Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Measuring Up

Back to walking 30 kms a day, after a couple of interruptions at the weekend. The torrential rains we had then were from the same weather system which caused such huge flooding a couple of days before in Queensland and New South Wales, Australia.

Not surprising, you might say, if you are one of the many who think that New Zealand consists of a couple of islands just off the coast of Australia. That's what it looks like on the map, doesn't it? And that's what most of us in the northern hemisphere think. But it is true only if you also accept that Great Britain is a couple of islands just off the coast of North Africa, because the distances are the same. It is 3 hours flying time from New Zealand to the nearest point of Australia.

Maps can be deceptive. Like measuring instruments, apparently. I have mentioned before that my morning walk here in Alexandra includes the riverside walk, alongside the mighty Clutha river, from the bridge at Alexandra to the bridge at Clyde, in alternate directions each morning. The distance of that walk seems to be officially changing from day to day.

For years it has been signposted as 12.8 kms. Just over a week ago, men were at work installing numbered posts at each kilometre along the walk. They were somewhat erratically spaced. A couple of days later, the same men were digging the posts out again. One of them (the men, not the posts) told me that they had always been told that the distance was 12.8 kms, so they had prepared posts numbered 1-13 (!!). While planting the posts, they had realised they were going to have too many, so they had measured the path, twice, with a wheel. Now they knew the path is only 11.2 kms long, so they were having new post, numbered 1-11 (!!) made. This seemed incorrect to me, because I walk at a very steady 10 mins per kilometre and it takes me two hours to walk the river bank, which seems to indicate 12 kms.

The new posts are now planted. I have timed myself between the posts each day, with a stopwatch, as well as with my pedometer. Starting from the Alexandra bridge over the Clutha, the times for the first 3 “kilometres” are: 7 mins 50 seconds, 9 mins 40 seconds, 19 mins 30 seconds. The other kilometres are fairly accurate at just under 10 minutes, but this is the result of measuring with a wheel? Back to the drawing board, lads!

The path is quite well used by cyclists and walkers, many of these keeping track of their times and distances. I have seen a few baffled faces in the past few days. Especially the jogger I met yesterday, who thought he was doing a 6 kms run out to the 3 kms post and back. He was very relieved when I told him he was actually doing almost 8 kms- he had thought he was going to sleep in mid-run.

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