Earlier this year I joined Bush Search And Rescue. I thought it would give me some good opportunities to go bush bashing, with the convenience of a bus driving me there and back, so no need to be concerned about logistics, or even having to plan where to go!
Last weekend was the first training I did with them. It involved a 12 hour rogaine (which VRA was running anyway) and then various training the next day.
I got to the police pickup point at 6:30am Saturday, where we loaded the bus with our stuff and hopped on for a 4 hour bus ride to Eldorado. It was a bit early for me to have my coffee and breakfast, so after a couple of hours I had some chocolate coated coffee beans and an oat bar.
The rogaine was from 12 noon to 12 midnight, and their briefing was at 11:45. We were running ahead of schedule, which would mean we would have plenty of time to pitch our tents and plan our rogaining route… but with about 10km to go, we got to a bridge. The driver didn’t know what load it could handle, and aside from that, knew there were overhanging trees on the road ahead that would scratch the bus. We got off, unloaded everything, and waited for some cars to give us a lift. This meant we had about 30 minutes to pitch our tents and get ready for the rogaine.
My rogaine partner and I were not ready, but we made it to the briefing on time, before planning our route. Since we weren’t being competitive it didn’t really matter that we set off 15 minutes late.
The rogaine was set on half paddocks and half Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park. It was mostly undulating, but there were some hilly areas that we stayed clear of!
Since I have not done any endurance training this year, I ran out of steam in a couple of hours! I was already looking at the map for a short cut back to the hash house for a rest, before heading off again at night. My partner was keen to continue though. He was twice my age, but his natural walking pace was twice mine, and I often had to run a bit to catch up. Although I was navigating too, he was always ahead as he was faster. I think I was first to spot checkpoints only twice!
There were 2 checkpoints we couldn’t find during the day. Although we were never completely lost, at one point, we really couldn’t pick exactly where we were on the map so decided to head in some vague direction back to a road. On the way I spotted a windmill in the distance, and since one of the checkpoints was labelled as “a windmill” we went there. This was good, so we knew where we were again!
Walking through a sheep paddock, I heard a loud rustle, and saw this massive lizard run up a tree! I reckon he was about 2 metres long.
We picked up one more checkpoint before going back to the hash house for some food. This last one at daylight was in thick scrub by a creek, with a fair amount of water. I remember thinking This would be really hard at night time! …and mentally started to change our night time plans.
Back at the hash house, I missed out on chocolate pancakes, but was left with healthy vegie lentil stew instead.
We waited until around 8pm to set off again and get some night time navigation experience.
I have only wandered around trails at night, so going cross country and having to navigate at night was a first for me.
We changed our original plans to make it much easier! We decided to stick to a road, and then navigate to easy checkpoints not far off.
The moon was nearly full, so we could see very well with our torches off, and whenever possible, kept them off so we could improve our night vision.
We got 2 checkpoints at night and missed 1. I think that’s ok. We finished early at around 10:40pm, since we had an early start on Sunday.
It was very cold over night, and there was frost on the ground in the morning! We had to be packed and breakfasted, ready to start training at 8am.
After some brief training on using the BSAR GPSs, we had some training on using police radio and cb radio. It was interesting to note we could use various police channels if the channel we were supposed to use was not in range, which would mean listening to various crooks being caught and whatever other things were going on.
Then we were put in groups, and did some line searching practice. We had to find an unconscious person (well, she was just lying on the ground having a lovely rest), administer first aid, and carry them out on a stretcher. We had to pack a fair amount of gear, like in a real search, including sleeping bag, sleeping mattress, extra warm clothes, food, first aid kit, GPSs, radios etc.
We all had different jobs and mine was on police radio. I had to communicate anything of interest back to base. I only got told off a couple of times! I said “over and out” once, like in the movies, and you are supposed to say either one or the other. I think I also said “roger that,” like in the movies, instead of “romeo”. Oh well, they said I was pretty good on the radio, and thought I had done it before. I figure if it’s a life or death situation, they are not going to care if I say roger that, over and out, or if I make up my own phonetic alphabet, because they will still understand what I’m on about.
We found the person, who conveniently had a sked stretcher next to them. So a tarp was held overhead to prevent sunburn, while she was being shuffled onto the stretcher. Meanwhile, I was communicating to base that we found the person, gave GPS coordinates, and requested help from another team. A policeman came to talk to us about how they’d usually stretcher people out in various situations etc. After a fair amount of chit chat, we decided to hurry up and get a move on, as we had to get back so we’d have time to eat lunch.
After a debriefing, we got on a smaller uncomfortable bus, that could handle the road and the bridge, back home. It was a good weekend, and even if you’re not interested in joining BSAR, I’d recommend doing some of their training just for fun.
Out of interest, this is some of the gear I used:
- Shoes: Inov-8 Roclite 275 GTX – Absolutely perfect – Comfortable, grippy and completely dry
- Gaiters: Inov-8 little ankle gaiters plus Moxie gaiters – Inov-8s lost an elastic. Moxies were great.
- Tent: Vango Tempest 200 – Perfectly dry inside, not even any condensation.
- Pack: Nathan Synergy – Big enough to carry all rogaining gear, but ripped on barbed wire fences.
- Torch: Fenix HP 10 – Very light using lithium batteries, and super super bright! Love it!