Organising a Flashmob

Today we are going to talk about organising a flashmob for geocaching

Several weeks ago we were surfing the net looking at geocoins, when we saw an interestingly shaped coin. It was a WWFM -IX geocoin. At that stage those letters meant nothing to us but it had a link beside the coin so, being the inquisitive animal I am, we went and looked where it went. Wow, pretty cool, all this information about previous flashmobs for geocaching! This particular coin was for the upcoming global flash on 9th June. That wasn’t far away! Was anyone organising one in our area?  We looked through the information in front of us, and then did a search on geocaching but couldn’t find anything for Christchurch. We did see one for Cromwell, Napier and Auckland but nothing for our city. How do you go about organising a flashmob? We had no idea as we had never taken part in any kind of flash mob let alone a geocaching one! What to do? We turned to our good friend “google”.

We watched a few youtube videos and looked at a few pages on geocaching.com, so we gained a few ideas but nothing really fell into place. We decided to go for a drive around the city to look at various sites for the flash (ok, so we did find some caches too, I mean why waste a good trip around town without some rewards).

We looked for areas that could hold a crowd, but still be where the public would notice us. The idea was to get geocaching noticed! We thought about indoor malls. We visited a couple and looked at pubs around them for an after-flash event so we could relive our flashing with others. We were gutted to note that there seems no space for people to gather in a crowd, where we would not interfere with passersby, or that we could talk over the piped music or mall noise. We extended our search to outside areas. We looked at several well-known places like the Art Centre, and the Pier, so the flash would have a Christchurch theme. Other things had to be taken into consideration. Where would people park, was there public transport, was there a place for flashers to go before and after the event, was there toilet facilities nearby…. so many things to think about, my antlers hurt! One of the last places we visited was the RE:Start Mall, but there in the middle was a nice big space in front of a REINDEER… a BiG reindeer, I was impressed! So was my owner. Yay we had our ground zero. With co-ordinates in hand we now had to organise the rest.

We checked geocaching.com to see if anyone else had organised a flash for 9 June but they hadn’t. We had checked with a facebook group to see if there had been one in the past but hadn’t heard back anything so we put the co-ordinates in and claimed the spot!

Now we were onto the tricky bit. What do you actually DO in a flash? The time constraints limited a lot of things because a flash has to be totally completed within a 15 minute time frame.  Did we want to dance, to sing, or something else? What was something “kiwi” we could do?  The answer was soon upon us when we realised New Zealand was playing Ireland at rugby that day… GO the ALL BLACKS!!!

As most of you realise, we like to carry a theme right through with our caches. How would we introduce rugby into our flash, while keeping geocaching as the main theme?  Luckily for us it is winter, so it didn’t take long to settle on All Black beanies, because most of us wear a hat over winter while caching anyway.  How do we introduce beans into the title… hmm… that took a wee bit more thinking before we managed to play with the words and get Be’n there, Be’n seen.  Ok, GZ sorted, titled sorted…. theme sorted…. now what?

We went back to look at the flashmob geocoin for inspiration, and ordered one for us and an extra one to give away plus a couple of trackables. For good measure we had a cheek, and asked if they would include an extra one for us to give away. Woohoo they obliged! We had our prize pool so now we had better get the webpage on geocaching. com organised or we would be flashing on our own!

When we had been at the mall we had walked around and got the co-ordinates for the local parking areas and how much they cost.  So we set up the page and broke things up into minutes. We didn’t want to run out of time for the group photo, but we wanted to give people enough time to sign the logs so everyone was in the prize draws.  We decided 7 minutes would give most people a chance to get it done, and allowed a few minutes for drawing and giving the prizes. Then a couple of minutes more for the photo.

Things were falling into place nicely. The page was written up and then published, phew! Now we could sit back and see if people were actually interested in coming!

Yay, our first “will attend” log, and we were off.

A couple of days before the flash our city suffered one of the heaviest snow dumps it has had. We don’t normally get snow so, although it was fun, it also stopped most things in the city. Would it affect the flash? We could only cross our paws and antlers and hope not.  

In the meantime we made log slips on the computer, bagged the jellybeans for the meal, and made sure the other prizes were ready. Happily the day of the flash dawned sunny.

A quick check on things and it was off for the flash. How many would turn up? We had organised a photographer, but he had to be dragged out of bed to record the event.

The air was a little crisp, and the snow still lay around in places but the street itself was free from snow and ice. We walked over the GZ and I was placed between the antlers of my big cozzie. Woo, now I know what I’m missing being so tiny! The view from up there was great! As my owner put on her beanie I could see these people coming from all directions and they were putting on their BEANIES… YAY the flash was ON! People were coming from the left, from the right, from behind… I heard there were people from Otago, Ashburton and Greymouth.

I think I was lookig really swish in my red and black rugby shirt!  Those beanies were looking great, especially the pink spotted one worn by Chessmad!

My owner burbled on for a bit and then everyone was chatting and enjoying the flash. Riddlers76 updated us that he had organised a previous TWO flashes in Christchurch. That was pretty cool to know – One by the Chalice in the square and the last one on the Pier.  I watched as logs were signed, beans scoffed – hmm,  where’s MINE??

Then it was onto the prize draw. Time was ticking past fast. The children attending the flash drew the prizes and names were taken. I’d say there were some happy cachers amongst them! Those coins were cool. Then it was on to the group photo – got to have that recorded for posterity, I mean how often will it be that I am the centre of attention of 46 people?? Flashmob Group photo

Sadly it seemed that we had only just started before I was being pulled down from my awesome perch – it seemed it was over in a flash!  As the coin said, we came, we cached, we Flashed!

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Help! The Brambles are Attacking

Last Friday my owner and me visited a village on the outskirts of Christchurch for a lovely morning tea with a friend, and a spot of caching. The weather was great, food good and we even managed to find the caches we were looking for – a splendid morning out!

On the way home our friend mentioned she was going out that night with a different friend, and would I like to come? Would we what – No, NO we are NOT addicted, lol yeah right!

So off we went to work that afternoon with thoughts of another visit to an outlying part of Christchurch and the afternoon flew by. We arrived home at 6 and a minute later there was a knocking on the door – my, they were prompt! “We’re off the Bottlelake Plantation to do the Reguiana conjunction night cache, are you ready?” greeted me as I opened the door. Needless to say we were soon off on our new adventure, and what an adventure it turned into!

 

Friend #1 had a new smartphone and was excited to be using the GPS function on it. It was giving verbal directions until we got to the forest and the road was closed to all save the Red Zone rubble trucks. The others knew where to go though, so we were soon parked in the carpark and geared up for our night excursion – torch, coat, hat, geogeekbag and GPS device. Off we went, full of enthusiasm, like our cat when he is stalking our dog.

We noticed on the smartphone that there was a teddies’ traditional cache only 700m from where we had started. It said it was a large container, and as we hadn’t found one of those we thought we would find that “easy one” first – I mean, how hard can it be to find a 20 litre container even if it is dark? We had the co-ordinates so it should have been a quick easy find, right? hmm…..

We followed a path and then turned left onto another one, where the GPS was directing us. Our own GPS device was on map view so it was giving us the names of the “streets” in the forest to follow. On we went, chatting and enjoying our evening, until we noticed the track petered out… hmm where to from here. Follow the GPS of course, so we did. It was pointing across what looked like a flat area so we braved the unknown and stepped off the last vestiges of the track. It was quite sandy and then we came across a branch and then a stump and then more branches and the ground was quite uneven. We had a brief conference. Do we go back or do we follow the GPS and head on? Being newbies and all, we decided to stick with the GPS and on we went. We stumbled onto another track which didn’t show on the map view and followed it in the direction the GPS was showing. We thought we were doing pretty good too, until that 8 foot high fence appeared in front of us, and stretched across the track we were following. Right on the other side of the fence our track met at a T intersection with another track. A sign stated the name of the track –  the one we needed to follow to find the cache we were looking for. We had been walking for an hour by this time… so much for 700 metres! Friend #2 walked down the fence-line to see if there was a gate, but was soon back reporting that we either had to go back the way we came, or climb over the fence. Me and my owner were game, and so was she. Friend #1 was a little more dubious but agreed to give it a try. Friend 2 got over first without incident and then Friend 1 climbed up. She was doing fine until she got to the top, but then she snagged her hand on the twisted wire ending by the top of the post. Down she came, and it was NOT a happy landing. We have to admit that we did not manage to catch her, but did break the fall a little, although not enough. She landed on her back, winded and was down for quite some time getting her breath. We were very thankful that although her feet were still on the fence they had not tangled and broken an ankle or leg, phew!

Just then, a friendly muggle jogger appeared. “What you doing on the no admittance side of the fence?” he asks. Getting out? lol… We didn’t even realise we had entered the rubble dumping area let alone know we weren’t supposed to be in there! Someone must have left gates open but in the dark and following out GPS and the track, we didn’t even see the fence, let alone an open gate! We asked if he knew of a gate so we could get out but he advised us to climb over.

“Can’t, fell”, said friend 1 who was still laying on the ground at this time. “Then you better go under!” he said. Now why couldn’t he have arrived five minutes earlier BEFORE we had tried to climb the fence. None of us had thought about trying to go UNDER the fence. He bent down to pull it up and grunted. “This is hard,” he said and he used both hands to pull it up.” You better be quick.” The two of us on the wrong side of the fence quickly threw our packs under the wire and rolled through to join those on the correct side. Finally we were on the right track for that cache.  Our muggle jogger looked us over and probably wondered what on earth these three dim-witted women were doing wandering in the forest at this hour of the night, and took pity on us. “Let me guide you back to the carpark,” he says. We look at each other, and at our injured member… “No, no thankyou, we’ll be right.”  We wished we could mind-read at that point to see what he was thinking as he jogged off and left us huddled in a group to discuss our next actions.

Friend 1 was looking in a bit of pain, and had a sore back and head. She didn’t want to go back though so off we went, back onto the trail of those teddies. We went a bit slower this time and stuck to where we could see the walking markers and soon arrived at GZ (we think). So a big cache is easy to find eh? Yeah, right! The injured party stayed on the track holding her torch while we others looked for those elusive teddies. We searched where we thought the cache was, then we searched a bit further out. The brambles got thicker and thicker and they were vicious. They didn’t like intruders at that time of night disturbing their rest and they let us know.  Our trousers got hooked, coats got hooked, hats got hooked. They were over us, under us, all about us, and finally we raised the white flag and admitted defeat. The brambles had won. Bruised, battered and bleeding we retreated to lick our wounds, and wounds we all had! Friend 1 has broken ribs from the fall, and we others had blood flowing down our limbs by the time the brambles had finished with us. So much for a teddies’ picnic, I’m sure those bears scoffed and ran when they saw our torches coming – the rotters, they could have stayed and offered assistance, cos we needed it! Needless to say, “conjunction” was never conjuncted that night!

 

Well this has been one adventure we won’t forget in a hurry, especially as we bear (no pun intended) the scars of the outing. After a visit to the hospital, and a hot bath and painkillers friend 1 is still ok to come back out with us in daylight hours for another try at those elusive teddies. This time though, we will stick to the RIGHT side of the fence!

Things we learnt today:

  • There are NO street lights in a forest
  • Be prepared for the unknown, and make sure you have first-aid items in your pack
  • Go UNDER a fence if you can, before trying to climb over it
  • If someone is climbing a fence, empty your hands so you can catch them if they fall
  • Night caching should be done in a group just in case an incidence like this happens
  • A big strong torch is a must for night caching
  • Just because it says it is a LARGE cache does not mean it is an EASY cache to find in the dark
  • Make sure you take the co-ordinates of where you have parked your car so you can find your way back to it.
  • Teddies are not those cuddly, friendly creatures of childhood memories, but elusive, devious, selfish beings who scoff and run to avoid sharing their picnic treats with strangers
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Earthcaches

Not long ago my owner and me logged our first Earth cache. These are quite different to other caches because there is no log book to sign, in fact there is no cache box to find either!   They look at aspects of earth science, and have an earth logo on geocaching.com. The Earth cache we found was Natural Springs Earthcache (Canterbury) GC1H7BM

This Earthcache concerned our drinking water, and the co-ordinates took us to an aquifer that was on one of Christchurch’s “living streets”. Now we had driven past this and had never realised it was there, so it was really cool that someone has made this earthcache to draw it to our attention.  We read the webpage and in our enthusiasm thought we knew where to go so headed off without checking the co-ordinates. That was our first mistake! Even if you think you know all about what you are reading, and are confident you know exactly where you are going, we have learnt that it still pays to check the co-ordinates to make absolutely sure you are in the right place. We spent a fruitless 20 minutes reading signs, looking at another spring, and aimlessly wandering the neighbourhood before we finally had the bright idea to actually start up the GPS and check the co-ordinates! Success! We found we were around 300 metres from where we needed to be so headed around the corner. This street has lovely landscaping and we again made the mistake of turning off the GPS and following where we thought it would be. You’d think we would have learnt our lesson, but nope, we didn’t. We looked in a number of gardens and had just stopped a passing local when we spied what we were looking for. Next time the GPS stays ON!   The aquifer was covered with a glass-plated cabinet so you could see down into where the water was coming up. That was pretty cool. We had to get some information off the plaque beside the aquifer. It was over knee-high so how did we miss it???  We didn’t realise just how much water bubbled up out of the earth so fast, it’s amazing.

We learnt a lot about our water that day, but we still couldn’t log the earthcache because there were questions that needed to be answered from a book in the library. Unfortunately the library with the book in it was shut because of earthquake damage, and we didn’t have access to the library at University of Canterbury so that left us stumped for a bit. Luckily though, at a meeting a few weeks later with other cachers, we discussed our dilemma and one of the other cachers had photocopied the required pages, which she kindly lent to us so we could read them and gain the needed information to complete the earthcache answers.  We could finally email the cache owner with all the information we had gained completing this earthcache and ask for permission to log the find, which of course, was granted. This is a great way for people to learn more about our earth!  As you may have picked up Earthcaches are caches that give a learning experience about Earth science. They are placed where people can visit areas that have special significance to the creation of our planet and visitors can learn about the unique geoscience feature or aspect there.  It seems a number also require further information to gained from books or the internet.

We didn’t think too much more about these earthcaches. We felt pretty pleased with ourselves for logging our first one, and we’re looking forward to logging several more when we go to Dunedin for the New Zealand Mega in October but that is another story.

Today we were googling about geocaching pins because we don’t know much about them… more of that in a later posting. But we came across a link that really got us excited. If you have found any of our caches you will know that we’re very much into respecting the environment and trying to protect any vegetation around our caches. Cache In Trash Out is a must. As we were reading the link, it dawned on us that we could try to put out an earthcache of our own – there’s nothing like jumping off the top of a mountain into the great unknown while flapping your arms like wings  trying to fly eh.  We may drop like a stone, or hopefully soar like an eagle, but the experience will be worth it, and we’ll take you along for the ride! It’ll certainly give us food for thought over the coming months as we find out more of what is required and look for a likely spot that is relevant and doesn’t already have a relevant earthcache established there.  The link we found was Earthcache.org. This lists all earthcaches globally and they decree if your earthcache is acceptable. Usually each significant feature only has one Earthcache but if an earthcache is rejected for publication, it will usually be content and not proximity to another earthcache that causes this.

This site also had a masters earthcache programme and earthcache discovery reward programmes. These are where you find earthcaches and then, after you have fulfilled the requirements, email in with proof of your achievements.

Have we bitten off more than we can chew – probably. You’ll find out if you come on the journey with us. How we are going to squeeze this in between finding and hiding other geocaches, and other activities that interfere with geocaching like family and work? We don’t know, but it’s going to be fun trying!

So until next time, Happy caching, JMG

Things we learnt today:

  • Earthcaches teach us about  earth science
  • Earthcaches teach about the unique geoscience feature or aspect of that area
  • Earthcaches don’t have a physical cache to find, you have to visit the GZ and answer questions which get emailed to the Cache Owner (CO) before permission to log is given
  • Earthcache.org has interesting material on earthcaches and lists all earthcaches globally
  • Even if you are positive you know where you are going, it pays to check your GPS
  • If information seems impossible to get, sometimes your friends may have access to the required texts for lending
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A Different Kind of Cache

It’s a sad thing when geocaching gets in the way of blogging. In the time since we last wrote, we have helped put out some puzzles and helped a few friends too.

We decided it was time to try hiding a “sneaky” cache, well one that had a different container anyway. This was more involved than what we thought. We started by heading to the local hardware store, but didn’t find much of interest there, so headed to a BIGGER one. We had a pretty good time there, and spent a happy two hours wandering around, dreaming of what we could do with everything we saw. We finally settled on an object, and then looked for parts to modify it with. Those turned out to be more expensive than the original container!  Off home we went, with grins as large as the cheshire cat. I wonder what the other drivers thought when they saw us.

At home we soon had the saw, file, drill and superglue out. It sure didn’t take long before my paw was firmly glued to the container. Then it was glued to my other paw. Big hint – if you are using superglue throw-away gloves will help if you are not as careful opening it as you should be! It feels real strange on your paws, I can tell you. Ok, so once we were all unglued, it was back to business. We had a design planning meeting to decide just where the log would reside and how the cache would sit when placed out. With that sorted it was time to try out the tools, yipee!

This bit was unscrewed, that bit sawn off, oops that bit got glued back on *blush*. We got a little too enthusiastic there. The right bit was then glued where we wanted it, and the accessories added. Finally we thought we had a pretty cool-looking cache.

Part of placing a good cache is that you have done your homework first and scouted out the area of placement to make sure it is appropriate and sometimes to work out an alternative area, just in case you need to move it because of cache saturation. We’d already completed our scouting so it was off to the park to install our cache – the moment of truth. Would it be right?

We had added a new “tool” to our geogeekbag (thanks Lynette for the term). We had acquired a high vis vest and this was its first outing. Would it work?  We donned the vest and with spade, and other various tools in hand, along with the cache, headed into the park. Other users gave us nothing more than a cursory glance – it was incredible, yep we were almost invisible! We had heard stories of this happening but it was exciting to see the reality. We moved on over to ground zero and completed instalation. We were pleased with the results of our efforts and headed for home, to enable the cache listing. Then we sat back and waited….

Those FTF guys are good and it didn’t take them long to find. We even earned our first favourite point for a traditional cache! That was pretty cool. Unfortunately a friend went to find our cache and let us know that it was lying exposed way out in the open. If it had been left that way it would have been muggled for sure! After all our hard work we sure didn’t want that happening a day after we’d put it out.  Luckily, the friend also offered some sound advice and we were soon heading back to the hardware store to get something further. Before we went we headed over and retrieved the cache so it didn’t disappear in the meantime. Later that night, under cover of darkness, we crept in again with our tools and this time installed the extra hardware we had bought. We’re certain this will stop any further incidents of exposure of the nature we had earlier. This was another learning curve for us.  Cachers don’t always put things back the way they found them so it is wise to put something in place that helps them to remember. We are thrilled to report this cache has since had a Did Not Find, and I have had two emails telling me it is muggled. We went and checked but it is still safe and sound where we placed it. I think we outdid ourselves this time. We are LEARNING :o)

Things we learnt today:

  • Hardware stores are a truly awesome places to wander and ponder when deciding what type of cache to put out.
  • Research what you want to put out so you get all the parts you need at one time and don’t have to go back for more
  • Superglue sticks really fast so be careful opening and handling it. Disposable gloves are good for this.
  • A high vis vest is sometimes a good thing to have in your pack if you want to “disappear” into the surroundings. It worked amazingly well.
  • If you want your caches to still be around a week after you put them out, listen to the advice of experienced cacher friends, and learn from them.
  • Putting out a cache that is different to the usual screw-top bottle or sistema is fun but does take some forethought and preparation, but it is worth the effort.
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Night Caching

This week we joining several new friends and went on a night cache. It was still light when we met up and we spent an hour pleasantly trying to solve a couple of puzzles we had all been working on. Then it was on to the hunt.

Night caches use reflective tacks to set a trail for geocachers to follow to the final cache. Sometimes they lead to a WP where you are given the co-ordinates to a final cache, and sometimes they lead you straight to the cache. A clue is always given on the webpage as to what to look for eg a double orange tack, or 4 tacks in a row.

Tacks come in a variety of colours, but mainly seem to be orange, silver or yellow. These are called fire tacs and they reflect light back to the source. This means if you hold your torch at waist level, the tack will reflect back to waist level and you will miss it. It pays to hold your torch up high beside your head or at least chest level so you can see the tacks.

Night caches are set out in a variety of environments. The most popular seem to be cemetaries, forests and around streets. About a month ago we did our first night cache with some of the friends we met up for the most recent night cache. The first night cache was in a cemetary where we followed orange firetacs that were on trees until we found a tree with a double tac point. A micro was hidden here with the final co-ordinates. 

The cache tonight was slightly different but the instructions were on the webpage for the cache. We were told the starting co-ordinates, and that a white/silver tack meant go straight ahead and an orange one meant turn…. but it was our choice which way we turned! It also told us the route was about 3.5km long and would take about half an hour, ending when we saw four tacks in a row.

So it was finally dark enough for the tacks to reflect so off we went. It pays to have a torch that has a beam strong enough to cover both sides of the road. After finding the first tack we were off, and it was great fun finding the next tack. As this was an urban route, the tacks where on telephone poles, fences and trees on the berms of the streets we were traversing. Alleyways were utilised by the cache creators and it was easy to pick the wrong direction to turn once you came out of one.

After our wander around the streets the four tacks were spotted. The webpage had told us that the cache was within 5 metres of the final four tacks so the hunt was on. The route had taken us to a local park and with five of us looking it was not long before the log was in hand and being signed.

This had been an excellent night’s entertainment and one we can highly recommend to others. As it used the streets there was no rough terrain underfoot so it will be able to be completed by a large variety of geocachers. If you want to check it out, the webpage is here: Night Up Our Alley…

Happy hunting

Things We Learnt Today:

  • Night caching is a fun activity to share with family and friends
  • Night caches are trailed through a range of environments so it pays to check the webpage for the terrain status and if anything special is needed
  • Fire tacs are different colours and they reflect straight back to the light source
  • Hold your torch near your face if you want to see the reflection from a fire tac
  • Use a torch with a strong beam so it will light up the tacs that are further away, or on the other side of the street.
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The Mysteries of a Question Mark

Recently me and my owner placed our first mystery (unknown) caches. These are the caches with the question mark beside them. Geocaching is broken down into several different types of cache. We touched on this briefly in one of our earlier posts but here is the breakdown:

  • Green Box Icon = Traditional cache where you put in the co-ordinates and go get the cache
  • Orange Box Icon = Multi cache. This cache can be several different types but usually needs a calculation or finding of WPs where the next co-ordinates have been placed before you can find and log the final cache. These can cover quite a range of travel but usually the final is within 3km of the start point.
  • Ghost Icon = Virtual cache. Geocachers can’t make any more new virtual caches but there are still some in the field to find. This is where you go to the co=ordinates and then complete the challenge given, take a photo, answer questions etc and then usually email the cache owner (CO) for permission to log.
  • Webcam Icon = Webcam cache. This is where you go and get your picture taken by a webcam placed at the co-ordinates. Follow the directions on the webpage for retrieval and permission to log
    • Earth Icon = Earth cache. This is a geological cache where you go to the co-ordinates and gather information. You may have to visit several sites to get the information, or troll the internet or the local library for it. Once you have completed all parts of the requirements for logging, contact the CO with the information asked for and log once permission is given.
    • Letter Box Icon = Letter box cache, where you go and use your own stamp to stamp their log book.We haven’t seen one of these yet.
    • Question Mark Icon = Mystery (Unknown) Cache

    There are several other types of logs but the main cache we want to discuss today is the Mystery (or Unknown) cache that has a question mark for an icon. This category seems to be for anything that doesn’t fit above, or for multi caches where their final is quite some distance from its start.

    Mystery caches are only limited by your imagination, and can be as devious as you want them to be. Having said that, it is sometimes the simplicity of a puzzle that trips people up and makes them spend considerably more time than needed trying to solve the puzzle to get the co-ordinates. We have found a number of these now, but there are still Mystery pages that we open, have a look, and quickly shut! Some just don’t make any sense to us at all yet, and need to be left until we have a bit more experience under our belts. Our thanks go out to LittleG Magic for their caches though, as we have learnt so much trying to solve a few of these. LGM has also been nice enough to give us a nudge in the right direction a couple of times when we were way off course. A lot of cachers are happy to nudge after the cache has been found for the first time, AND you have logged a DNF (Did not find). We learnt from the forums that it is bad etiquette to ask for hints before the cache has been found initially, but sometimes it helps, especially in a multi where people look at things differently to the CO.

    So how to solve a mystery? That is something we would all like to know! We have discovered a whole new realm of ciphers, codes and symbols that we never knew existed. We have learnt new words like Alphametics, and even better, know how to solve them now. We discovered that Google is a very good friend to have, with Wikipedia not far behind on information. We also found that there are several webpages that offer tips to newbies like us and explain how to solve some of the puzzles. BUT that is only part of it. Words hidden in pictures, hidden in the words on the webpage, hidden in the properties of a picture on the cache page, these are things we have learnt. One good page we found was called “Solving Puzzles” found here.  We now have several favourites bookmarked on our computer for easy reference. Coding and ciphers have been an interesting step for us to take and we have tried one in our first mystery we put out, Monkeying Around.   This was a cipher puzzle, using keywords to be worked out from reading a letter, to crack the cipher. We had used songs from a band to create the letter. After a week of it sitting there unfound, we added a second puzzle hint that gives a clue to the cipher used. It only took hours then for Team_Gaters to find the cache, as we knew they would.

    Mystery Puzzles don’t just have to be on the webpage. You can arrive at co-ordinates only to discover a cache that needs a puzzle to be made for the next step, or a tricky cryptex to be deciphered before you can sign the log. A cryptex was popularised by the Da Vinci Code book and film. You can make your own or buy one ready make off Amazon, but they are a bit pricey. The cache can be miles away from the co-ordinates too, so you can’t even rely on them as a clue :( . Sometimes if you are lucky though you can pick up a clue in the log from those who have already found it.

    We decided that we wanted to put out some puzzles that were easier for people to solve, I mean the idea is to have fun! With this in mind we wrote up several and so far have published two more.  For kiwis we wrote “The Numbers Have it”. This is a simple puzzle that uses anagrams of the Maori numbers, but for visitors to our land or those who don’t know the Maori language, a little research will be needed to work them out before heading off for the cache.

    Another one we published this week was Light Speed Ahead, a simple puzzle looking at the speed of light, and we placed a container true to the theme.

    We have found researching and making puzzle caches almost as much fun as finding them. We have been working on several more to release over the next month, with a special one for Anzac Day. One of the harder parts we have found is to find a hiding spot that relates to the themes we want to put out. Research is not all done on the computer!

    Things We Learned Today:

    • The question mark icon means the cache is a Mystery (Unknown) cache and the cache could be miles away from where the co-ordinates are on the webpage
    • Mysteries range from very simple to very complex
    • Look at what is on the webpage carefully, and think outside the square
    • Ciphers and coding are good things to read about on a wet day when you can’t go out to cache
    • Google and Wikipedia are good places to start when looking for information
    • Before putting a puzzle cache together research the topic and the area you want to place your cache in. Think about the audience you want to reach, and the difficulty factor you want your puzzle to have.
    • If you are using a code/cipher on your page, get a friend to check it for errors
    • Cache owners are usually happy to nudge you in the right direction if you can show that you made an effort to solve the puzzle and have logged a DNF (Did not find) but usually only after the FTF.
    • It is bad etiquette to ask for hints before the FTF has been logged
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Creating a Series

We have again had a busy, busy week. This week we decided to release a series on native fish. Over the last couple of weeks we had researched these fish and had written up a lot of the information on our computer but had not finalised things, or completed the online part.

A cache is meant to have a theme and the placement should have some relationship to the cache. As we had themed our series on native fish, we decided to also draw attention to the damage to their habitat due to the earthquakes Christchurch, New Zealand has endured since September 2010. A lot of the rivers have had their beds raised and altered. Some streams have become totally dry, and some of the main streams have become gentle where once rapids rushed by. Our native fish have suffered significantly because of this. So we now had an idea of the general areas we wanted for cache placement, but again, cache saturation played a part. To try and overcome this we looked at a map that had several of the bigger streams and rivers marked on it. We then looked at the map from geocaching.com to see if we could find spots that didn’t seem to have caches but also had a river near. We wrote up a list and then spent a day visiting all the sites and checking for muggle activity, whether there were spots hidden from neighbours, nearby dogs which might alert people to cachers being in the area, safety if an earthquake happened, nearby parking, and finally whether there were any suitable hidey holes in that particular spot that were near a waterway or a water-themed park, but also that they would not get flooded out if the river rose. So many things to think about, my antlers hurt!

Back home we started preparing our containers for the caches. Each container needed to be labeled as a geocache, to have a log, a stash note and a pencil and sharpener if space allowed. A stash note informs people who find the container by accident what it is and gives the website address for them to check out so they can join in the sport if they would like to. We had decided to make the series more interesting so also added a coloured fishing object to each cache. These will be used to find the final cache, which is a mystery one. We also made sure we had a mixture of cache containers. Some were screwtop plastic bottles, some mint containers, key containers and the usual small plastic square containers. We painted some of them to fit in with the fishing theme but the important thing is the size fits the hiding place.

We headed out and placed our first two caches and then came back and wrote up the online form for geocaching.com for the caches. As this was a series we wanted the cache numbers to try and be as sequential as possible so we opened seven pages at once and wrote up each cache but did not submit any until all were written up. Then we hit submit on each one in order. It didn’t work quite as planned by we got several with letter sequence so we were happy. We did the usual and placed a note for the reviewer but included that this time we had a series. We wanted to check a couple of co-ordinates for placement. The reviewer told us that if we wanted to do that, we should put “just checking” after the title so they know the cache is not ready to go yet and that the co-ordinates are just being checked.  We must have picked well this time as only one of the traditional caches had to be moved. Next we asked the reviewer if the caches could be released in batches so that several people could have a chance to be FTF (First to Find). We like things to be fair, and thought this would let the maximum number of people enjoy being able to get to a cache first. It all depends on the reviewer, and if they are prepared to do this or whether they are available to do so. Sometimes this isn’t possible and they will be released around midnight like most usual caches.

The last one we placed was the final. This had to be a really special place to top the other locations we had picked and to make the series memorable. It also had to be relevant to the theme. Luckily we have a local park that has lakes that get restocked regularly for under 17 year old children to fish. This seemed the ideal place, but wouldn’t you know it, cache saturation raised its head again. We had to go back three times to move it before we found a place that was ok. We specifically wanted that area because it had picnic facilities and toilets as well as the lakes and is a beautiful, peaceful spot. We were thrilled we could actually place the cache here, because we know our finders will really enjoy the experience. Three trips in one day, at least it was a good excuse to take a friend to feed the ducks, did we mention we like ducks?

This has been a really great experience. Not only are people learning about native fish and the changes to the local rivers, but a friend told us it was Sea Week, how awesome was that to release a fish series in sea week!

The fun did not stop there though. We were sitting back congratulating ourselves on a job well done (and enjoying the comments in the logs) when we got a log message that someone couldn’t reach cache number four. We thought this was a little strange as it was ground level, under a lamp post. If it had been pushed back a bit we thought they would have just gone around the other side. The next day the same cacher said they had been back with a magnet and piece of wire and still couldn’t reach it. Now we were intrigued, just what had happened to our cache! Off we went, without the dog this time, to investigate. We arrived at GZ to find a gaping hole where previously had been a small erosion but the base had seemed solid. It wasn’t. We got out the torch and beamed it down the hole. Was that tiny spot way down there our cache? We tried extra long tongs, and then a 2 metre dowel and then a wire but no luck, our cache (and our plastic fishing item) were irretrievable. Now what to do? Looking in our little bag of tricks we saw we had another cache container that we had prepared for our next hide but where to put it. We were sitting on a nearby seat pondering this when we spied a familar person heading our way from the other side of the river. As they came closer we could see a device in his hand. Isn’t it interesting what a little experience teaches you. We can now spot a cacher at 100 paces. “Do you like fishing,” we ask as he nears the post where our cache used to be. He takes a second look at us and the penny drops. This is an experienced cacher and when he stopped to talk his wife joined us too. What a lovely afternoon that was talking geocaching. They helped us re-hide the cache and showed us a few techniques on hiding. We need a pair of pliers in our kit and some more duct tape. They had some camo duct tape which we hadn’t seen before. Nice!

So our series is now complete and off to a good start. We are looking forward to enjoying reading the logs for months to come. We will be busier now with these caches in place, because once you have placed a cache you have to check on it and make sure it is okay. Maintenance is part of hiding a cache. Logs/plastic bags need to be renewed, pencils replaced and occassionally containers replaced. After lots of rain containers sometimes need to be emptied of water, or flooding has to be checked in case our caches have floated away, or any covering vegetation etc may have been rained off and your cache may be sitting naked out in the open for all to see. Can’t have that can we?

So it’s Onward and Upward from us. Until next time, Happy caching.

Things We Learnt This Week:

  • Researching your topic thoroughly before you start looking for hides etc makes the process easier because it gives you ideas of what to look for
  • A series needs a good reason to be placed. If you are placing a cache just to place a cache it is time to rethink why it is there
  • Something has to tie the series together. You can just make a whole lot of tradional caches on the same theme but if you want to make a final one, then you will need a common thread in each cache to add to the finding of the final (we used fishing-related items) but laminated pictures/numbers could work
  • Mixing up the containers and the hides keeps things interesting for the people looking for your caches.
  • Check your GZ (ground zero) very carefully, so you don’t have to replace a cache unnecesarily when it disappears down a huge crack in the ground
  • A series final needs a little wow factor if you want it to be memorable for the cachers hunting for it
  • You can’t collect your own caches. It is very tempting to add seven caches to your total but it is frowned upon and is NOT a good look for your name to be in your own log as a “found it”. Tough, you will just have to wait for someone else’s series to pop up.
  • You can ask the reviewer to release your caches in batches so the First to Find can be shared around. This doesn’t always happen because it depends on their availability to do this too.
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