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The skeleton in the cave was fake, but the authenticity of the sacred maunga was undeniable.
Both were part of the 2015 instalment of the Kawerau Gravity Sports 6hr Adventure Race, the skeleton being one of the checkpoints and the maunga being Whatiura, the baby mountain who plays a central role in the legends of the Central Bay of Plenty’s mountains.
Being allowed to trek around Whatiura was a special treat from the Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau iwi and Maori Investments Ltd in whose trust the land is held.
Access such as this is a rare privilege and a reminder that well-organised adventure sport is more than just going head-to-head in a fittest wins all contest.
For me, the Gravity Sports 6hr was also a reminder of what we were trying to support when we started Virtually On Track just over two years ago.
* A heap of the competitors were new to this sort of event, or were trying the activities involved for the first time;
* The majority of people were in it to do what they could, not to win; the course is designed so you plot your course to suit your ability
* The places we went were new to just about everyone and Kawerau and its surrounding district was showcased to folk from across the Bay of Plenty and beyond
* There was a heap of sharing; out on the course on the day; at the prizegiving and on-line
* And, thanks to kaumatua Graham Te Rire, we learned something about the importance of the place that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise
About the only major thing that VOT pushes but wasn’t at Kawerau was the use of new technology.
That, incidentally, popped up at the Manawahe 6hr with competitors having to find and scan QR codes as part of their quest.
For me, Gravity’s 6hr was a great day out for all the reasons above, and then some.
Sure we were stuffed at the end of it (only a few superhuman types weren’t) and some parts of the course were quite demanding, but I’m sure my adult son - who was having his first experience of an adventure race – will be back for more.
I am also certain he won’t be the only one.
With the Whakatane and Ohiwa Harbour gem on the schedule for a 6hr event this summer there will be plenty of repeat customers.
If you’ve got even the slightest leaning towards having a go at adventure sport keep an eye out for it on the VOT calendar – there won’t be a better chance to dip your toes in the water.