Anyone that knows me knows I love a good puzzle, I love to explore and I can never resist a mystery, therefore it did not surprise anyone when my Geocaching addiction started.
Firstly let me explain what geocaching is, though the somewhat glib phrase of ‘It is using multi-million dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods.’ is technically accurate, there is so much more. Containers are hidden at GPS co-ordinates and it is your job to head out and find them. When you do you sign a log, maybe swap for an interesting item that someone has left behind, replace the cache where you found it and then maybe head off to find another…that on its own does not sound that exciting, but it is actually so much fun.
Geocaching was mentioned to me a couple of times by various people telling me it is likely something I would enjoy. Some how though their descriptions never really caught my imagination.They were as bland as the description above I suppose, they lacked enthusiasm in their description. One day a friend of mine posted a photo, it was a beautiful, tiny flower, in red, black and yellow, with the caption ‘A little flower found whilst out geocaching.’ Something jogged in my brain and I remembered people suggesting I should take it up. Time for some research!
Geocaching.com seemed like the right place to start, they had a 2 minute intro video and I thought I should watch it. Suddenly my world was changed, why had no one told me what this was really like. Unfortunately the new intro video lacks the magic and energy of the one I watched, which showed people solving puzzles to find co-ordinates, elaborately made field puzzles, where people had to find clues to open it or roll a ball around a maze. They had images of people climbing mountains and diving, 2 million of them, all over the world, just waiting to be found.
Now your average geocache is a traditional, you head off to the GPS co-ords using the app on your phone, or an actual GPS, have a search around and try to find the cache. Some are so simple, they are on a street magnetized to a railing, others are covered in elaborate camouflage and blend in so perfectly with the scenery it takes a trained eye to find them, as you find more your geosenses improve and you start to spot them easier. This does not mean that you find them all, some still elude you the first time, but a second visit and a quick grab might have you kicking yourself.
So what makes traditionals fun? Well mostly it is the exploring. I have seen parts of my city I would never have visited or even known existed if it was not for geocaching. People like to place them in areas they find interesting. I have found tradionals on beautiful secluded beaches I have been able to sit on for hours without anothr person around. Alleyways I would never walk down have yielded spectacular graffiti or hidden bars. They can be found by diving, wadding, boat, car, bike, and any other form of transport. They are on every continent.
One of my favourites was found by hiring a pedal-boat on the Amsterdam canals and heading off to under one of the many bridges, I had to stand up on the boat grab the cache and bring it down to sign the log. I would not have explored the canals that way if it was not for Geocaching.
Not only that cachers often research the locations. I have learned history about buildings, roads, towns and islands I would never have known had it not been for someone bringing me there. On a small island just off Denerau in Fiji I was pulled out of the resort by the promise of a cache, dragging an interested colleague with me, (it was a work trip), while the others relaxed on a beach we went for a walk. So up a hill we head on a hot day, to find a small local church, and the most amazing views. The cache was found the log was signed and we took a moment to enjoy this incredible scene, on the way back there was a local working on a road, we had a nice chat, he offered us some more water and wished us a lovely day. It made the whole experience that much better. On the way back down I stopped for another cache and we found a quiet bar on an out crop of land, this was a place where the the yachts would stop and boaties would have a cold beer. They all seemed to know each other but welcomed us into their fold. We spent the evening drinking those cold beers with them and watching the sun go down over the ocean, a memory I would never have had if not for this odd little hobby.
Then there are puzzle caches, you have to solve a puzzle to find out where the cache is hidden. Some people do not like them, there is no pressure to do them, but I like them. I have learned about computer coding through puzzle caching, I have learned about various ciphers, I have done crosswords, researched great battles and solved Sudoku, all in the name of getting those final co-ordinates. It keeps my brain active when it could just be melting. Two years ago I was very, very sick, for a good couple of months. Though I couldn’t really go out and cache, solving those puzzles kept me going, and when I was better finding the finals gave me great satisfaction.
There are so many more cache types, and I could talk about them here, but it would not be the most exciting thing, I would just say if you are interested then head off and have a look yourself. I am going to mention just one final cache type, and this is my personal favourite, mainly because it really feels like treasure hunting. This is the multi-cache. A multi cache has various waypoints you have to find and work out before you reach the actual puzzle, kind of like solving a treasure map. Some of them are huge, taking you around the world to find information or co-ordinates, some of them are tiny things, head to one point to find the final just 20 meters away. I have had to decipher codes in the field, use UV lights to find information, measure out distances, look for interesting landmarks and have an adventure.
If you are the type of person that likes to explore, does not mind getting your hands dirty in the hunt and want to play a giant treasure hunt then geocaching is the hobby for you.