This post has been a few weeks in the making but I’m here, I’ve touched down in Hungary and started my 6 months in Europe!
Over the last 2 weeks I have been totally absorbed in study for exams. I have sat 3 of these over here – something I would not recommend. It is very hard to concentrate on study and training without getting distracted by being in Europe and wanted to look around!
I’m staying in a little town in Hungary called Soltvadkert, about 110km south of Budapest. It has 3 small supermarkets, an ice cream shop and 4 churches but more importantly for my purposes it is only 6km from the middle and 8km from the long maps for JWOC! The area is totally flat, huge plains which extend for miles and miles like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else. It’s pretty boring and pretty hot, some days up to 35 degrees.
The best part about staying here I think is the cheap food. Gyros (the Greek version of Turkish kebabs) seems to be the national takeaway/cusine. For NZ$2.50 you can get a delicious filling pita or splurge a whole NZ$7 you can get the ultimate tower of overloaded fries (name of dish still unknown). The only frustrating thing has been finding fruit – incredibly they don’t even seem to have decent apples! I did manage to find 15 cheap nectarines in Budapest last week but it has been a struggle!
Back to Budapest – I have found the city both quite interesting and quite disgusting from what little I have seen so far. Some random facts:
- It has a massive public transport system of buses, trams, subways and trains which is quite impressive, especially coming from Auckland!
- History. So many old buildings, it’s like what you imagine the world was like 30,40 even 100 years ago in places. Quite a unique feel.
- Everyone smokes. Like everywhere in Hungary someone is smoking, even when there are signs saying no smoking.
- Compared to other cities in Europe it is so dirty and everything feels neglected. There are also tonnes of homeless people, many missing legs and arms which is quite shocking at first.
On to Orienteering Stuff!
The areas they are using for JWOC are unusually suited to New Zealanders I think. The long map is mainly plantation pine trees, clean underfoot. The contours are subtle (being only 2m!) but generally very easy as they have big obvious shapes. See below a 70min easy run I did on the training map right next to the actual long map – for some perspective the straight line distance was about 12km compared to that for JWOC of 15km.
The middle terrain is much trickier and a bit less familiar. The organisers describe it as a ‘Labyrinth’ which is not far from the truth. The green bushes on the map are totally impenetrable – you have to find the little gaps round. But the bushes out there tend to blend into the yellow which means the smaller gaps often you need to be right on them to see them! The trick is to be 100% confident with your orienteering and attack the bushes hard, reading the contours and avoiding any wide green patches. Tracking will also help a lot. I definitely believe this kind of terrain is something you need lots of practice in before an event to understand how to orienteer accurately and quickly through it – it’s quite different to normal terrains and very easy to become timid in.
I have only one week left in Soltvadkert now until I leave for Belgium and my warm up races for JWOC. I am only doing some sprint races in the lead up as there isn’t anything in the right forest terrain pre-JWOC. I will be running in M21E with a whole bunch of other Kiwis – this event is made extra special as for the 100 year anniversery of the end of WW1, we will be racing near Ypres.
Now my exams are over, I hope to post more regularly! Stay tuned as JWOC prep starts to ramp up even more.