Ever wanted to hunt for treasure, to launch into the unknown at the behest of a map towards a secret stash? Well, that’s sort of what geocaching is – the modern equivalent of treasure hunting, except there are no pirates (that I’m aware of), the treasure is not gold (usually) and the map is a GPS device, usually attached to a mobile phone.
A geocache is typically a small, waterproof container that contains a notebook and items of varying value (usually just trinkets). After locating the geocache via a GPS, the finder logs their find in the notebook, swaps an item with one of theirs, puts the geocache back (for the next person to find) and updates their find on the internet. This lets others know a cache is still active, as occasionally muggles (the name given to non-geocachers) will find and compromise the stash.
Geocaching is somewhat similar to the 150-year-old game of letterboxing, where clues to various landmarks were left in stories. The novel orienteering activity was born in 2000 after GPS devices were able to pinpoint locations with relative accuracy. According to the geocaching site, today there are “2,276,571 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide.”
I first discovered geocaching after watching the movie Splinterheads a couple of years back. Deciding only yesterday to give it a go, I jumped on the geocaching site, entered my postcode in the top right hand side, clicked on a cache in my area, opened the coordinates in Google Earth (on my iPhone) and off I went! Amazing to see that near my little country town of Suffolk Park there are geocaches stashed literally everywhere.
Geocaching makes an adventure that bit more fun, provided you don’t spend too much time eyeballing your phone. After getting the general location, I took off along my local beach for a few kilometres on a charismatic summer afternoon. Reaching my destination at Broken Head, I wandered along a dirt track, my GPS guiding me to the top of a modest, roadside hill. After a short bustle through the brambles, I found a curious looking container stashed at the bottom of a tree.
This was my first geocache and I admit, I was a tad excited. After removing an item, replacing one and filling in the log book, I saw a geocoin (pictured at top). These are coins that can be passed from cache to cache, and can be tracked via their code on the net to document their journey. This particular coin, which I’m yet to pass on, has purportedly travelled around the world for ten years, beginning its heavily fondled voyage in Germany.
I now have the power to alter its path, which some animists may consider a fairly grave responsibility. Now where will I take it?