Updated: Sep 28, 2018
There is a saying; “don’t leave town ‘till you’ve seen the country”. This couldn’t be truer. Having grown up in rural Mid-Canterbury I have spent many summer days at Lake Camp and Clearwater, but have never once ventured over the cattle stop and up the shingle road to Mt Potts. Wow, what a place. Turn up the valley and you head into a whole different world and breathtaking at that. The lodge is located at the base of the rugged Mt Potts range at the top of the Rangitata River, made famous as the backdrop to Edoras in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. This became the stunning setting for the Mystery Lake Adventure Race.
Organised by the South Canterbury Adventure Racing Club, Mystery Lake is a 12-hour Rogaine race based around Mt Potts station which involved running/hiking, mountain biking and kayaking, all while navigating around checkpoints. There are no marshals or support crews, with the responsibility put squarely back on the competitors. People say to me that I’m crazy doing these adventure races, but over the last year, I have seen some amazing country which is right on my doorstep. And Saturday was no different. With the dumping of snow earlier in the week, we cracked a brilliant day. Over the last three years this race has had snow, so we were lucky to miss it this year by only a couple of days!
Our team consisted of Tane Cambridge, Hilary Totty, Richard Mulvey and myself, and was very aptly named “Following Tane”. He is an absolute legend on the compass and at one stage near the start most of the other teams could have also taken on this name! There were definitely plenty of laughs along the way, Mulvey’s “selfies” a highlight; although I wonder what Tane thought he was in for as right from the get-go we had the camera out capturing the event. Adventure racing with loopies! Obviously, Tane’s role was the main navigator, even if he left his compass in his kayak jacket, while Hils, Mulvey and I attempted to offer advice when we could (even if it was just for the photos!).
I don’t enter these types of races and expect everything to go to plan, but when we off-loaded the kayaks at Lake Clearwater and I noticed my rudder cable had broken there was a slight moment of panic. I had no idea at all how to fix it, in fact, it never even crossed my mind that these cables could break (yes, blonde), but we managed to find some cord and duct tape and jimmied it up for the next day. I was quietly impressed with my kiwi ingenuity until I jumped into my kayak and the rudder only turned one way! At least I was in a lake though so, in the end, it was no drama at all.
The race started at 6.30am and headed up behind the Mt Potts Lodge for the first stage, the hike. We had been told at briefing the night before we had to be on our bikes no later than 1pm, and on the kayaks no later than 2pm. We decided the run would be our strength so the aim was to collect as many of the points as we could. We managed this (although we couldn’t find one of the markers) and were off on our bikes by midday. From the central base, which was the Lodge, we headed back down the road to Lake Clearwater for the kayak stage. Hils and I were in our singles boats, while the boys teamed up with the double. The wind had picked up by now adding another dimension, but we whizzed around the lake in no time and were ready for the last leg on the bikes.
I haven’t done much mountain biking so I was pretty happy to hear some of the other teams comment on the single tracks not being that easy! I attempted to ride when I could, but my heart was beating way too fast every time I hit a rock, so pushing my bike became a much more efficient option!
Over the course of the day we encountered all the high country had to offer; breathtaking scenery, snow (and with that sunburnt noses!), freezing rivers, steep hills and the many, many Matagouri bushes (of which we all fell in numerous times). Despite all this we managed to make it back to base camp with six minutes to spare, that’s great judgment if you ask me! And a well deserved third place to top off a great day. Seagate, who are Kiwi’s and also happen to be the top adventure racing team in the world, took out first place.
It’s not very often you get to compete with the worlds’ elite so this weekend will go down in my books as one of the greats.