showers or drinking water but did come with an excess of heating. The cabin was a roasting 28C. Using a spork as a screwdriver we managed to get the window open.

In the buffet car half a can of delicious ale was confiscated by a grumpy railway man. The other half in John's travel mug was not taken away and was enjoyed more surreptitiously. Back in the cabin it was noticed that the window didn't want to latch closed, so we had to sleep with it open all night, and slept pleasantly as a result. During the night the mechanism iced up which further prevented closing the window in the morning.

Day 2

At Kolari station a mini-coach pulled up, with a large trailer for skis and luggage. After an hour longer than timetabled (due to driving conditions?) we arrived in Hetta and annoyed some Swedish military policemen by walking to our cabin. Zuzka, rather than Jeremy, had booked our accommodation. It had water, power, a bedroom each and a sauna. Luxurious!

As we walked to the husky compound we were treated to a drive-by display of Swedish military vehicles: tanks, ambulances, and who knows what else. We had our skis upgrade from cross-country to back-country as we would benefit from the metal edges. The journey back to the cabin took us around the edge of a large frozen lake. We tried to remember how to ski, and John fell over many times. John went for a run to collect the hut keys, Tom went to investigate shops to buy and map, and Jeremy went shopping but forgot to buy any beer.

In the evening we cooked dinner and looked at all the items Tom had over-packed. His rucksack had almost as much weight as the combined total of John and Jeremy's bags. Highlights included a full extra large tube of toothpaste, a tin of fish per day, and now 6 bog rolls. We went in the sauna and rolled outside in the snow.

Day 3

Jeremy's bag was now in Helsinki, so Tom and John set off without him. John provided good entertainment by immediately leading Tom across a questionably frozen stream, but no cracks formed. After crossing the frozen lake, they headed off into the woods and a short time later met the piste machine which was making some lovely grooves. They stopped at a hut to have some snacks. A couple from a skidoo were toasting some sausages on the fire, and as the trip was not enough of a sausage-fest already, John immediately texted Jeremy to ask him to buy some.

The weather was very grey and there was little contrast between the snow and the ski. They skied through a ravine they probably shouldn’t, not knowing that the ski trail had been re-routed. At lunchtime they stopped in a hut. A group had been in shortly before and the fire had been on. John toasted a KLM sandwich and made a brew.

While the others left without him, Jeremy ran across town to try and buy a map. He waited for the tourist office to open, ran up the side of a ski slope, and managed to sort delivery of his bag that evening. Unfortunately this was too late to join the others, so he arranged for his bag and himself to be delivered to the hotel at the end of the ski trail. While waiting to be transported, he skied around lake, trying not to be run over by skidoos wizzing up and down it. He saw a herd reindeer on the bus. When he arrived at the very expensive hotel he felt too poor to pay for dinner, and with no kettle in his pricey room, he ate cold rehydrated falafel as some Australians had recommended this online. This tasted surprisingly okay.

In the evening John and Tom met some fun Finnish men who told them lots of fun/silly stories. They went in the sauna and heard all about the differences between wood and electric saunas.

Day 4

John got up early to melt snow for breakfast. When there was enough to make a brew and some porridge Tom was woken - who then proceeded to start his morning faff routine. Eventually they left to go skiing. The track initially went through some very undulating terrain which had some steep ascent and descent sections. John fell over and lost a water bottle which he had to go back for. Fortunately it was exactly where expected.

At lunchtime John and Tom stopped at a hut. Unfortunately no group had been in before them and it was about as warm as outside. In the afternoon they tried to take a shortcut but got stuck by a fence they had to climb. The trail then climbed up to the open fell. The wind was blowing the snow about and it wasn't particularly nice. Morale was further reduced by the discovery that Jeremy had arrived at the hut.

Jeremy's trip improved today, as he now had a bag, a shower and an enormous 5-course breakfast included with his booking. This meant he finally set off skiing slightly late, but very happy. Doing the route backwards to everyone else, he got a beautiful unspoiled path to himself all morning. This was eventually ruined, when he met John and Tom at hut just after lunch.

The hut had heating, a cooking area and 4G, but no water or power. We decided to ski up a local mountain for some views and because it was too early to cook dinner. John fell over lots of the descent back to the hut. There were clear skies in the evening but there was only very weak auroral activity. It was very cold (-20C) to go to the bogs in the night but the stars were amazing.

Day 5

The morning started poorly for Jeremy, having to settle for porridge, rather than his 5 course breakfast the previous day. Thankfully the morning quickly got better, as the sun was shining and a glorious morning of skiing awaited. As the same hut was booked for that evening, bags were left and Tom got to enjoy skiing without the weight of a small child on his back.

A loop out to the lake was planned. This started amazingly with a fast descent down to the lake, and a stunning route around it. Things got harder on the ascent, when the chosen and committed to route involved climbing a steep path through forest clearly meant for summer use only.

Thankfully after an hour of zig-zagging through th trees, an amazing view presented itself from the top of the col. As with all cols, this was impressively windy, so views were not admired for long before a fast descent down to a kota.

Now armed with sausages, John started building a fire. This involved him using an axe, which Tom and Jeremy decided was most dangerous thing all week. It took a couple of attempts to get the fire going, much to the silent amusement of the other finns who had now turned up. Eventually the makkara were cooked and eaten with other finns, which definitely helped the day.

By this point the wind had really picked up, so the mountain above the hut was selected as the target to visit on the return to the hut. At the top, the wind created a cool edge layer of snow being blown around, and amazing views could be seen east, possibly as far as Russia. Now sufficiently cold, John lead a fast ski down to the hut, this time only falling over once or twice.

Day 6

Today was the last day of skiing, so Tom repacked his large bag and after some more porridge, the DrongOs set off down the hill. Unfortunately the wind from the previous night hadn't let up, so the high summer path through the ski resort was very unappealing. Instead, the very well groomed tracks near the hotel proved speedy work, so an extension was added in past the finish point. Consulting the map, it was suggested that another 3 days of skiing would lead straight to the station. Unfortunately no sausages were available today, so John ate a stale KLM sandwich, before the last few km to the Finnish hotel.

The DrongOs sensibly arrived an hour or so before the bus, so the hotel bar could be sampled for its excellent selection of local beer. Unfortunately prices were also local at over £20/pint. Thankfully for Jeremy's wallet, the minibus and trailer to the station arrived on time.

Once we arrived at the station, John and Jeremy ran off to a nearby shop to buy sausage for breakfast, while Tom loaded the bags into the cabin. When Jeremy and John arrived back at the train with 5mins to spare, they were slightly concerned to find no Tom, no bags and a looked room. After minor panic, Tom was located taking photo of train and all made it on to the train.

Dinner from the train buffet coach was any choice - the 'Largest meal' which was meatballs with mash potato and lingonberry sauce. Supplementary gifflar were then required to meet the double portion sizes now needed. Once again Jeremy had booked the cheap rooms to stop him going broke from roaming cold foreign countries too much, so no shower was had for the fifth day in a row. An early bedtime was much needed, with Jeremy again assigned the top, hottest bunk as he lives in the warm London, while John got the less warm bottom bunk to match less warm Edinburgh.

Day 7

We woke up the next morning at 9am, already on the edge of Helsinki, to cars being unloaded from the back of the train. Thankfully no windows had frozen up this time, so the cabin was a reasonable temperature. After a quick breakfast of sausage, gifflar and chocolate we arrived in the centre.

On arrival at Helsinki station John and Jeremy made a beeline to the stall giving out free yoghurt whilst Tom spent ages photographing and identifying the rolling stock. Jeremy and John chose to leave their light bags at the station, but Tom decided as his bag was still so heavy, he better hold on to it.

We wondered through Helsinki city centre and admired the pretty churches in the snow, before heading to the quayside market for lunch. Having spent 5 days eating raw calories, an easy decision was made by all DrongOs to have the very traditional finnish poki bowl, which contained many green things not seen for 5 days.

Tom left for his flight, while J&J caught the ferry to Semolina fort. Thankfully the ferry seemed to have no problem cutting through all the ice in the harbour. At the island they explored telly-tubby land, the ramparts and the tunnels. John sat on a large artillery piece in the traditional manner, and we learned that the British had attacked it at some point.

After surviving all the icebergs on the ferry back, J&J headed for an emergency beer shop. Helsinki airport has a new security scanner, which meant John could smuggle beer back in his hand luggage. All 3 DrongOs made it back to the UK on time, this time with all their bags.

Varsity in Dartmoor


When Keats visited Devon in 1818, he described it as a “splashy, rainy, misty, snowy, foggy, haily, floody, slipshod county”. Having spent the weekend there for Varsity, we can confirm that nothing has changed in the last 206 years. An advance contingent of DrongOs led by Natalie and Rob arrived in Shaldon on the Thursday evening and went for some nice dog walks with Ada along the coast, very muddy runs along countryside lanes and fun pub trips before the others arrived.

The rest of the DrongOs turned up on Friday evening, though unfortunately there wasn’t room for most of them in the heated accommodation. But the DrongOs staying in the unheated accommodation didn't get too cold due to their warm sleeping bags. Jeremy was especially warm and might have mentioned once or twice that he had a new sleeping bag. Meanwhile Matthew found an unexpected item in his sleeping bag, and Zuzka thought it was ok to ask Ben for his water bottle in the night, since he was probably awake as she could hear him tossing.

The Varsity race itself was really good fun. The race was around Hay Tor, and there was a mixture of tricky orienteering around the boulders at the tops of the tors and then long legs across featureless moorland. One of the last few controls was in a particularly featureless bit of moorland, causing at least one DrongO to wander around for an hour looking for it, demonstrating their determination to complete the course.

DrongO won the alumni competition by sheer numbers. After the race, DrongO retreated to the Tinpickle and Rhum pub, before returning in time to win the beer race. After a large and tasty meal, the first ever game of Drongle was played (invented by our own Zuzka). James and Jess decided they’d had enough of their heated accommodation and instead chose to sleep in an unheated campervan for some reason. On Sunday the sun came out for the relay. Ben decided to try running all three legs. Then everyone went home.

Edinburgh Big Weekend


At the end of January, Ben, Zuzka and Harriet made the journey to Edinburgh for a Big Weekend of orienteering. The first race was "fight with the night" on Friday evening. The area wasn't the most difficult but it was fun to run around, and it was just about near enough to John's house for an extended warm up and cool down jogging there and back. After the race Ben was almost next to Zuzka by download, didn't notice her, and proceeded to run back on his own. Ben also missed a control out. Oops.

Saturday was a world ranking event sprint in Queensferry, a short train ride from Edinburgh. Assembly was in a very novel location of a church, with people getting ready to run in the pews. The elites had to quarantine in a small hall next door, which was ok for the men, whose race was first, but the women had to hang around for 2 or 3 hours. Harriet decided to sack off quarantine and claim she wasn't a real elite, which worked extremely well, avoiding quarantine whilst still being able to run! After the men had run, there was time for some tasty items from the local bakery before returning to watch the women finishing, after which there was time for a second trip to the tasty bakery for lunch. We were joined by now Edinburgh residents Dan and Kate, and Rona for a while. Rona's parents also rocked up and stood about 5m in front of the bench for a while, completely oblivious to Rona's presence as they were too occupied in turf wars. The foreigner Paul Pružina was also there with the Irish team, but it was his turn to miss a control out today. Some of the other DrongOs who lived in Edinburgh didn't enter because they didn't want to pay to run around some tarmac.

After returning there was just time to walk up Arthur's Seat to see the least impressive sunset ever. Paul had to wait sadly at the end of John's street to meet us, as it's embargoed for WOC and as such a Serious International Athlete, he could not enter said street. Then we headed to the pub to have a massive sharing plate of nachos. So tasty. Phil Vokes told us about his run in the Pentlands with an entry fee of zero, and Ben S told us about his tennis he'd done instead of orienteering.

On Sunday it was Phil's birthday and there was the final race, a sprint for elites and urban for everybody else around quite an interesting area of housing estates. Ben was jealous of Phil's Pentlands outing, and our starts were late, so Phil, the two Bens, John and Dan went for a pre-race run in the Pentlands in the morning, while Zuzka, Harriet, and Rona went for a walk including plenty of alpaca viewing. It was very very windy on top, and we learned that if you want to find a sheltered spot, go where the cows are. Conversely, if you want to see cows, go to where the sheltered spots are.

We then went to the orienteering, although Ben W, Zuzka and Harriet were the only ones who had entered. The area was quite interesting, although some locals didn't like controls being outside their houses, which gave EUOC's excellent volume of volunteers a job to do, and all worked out fine in the end. People then went off in various directions, the three of us staying with John had burritos for a late lunch. In the evening we all headed over to Rona's flat (where Phil is also staying) for a birthday lasagne cooked by Rona, stopping on the way to purchase a not-that-massive melon and a good volume of dessert. What a great way to prepare for the night bus back to London.

Miranda and Tom get married


Congratulation to DrongO's most recently married couple: Miranda and Tom.

A week before the wedding, Ben discovered that he had booked some dodgy accommodation in Liverpool which had ceased to exist. AirBnB found a replacement, but it was not particularly close to the venue. It unfortunately came with a free cultural experience of Warrington, whilst transferring between train stations. This was both compulsory and non-refundable. Lowlights included encounters with the locals. Fortunately John managed to escape to Liverpool on an earlier train by walking fast.

At the new accommodation most of the space was taken up by corridors, with all the beds crammed into a few small rooms. Some of the bedding was missing and the floor hadn't been cleaned. James was so disgusted with the cleanliness that he immediately left for a run.

The ceremony happened in a church and the chief religious person was very keen to tell us all about the famous people who attended the church. In addition, Miranda and Tom exchanged some rings, had a kiss, and had flower petals thrown at them.

After some time enjoying the nice weather, sipping bubbles and topping up our tans, the wedding meal started. Adam and Miranda had been on a trip to France to select the wine, and we recommend that all future DrongO weddings also do this. When dessert was served, a 5p magically appeared in the bride's portion, despite no-one having any cash when earlier the church was collecting donations. Adam gave a very good speech with lots of references to terrain features.

Whilst the dining room was being reconfigured for dancing we headed again outside. The wedding was already starting to take its toll on Dan, who needed a lie down. Everyone else thought that was too boring and built a DrongO human pyramid with Miranda at the top. The couple's first dance was followed by a strange English ceilidh where some dances were done in the wrong order or not at all. At the disco Helen got very drunk and had to be removed from the venue by the DrongO bouncers.

Before leaving we all gathered round the piano for a rendition of Do TrailO. Uber delivered us back to the accommodation, and we decided that we needed some cheesy-chips to recover from the speed of the journey. In the morning various groups went for run, including to the most amusingly-shaped orienteering map in the UK.

Pěkné Prázdniny 2023


Helen, Paul, Ben, Zuzka, Dan and Mark represented DrongO at Pěkné Prázdniny this year.

Before the races, Helen, Paul, Ben and Zuzka decided to explore the Krkonoše mountains for a few days. They were initially excited by the prospect of cycling on tandems from Potkavarna, but Paul quickly realised that cycling on a tandem is not nearly as much fun as it looks. After a gruelling ride of 8 hours (should have taken 5 according to Mapy.cz) and a lot of complaining about bums hurting and scary downhills, we arrived at our starting point in Špindlerův Mlýn.

We walked up Labský Důl the next day. Ben's translation skills improved drastically as he dutifully translated almost every information board.

Paul fulfilled his wish of visiting the monument dedicated to Hanč and Vrbata who froze in the mountains during a cross country race.

We don't like the Polish side of Krkonoše because they try to charge for entry. Luckily, we managed to avoid paying it.

B and Z beat H and P in a tabletennis match 2 to 1. All scoring took place in Czech. It is better to speak Czech in Polish huts rather than English.

The next day we walked along the ridge to Dom Slasky. Our presence there caused nenapravitelnou škodu. We were treading on grass that will never recover.

We practised ahhhing on the beds before going for an evening stroll to Sněžka. All activities this week must be labelled as "walks" on Strava, not hikes. They are too slow for that.

Helen and Paul honed their Czech skills by saying "Do you want a peach? Yes I do" or "Do you want a plum? Yes, I do". Helen can now also count 10 peanuts in Czech. Just remember that it's "čtyři arašídy" but "pět arašíd". We think that "I do" is an important Czech phrase to know.

During the course of the week, Ben was almostly constantly bathed in orange juice.

We arrived at Pěkné Prázdniny on Friday. Dan refused to be associated with DrongO after we pitched our tents in the quiet campsite. Dan promptly headed to the party campsite.

Paul was too tired to beat Pavel Kubát. Next year he will come better rested.

The PP party on Saturday featured some choice Czech songs, such as "Cukráři, ty debile". Dan noted that the beer race was the second most original after Matthew's model of punching for 'vodka in' and 'vodka out' etc. The participants had to down a watering can full of beer between them.

We visited castle Kost after the race, where they have a sarcophagus that leaks the bodily fluids of the count that is interred within it.

Helen did her best to look terrible in all photos.

Scottish 6 (5?) Days 2023



With the racing officially starting on Sunday, Saturday was a day for travels both big and small. Travel prizes are awarded to Tom (longest journey, from Oxford), Paul (longest run on the way, 28km), Helen and Ana (most time spent in Tesco, 1.5hrs), Phil and Rona (most deleted Munro Tops visited, 1), Ben S (most pizza purchased) and Luke (most mysterious journey). Ben W, Zuzka and John weren’t staying in the DrongO house, but presumably also arrived at their accommodation.

Sunday – Day 1 – Lossie

The orienteering began at Lossie forest, which was a narrow strip of very detailed dunes, backing onto a wide strip of incredibly undetailed dunes. The starts were very far away, which was ideal for people who like to warm up, but less ideal for people who can't be bothered. Today's courses started off in the detailed section, although lots of legs allowed you to run along the beach and only nip into the dunes near the control, but there was still plenty of potential for mistakes. The second half of the courses was on the flatter vaguer part of the area, with easier navigation and fast running. Shoutout result of the day goes to Helen, who was 1 minute behind after the difficult bit, but lost 6 minutes on the easy running race half. Other important results include for Luke's big toe and Phil's knee, both of which gave fantastic performances in the 'being bashed off logs' competition.

After the race, we went to the beach for a swim, which was quite warm, but very sandy. There were some cool caves and rocks to play around on, and a lighthouse that we discovered we weren't supposed to be in by reading the 'private' sign behind us on the gate as we left. After that we went over to Hayman to get some highly-recommended icecream, which we can now highly recommend, and strolled down to the harbour to watch some flatfish. After tourist attraction number 2, we headed to tourist attraction number 3 at Duffus Castle, which Ben had spent so much time climbing and sledging in his youth that the motte was now collapsing, and we were only allowed to walk on the mown paths. There were lots of signs around the place signifying what things might have used to be, and we were very disappointed to read that several of the postern gates only had one wooden cross-bar. No wonder the castle had fallen into ruin! Helen did some illegal clambering on the castle to retrieve her crocs, which had somehow ended up on high ledges. Luckily no one saw, and the castle didn't fall down any more.

Monday - Day 2 Darnaway

The second day of racing was a WRE middle distance at Darnaway - the only non-sandy area of the week. The same area had been used for WOC in 2015, so it must be good. The terrain was mostly very fast, runnable beech forest, with wide, large contour shapes - good for speedy racing. There was gps tracking today in both elite races, and they wanted to start the live tracking 30 minutes before the last start. So to make things fair, everyone had to go into the pre-start 30 minutes before their race. Luckily, no one cared, so it was perfectly possible to go back out again to go to the toilet, have a snack, or sneak a quick look at Loggator. Leaving the arena, we were given a warm up map containing 3 controls and about 600cm^2 of blank space. Dom (CUOC) suggested that the blank space should be filled with puzzles to keep you busy. DRONGO suggests that for more learned and experienced individuals, the blank space itself is a puzzle, and plenty of time can be spent contemplating the true meaning of a white page. Helen did quite well again, and Paul also did quite well.

Tom hadn't managed to get enough leave to actually take today off, so spent most of the day working in the car, and got a lift back to the house with OUOC straight after the race. Helen also departed to celebrate her mum's birthday, and Luke went to see his parents or something. Meanwhile, everyone else drove into Inverness to experience the cultural event of the year - Barbie. This feminist extravaganza of pink paint actually turned out to be quite good, and all came out feeling suitably oppressed, and excited for a beach-off tomorrow.

Tuesday - Day 3 Roseisle

Today's race was on the lovely Roseisle, another pengaluscious piece of sand dune magic, this time without the flat boring bit! With no massive track along the beach, the courses also required navigation through the forest for the entire time. Roseisle is the most runnable of the areas this week, and therefore objectively the most enjoyable. Everyone had a great time, except for Phil who was hoping to get caught up by some fast people but was too busy making a mistake that they overtook him without being seen. Silly Phil. Zuzka and Ben were staying in Burghead, almost on the map, and made the mistake of walking to the arena backwards along the walk to the start, getting in the way of everyone, and having everyone else in the way. After the race we went to the beach beside the forest where, surprisingly, we met every single other person we knew. The sea was quite shallow here, so instead of swimming normally we just through seaweed at eachother for a while.

In the evening we all headed into Inverness for a barbecue, to which everyone brought the amount of food they wanted, plus a bit more, resulting in an overwhelming surplus of food. The friendly neighbourhood gull wasn't even very helpful, barely making a dent in the massive pile of meat, so Phil ended up going home with a full twelve jumbo sausages. Such was the size of the food surplus, that the four packs of icecream we brought were completely forgotten, and left in the freezer in a house where only one person eats dairy.

Wednesday - Day 4 `Rest'

Today was the so-called rest day, which means different things to different people. Some people think that rest means not doing much exercise, perhaps a nice walk along the coast tosee some geographical landmarks such as the Fiddle Bow Rock and the Whale's Mouth cave, or another nice walk around some woodland near Loch Oire, or two failed swims and one successful one in the Spey. Helen, Ana, Rona and Ben did this.

Other people think that rest means 'rest from orienteering', so Tom went to Forres with OUOC to do the TrailO and the sprint. Further cementing DRONGO's dominance in the inter-club competition, he won the TrailO, and beat all the Oxford competitors in the sprint. Well done Tom. An expert piece of reconnaissance work also brought to light the fact that OUOC have a hottub at their house - surely Jeremy's accommodation booking skills would have found us somewhere equally good, if only he had come. We all miss him dearly.

Other people think that rest actually means 'rest from navigation', and the correct rest day activity is a massive mountain run. To this end, Phil, Paul and Luke got up earlyish and set off west to find some big hills. After 2.5 hours of driving (too long), we found ourselves at the lovely Loch Mullardoch, above which are four munros, four munro tops, and four deleted tops. A very efficient, and well-balanced, day of peak bagging. The weather was pretty good, with some sunny bits and some cloudy bits so we didn't burn, and just a touch of rain at the very end to help cool off. Unfortunately Phil's and Luke's day 1 injuries both came back to bite them, making downhills a pretty painful, and painfully slow, affair. Luckily, we saw a family of goats by the loch near the end, which made it all worth it. Even the cloud played along, just about lifting in time for us to get to all the summits with a view. We got back to the car, instantly got swarmed by midgies, and discovered that it's perfectly possible to change clothes while walking faster than midges fly. After a long drive back, we discovered that the others had done some cooking for us, which was exceptionally tasty and very appreciated.

Thursday - Day 5 Culbin

Today was the first of two days on the mighty Culbin map, which covers such a big area that the sea didn't even make it onto the page. Because there were two days using the same arena, today's start was 3.5k away, which is a bit much even for those who like warm ups, and the finish 2k away, which is definitely too far given that cool downs have been debunked. But the orienteering was good and the terrain was runnable enough that it wasn't too bad. Phil's tactic today was again to start 2 minutes before someone fast, but once again he was disappointed, with his dodgy knee stopping him from managing more of a walk, and crying softly to himself as gg sped past into the distance. Luke, on the other hand, had successfully drained a litre of pus from his toe, and was now unhindered enough to come third in a very fast time.

After the race we headed back to the house, had a quick swim in the cold wet harbour, and made a dinner out of every piece of food remaining. Paul had to rush off to an online meeting about how to make the Irish orienteering team actually good, while everyone else analysed their races to actually get good at orienteering. Maybe the Irish should do more orienteering and fewer meetings.

Friday - Day 6 Culbin

On the last day, we had to tidy up and leave the house, which was a bit annoying. Through perserverence and sheer willpower, we succeeded in getting all the stuff and people into cars, and headed to the race. Ana was especially pleased to come away with 2000 tins of beans for her new flat, while Paul was less pleased to come away with a large lump of slate that he won at the Saunders.

The terrain today was a bit different to yesterdays, with the map being almost entirely covered with green hashings denoting deep heather, with the gaps filled with normal green. The green was actually quite runnable though, and made for nice orienteering. The elite courses both avoided the heather very well, leaving the nasty unrunnable sections to the M/W50+ classes. Everyone had a fantastic time because it was lovely orienteering, and we were all sad to say goodbye to Moray dunes.

Glen Affric


This wasn't really a DrongO trip, but in April Ben, Zuzka, and John went to Glen Affric with Phil, Claire and Vicky from CUHWC's DrongO. We stayed in Glen Affric youth hostel which is a 3 hour hike from the nearest road, and all food supplies needed to be taken with us. The hostel can be highly recommended.

A brief summary of the trip is:

  • The hike in was very boggy. Phil and Claire especially enjoyed doing in the dark. If only they'd driven it would have been so much easier, it would only involve three 2-hour stops to wait for the EV to recharge.
  • Claire made macaroni cheese for 6 people when there were actually only 4 people present. Phil decided that it would be eaten by mice if left overnight and therefore all MUST be consumed. Ben stepped up to join in the challenge and the large dish was successfully consumed. Memories of CUOC pizza nights were brought back.
  • Many other hikers were in general made jealous by our "real food" as opposed to their dried just-add-water meals. They would probably have been less jealous if they'd had to carry our bags on the way in though.
  • Almost all other hikers where there to climb the same three munros
  • We climbed a beautiful unnamed peak of height 305m with 70m of prominence from the valley floor, and Phil was happy because he could tick it off his bagging-list
  • It was very un-scottish weather with clear blue skies and sunshine for the entire week
  • John brought a massive sausage with him
  • Marc who runs the hostel is very enthusastic and fun. We hope his enthusiasm will see him through once it starts raining and the midges come out. We also wish him the best in finding something to cook which is more delicious than the scones the previous hostel manager made which are mentioned in all the trip advisor reviews!

James runs fast


There are 3 DrongOs who we know about who ran the London marathon this year:

James ran very fast to finish in 2:18:38, coming 3rd in the non-elite category.

Jess also ran quite fast, although 12 seconds slower than she should have done, in 3:33:45.

Natalie smashed her target time and finished in 4:50:03.

What a great DrongO podium (and sorry for the unbecoming mspaint skills)

Varsity Match 2023



Early in the morning, a small group of DrongO gathered at St Pancras station to catch the EuroStar. Multiple kilograms of hot chocolate powder went through the X-Ray scanners without any issue and after some brexit border checks we finally got to the train. Richard had brought a complicated game which required extreme mental faculties for the time of the morning. A short time later we'd glided through the tunnel and were decelerating into Paris.

Raphaëlle had booked a brasserie, but due to miscommunication with Jeremy, there was immense confusion about how many people were attending. Initially it was just booked for 4, then 9 and finally 11. Fortunately when we arrived, there was a seat for everyone and lunch was very nice.

Lunch was followed by a short walk to Gare de Lyon where our train was in wait (for its scheduled departure time). Ben went to the Greggs of France (which happened to share it's name with a very silly member of our party) to buy a baguette. We sped through the French countryside before arriving in Zurich shortly before dinner. Heather met us at the station and we went to the restaurant. Helen had managed to book for the correct number of people but had got the day wrong, and as a result we had to sit outside in the cold.

We consumed a lot of swiss cheese for dinner, in fondue, raclette and other forms. Before getting the sleeper train, our tour guide took us to see the university and a square with some trees in it. On the sleeper train Paul was very excited to use the shower, and everyone else was excited that he use it. Zuzka was excited to get some slippers and Helen enjoyed climbing up and down the bunks. Ben was excited that there was Czech beer on the train, and it was £7 cheaper than the Swiss beer.


After a nice Czech breakfast on the train, we arrived only slightly late at the central station in Prague. The drivers headed to the airport to collect hire cars and then headed back into the center. For unknown reasons RentPlus decided it was appropriate to give us SUVs when we'd asked for estate cars. In the afternoon we ran a score race that had happened the previous day - the organisers had kindly left out the pin punches and tapes for us.

Rather than wait at the airport for easy collection, Oxford decided to head into Prague. Fortunately they were suitably punished for this by having to lug their massive wheelie suitcases up a large hill in the rain. Hopefully this has provided a suitable education about appropriate luggage for orienteering holidays. Ben stopped at a supermarket to buy snacks for the week: 216 Tatranky, including controversial flavours such as "milk".

In the evening we had a few beers and relaxed at Potkavarna. The students were tired and went to bed before the 4-year-old child of another hotel guest. Dan arrived with tape around his head. This had been permanently borrowed from a building site in Liberec but not yet hung at the varsity control sites. He announced that he "had great plans for this varsity but then hadn't done any of them".


Overnight it snowed and the forest floor had a thin white covering. Breakfast was excessively late due to the students being allowed to specify breakfast time, and DrongO corrected this on all following days. Harriet arrived to tell us "Paul doesn't do anything quietly and I don't know how I ended up in his room" whilst Dan "had a big trouser problem yesterday".

In the morning we headed to an area in the mountains, not far from Potkavarna. There were various courses to familiarise ourselves with the mountain terrain. It was snowy and cold. We returned to Potkavarna for lunch and then back to the same area in the afternoon. In a turn of unexpected events, Tom D managed to be one of the first cars to arrive whilst Zuzka got left behind. Due to a driver-passenger miscommunication there wasn't enough space for Helen on the way back, so she had to sit in an extra special comfy seat.

In the evening, one Helen revealed that "Paul is just a hollow husk of a man without me" whilst the other was pleased that "it's dessert but liquid and alcoholic". The students were tired and once again went to bed before most of DrongO.


Overnight it snowed again, this time a sizable dump. At breakfast, Emma admitted that she'd "had top bunk fun". Some people went cross country skiing. After only one day of training, the students needed a rest, so training was in the morning only. We did some sprint training in Liberec - there was an icy wind blowing along many streets, and it was freezing. Some of the sprint courses seemed to be in the hospital and there were ambulances to dodge.

After much faff all the cars were parked and after more faff people congregated at the water-park. Harriet was very excited about the slides, one of which had a large toilet-bowl at the end before you dropped into the U-bend pool. Due to a bug in the till system, we were charged less than the price list. Dan was much better at mental arithmetic than the park staff who fortunately didn't notice the error. On the journey home, Ben asked Helen how many pretzel sticks she wanted to eat and Helen dangerously deferred responsibility to Ben, thus ending up with a large mouthful.

Matthew had planned an extremely complicated (when doesn't he?) MicrO with 3 sections; indoor, outdoor and indoor. The number of controls far exceeded the number of SI boxes he had or the capacity of even the best SI cards. A number of controls had pin punches but a non-IOF-approved punching system of animal ink stamps was also used. There were also a number of decoy controls placed in the terrain. Only 6 people managed to complete the MicrO without mispunching. In the evening Potkavarna ran out of ale and a new barrel of Kousek 12 was started.


To get some practice in relevant terrain, we headed to Radeč; a sandstone area. John invented a warm-up which due to interference from Helen and Paul, was adapted to involve throwing pine cones at them. It was enjoyed by all but two people. Various fun exercises had been planned amongst the sandstone cliffs, and we quickly worked out how slow it was to climb up the steep slopes. In pairs or groups, we tested various different route-choices during head-to-head training.

Tomas (one of the Potkavarna culinary specialists) delivered warm quiche to the car park, and we chopped it on a large wooden board. In the afternoon, Helen had planned a "relay". This consisted of everyone running 4 loops depending on their stated competency (between 1 and 8). John had decided he was a level 9 orienteer and reported that "the level 9 courses were so difficult I only needed to complete 3". Harriet was genuinely grateful to receive an icicle lollipop and munched away on it but got full and had to throw the second part away. Zuzka and Harriet got lost on the way to the afternoon session, so went for a walk instead.

Following the directions of the frequent signage, no-one went for a poo in the forest. The risk of anyone being caught short was reduced by a certain JOK member not being at the Varsity Match. After the relay we went for a walk to the sandstone pillars on the way back to the car.

In the evening some people went in the sauna, and we overtopped the hot-tub by putting lots of people in it.


A light drizzle was falling as we took our breakfast and continued as we headed to an area a short distance away. The WOC middle distance was held there in 2021. The terrain was steep and some people said it wasn't very nice, but Ben and Phil think those people are stupid and wrong. Rather than do more training the same "some people" built a snow DrongO. A restaurant-standard lunch was provided at Potkavarna and due to the inclement weather (or the students being tired) many people did not want to train in the afternoon.

The fun individuals (mostly from DrongO) went to do a trains exercise in a different part of the morning area. This was excellent fun and enjoyed by everyone despite a disappearing control kite (mystery still unsolved).

In the evening Potkavarna ran out of Kousek 12 and a new barrel of White IPA was started. Miranda arrived just in time for singing from the exemplary-named file Dongo.pdf.pdf. Fortunately the author was better at playing the piano than he is at spelling.


As final preparation for the eagerly expected Varsity Match, we went to the sandstone area of Valdštejn. Due to the unavailability of sufficient numbers of pine cones to throw at Helen and Paul we did the penguin warm-up instead. Who knew that penguins could take it back that yard. The morning exercises had been planned to make the most of the sandstones. A lot of the controls were up really steep slopes. The courses also went into some areas of flatter forest with green areas.

In the afternoon Adam had planned a peg relay with a few differences. It was optional to take a peg, and the penalty loop brought you back to the control with the peg rather than taking you to the next. There were also different numbers of points depending on the colour of the peg. Some of the penalty looks had a large amount of climb and were quite harsh. The winner might have been Phil, but we can't remember, and wouldn't want to further inflate his ego.

Saturday - Varsity Match

After a week of much training and fun, the day everyone had really been waiting for finally arrived. Dan hung the kites on Friday afternoon and had just to place the SI boxes in the morning. He was worried about his placement of controls, so most of the alumni started before the students to check for any problems. As an April-fools joke, the first finisher, Matthew had to locate the finish which was hidden somewhere within the outer finish-circle. Matthew discovered it behind a rock and moved it back to its correct place.

The sandstone area was different from the others that we'd been to earlier in the week. There were complicated passages between the rocks, and the cliffs were generally 10m high rather than 40 or 50. In the women's race, Vicky, Miranda and Zuzka were DrongO's top-3, with Paul, Matthew and Lachlan for the men. In the afternoon, some people went for a scenic walk to see some rocks, castles and castles in rocks, whilst others collected the controls.

Before the evening banquet, the beer race was held. DrongO entered 3 teams of coxed-fours, JOK one team and there was also a CUOC team. DrongO won again, despite the organiser's transgression of providing fizzy lager. The food had been excellent all week, but the banquet was even better. Everytime one went back to refill ones plate, different dishes had appeared. Our hosts provided some Czech dancing lessons, and we managed to organise something approximating a ceilidh. We sang and danced into the night and the early hours of Sunday. DrongO won the party by having the greatest number of party-goers still awake when the party ended.


After variable amounts of sleep (or lack thereof) everyone assembled outside Potkavarna for the relay. Matthew had planned a relay with 2 map exchanges per leg and more gaffle combinations than there are kilometers to the sun. The first part of the relay was a micrO around the grounds, before heading off into the forest. One of the controls was at the top of an observation tower which was accessed by a narrow spiral staircase. Returning from the forest there was a final micrO. After another amazingly tasty lunch we headed off in separate groups to the airport.

Cross Country Skiing 2023


A long long time ago, long enough ago that I can't remember most of the details, Drongo went on a cross country ski trip. After several excellent previous trips to Potkávárna u Havra, we decided that you can't have enough of a good thing, so went back again. The trip began a couple of days before the beginning of the trip, with James and Jess arriving early so they could make it back in time for a cross country race. THey did some lovely skiing, but warned that a great melt was coming, and the rest of us wouldn't get to do any.

Most people arrived on Wednesday afternoon, so the first day of skiing was Thursday. The group who already had skis, or could borrow from Potkávárna, left early and did a nice loop involving only a few hundred metres of tarmac. Meanwhile, the group who arrived later had the tough challenge of persuading the hire shop to actually give them skis, and only managed after showing them some pictures of the nice snow on the higher trails.

After his fantastic debut last year, Paul had spent the last several months training on rollerskis, so the mantle of identifying-as-good-at-skiing was passed on to Phil. Unfortunately, the weight of this mantle caused him to overbalance and topple to the ground, splitting his coccyx into two even halves. As we were to learn throughout the week, coccyges are very fragile things, and even the slighteset of provocation causes further fractures and splits. Sadly for Mr Vokes, and even more sadly for anyone within earshot, by the end of the trip he was left with a tailbone comprised of over 16 million tiny shards.

After a successful day of skiing, we returned to Potkávárna for some kousky piva and dinner. After an excellent lunch of blueberry dumplings in a mountain hut, we were all very excited for a dinner of even more blueberry dumplings. After dinner, we might have had a sauna, but it was a month ago, so who knows? The sauna was probably very hot and very nice, but might have smelled a bit of caramel after Phil possibly threw some Kitl on the stones instead of water. Who knows? Time is an illusion and so is the truth.

The second day of skiing wasn't. Most of us got up and decided that all the water looked a bit too liquid, so most of us went for a run instead. Miranda, Tom and Helen did head out skiing, and reported back that it was actually pretty ok, which was encouraging. The rest of us walked up the hill to Presidentská for lunch, then walked back home in the rain, which was not encouraging. Ben and Paul decided to try a bit of skiing before dinner, and had a good time going quite fast, on what appeared to be fresh snow. After dinner, we might have had a singalong, helped by the new and exclusive recent publication of Drongo.pdf.

On Saturday, the snow came. It was cold all day and snowed all day, which meant that skiing was quite tough in places, but actually possible everywhere. Paul and Phil went on their own because they forgot to wait for everyone else. We all went to Jizerka for lunch, but the bigger group decided to keep on going past the first hut they came to, because it 'isn't as good as it used to be'. Meanwhile, P&P were inside having an excellent time, and wondering how good it used to be if it was this good now.

Team PP got back at a very reasonable time, but Team large group spent a long time eating lunch, and knew they would be cutting it tight with daylight hours for getting home. Zuzka, who didn't want the pressure of trying to ski fast, told the others to go on without her, and made her own way back via a shortcut, arriving well before sunset. Our now enlarged Team PPZ waited worrying back at Potkávárna, wondering if the others would make it back or just get stuck out their for ever. They could only rely on the cold refreshing taste of Kousek Piva to calm their nerves. Finally, after several long times, the glow of two headtorches appeared across the carpark. The wanderers had returned, and just in time for dinner.

On the final day of skiing, some people had to leave early, so did just a short morning loop around the reservoir. Meanwhile, the remainers went on an adventure to Poland. In order to avoid any potential passport controls, they got the train to the last Czech station, skiied across the border for pancakes, and then all the way back to Potkávárna. I wasn't in this group, so don't know anything else about it. The sad-going-home group arrived back in time for lunch, packed up, and drove off just as the sun came out for the first time all week. Hopefully the weather gods are less petty next time.

Maximus O Meet, Spain


Ben Stevens decided he wanted to go to Spain or Portugal in the spring. After attempting to boycott both the CUOC Icenian and cross-country skiing weekends, he was coerced into attending the Maximus O Meet, which was (a) in spring and (b) in Spain, and therefore satisfied the criteria. Ben W, Harriet, and Phil also joined.

The trip started on Wednesday evening with everybody managing to arrive in Milton Keynes at about the same time to stay with Harriet, who for future reference has plenty of spare beds. However, if you wish to have a shower on the first floor, you need to sit in the bath because the sealant around the edge leaks.

We got up earlyish to drive to Stansted to fly to Milan in Spain. During the drive the car was either very hot or very cold, not because the car couldn't be set to a medium temperature but because Harriet, as Ben S pointed out, was behaving "like a 1970s microwave" by having the heating fully on or fully off with no modulation.

The subject of Paul also came up, and Phil announced that he wished he was fast like Paul was.

After finally getting the hire car and refusing the plethora of optional extras, it was 1h30 to drive to the accommodation. We stopped at a supermarket and it was still 1h30 away. Harriet enjoyed the fact that we could have cheese because she wasn't with Mark. Ben S wanted to do some tourism so we drove down some of the less pretty backstreets. Then we were still 1h30 away. 1h30 later, we reached the AirBnb.

It turned out by chance that the evening's night training was only 300m away. The night "training" was a mass start gaffled course, which definitely shouldn't have been interpreted as a race. It was a mixture of rocky woodland and urban. It turned out that a lot of top international athletes had come for these races.

Afterwards, Phil cooked dinner whilst Ben S went to try and get some photos of Harriet finishing. Harriet came back soon after having cut it short, as she was scared of all the dogs and rapists in the forest. She had also noticed how everybody had the same "orienteering smell" whenever somebody ran past her - with the Czech orienteers exhibiting this characteristic most strongly.

On Friday there was only a night sprint, so we had the day free. We ambitiously set off early in the morning to climb a 2001m high peak. It turned out that the small footpaths marked on mapy.cz don't really exist, especially when the ground is covered in snow and "Spanish heather", which it was higher up.

We reached an intermediate peak at about 1550m and decided to call it a day there. Harriet was very excited to find lots of free ice lollies hanging from some of the rocks, and Phil almost managed to eat an entire orange in one bite after lunch.

Once back down we still had some time before the race so drove down the road to a reservoir where the water was very cold, but Ben S was still very keen to swim there, although it was one of his shortest swims to date. Phil also had a quick dip shortly afterwards, and we spent a bit of time jumping around some rocks.

In the evening it was the night sprint race. There were lots of fast people there. It was a really interesting area, a town on a slope with lots of parallel streets, zig-zags and route choices.

We were shown that we weren't as good at orienteering as we thought, with Ben W, Phil, and Ben S finishing 38th, 47th and 66th of 67 finishers. Harriet beat all 5 non-finishers in the women's. We went for a spaghetti meal afterwards before heading back for bed.

Saturday was the long distance race, ony 5 minutes drive away. It was -4 when we woke up but soon warmed up once the sun was higher. The map had a lot of things on it, but it was very difficult to simplify and pick out obvious features, even on the long legs.

As a result it was 2 hours of intense navigation. It was a beautiful day to be out though. Phil twisted his ankle on the way to the start, but popped some pills and carried on.

Everybody made a mistake on the first control, including Meg Carter-Davies who lost 15 minutes (but followed it up with a pretty much perfect course). Harriet took 75 minutes to #1, which was the same time it took the winner to do the entire course. Phil, Ben W and Ben S got 52nd, 56th, and 67th of 74 finishers this time despite nobody having an espeically bad run!

In the afternoon we drove up to a pass at around 1600m and then climbed to 1976m through some more snow and ice. There were some spectacular views. Harriet turned back early to stay warm in the car, and slid down some of it on her bum. We're unsure if that involved sliding through where Phil had made some yellow snow on the way up.

In the evening we cooked again and Phil had to eat a lot of cream with his dessert to help finish it.

The final day was a middle distance on another technical area, lots of contours and rocks, with a mixture of open and trees. This was a chasing start, and Phil, Ben W and Ben S managed 56th, 64th and 68th of 82 finishers, while Harriet was happy to finish ahead of at least one person!

We just had time for a quick shower at the accommodation before heading back to Milan. We dropped Harriet at the airport who had an earlier flight, and the rest of us did some quick Milan tourism before flying home as well.

DrongO have a Big Weekend in Edinburgh


On a not so cold weekend at the end of January, some DrongOs went to the Edinburgh Big Weekend. Ben W and Zuzka survived the night train in seats and arrived on Friday morning. They then survived a day of listening to the hot tap dripping whilst working at John's flat and being informed of our poor toilet flushing technique. At about 5pm Jeremy rocked up having taken the day off work, had a bit of a lie in, and travelled up on the train in civil servant class.

The first race was "fight with the night" on Friday evening. The area was very interesting, although one angry resident didn't like a control being near his car. Helen P was supposed to join, but her train, which had already been delayed by unruly passengers such as her brother in Leeds, was further delayed when the train in front hit a deer. This led to a long delay whilst the brakes of the train were inspected for minced deer. However, she did arrive with perfect timing to have some tasty food and beer in a pub after the race, followed by some excellent looking symmetrical in the fireplace.

After a good night's sleep during which Zuzka caught extravagantitis in her dream (a disease which is incurable, makes you extremely extravagant, and is very contagious) we headed for the second race. This was another urban at a place 20 minutes on the bus from John's flat. Again it was an excellent area for urban orienteering and we all had lots of fun running around. Ben W tried to bring the DrongO banner to the finish in time for the others to finish, but was too slow so instead John, Jeremy and Helen all got naked and had a photo with only the banner wrapped around them like a 3-person toga.

After the race we walked down the road to find a cafe, and along the way was a place where could get T-bar highlights for just £47. We picked a cafe with a scary winking baby on the wall, and were joined by Ben S who skipped the first two races because of a niggling achilles. Then we went for a walk around Edinburgh and Ben W realised why Haymarket is called Haymarket. Then we went to John's flat where he made some tasty fishy dish and some even tastier sticky toffee pudding to celebrate Phil's birthday. Unfortunately we could only have a little bit of ice cream each, as any more and it wouldn't have fitted in John's freezer. We also concluded that the past tense of sprint is indeed sprant. Helen disagreed, but what she says doesn't matter because she's such a sprunt. In the words of Ben S in fact, Helen is "Irish like a sprite, and short like a runt".

Then it was time for the Big Weekend Ceilidh which was good fun, followed by another pub trip. During the rest of the evening Zuzka asked everybody a lot of personal questions, Helen agreed to stick up with John, and Helen most hilariously turned on the bathroom light, waited a few seconds, then turned it off again.

On Sunday it was a mass start race on Arthur's seat. Course 1 was 7.7k with 500m climb, but most people ran over 11km. It was challenging physically and involved lots of interesting route choices. Ben W upheld his victory from last year (just). Jeremy considered going for the 200 club but only made it to about 150, and almost cried with happiness when Rona gave him a piece of Phil's birthday cake on the finish line. Just to be clear, Phil was not there, Phil was still fixing his car.

We went back to John's flat, Jeremy had a quick shower before heading off for his civil servant class journey home, and the rest of us played a game. Once the winner had been established, we decided to decide who came second and third. And since there were four players, once we knew who came third, we also had to carry on to establish fourth position - and all the time John was getting hungrier. Anyway, Helen won.

Eventually we headed out for a MASSIVE sharing plate of Nachos before Helen went to get her train home, then Ben W and Zuzka went back to John's to watch Frozen (since Zuzka had seen the stage musical but not the film) before getting another night train back to London.

First downhill ski trip!


This trip is best summarised in a poem:

The DrongO orienteering club
Headed to the Dolomites with glee
To ski the slopes and have some fun
Before the Christmas season has begun

But little did they know, they'd face some strife
As Dan forgot his trousers, causing some life
And Richard lost a glove, a minor mishap
But they didn't let it ruin their ski trip, a snap

Jeremy and Zuzka, on the other hand
Decided to splurge and eat some tiramisu, so grand
A delicious treat, worth every penny
As they enjoyed the mountain scenery, so many

The crisp air and the sparkling snow
A winter wonderland on the go
They glide and slide with grace and cheer
As they explore the mountain terrain, so clear

Despite the hiccups and the little woes
The DrongO orienteering club still chose
To have a great time, skiing and playing
In the Dolomites, a winter wonderland, amazing

What a great poem. Thanks Zuzka for organising everything and Dan for driving from Prague and picking us up/dropping us off in Munich. It was a beautiful ski trip and hopefully more DrongOs will see what they missed out on and want to come if we do it again!

Zuzkas Birthday and Isle of Wight trip



Ben and Zuzka recently bought a house on the Isle of Wight. It was described as a detached two-up, two-down; two-up referring to the number of holes in the roof, and two-down referring to the minimum number of support legs that should be lowered for safe-operation. The caravan also came with a number of out-buildings; a two-storey museum-shed, a garden/bike shed, and a dangerous-chemicals shed. The museum is currently showing an exhibition of 1940s wallpaper, although at some point this will be rotated-out and replaced by an exhibition on modern building plaster and damp-proofing.

Shortly before lunchtime John arrived, followed shortly after by the caravan being towed by a Ford Fiesta. After a few attempts at reversing the caravan between the gateposts the driver gave up, and we had to push the caravan into position. In the evening we went for a walk along the seafront, and went to the pub.


John and Ben went for a run round the Ventor horseshoe during lunchtime. This got off to a shaky start after they ignored the signs about the cycle-path being closed and were stopped by some heavy-duty logging machinery blocking the path. After a short scramble up a steep embankment, they managed to skirt the blockage. A few miles later, Ben was happily recalling the story of how he'd won a massive-fish, only to realise that they'd run past the turning. The footpath across the donkey sanctuary was also apparently closed, but ignoring the signs seemed to have little consequence.

In the evening we went for a walk along the seafront, and (timed exactly with the arrival of Jeremy) went to a pub.


In the morning we boycotted the DrongO/CUOC circuits session because it starts too early, and instead organised our own session. Initial feedback suggests that the exercises were less good but the 8am start time was a vast improvement. Breakfast was fresh pastries from Lidl.

In the morning, Jeremy explored Shanklin whilst everyone else was working. During lunchtime, we demolished the coal store in the garden. This allowed us to use a very large sledgehammer and have lots of fun. Jeremy went for a cycle to Ventnor which included some very steep roads.

In the evening we went for a longer walk to a pub, which turned out to be spoons-esque. The food and prices were both acceptable but nothing astounding. After the meal, Jeremy was feeling sleepy and needed awakening with a Jeigerbomb. Zuzka said she wouldn't drink 3 (or even 1) to celebrate her birthday, so Ben and John kindly offered to drink one instead. Richard, Rowan and Shakti arrived from the ferry.


After breakfast, and whilst various faff was occurring, John, Jeremy and Rowan took a quick walk to the charity shops to buy some birthday presents for Zuzka. Each had a £5 budget and one of the others was going to blindly give the present to Zuzka on return to the house.

Rowan kindly gifted: A 27-piece glass punchbowl set, a round object holder and a shot glass.

Jeremy kindly gifted: A make-up chest, a decorative butterfly, and a texas-themed kitchen thing.

John kindly gifted: A vibrating massage brush and a block calendar.

The gifts were warmly received with the comment that only some of them would be returned to the charity shops on Monday. Ben and Zuzka then left to cycle to Ventnor, leaving the rest of us to make a birthday card for Zuzka out of a cereal box. We went for a walk along the coast and regrouped at a pub for a meal. In the afternoon,

some people went swimming in the sea, and we watched the firework display at a village pub. Some of us were keen to sample the BBQ until finding out that they were charging a frankly outrageous £6 for a hot-dog (more expensive than a pint in the pub).

A cunning plan had been hatched to make sure that the car would arrive back at the house before Zuzka. Lidl almost foiled the cunning plan by not having any food-dye, but a ketchup based fake-blood recipe was used instead. Zuzka arrived home to find that the house had been decorated as a murder scene in preparation

for the murder-mystery being held later that evening.

Zuzka had prepared a three-course dinner. The sledgehammer was a very useful implement for food and cocktail preparation, and Rowan recommends that all kitchens should have one. During the starter we found out that Lord Thingyface had been murdered with a candlestick in the swimming pool. Over the main course and dessert, the story unfolded with everyone giving their statements to the detective and cross-examining the others. In the end it turned out the murder had been committed because Lord Thingyface had tampered with a prized-violin.


Ben and Zuzka left early to hang controls for the orienteering race they had planned. Richard dropped Shakti at the donkey sanctuary and the rest of us went to the race. When packing his bag for the trip, John had wondered whether to bring his SIAC or older-style dibber. In the end he brought both, which turned out to be incorrect because the Isle of Wight still uses pin punches.

We think that Rowan might have won the blue course, but no-one really knows because there aren't any results (yet?). John and Jeremy ran back to Shanklin, and then caught separate trains back to London, They hid the house key in an amusing location for Ben and Zuzka to find.

Non-elite DrongOs go to November classic


While the elite DrongOs were enjoying a nice forest relay, a group of non-elite DrongOs had to make do with a city race in Bournemouth. Reports say the map was pretty dodgy. The organisers accidentally covered up the optimal route choice for one of the controls, so then had to explain on the start line how the roads joined up in real life.

The afternoon was spent in various Weatherspoons around the country, hiding away from the never ending rain.

Tom expertly managed to get a bargain deal for £3.50 a night at a scout hut in Lyndhurst. Similarly to last year's November classic, DrongO teamed up with Bristol university. UBOC contingent changed entirely over the year and we didn't recognise anyone from last year apart from their captain Matt.

We enjoyed an excellent home cooked pasta meal topped off with apple crumble. John tried and failed to spoil our enjoyment by having a rant at the highly original flock of DrongOs cinnamon stencil design. Luckily, he was promptly disciplined by the captain.

On Sunday, it turned out that the reason why Jeremy wasn't going to the November classic was because he was busy rehearsing for a gig with his brother, coincidentally close to the Sunday race. Hope it paid off!

The Sunday November classic race was in a newly mapped area. It was a good thing it didn't rain any more than it did, because the forest was perilously close to flooding in some places! Luckily, everyone got around without the race having to be cancelled. Zuzka recruited two JOKs into orienteering. Unfortunately there was noone left after the race to introduce them to. Maybe next time, as apparently they were not put off by the weather!

Reports from the SHIs elite group say that the army food was posh, and they even had a pool table. Maybe someone will add more details about what they got up to.

Someone is adding more details. Ben W, James A, Paul P, and Phil V (hon.) were all there. While the girls got individual rooms, in a building with a common room and a pool table, the boys stayed in very spacious and also very featureless dormitories. Upon arrival at the base we were issued with a photo pass, in which you were allowed to smile for the photo which was nice. Those who didn't stay on Friday night missed out on the opportunity for a huge cooked breakfast on Saturday morning, since the starts weren't until 12:30, and had to restrain themselves on Sunday due to the 10am starts. Saturday morning was spent digesting and watching the JWOC relay before the SHI relay began. Some people handed over to each other and some people cheered although there weren't really enough people to make the atmosphere quite work.

After the relay we went back for an eat all you can army dinner at 5pm. We then had a couple of hours to fill before the bar opened, which was mainly spent playing pool, with teams of "OD members or people who should be OD members" vs everybody else. The games started sensibly but later descended into finding ridiculous ways to take a shot. The game ended with Ben being used as the cue, lifted by Phil and Duncan, to pot the black. We then went to experience the Army bar for a couple of hours before heading off to bed fairly early, since breakfast was supposedly 6.45am-8am. Some people decided to go to breakfast at 6.45am and had to stand in the rain until it actually opened at 7am. The more sensible people spent an extra hour sleeping. We then headed to the November Classic which was combined with the SHI individual.Ben came 5th, Phil got distracted by Duncan Birtwhistle who had picked up the wrong map, only realising this when he saw Phil in the forest and discovered they were going to different controls. Duncan then followed Phil, asking him to descibe where the next control was, and trying to help him navigate whilst not actually having Phil's controls on his own map! So Phil came in 9th, with James in 10th and Paul in 11th. But most importantly, England won overall.

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