Read what you like into these two shots – photographs from my holiday to West Coast’s fabulous hidden corners, courtesy of geocaching. If you don’t know what geocaching is, it’s treasure hunting for grownups. Basically you log onto Geocaching.com find the GPS coordinates of a hidden cache (often creatively and incredibly well-hidden!) of small swaps and a logbook. The GPS coordinates will get you within 4 – 6 metres of the spot, whereupon you need to look – and look pretty hard too!! The cache container could be as big as a 10 gallon drum, or as tiny as a thumb-nail magnet. Some of the containers are cunningly disguised as rocks, or hidden as treestumps, or inside hollowed-out signs, while some are in plain sight – just difficult to get to without being ‘muggled’. Being ‘muggled’ means someone from the general public, who isn’t a geocacher spots you in the process of finding and wants to know what you’re up to, or it can refer to when a cache container is plundered by someone who is not part of the game. Once you’ve found the cache, you simply log your find on the book in the cache (and later brag about it on the online log!), and if you’re keen you can swap one of the bits and pieces from inside the cache. Some caches are temporary homes for ‘travel-bugs’ or ‘geocoins’ which have a unique number on them enabling them to be tracked as they move from cache to cache around the world.
Some of the caches are quite demanding, because to get the coordinates of the final location, you may need to complete a puzzle, or carry out certain tasks, or have some general knowledge. And the physical demands of some cache locations are quite extreme – up hill, down dale, and further away from civilization than is normal for townies!
But the real pleasure of geocaching for me is the location of so many caches – wee places that even for a true blue Cantabrian like my partner (who has lived in Christchurch all his life) are unknown. Many are truly pristine, quite a number mark historical spots or geological formations or just plain gorgeous.
What does this have to do with pain? Nothing (except the pain of being the second to find a brand-new cache!), or if you’ve been bush-bashing through 12 foot high gorse only to find the cache has just been archived the weekend before you went to look for it!
A balanced life, however, helps with all things – and with geocaching you can get out and about, see some wonderful places, be taken on some fantastic walks, solve some incredibly difficult puzzles, and if you use it for travelling, get to stop every 30 minutes or so ‘just got to get another cache’! A great way to see the country at a pace that even I can cope with!
Oh, and photographers – there are some truly awesome photographic opportunities…