Monday, September 13, 2004
Strapped for cache
Geocaching is a relatively new idea, made possible by the rapid assimilation by the masses of handheld GPS (Global Positioning System) units, that combines a walk, hike or other outdoor activity with the fun of a treasure hunt. The basic idea is that you are given a set of coordinates that tell you within a few feet of where the treasure (or cache as they call it) is hidden. Then you put the numbers into your GPS and go searching. Sometimes the coordinates will give the location of an object (waypoint), which will tell you where the next thing is hidden in a series of ‘follow the clues’ steps.

Although it sounds easy, my Australian experience with geocaching has been anything but simple. The first adventure occurred just over a week ago, on my birthday. On that afternoon Lisa, Cindy, Ryan, Christina and I headed for La Perouse and Botany Bay, located about 10 miles south of our apartment. With Cindy’s GPS in hand we quickly found the first waypoint, a tower that stood overlooking the bay. Then, using numbers found there on a dedication plaque, and other given instructions, we calculated where we thought the next waypoint would be. However, we weren’t quite sure due to some slightly misleading instructions. Regardless, we set off for where we thought it would be, following a trail along the coast. The first shocker came when we got to the end of the trail, which terminated at a beach. Not just any beach though. It was a nude beach, complete with lots of naked old men and a brisk, chilly wind coming in off the water. We made our way across the beach to pick up the trail on the other side to find that it was little more than a narrow dirt path that seemed to wind its way through the dense trees, often shooting off side paths to unknown locations. We trad through the thickening vegetation for a while till a look at the GPS said we were going in the wrong direction. No comments on who was leading us for most of that trip. So back we went, trying to find a path to the right place. After backtracking across the nude beach we eventually found a trail that led up towards where we wanted, eventually finding a paved road to walk on for a bit. We followed the signal as it led us along the road towards a golf course. Fortunately right before we hit the putting green it looked like we had to head into the woods at its side. Unfortunately there was no path in these woods, but since we were now within a couple hundred feet we figured we could bash our way through. So we did. Only when we got to about where we thought it would be we found we were in the middle of the woods where obviously few had gone before with a large fence with a big no trespassing sign on it not too far away. A cursory glance told us this was obviously not the right place (as there were no cliffs as mentioned in a hint). So we went back to the road, sat on its side and pulled out our lunches. The strange looks we got from passing cars and golfers were well worth it to eat after the long walk we’d already done. We then decided that our original calculation was likely wrong, although not really our fault. The directions said to ignore the decimal for the calculation, which to us meant to ignore everything right of the decimal point. Apparently it was supposed to mean ignore the point itself and just treat the whole thing as one big number. Deciding that going back now and trying to find the other location would be a bit much, and we decided to call it a day, grab a bus back home and get ready to hit the town that night.

The second experience happened just yesterday, on the way to the Festival of Winds mentioned earlier. Cindy and I had walked down to Coogee beach, and I commented that I knew there was supposed to be a cache in one of the tree groves that sat on the ridge above the beach. Lacking the GPS, we decided to just take a look around and see if we could find it. Cindy and I walked along the trees, searching high and low for what I figured would be a small plastic tupperware type container. On the first pass we didn’t spot anything, but as we turned around something caught my eyes on the ground covered in ground shrubbery about 3 meters into the trees. It was red and quite big. It didn’t seem like the right size for a cache, but we decided to check it out anyway. So we climbed into the trees and found a big red gym bag that looked like it was stuffed to the gills with fun stuff. Then we opened it up. The first thing we noticed was the stench of wet, molding clothes. Then we saw them and both thought that something was wrong. This was definitely not a cache placed for geocachers, but rather someone’s very well hidden (or discarded) clothing. Judging from the smell they’d been there a while. So the bag went back into the woods and we emerged disappointed once again at our inability to find a simple little plastic container. It would have been quite funny though, to see the look on our faces when we realized what was actually in the bag.

So, 2 searched for and none found here so far. But that won’t keep me from trying to find others. I’ll just have to get a GPS of my own and spend my weekends hunting treasure. I figure that the searches can only get better from here, and even though we didn’t find anything, we still had fun both times and came back with great stories, which was really all we wanted. Till the next cache…


Years ago...................many years ago..., in camp, we used to call it a scavenger hunt. Perhaps technology has gone too far.............??
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