Geocaching – What?…

Hi, this is going to be a slightly unusual post, it’s not often we get articles written for the Grapevine… 🙂 – Feel free to share this…

Geocaching – What?

So, I thought I’d spend a little time writing to you all about a favourite pastime of mine; Geocaching. It’s gaining in popularity and it’s making the news more frequently so you might have heard of it, but it still tends to be a game played by a quirky few, and often in ways which are ‘hidden’ from the public, and sometimes with good reason…

So what is it?

Well, Stella my lovely wife often describes it to others as ‘it’s hide and seek for geeks’. If this has piqued some interest then read on…

The short version is that we use million dollar satellites to find tupperware boxes, hidden in the woods. The slightly longer version is that there’s a community of like-minded, active people who like to get out-and-about, who have chosen all sorts of places to stash secret hides, and then listed them for others to seek out and find. Yes, we use GPS devices to find them, yes, we’re all a little geeky, but hey, it does get us off the couch and gets us out and about.

It can become very addictive. Firstly, they’re almost everywhere. Hidden under your noses in places which you pass every-day. They’ve been in place for years and you’ve never known about them.

So, what do you have to do?

It’s simple really; the basic types of Geocache are placed, hidden, with a simple log book inside of them. You find it, you sign the log, and you replace it for the next person to find. Once you’ve found it in this way, you’re then entitled to log your find, online through your geocaching.com account. – This keeps a tally of your finds and your find-count.

The game only continues if the caches are replaced carefully, and if their hiding places are kept a secret from people who don’t know about Geocaching, and this is why it’s played in secret. Often the biggest threat to continued cache placement is if the cache is found by non-players of the game; ‘muggles’ we like to call them. So there’s always an element of stealth required. Often people who don’t know what they’ve found, don’t understand it, and treat hidden caches as rubbish, they might break them, discard them or even keep them – thinking that they’re unwanted.

Sometimes when we get discovered playing the game we might make up an excuse, especially if we’ve been looking shady searching under a bush, or inspecting a lamp-post etc. – Other times, if you look friendly and genuinely interested, you might get a quick introduction to Geocaching.

So… What?

Well what I’ve described are the very basic types of Geocaches. There is a lot more to this as the game has been developed over many years. The first geocaches were hidden back in May, 2000 when changes were made to the GPS system to allow things to be more accurately positioned. At that point the accuracy went from something like 20ish meters, down to around 4 or so meters. This increase in accuracy made it possible for you to expect someone to be able to find something based on the GPS location, published when something is hidden. – That’s the basic idea of the game. https://www.geocaching.com/about/history.aspx

In the 15+ years since then there have been many advancements in the game. – Cache types now include ‘Event Caches’, ‘Mystery Caches’, ‘Earth Caches’, ‘CITO [Cache in, trash out] caches’, ‘Virtual Caches’, ‘Webcam caches’, ‘Letterbox caches’, ‘Multi-Caches’ and some others… There are often trails of geocaches hidden along public walk-ways and hiking trails. You can make a fun day out of collecting a run of them, or you can stop and grab one at a time.

When you go to somewhere new, you can use the cache listings as a virtual tour guide, with the ‘most-favourited’ of the caches often taking you to amazing places which you wouldn’t otherwise see. We’ve often used this as a guide when we’re overseas, or on holiday in other cities etc.

If you’re looking for some free (or cheap) family fun, and a way to get the kids to want to go outdoors with you then there’s caches listed specifically as family, or kid friendly; also ones showing suitable for use while walking with dogs.

If you’re keen to get involved and take a look at what this is all about, have a watch of the introductory video on the geocaching.com website: https://www.geocaching.com/guide/ – It’s free of charge to start playing, there is a premium level of membership once you know what you’re doing and that you enjoy it enough to invest a little in the game (yearly premium membership is ~US$30, about $45 per year). You need a GPS enabled smart phone, like an iPhone or an Android phone to get going. You can download the app, setup a free account and get started.

Often people are amazed at how close the nearest Geocache is to their home, when I started, I was amazed to find several between Kaukapakapa and West Coast Road on SH16. People generally progress, once they’ve been finding them for a while, they tend to want to ‘give-back’ to the community, and they start hiding their own caches. Often they can become quite creative, and inventive too – while the majority continue to be boxes, or small containers, there are some really creative ‘field-puzzle’ type of hides too. Ones where once you find them, you have to solve a problem in order to find / access and sign the log. – It’s only after you’ve signed the log that you’re eligible to log your find online.

I’ve done a driving tour of the North Island of NZ, looking for the most highly rated 100 caches in that trip, I went with my father and together we had a great time.

Community?

Yes, obviously real people hide these things, and real people find them. Often this is done solo, but it can commonly lead to group outings, treks, walks etc. The starting point for these types of arrangements are either ‘Event Caches’ – where we all front up to the pub for a chat, or facebook groups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/geocaching.nz

Events can be organised by anyone, and published through Geocaching.com – they are required to be listed a minimum of 2 weeks prior to the event date, and the event itself needs to last a minimum of 30 minutes. There are no other requirements for an event type of listing. Event caches can also be of other types, like working bees to tidy an area of common ground, a public reserve etc; where it is held specifically with the intention to clear up (public good effort), the event is known as a CITO event. – ‘Cache In, Trash Out’.  Logging your attendance at any of these types of events counts as a ‘find’, and also allows you to more easily find the caching accounts of other members who also attended. – From here you can make contact with others through the Geocaching.com website.

Other extended types of events are known as Mega and Giga events. We’re unlikely to have any Giga events here in NZ, the size of our groups are too small, but there is a Mega event being planned for later on this year, and commonly there is a Mega event each year, somewhere in NZ. In order to be classed as a Mega event, 500 or more people need to log their intention to attend it! The next NZ Mega is being planned for Turangi between October 21st and 24th, 2016. The event page is here: http://www.nzgeocachingadventure.nz – They’ve managed to get 231 people signed up so far, and they’re looking for further expressions of interest so that they can gain their ‘Mega’ status.

There is so much more to describe to you, but I think this is probably long enough. Read up on Swag and Swappables, Trackables, GeoCoins etc on the GeoCaching.com site: https://www.geocaching.com/guide/

If you are keen to learn more about this, then I would consider creating a local, public event, at say, the Puhoi Pub within the next 3 or so weeks, we could start at around 10:30am in their beer garden, then move through the Puhoi Trail which I’ve put down…

So, if you’re keen; you can get started straight away, read up a little more, download the app, start searching. Or, if you’re keen but would rather wait, then let me know by email and we will consider running an event for newbies.  Send us an email on my personal email account: chris@wiltshire.net if you’re keen to attend and go for a walk??

That sounds dumb!?!#@!

It’s not for everyone. 🙂 Some people just don’t get it. 🙂

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