Ranald and Viv’s account of their campervan trip to the Bavarian 5 days …
We had originally planned to go to the World Masters Orienteering Championships 2022 in Italy in early July, but a number of things led to us changing our minds. Friends from Tasmania, whom we hadn’t seen since the World Masters in New Zealand in 2017, were due to be in the UK for a short while in early July. We were also concerned about the effect on Cassie of the heat in southern Italy. If only we knew what it was going to be like in the UK a little later! As is our normal practice, we would have made at least a four-week trip of it in our campervan and we seemed to have acquired a number of other events in late June/early July which we wanted to commit to.
We always look at the listing of international events in CompassSport to see if there’s anything we might be interested in. The Bavarian Forest 5 Days fitted our criteria of being in an area we didn’t know well, at a time relatively convenient for us, and looking as if it would give us some ‘interesting’ orienteering. It would also give Viv the opportunity to refresh her German language skills. The event was centred on the small Bavarian town of Bodenmais, about 100 kilometres east of Regensburg and close to the Czech border.
The arrangements were made: entering the event, with some helpful email exchanges in German with the Organiser; booking the (expensive) campsite in Bodenmais; booking tickets for Eurotunnel; arranging the travel insurance and breakdown cover; and having Cassie checked and getting her Animal Health Certificate (a process made much more complicated and expensive as a result of Brexit).
We left our Tasmanian friends to lock up our house as we had to dash to Folkestone on 27 July to catch the train that afternoon, camp in Belgium overnight and drive the 1,000 kilometres to Bodenmais on Thursday and Friday to register for the orienteering which started on Saturday. Quite a trek but relatively easy going on German motorways apart from delays in the extensive roadworks.
At registration we met Dave Chapman, ex Airienteers, who was helping with the organisation of the event, including putting out and collecting controls. For Cassie it was like meeting a long-lost friend as Dave has always played with her.
The five days of competition comprised four in the forest and, on Day 2, an urban in the lovely small town of Viechtach. It’s probably true to say it wasn’t the most enjoyable or successful orienteering we have done but with only 753 entries, of whom 22 were from the UK, it had the feel of a decent sized national event in the UK. All the officials were friendly and helpful, not least Peter Weinig, the Organiser, who had put the whole event together on his own initiative and, I gather, at his own expense. The numbers at least meant that he wasn’t going to be out of pocket.
Whereas as all the necessary information was on our bibs, including the distance and climb to the Start, the electronic Start list at the pre-check was not something I’d seen before.
For Days 1, 4 and 5 parking was high up at a cross-country skiing centre which meant descending into the bowels of the forest to the Start and then climbing back out after the Finish. On Day 3 we were all bussed out to a high-level meadow with excellent views and a restaurant. The picture shows Viv preparing for her run, before tying Cassie up under a barn with our bags as there were no DVO to look after her. The post-run photo, which I’ll spare you, shows us with beers, curry wurst and chips!
Day 1 was very physical and came as quite a shock to both of us. Knee deep bilberries and brashings made progress slow and the large number of paths were often more confusing than helpful. These were the longest course distances we faced, the final three forest days being shorter and more like a middle distance race. On this day Viv came 12th out of 17 on W70 and I was 19th out of 26. We were also faced with 1600m back from the Finish to Assembly and 130m climb, which was exhausting in the heat.
The urban wasn’t overly challenging, though I managed to record a miss punch even though I’m pretty certain I visited the control. The only real route choice for me was 1–2 and luckily I spotted the route avoiding the climb up steps that the direct route involved. However, it was Viv’s best result as she came 8th.
Day 3 involved a lot of contouring, again with many paths to confuse. I was 20th and Viv 16th. The area for Day 4 was becoming familiar, with more paths and better underfoot, though our orienteering wasn’t improving a lot with Viv 10th and me 22nd.
Whereas the previous forest races had been on a 1:7,500 scale, Day 5 was at 1:5,000. The details claimed this was to allow the rock formations to be portrayed better and “to lead to a better running experience”! I came 19th and Viv a creditable 9th. I’ve included my course and suggest looking at legs 8–9–10. Most courses contoured across the area whereas M65/70 went all the way down to a TD1 control on a path junction just to be taken all the way back up the hillside. There were some very grumpy, and exhausted, competitors!
Overall Viv came 12th out of 17 and I was 22nd out of 26 (four out of five races counted).
Whereas neither of us felt it was the best overseas orienteering experience we’ve had, it was worth going to a new area, meeting people from other clubs and then touring around southern Bavaria. We visited spectacular mediaeval towns, some of them beautifully reconstructed after being badly bombed in the Second World War, not the least Nuremberg with its stark reminders of its place in modern history. The only downside was hitting the Bavarian Alps at the height of the school holidays and at a bank holiday. Every camp site was full and we had to make use of Stellplatz sites, which are often car parks with excellent to no facilities but at much lower cost than the regular campsites. By law Sundays and public holidays are ‘rest days’ in Germany, when shops remain shut, which comes as a shock when we didn’t know about the holiday.
Interestingly, whereas we expected costs to be much higher in Germany, the euro cost is the equivalent to that in sterling. With a euro being equivalent to 85 pence, everything is about 15 per cent cheaper here than in the UK.
We hope to go to the WMOC next year in Slovakia (with a week between the Scottish 6 days and this event), followed by Finland in 2024 and Spain in 2025, dates, etc. being convenient. However, if they aren’t, then there are always good events elsewhere in Europe, not least in places such as the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia, where we have orienteered in the past.
Ranald Macdonald (with help from Viv and loyally accompanied by Cassie)