Now that the Pokémon GO craze has died down, the void can be filled with geocaching.
By Nicole Buckler
I did my first geocache treasure hunt on the weekend. Slightly dubious and suspicious of nerdy boffins with smart phones in sensible clothing, I wasn’t sure I was convinced. I was worried it would be something like metal detecting without the metal detector to make you look partially sane. But actually after just one geocache treasure hunt I was converted. I dragged along my husband and kids and they too thought it was an insane level of fun. It’s outdoors, it’s technology, it’s good for them, and THEY LIKED IT. What?
So what is this new craze of geocaching? Well, it is using GPS on your phone to find treasure. The treasure isn’t worth anything, but finding it is so fun. The “treasure” is usually a waterproof container, full of trinkets and notes from others who have been there before you. Some people add prayer cards, other offer pens and paper, some have added little books, some offer tiny toy pegs…it’s an interesting haul. Feel free to add a mini bottle of wine and some nuts! Because the world needs way more wine and nuts than it already has. Actually put those nuts and wine back into your pocket, you will need the sustenance for your next treasure hunt.
This outdoor activity is on the rise in Ireland, however you can geocache all over the world. In fact, “Geotourism” is the next hot type of tourism. Speaking locally, however, an amazing amount of people travel to Ireland specifically to find the first Geocache placed in Europe. It is known as the “GC43” and is located on Bray Head, Co Wicklow. Irishers were the first on board with it in Europe…because Irish people love technology and because Bray Head is gorgeous. We rock. A lot.
Ready to try geocaching? Out is the pirate-style paper map with an X marking the spot. Instead “cachers” use a smart phone or tablet or whatever you have with all-you-can-eat data. Then the geocachers can use GPS to locate their own position, and the position of the “treasure”. Just walk towards where the GPS is telling you the treasure is. Once you find the “treasure” you can add something to the haul, plus you can go online and then post about your experience of finding it.
We decided to look for treasure at Devil’s Glen, in Co Wicklow. It is a gorgeous part of the world that I had never been to (so geocaching is already getting me out of my usual life which does consist of many wine bars). We were required to hike up a little way from the carpark, and use some old mossy stairs to find a rock pile.
After a few fumbling detours into the forest, we finally happened upon a rock pile at the top of a hill. We had to undo the rock pile to find the treasure. Thinking that we must be the first people alive to find this treasure, we opened it to see another family had opened and closed it a few hours before us! And here we were thinking we were the ultimate geocaching pirates! The kids left notes and we popped in a few coins and read other notes from people all over Europe…from Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain…there was even a note from Australian geocachers, which was awesome.
How did this all start? Well, apparently some dude called Dave back in the year 2000 posted about it on the sci.geo.satellite-nav newsgroup:
From: Dave ([email protected])
Subject: GPS Stash Hunt… Stash #1 is there!
Well, I did it, created the first stash hunt stash and here are the coordinates: N 45 17.460 W122 24.800 Lots of goodies for the finders. Look for a black plastic bucket buried most of the way in the ground. Take some stuff, leave some stuff! Record it all in the log book. Have Fun! Stash contains: Delorme TopoUSA software, videos, books, food, money, and a slingshot.
And geocaching was born.
Most caches are not placed on private property, so it is a lovely way to explore a new national park or a beauty spot. And it is everyone’s favourite price: free. You don’t pay to use the official geocaching site, or to place a cache yourself. Many caches in Ireland are on Coillte-owned land. And Collite have agreed to have “treasure” on their properties, provided that the “Leave No Trace” principles are followed.
If you want to place a cache yourself, you’ll need to obtain a sturdy waterproof container, plus little presents to go inside. Try not to buy a new plastic container, the world does not need more plastic crap in it. And then look around for great stuff that can be used for a cache. Pens, little notepads are good, coins and notes from overseas, tiny toys, hairbands, toy cars your kids no longer play with.
If you want to just start out by finding a hidden treasure, then you are in luck. There are about 6,500 caches in Ireland, though that number is growing fast. Here is the map.
There are also cache events if you’d like to meet some people who also do it. Or you can organise one yourself once you get the hang of it. You can also roll out some banter over on the forums or on the Facebook group.
You can get the free app here. You can upgrade to an app that is more detailed, but you’ll have to stump up around €10. However as a hobby that can go on forever, it is cheap as chips.
It’s the second-most fun thing to do outdoors.