Yesterday I had my first go at geocaching. For anyone who is not familiar with it, geocaching is a sort of high tech treasure hunt, using GPS to follow clues and find hidden “caches”. In fact, it is appropriate that we were doing it in Devon, as in many ways geocaching resembles the Dartmoor tradition of letterboxing, in which boxes are concealed in crevices between rocks.We started by selecting some clues we wanted to follow from geocaching.com, and then downloading a geocaching app. The idea was that we would type in a special code for each clue and the app would then use GPS to direct us to the correct location. We cheated a bit, and started with a clue with an obvious and familiar location, and set off, phone-compass in hand, in search of our first cache at Teignmouth station.
It started off well. We got to the station, hunted around a bit and then triumphantly located the cache, cunningly hidden in an old camera film container. We pulled out the miniature log book and, noting that we were the second team to find this cache today, wrote our team name in the log.
Then on to the next clue, another location that was known to us. At this point we started to realise that the GPS was not working properly and was more of a hindrance than a help, pointing us in the opposite direction to the church that was clearly visible on top of a hill straight ahead. Undaunted, we decided to follow the evidence of our eyes, and soon located the second cache. (As an aside, finding this one demanded a certain knowledge of the Harry Potter books. This seems to be a recurring theme: geocaching is rapidly developing a language of its own, including frequent reference to uninitiated non-geocachers as “muggles”.)
We had abandoned the GPS by now, and set off towards the seafront in search of more caches with fairly obvious locations. As we passed the quirkily named Street With No Name, I reflected that one of the pleasures of geocaching is that it sends you to odd corners of places you may not have been to before.
Unfortunately, the next cache seemed to be on or near a bench that was already occupied by “muggles”, who might have been alarmed if we started crawling underneath their seat and prodding the slats for hidden treasure. We chalked that one up as a failure, and moved on. By the end of the afternoon we had found three of the six caches that we were looking for, and we hurried home to log our successes on the website.
Would I try geocaching again? Probably. It was good fun and it forces you to look more closely at places you may have been to a dozen times before. But a lot of the clues have rather vague locations: I’ll have to sort out the GPS before next time.