It seems no matter where we travel, we see a similar mix of geocache hides – usually lots of micros, mainly in urban areas. The majority are well-placed and well-maintained, but inevitably some have damp log sheets, are hanging in the middle of a prickly bush or are hidden in a very busy area where an extensive search has the potential to attract unwanted attention.
We used to load 500 or a thousand geocaches per vacation onto our GPS unit using the geocaching pocket query function and then hope for the best. If geocaching is the focus of your vacation, the pocket query tools work really well – either for a specific town/city/region or along a driving route, as appropriate.
Geocaching is generally not the focus of our vacations, so over the years we’ve evolved the way we incorporate geocaching into our pre-trip planning. Our current approach is to create a list of select geocaches that are as unique as possible to the place we’ll be visiting. Our strongest preference is for earthcaches; not only are they unique to place, but they usually provide the opportunity to learn some geological details that even the locals may not know. On top of earthcaches, grandfathered virtual caches make the cut, as well as hides that have earned lots of favourite points, that fill a blank spot in our difficulty/terrain grid, or that meet a requirement we’re trying to fill for some other challenge cache. We usually round out our list of potential finds with geocaches hidden along the roads we’ll drive or the trails we’ll hike.
I put together just such a list before we flew to New Zealand earlier this year. At the time, there were about 20,000 active geocaches in New Zealand. Our geocaching bookmark list included just over 400 potential finds. It took the better part of a day to build the list (I find the Geocache Google Earth Viewer particularly helpful), as our holiday included 7 driving days connecting stays in 9 different towns/cities. For us, the up-front investment of time pays off with a better quality geocaching experience. On average we found 2 or 3 geocaches each day we were in New Zealand, for a total of 66 “found it” logs including 17 earthcaches.
An Important Lesson
We actually made 67 finds during the 3.5 weeks we were in New Zealand, but were only able to post 66 “found it” logs after we returned to Canada. Why? The local cache reviewer archived and locked one of the earthcaches between the time we visited the location and when we finally got around to trying to log our find. Next time we’re on vacation, we’ll be sure to post a quick placeholder “note” type of log for each find so that we’ll have the ability to go back later to change that log to a “found it” log after we’ve emailed the earthcache owner with the logging requirements.
NOTE: New Zealand is literally at the end of the internet, so web access is slow. This was a major contributing factor to our decision to wait to log all our geocache finds after we returned home. Even with that limitation, we probably could have managed to post brief “note” logs while we were there.
- About one percent of New Zealand’s active geocaches are earthcaches. About 25% of our New Zealand finds are earthcaches – not surprising given how we go about putting together our vacation bookmark lists. Generally speaking, we found earthcaches in New Zealand to be quite challenging: many of them relate to volcanoes and/or geo-thermal activity and we simply don’t have those things here in the Canadian Rocky Mountains;
- If you love puzzle caches, consider a trip to the Nelson area on New Zealand’s South Island. The majority of the geocaches hidden in this region are puzzles; and
- Because of its location, our geocaching profile now shows that the farthest south geocache we’ve found is in New Zealand (S 45°) and the farthest east (of the Prime Meridian) geocache we’ve found is in New Zealand (E 176°).
- The New Zealand geocaching community has collaborated to create some top-quality “by donation” maps: 1) topo maps that include hiking trails, property delineations and landmarks; and 2) road maps with routing capabilities. These NZ Open GPS Project maps were all we needed to find our way around New Zealand. We loaded the auto-routing map set onto our Garmin Nuvi for street navigation and both sets of maps onto our Garmin Oregon 550T handheld unit for use while hiking and geocaching.
A Few Noteworthy Geocaches
Most Creative Container
The most creative geocache container we found was for GC4KEB6 When Nature Calls. It’s a Premium Member Only geocache, hidden up a hillside at the Kura Tawhiti Conservation Area. Not only was the container creative, but the door opened onto a detailed scene that contained a couple of possible logsheet locations. It was clear from the bits of paper I found inside that some geocachers have claimed a “found it” log on this cache without signing the official (well-hidden) logsheet. In this kind of situation, it’s up to the cache owner to decide what, if anything, to do about the not quite valid “found it” logs.
One of the most difficult geocaches we found in New Zealand was GC2V5HV Get Your Boots On Challenge. In short, it’s meant to encourage geocachers to undertake some longer hikes in New Zealands Southern Alps and requires finders to first accumulate a total 30 geocache finds at various altitudes. Since it’s publication date 3 years ago, only 6 “found it” logs have been posted, including ours (and we had to supplement our New Zealand geohiking finds with some from the Canadian Rockies). This particular cache filled a blank spot in our Difficulty/Terrain grid, so we really worked at meeting the logging requirements. And, as is sometimes the case with vacation geocaching, this particular cache has us thinking about adapting some version of the challenge as the basis for a new cache here at home.
New Zealand has so much beautiful scenery that it’s impossible to identify a single-most picturesque geocache. Here’s a small selection of some of the landscapes we enjoyed while geocaching in New Zealand.
One of the all-time, most fun geocaches we’ve ever found was while we were on vacation in New Zealand: GC45AT3 3013. It’s a 4-star difficulty/5-star terrain cache that requires finders to walk upstream in thigh-deep, freezing cold water, in a dark cave, for about 600 meters, while collecting information to derive the coordinates for the cache container. Fortunately, we visited New Zealand in late summer and could complete the adventure wearing our bathing suits and sandals. At other times of the year, a wetsuit would be mandatory! This geocache has only been found 3 times since it was published a year ago. It was pretty tough! The cache owner put a lot of thought into how to make the final coordinates solvable, incorporating a checksum into the cache write-up. Even so, we had to email the CO for help and she kindly provided the gentle nudge that allowed us to figure out the one place we went wrong. Read all about our Cave Stream adventure in this blog post!
Do you geocache while on vacation? Or do you go on vacation in order to geocache? We invite you to share highlights from your latest vacation geocaching adventure by leaving a comment and/or posting a link. And if you use a smart phone while vacation geocaching, we’d appreciate any tips/tricks/traps you’d like to share, since we’ve always used a GPS receiver but are now equipped with a smart phone. Happy caching!