While most of us were taking a leisurely break during the holiday period, hundreds of active sporty types could be seen daily crisscrossing the hills surrounding Graskop.
This group were competitors in the Big 5 Orienteering Week held from December 29th to January 3rd. This 5-day international orienteering competition is held in South Africa every two years. The event attracts many foreign competitors who, as explained by the Event Director Nicholas Mulder, join the competition as part of their family vacation.
This year the event, centred in Graskop, attracted 269 competitors of whom 180 were from 21 foreign countries. Although January 1st was a rest day for the participants, many of them were up and about by 08:00 to join the special New Year’s Day Jock Trail parkrun.
Orienteering is a sport where you need to use both your body and your brain. With only a map and a compass, competitors run or walk cross-country to clock in at a series of checkpoints in a set area. Orienteering is a family sport and a “sport for life”. Children from as young 9 years old to seniors over 80 competed in the recent Big 5-O week. Courses are designed for different levels of ability and skill, ranging from 3Km to 15Km in length.
The Big 5 O-Week is South Africa’s premier orienteering event during which local competitors get the chance to compete at the highest international levels. This year’s winners in the Elite Men’s’ and Women’s’ categories, were Chris Smithard from Great Britain and Susen Loesch from Germany.
“We were very grateful to have access to some beautiful areas near Graskop for this last Big 5 and appreciate the generosity of the landowners and local communities for gaining access to these areas,” said Mulder. Landowner sponsors who provided access to their areas included SAFCOL, York Timbers as well as Kruger Park Lodge near Hazyview.
The 2020 South African National Orienteering Championships will be held in Graskop during September 2020 and open day events are being planned for the coming year to encourage more people in the area to try orienteering.