Friday, 31 October 2014

Interrogated by Washnight

We were contacted by Washnight recently and invited to answer 20 questions as part of his 'Washnight Interrogates' posts on his blog.

We were happy to respond and are sharing our answers here.  It's been really interesting reading the other responses and a good way to connect with the other blogs too.  We have randomly answered the questions between us.

OK here are the questions and answers:

GeoBlogger 20 Questions
1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?

Back in 2007 we had just bought an Etrex, we were interested in seeing how far our dog walks were initially, then around the same time a friend of mine who lives in Scotland mentioned in an email that she'd been out 'looking for treasure' she mentioned Geocaching so I replied asking what it was.  Well curiosity got the better of me and I Googled it then within a day or two we had been out and found our first cache.
Our First Find

2. Do you remember your first find?

Yes, very memorable.  Our closest to home at the time was a good 5 miles away, it was Aqueduct One (Bearley/Edstone) and we found it on 10th March 2007.  Looking at the printout (not paperless back then) we didn't realise it was a Multi or even have any idea what that meant.  After failing to even find the hint at the listed co-ords we decided to re-read the cache page and it dawned on us that we had to answer some questions. Cache was a quick find after that.  I remember we felt under pressure to find it as our children were quite excited about the idea of finding the cache.  I remember there were a few goodies in the cache and a TB.  I always feel a bit sorry now for the families that go out hoping to find 'treasure' when they first start caching and only find (or fail to find) a tiny nano on a signpost.  This was something that didn't exist back in those days.  Anyway.....
3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?

I use an Oregon 300 and Mark uses an Oregon 550.  I did have an Oregon 650 for a short time but took it back to the shop as I really couldn't get on with it.  We also use iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S4 for playing Wherigos.
4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)

We live in West Warwickshire, not far from Stratford-upon-Avon.  There are quite a few caches on our doorstep now but we usually cache further afield at weekends, although we do have a 'close to home' caching day every now and again.

Match Stash
5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?

I have spent ages pondering this question.  After 7½ years and many crazy adventures it is impossible to pick one, a lot of caches are memorable more for the situation or the surroundings/journey etc rather than the individual cache itself.  

So we thought we would both try and come up with one each.  Mark has chosen G'ebbes, which he wrote about here and he says it was memorable for the journey he took to get there.

I have chosen Match Stash in Sweden, another very old cache from August 2000.  I wrote about it here it was most memorable for the crazy bike ride we took to get there.

If I had to choose a most memorable power trail it would be drsolly's Chiltern Hundred, we did this back in early 2009 when power trails were rare and by today's standards the Children Hundred caches are quite spread out - you have to walk 26 miles to find 109 cache. You can read our log here.  It is most memorable for me because we all did it as a family, including our son and daughter and our two Labradors.  I have lots of really fond memories from the early days, when we cached as a family. 
Chiltern Hundred Bonus

One thing we have found with caching is that it makes you do crazy things, often outside your comfort zone.
6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.

1. Spare change, always handy for car parks or coffee shops. 
2. Tick remover!
3. Spare batteries.
7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?

I feel that we've seen it all since we started caching, the weirdest thing recently was when we were caching up in Scotland and we parked in a nature reserve car park in the middle of the afternoon and let's just say the courting couple in their car nearby didn't seem to notice or care that we were nearby.
8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?

I'd say a 5, we like a good walk with plenty of easy to find caches but I'm not a massive fan of power trails and prefer the caches to be a little further apart. 
End of the Holiday - Country #5 France

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.

Hmm where shall I start.  This was the first one that sprung to mind, back in September 2010 we found caches in 6 countries in under 12 hours, we didn't know anyone else that had done this at the time and it wasn't something that we'd planned
10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?

Nothing major thankfully, just blisters and a few nasty scratches to the head.
11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?

Not a lot really, I don't tend to let things bother me and just get on with enjoying this great hobby but if I have to say one thing then I really don't like it when I find out someone is cheating.

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?

The thing that springs to mind is leaving my bum bag on the roof of the car after answering the call of nature, then driving off only to notice I hadn't got it with me about 4 or 5 miles down the road, we retraced the journey but it was never found. It was very expensive mistake as I had a mobile phone, about £50 in cash and some geocoins in it.

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?

They just don't understand it.
14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?

 It depends on the situation but we often just tell people that we are geocaching or on a treasure hunt.
15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?

Just to keep on having fun and enjoying this great hobby.
16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?

No, in the early days we would drive miles and miles to return to a DNF but not any more, there are too many caches to find and they tend to go on the ignore list.
17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you.

Meeting new friends
18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?

I always take lots of photos when out caching and initially it was somewhere to display the photos for others to see, then I started getting feedback on how much people were enjoying reading about our travels so that spurred me on to write more about our experiences.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.

Erm... difficult question.  I got a few emails and some really nice feedback after posting this one about our epic road trip to Germany this year.
20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?

There are quite a few I click on to read, this one by the K9 Crew has some good ideas for walk but I subscribe to a few different ones.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Halloween Hides and Creepy Caches 2014


Due to family commitments in previous years we have only been able to attend for one day, this year we were able to attend for the whole weekend and we were really looking forward to it.


We were staying at the Travelodge in Kettering so it was nice and convenient for the Friday evening welcome event at the Brewer's Fayre just a couple of miles down the road.  Arrived about 6:45pm and the event was in full swing.  We enjoyed a lovely meal then spent the rest of the evening chatting with lots of friends.  A really great event.
Green Giant


We got up nice and early as we had planned to play the Whack-a-Lackey UK wherigo before heading to the CITO.  For the Wherigo, you can play it anywhere but it needed to be within 20 miles of the listed co-ordinates and to gain the co-ordinates you need to score 700 points.  We managed to find a large playing field, there were 6 football pitches in total so plenty of space to run around.  We ran around for over half an hour and the highest score we could get was 240 points so as we were keen to get to the CITO for the start time of 7am we decided to leave it until later on to have another go.

Weekley Wood Wander CITO

We were the first to arrive at 7am, we had our own grabbers so just took a bag each and off we went.  As it was so dark we initially stayed near to where we'd parked and as it got lighter we ventured into the woods and were soon joined by Stillroaming and Turner Tribe plus some other cachers and we soon happened upon Green Giant, Mr StillRoaming was soon up the ladder and looking for the cache, he signed us all in but then we each took it in turns climbing up to claim the cache as it was such a high terrain rating.  After an hour we returned to the parking with our full bags.

Then it was off to the main event.

Halloween Mega

We arrived about 8.30am and were directed into the temporary car park - we were a bit concerned at first that there might be a few cars getting stuck later but the field was quite well drained and the Mega team did a brilliant job of marshalling everyone into the field.

There was a marquee with a few stalls and there was a local wi-fi access point with the ability to download GPX files for the new caches but this seemed a bit hit and miss depending on the device you were using.

Once we had all the new caches entered in off we went.  We picked off the lab caches as we went around but as we couldn't get a phone signal we entered the codes later on.

After a couple of caches we caught up with Pir8sOld&New, Sparklefingers and PigDogBoyandGirls so we all continued together for the rest of the caches, this was really good fun and one of the things we love about the mega events, it's such a great way to meet lots of new friends, it took us a while to get around as we kept stopping to talk to lots of cachers.


All the caches including the lab caches were brilliant - our favourite during the day was one of the lab caches called The Coffin, Mr Unowho67 was dressed up as an Ood, which is an alien from Dr Who - it was absolutely brilliant and really made everyone jump, you could hear the screams from all over the woods.
An Ood
At about 3pm we all stopped for food from the burger van before continuing on for the last 10 caches - after walking 10 miles we were finally finished and it was time to head back to our hotel and then get some tea.

Quite often Mark has to juggle his work with going away at weekends and on the way back to the hotel he got a call so by the time he had finished dealing with that it was too late to eat out so we ended up just dashing to Maccys drive-thru before heading back to the event for the night caches at about 8.30pm.

So on with our scary masks and off we went.
Ok, you can all take your masks off now

All the caches were brilliantly crafted, we marvelled at some of the creations - our favourite night time cache this year has to be MEGAPHOBIA which was a giant spider in a web, just brilliant, the photo unfortunately doesn't do it justice.  All the caches for the event are only temporary and replaced with ordinary containers afterwards.


After walking around in the dark and the mud for a couple of hours we had found all of the night caches and it was time to go back to our hotel.  We had a brilliant day.
We met a few people throughout the day who had also tried to Whack-a-Lackey and failed, then I ran around with Turner Tribe in the car park and we failed miserably together so Mark and I decided to leave it until tomorrow when we could return to the playing field in the daylight.
 Clocks going back used to mean an hour or so extra in bed.  Not for us, oh no. It just meant there was more time in the daylight to inflict pain on ourselves attempting to Whack-a-Lackey. We'd read up on the power-ups and were confident that we'd have more success this time. The park was quite busy with dog walkers and I think a few of them were a bit surprised when we appeared to be running straight at them at full speed only to stop dead and run off in a different direction .  In the end we had to call it a day as Mark's left knee was causing him severe pain and my hip was giving me grief so we headed back to the car having achieved a best score of 480. On the way to the CITO we stopped off to do a new Wherigo - a nice and easy one this time with a grim but humorous theme.
The Halloween CITO  
The wood wasn't actually too bad litter-wise (although all litter is bad) but we managed to pick up a  fair amount each before heading back to the main start point where we enjoyed a good natter with lots of cachers.

All in all a really enjoyable weekend and amazingly well organised especially with the 11th hour venue change and all the extra work that created.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Catalunya 2014


We spotted this event when it was published back in October last year, we'd been to the Costa Brava in the previous October of 2012 and the weather was just perfect for caching, warm, sunny and dry so we decided it would be a great idea to combine a trip to the mega event with a holiday to the area again - let the planning begin!

Over the months our plans fell into place then before we knew it we were on our flight to Barcelona.  Last time we visited we did a short section of the CSJ series on foot, a lot of the caches are on really good tracks and suitable for bikes so we decided that if we ever came back go the area we'd hire bikes.  Since our last trip to Spain we have bought folding bikes so we decided to take them with us.  This proved a really great idea as it was so handy having them with us and we could keep them in the hire car.  It was so much easier to get around on them than driving as parking was really tricky in Platja d'Aro and was obviously much quicker than walking.

We arrived at the Mega event before it opened and mingled and chatted with lots of cachers outside the venue as we all waited to go in.  Once inside there were a selection of stalls where we made a few purchases, then we got chatting to lots of cachers and it was really good to meet and chat with Nate from Geocaching HQ (Jeremy Irish's brother).

We managed FTF on two of the lab caches and eventually found all 10 of them over the course of the weekend.  There was only a very short timespan in which to log these caches which is a really good idea.
Yes, we had to go in here for one of the answers to a Lab cache!

After leaving the mega venue we whizzed back to our apartment for some lunch and to chill out before going off to play the three Wherigos, The Box, Places a PdA and The Challenge, they had been placed specially for the mega.  Once again our bikes proved invaluable whizzing between the different zones.

Mega CITO '14 *

There were 2 CITOs organised for the mega weekend and the first one was in a great location on a wooded hill.  There was a great viewpoint at the top of the hill, we made a detour for a couple of caches and then back to the start after an hour.  We were amazed at the big pile of rubbish and black bags that had been collected.  It was certainly a job well done.

Mega CITO '14 **

We arrived at GZ at the same time as Amaya Tom and Turner Tribe (aka La Lunatica) so we teamed up with them to pick up litter.  We really enjoyed chatting and picking up litter as we went.  There didn't seem to be as much litter as the previous CITO but after an hour we returned to the start co-ords with a full bag and there was an enormous pile of rubbish!  I really love a good CITO, there's something really therapeutic about picking up litter.

Meet and Greet Event

We skipped our breakfast to attend this event then when we arrived at 8am there were only a handful of cachers which we thought was unusual, so we waited around for half an hour and eventually one of the organisers turned up and told us that the time had been changed to 9am as some cachers had complained that they would miss their breakfast!!! Lightweights We hadn't seen the notification for this.  Luckily the event was at the same location as an earthcache and as it was Earthcache day we were able to claim one for the souvenir.

Mega Flash Mob

This was brilliant fun and not something that we've seen before.  We all had to wear green T shirts and bring along a handkerchief.  The idea being that everyone was to take part in a stop motion movie.  It took a bit of time to sort everyone out into positions but it was really well organised and we chatted to other cachers from whilst we waited for the photos to be taken.

You can see the end result here.

On Monday we checked  out of our accommodation and set off towards Manresa, stopping off to find a few Wherigos along the way.
It was good to revisit Girona as last time we were in Spain we only had a short time there as we were heading to the airport.  We played 3 Wherigos in Girona, all really enjoyable with amazing views of the town.  
Then we stopped off to relax with a coffee and cake in the late afternoon sunshine before  continuing on our journey to Manresa.
After a morning of being badly bitten by mosquitoes we knew it was time to get some repellent so we stopped at a supermarket in the middle of a small town on our way to Girona and we asked the assistant in our pigeon Spanish if they sold mosquito spray, she directed us to a shelf and then disappeared, it seemed she'd shown us to where the household sprays were, we picked one up and tried to decipher the instructions but as it was on the same shelf as the rat poison and ant powder we were really unsure.  In the end, Mark, who will talk to anyone went round the store randomly asking people if they could speak English eventually finding someone who could understand him and the man reassured us by making spraying sounds and acting out using the spray on himself that it was indeed OK for using on your skin, all highly amusing.
Urbi Apartment
We arrived in Manresa and navigated our way around the narrow hilly streets until we found our way to our apartment.  A really interesting building that had been renovated 9 years ago.  Communicating with the receptionist was 'fun' as he didn't speak a word of English, OK that's not entirely true, he could say 'yes' and 'here' and used both words frequently when trying to describe where the parking was to us.
I've lost count of the amount of times people have said to me, when I tell them which language I am trying to learn now, that you don't need to learn any foreign language as everyone speaks English.  Well that is complete and utter rubbish, might be true if you never leave the resort hotel but we nearly always go places off the beaten track and it really does pay to learn a bit of the local language, it has got us out of quite a few sticky situations when travelling abroad.
CSJ pilgrim route
Two years ago we did a short section of the CSJ trail whilst on holiday with our daughter, so we thought it would be fun on this visit to do some more so set a day aside to do another section at least.  I'm not a massive fan of power trails when we're in a foreign country as to me there is so much more to experience than just finding 100s of caches if you're only there for a short time.  So after a day of this we were ready for something else.
We had an initial plan to find the cache on Montserrat as it's the oldest active cache in Spain but it was just half a plan really as the cache instructions were confusing and we weren't sure how long it was going to take or whether we needed any specialist equipment etc.  We had a conversation with Amaya Tom at the mega event on Saturday about his visit and we knew then we really ought to look into it further as it sounded amazing.
As we drove towards Manresa these spiky mountains appeared on the horizon and we both said 'WOW is that Montserrat?'.  It looked amazing and we knew we had to give it a go. We parked where Amaya Tom had suggested and off we went. 
Come on, it's only half a mile!
 It was only half a mile walk how difficult could it be?  After an hour of walking up steepish slopes we eventually got to a part that looked like no one ever walked there, we started climbing up using our hands and I was started to get worried that we should at least be using ropes and be wearing a helmet as loose stones were falling down.  I started imagining mountain rescue coming out to look for us when we didn't return home in a week's time!! Probably saying something like 'yes here, yes here' :D  Then to top it all we lost satellite signal!  I told Mark I didn't think I could carry on and he tried his best to encourage me but I was scared that if I got up I wouldn't be able to get down, or worse that I would slip and injure myself.  So I stood and looked at the task ahead of me and knew that I would regret it if I didn't do it, so 10 minutes later after a bit of self-talk I decided to carry on. 
Are you sure it's this way?
After 30 mins of tricky climbing, well tricky for me anyway as gazelle-like Mark just seem to fly up. we eventually found our way to a flat wooded area with a sign which we think translated to something like 'ropes needed beyond this point' but this seemed to be the only route to take to the cache - keeping in mind Amaya Tom's log we decided to push on.
I was quite scared at this point, especially when I looked over the ledge and saw the drop beneath us. 
Don't look down!
Then after 10 mins of more scrambling and pulling ourselves up with our hands we reached the top.   I can only describe the feeling at the top as being one of complete exhilaration, I felt literally on top of the world and that I could conquer anything.
After enjoying the amazing, breathtaking views and taking a few selfie or bothie photos we had to start the walk down.  This didn't seem anywhere near as bad as I knew what was coming and just took each section as I got to it, carefully finding hand holds and lowering myself down - all with Mark's encouragement, I couldn't have done it without that
Once back down at the car we enjoyed a picnic lunch and then drove around to visit the impressive Monastery in an amazing location which is extremely popular with the tourists.  We enjoyed a relaxing coffee with a magnificent view before heading back to Manresa.
View from Montserrat cafe
ANDORRA When we visited Spain two years ago we'd seen that Andorra wasn't all that far away but as we were only there for 5 days and we were also with our daughter we decided it was too far to drive.  This time we decided that as we were visiting for much longer we'd have time to factor in a trip. There are only 4 cache types in Andorra so we decided to put on an event to provide a 5th icon for anyone else wishing to visit. The drive from Manresa to Andorra took about 3 hours, bizarrely as it was only 58 miles in a straight line it was actually twice that by road! There are only 4 multis and the one we'd planned to do at the last minute we noticed had lots of DNFs so rather than risk wasting time on that we chose the next easiest D/T rating one which was a short way away from Andorra's only puzzle cache. So we decided to do Llac dels Pessons and Wordle andorrà first before heading to Andorra la Vella to do Andorra's only earthcache and then explore the local area before our event at 17:00.
When we have an event in a foreign country we always choose a local landmark and this piece of art by Salvador Dali caught our eye as we'd visited the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres on our previous visit in 2012.
Port d'Envalira (el. 2408 m.) is a mountain pass in the Pyrenees in Andorra, that connects El Pas de la Casa with the rest of the country. It is the highest paved road in the Pyrenees. The climb has been featured several times at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España cycling races.
We had no idea how many cachers would turn up and by 17:15 we thought we were going to be the only attendees.  Then just as we'd given up hope Cache42bears appeared, we knew it was them as we'd met them at the mega event a few days before. 
Then 2 others appeared, a couple of cachers from Portugal that were working nearby, then 2 Swiss cachers and another 2 German cachers.  We were pleased to see that we weren't the only ones crazy enough to drive that distance as the Swiss and Germans had travelled up from Platja d'Aro for the day.

We enjoyed a chat, took a couple of group photos before going our separate ways - we were conscious of the time as we had to travel back to Platja as we were going back to our original accommodation to spend the last few days of our holiday - keep up!  Now, quite often when Mark is trying to convince me that something is a good idea he will bend the truth, I distinctly remember asking him how far it was going to be to travel to Andorra and I distinctly remember him saying 'oh not long, a couple of hours at the most'.  Well we put Platja d'Aro into the satnav and I thought my eyes were deceiving me as it said 4½ hours!  160 miles which included over 100 miles of hairpin bends and mountain roads in the dark - it was hard going to say the least.  Eventually we made it back to our apartment in Platja d'Aro where we spent the next couple of days relaxing before checking out and heading to Barcelona.
We made a very early start as we had quite a bit to fit in before we needed to be at the airport later that evening. First stop was Calella to do a wherigo, then continued on to the next Wherigo in Arenys de Mar.

Then to the 3rd wherigo of the day - when we were planning our trip we noticed that this wherigo was only accessible the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month which was perfect as it was now the 3rd Sunday.  The listing also said we needed a torch and mentioned spiders - yikes!  It took far longer than we'd first anticipated but was in a brilliant location so really glad we took the time to do it.  Unfortunately it meant that it left us less time to explore Barcelona itself.

So we then headed off to do to the Barcelona virtual - we have been really looking forward to doing this virtual as it has been on our to-do list for a very long time.
Amazing views

 We were worried we hadn't left enough time for it as there was a long queue of slow traffic going up the hill.  We had to wait for a while to find a parking space and eventually we got in and parked.  Fantastic views from the top, well worth a visit.
Then the last cache of the holiday was a wherigo El tesoro del gran brujo - this was a really enjoyable walk and rounded off our day nicely before heading to the airport.

A very memorable trip - we met so many lovely people and visited some fantastic places.