Reached the 100 founds and on the 20th birthday of this game, I want to tell you about Geocaching: my childish passion for a half-virtual treasure hunt.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching was born in 2000 hiding a can in Oregon and it nowadays consists of 3 million hidden “treasures” in 200 countries and about 10 million players. It grew, it got organized and it became a real hobby with a bigger and bigger and very active online community.
How it works
This treasure hunt consists of 3 steps: the online choice of the treasure, the search on the field and the log of the success.
1 – Online choice
The official website is Geocaching.com. It’s simple: you sign up, you look for a location and you check if there are caches in the area of interest. For each hidden cache, there are information, pictures, some hints and sometimes even spoilers. You now save the data on your phone or GPS and you go treasure hunting. The main information you need is obviously the specific location. Caches are generally hidden, with a few meters range, exactly where the coordinates say they are. When you get to the right place, you start looking.
Caches can be in the old town of a city as in the middle of nowhere in the countryside. On a branch, on top of a signpost, attached to a gate, in a letterbox, behind a wall, underwater, hanging from a chain, under a stone, behind a fence. I’ve seen all kinds of things.
But what are we actually looking for?
2 – Finding the cache
It depends. The website tells you the dimension of the cache: from big boxes to a small bolt. A bolt, I swear. My cache nr 100 was exactly a bolt hidden on the side of a metal bridge. Full of bolts.
Inside there’s at least a piece of paper to write your name and the date. If the cache is big enough, you can also find a pen inside. Sometimes players leave souvenirs that the following players can take in exchange for something else to leave behind. There’s a bit of everything: tokens and fiches, shells, pins, beads, little toys… There’s also an official store of official souvenirs, called trackables. They have a, you guessed it, trackable serial number so that you can keep on following the travelling object, where it goes, who has it… It’s travel 2.0.
3 – The log
Once you find the cache, you go back online to officially log it on the website, adding a comment and optional pictures. This is basically the official version of the log you’ve already signed in the cache itself.
You can also leave extra information if, for instance, the cache was damaged, moved or if you’ve found an official souvenir in it. If there are many reports of a not found cache, the owner might go check if all it’s good with it.
Kinds of caches
The Classic Cache is the one I’ve already described. It’s a box hidden where the coordinates point to on geocaching.com. But there are other kinds of cache, less straightforward. Here are the most common:
- Mystery Cache. The coordinates are not revealed, if not vaguely, and they need to be discovered solving a quiz, a puzzle or some kind riddle.
- Multi-Cache. As for the previous one, you’ll have to find the coordinates yourself. But in this case, the clues are not on the website but close by the actual final location. You have to follow the first direction on the website and then go on from there until you find the hiding place.
- EarthCache. There’s no physical container to be found, here, just a place to go to in order to collect some geological data. To be able to log this cache, you have to answer the questions about the area that the website asks.
- Virtual Cache. Similar to the previous one, this is a virtual-only cache that ask questions. You need to go to the location to find the answers.
- Letterbox Cache. This one is a hybrid between Geocaching and a similar activity: Letterboxing. I’ve never tried the latter and I don’t know the details of it. So let’s say that you start looking for a cache that, later on, sends you to a final place where there’s a letterbox where you can leave your signature.
Why I like Geocaching
First of all, I’m a collector. I like collecting many things: postcards, stickers, soft toys, cork stoppers… anything, even loyalty cards points! Surely enough, collecting caches is a great satisfaction.
The second reason is that I can combine this hobby with my passion for travels. Basically in every country I’ve visited lately I’ve found a cache. The last intercontinental one was in Uganda, in the rangers’ office just before a chimps tracking in Kibale Forest. They are probably still wondering why all these mzungu enjoy so much looking for boxes so far away from home.
One last reason is that, sometimes, geocaching makes me discover places I would otherwise not go to. It’s like adding stops on the travel map. At times the caches are on the way. Other times I need a detour. Often they make me notice details I would otherwise miss.
Find my own cache!
If there are so many caches around the world, it means there are people hiding them. And who are these people? Well, for instance, me! My own cache is in a small village near Vercelli, in the north of Italy, where my mother’s family lives.
Sadly, it’s right now out of order because someone stole the cover of the box and the paper inside was completely wet. I need to place a new container. It did happen already in the past. Someone stole the entire thing. And someone else, to be able to log the cache even though he couldn’t find it, thought to replace it with a Kinder egg without even telling me. A genius.
If you’re curious, when it will be available once more, go check it out: so far, 64 people have already found it!