A Tale of The Deceptive Lands

The Story Behind the Australasian Rogaining Championships 2020, May 9-10 

“30 Years Ago; The Story begins…” writes SA Rogaining Association’s Chief Conspirator Jenny Casanova, “…on a dark, rainy, windswept night in 1989, the young girl trudged up the road in the glow of torchlight after 14 hours in the wilderness, lagging behind her companion who turned back to her, map in hand, and they conferred about whether to head towards the hash house and a warm bed in a dry* tent, or else to venture further into the Deceptive Lands…”

(*) it turned out that the tent had leaked, anyway!

I have asked Jenny, the not-so-young-anymore girl, to expand upon what to expect at the Deceptive Lands 2020 Australasian Rogaining Championships:

Tristan White: Introduce us to the organising team.

Jenny Casanova: After the magnificent and extremely well-organised 2012 ARC at Angorichina in the Northern Flinders Ranges I started thinking about who I could get to help me showcase my favourite rogaining terrain to the rest of Australia. So I asked my favourite past-and-present South Aussie team mates: Zara Soden (L) Mark Corbett, and Steve Cooper, to be part of the setting team. The extended Corbett clan has also been giving us assistance and advice.

The setting team: Zara, Steve, Jenny, Mark

We are also very lucky to have Craig Colwell as the event coordinator; he focuses on all the logistics and we primarily need only concern ourselves with preparing a 24-hour which we wish we ourselves could compete in.

TW: Where are the Deceptive Lands?

JC: Only half as far from Adelaide as the Northern Flinders! (Approximately 240km, just over 3 hours’ drive depending on how often you stop at a bakery.)

TW: Why did you choose this area for the Australasian Championships?

JC: I’ve always loved the mallee country east of the Barrier Highway, and we’ve been coming here for 30 years now, orienteering in little pockets of it, and have built up a good relationship with a number of the farmers in the region. With my parents and Zara, I set the 2013 God’s Country; Beyond Hell’s Gates 12-hour in this vicinity and we enjoyed every minute of doing so.

There is nothing quite like the view to the north and east from a high hill, with wedge-tailed eagles soaring overhead. When I am out there, I never want to go back to the city!

TW: Tell us what the terrain is like?

JC: Rolling hills, deeply-incised dry creek networks more numerous than can possibly all be shown on the map, some enormous channels which have actually been flowing when the tail end of a summer cyclone comes through, very little undergrowth in the mallee scrub, some fast open flood plains, and absolutely no spinifex…

TW: Why is the rogaine titled “Deceptive Lands”?

JC: We toyed initially with something on the Goyder Council theme; Goyder having been the surveyor who in the 1860s undertook a detailed study of South Australia’s vegetation, and identified that crops would not be viable north of a virtual boundary which he drew on maps. In this region, Goyder’s Line is almost visibly painted on the ground in a drought year.

The name “Deceptive Lands” came about because it’s the title of a book written in the 1960s about the history of the Terowie region, referencing the fact that in a good rainfall year this can seem like excellent cropping & grazing country, but appearances can be deceptive…as they can also be when following up a watercourse amongst the mallee, looking for a side gully at two in the morning.

TW: How has recent extreme weather in SA affected this area?

JC: In the midst of the mallee, nothing appears to change, although local farmers had been carting water and feed for their stock for over a year now, so it’s an absolute blessing that there have been recent summer rains. There are some permanent springs & soaks in the area, as the original Ngadjuri people would have been well aware. These must have been a lifeline for them in dry years.

TW: How can we get to the 2020 ARC?

JC: By standing on the side of main North Road and thumbing a lift as fellow rogainers go past!

Although the HH is not so very far from an airstrip, you would need to bring your own light aircraft, and the trains eventually stopped running to Terowie over 40 years after General MacArthur stood on the platform and famously declared “I came out of Bataan and I shall return”.

Seriously though, buses will be organised for competitors who require transport to/from the airport, and info on booking the bus can be found on the ARC website plus there are plenty of car hire options.

TW: Why should we come to the Deceptive Lands?

JC: Because it will be such a fun event, with great catering at the centrally-located hash house, unlimited space for free camping Fri-Sun nights, and 80 controls to choose from, plus there’s an 8-hour option for those who don’t feel inclined to do an entire 24 hours. And you can check out the antiques in Burra, or the wineries of the Clare Valley, on your way to & from the Deceptive Lands. And don’t forget to purchase a commemorative Deceptive Lands shirt.

Thanks Jenny! Hope to see you in May!


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