Shqipëria

2 10 2017

Shqipëria as it is known in the ethnic language is better known by it’s English name Albania. For many years it was a country closed to foreigners but no longer. We visited for a week on a charter package holiday. As there is still (as far as I know) only one airport in the whole of the country we flew to Corfu then took a hydrofoil ferry across to Sarandë in the south west corner of the country just a short distance from the Greek border.

Hydrofoil ferry between Sarandë and Corfu

The name Sarandë means “forty” and is an abbreviation that comes from the full name of the monastery overlooking the town – the monastery of forty saints.

Apart from spending time on the beach and in the town we also took a couple of guided tours which gave us the opportunity to find some caches. Usually when we are on holiday we rent a car for a couple of days, but due to the very limited number of cache in the whole country (my pocket query gave me 77 caches including 1 event) and due to the fact that the closest ones were reachable on the tours, that was the way we decided to do our caching.

We were fortunate that just a few weeks prior to our vacation a new cache had been placed close to the hotel. Of course, after breakfast on the first morning we went out to find Santa Quaranta beach.

Santa Quaranta hotel as seen from the Santa Quaranta Beach cache

Apart from that there was just one more cache in the town (excluding an event to be held the day after we had gone home) and that was just 800 m away, but at the top of a hill that was only accessible by a steep winding road on the other side of the hill, a walk of some 3 or 4 km. Luckily one of our tours took us there.

Our first tour was to the World Heritage site of Butrint where there was both a traditional cache – Butrint and an earthcache Lake Butrint and Vivari Channel. I hunted and found the traditional cache as the guide was giving a talk in the Roman ampitheatre.

Our guide talking about the history of Butrint

The cache found at Butrint

The Lion gate. The old gate can be seen deeper in the wall

Butrint ruins. Different layers from different civilisations

The ancient site was amazing and we were very fortunate to have an excellent guide who was an English teacher and gave fantastically interesting information about where we were and also about the history of Albanian and what it was like to live during the harsh communist dictatorship that existed in the country after the second world war.

ds8300 in front of the Vivari Channel at Butrint

The earthcache gave a clear picture of how the area was formed geologically and the tour gave an insight into how important the place was in historical times.

Butrint’s devlopment through history

The tour continued back towards Sarendë and took us to Lëkurësi Castle for lunch. The “mushrooms” in the picture below are small bunkers that were built during the communist era and are just two of the more than 170,000 that were built throughout the country. The cache was hidden behind a patch of succulent cacti that managed to draw blood on both my arms and legs. The views from the castle were magnificent.

View over south Sarandë. Note the bunkers.

One of the 170000 bunkers built in Albania

Our second tour took us away from the coast and into one of the inland plains where the main focus was agriculture. The relatively rich county town of Gjirokaster with it’s castle was the goal of the tour along with a natural spring of huge dimensions called Blue Eye (Syri i kalter). I can’t have been thinking as I didn’t take my GPS with me and data over the cell network was exorbitantly expensive. Luckily I had read the cache description and looked at the spoiler picture so locating the place for the cache at Kalaja e Gjirokastres / Castle of Gjirokaster wasn’t too difficult. However, finding the cache was a different matter.

The bus dropped us in the market square where there was a fleet of taxis to take us the final kilometer up a steep narrow cobblestone road to the castle.

A fleet of taxis brought us up the hill to the castle

When I got to the cache location there was a young French woman feeling under the seat where the cache was supposed to be. Geocacher? was my question to which I got the answer Yes!. There were a couple of magnets under the seat but no cache. After a short hunt I found it in the breach of the cannon! We both signed the log then dropped the cache back into it’s hidey hole.

The cache at Gjirokaster

The cannon hiding the cache at Gjirokaster

The visit was followed by a taxi ride back down the hill to the birthplace of Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator who ruled the country for over four decades, then on to a big hotel in the market square for a five course lunch. Very tasty. The only thing they didn’t serve was coffee so after lunch we walked across the street to a small cafe to get our caffeine fix.

On the journey back to Sarendë over the mountain range we made a short detour up a very bumpy dirt track to the natural spring – Blue Eye with the associated earthcache SYRI I KALTER. The earthcache is a great source of information about how the spring was formed. A few brave souls took a swim in the clear 10 C water. Brrr!

Details about the Blue Eye (Syri I Kalter) spring

The spring Blue Eye (Syri I Kalter)

ds8300 at the Blue Eye

With our tours over so was our geocaching for the week so we could spend the remaining couple of days on the beach plus eating and drinking of course. It was possible to sit out in the evenings as it was still warm. One day a surprisingly large cruise ship stopped in the bay.

A couple of tasty Albanian pizzas

Sunset over Sarandë

A cruise ship outside Saradë

The vacation ended on a strange note. When we arrived at the airport at Kerkyra Kapodistrs on Corfu we were told that the plane was cancelled due to technical problems. It and it’s passengers were stranded in Parga, and there wouldn’t be a replacement plane until the next day. After the initial disappointment we learnt that we would be taken to a hotel for the night and dinner and breakfast would be provided. When we got to the hotel we found we had been given an “all inclusive” package so we felt much better about that. The dinner was excellent, but naturally the free wine was not of the best quality, but drinkable. We got home about 14 hours later than planned but it wasn’t a problem. I was pleased to arrive home during late afternoon instead of 2 am the same day.

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GL3

3 08 2017

There are power trails and there are forest trails. This is one of the latter and it doesn’t lend itself to zooming round in a car and quickly ticking off the finds. It can be done on a mountain bike but some parts are better done on foot. Of course you need some type of transport to get you to where you intend to start walking or biking but that’s obvious.

The trail GL3 follows a stretch of Gästrikeleden. Gästrikeleden is a trail that goes all round Gästrikland and is about 270 km long. The maps of the trail can be found here.

Ever since I moved to Sweden some forty plus years ago I have been saying “I should walk round Gästrikeleden – one day”. I started off by walking from Hemlingby to Högbo, some 30+ km and got blisters doing so. I followed that by walking from Brattfors to Högbo and then lost interest. I have since then made sporadic attempts and have walked from Hemlingby to Älvkarleby and a few other shorter stretches here and there. When the GL3 trail (link is to westernmost cache) appeared I thought that it would be a great motivator to get me out walking again. It has to a certain extent, but I never seem to have time. Yes, I know. I mean “I haven’t given it the right priority”. I have to admit that the main issue is one of getting to the starting point then getting back to the starting point without having to walk back. In some places public transport works but in most cases it doesn’t. Two cars are a solution if you can find someone else willing to walk with you. So far, every time I mention Gästrikeleden everyone seems to get a glassy look in there eyes and start to mention chores or busy elsewhere. Anyway, I started to work on the GL3 trail in November 2014 and now nearly three years later I have done about half of the caches.

The GL3 trail caches can be seen on the map below and I still have about half left to find. I am hoping that I will manage it this year!

GL3 trail

Most of the caches on the GL3 trail (there could be more to come) were placed three years ago and I have visited a couple of sections over the years but never enough to collect ten codes and find the mystery associated with them. As I was in the area for the The lost treasure of Mary Hyde event it was a great opportunity to hunt for some of the caches. It was possible to find the westernmost six caches – GL3 #A21 to GL3 #A26 before the heavy rain came. A few days later I managed to get my partner to come out for a walk along part of the trail and we found a further eight caches between GL3 #A27 and GL3 #A37 including GL3 #A FINAL 3. Unfortunately a couple of DNF’s due to the host trees having been chopped down meant that it wasn’t possible to search for the related final – GL3 #A FINAL 4.

Most of the trail is in the forest but there are places where people have been living and working for a long time. Here at Storviks fäbodvallar were a few remaining cottages and a spring and tree that were purported to belong to Karl XII. (17 June 1682 to 30 November 1718). The spring must have been a good reason to build the forest pasture in the first place. How the tree managed to take on it’s present form is anyone’s guess. There was a signboard with details of what the area could have looked like when it was in use. The area became disused in about 1945.

Karl XII tree

Karl XII spring

Storviksfäbodvall

I thought about including more photos of the trail but they all look pretty much the same with a few things to differentiate them.. Paths in the forest. Wide paths, narrow paths, dry paths and muddy paths.

Part of the trail

At one point I found a lot, now I mean a LOT, of chanterelles, but I didn’t have anything to put them in if I had picked them.

Chantarelles

I made a mental note of where they were and who knows, maybe I can get back before someone else does. But then again the petrol money would be more than buying the same amount of mushrooms in the local supermarket.

At least I have now found two of the finals. Three more to go.

GL3 final #2for B section

So now I just need to get my butt out of my chair and find the remaining caches in the series.





July events

1 08 2017

Despite being on vacation I have done very little geocaching, if you ask me. If you ask my partner it’s a different story, of course. I have been to three events and cached on a total of seven different days. On two of them I have found just one cache. Now that is what I call very little caching.

The month started with an event on 2017-07-01 Förmiddagskaffe. This was at the “commemorate Canada 150 years” weekend and in addition to the event itself also gave a souvenir. I could add it to the two Canadian souvenirs I already had. I’m pretty sure that the Canada souvenir came just last year, ten years after my visit but that the Ontario souvenir was available then. However, my memory being what it is I can’t be certain.

Canada souvenirs

The event was a bit special in that it turned out to be a “multi”. Due to the fantastic Swedish summer month of July, where EVERYONE is on holiday, the event location wasn’t open when we arrived. A new place was quickly decided on and the event info updated. That was also closed, and so was the third place. The event was finally held at Donkens in Sandviken. You can rely on them to be open. TB’s and coins were passed around and I chatted with new and old faces before going home and starting on my vacation chore of painting the garage.

The second event was at Axmar Bruk. 2017-07-09 Välkommen till/ Welcome to: Axmarbruk. I convinced my partner that it would make a nice afternoon out and that there probably would not be so many people there. I was wrong. The event was very well attended. A handful of new caches were released and we were able to look around the park, which we have not done before. We usually just pass by on our way to Axmarbrygga, a very good fish restaurant. After the event we drove out to Gåsholma where apart from logging a couple of caches on the way we bought some fresh perch (aborre) fillets and a smoked char (röding). They were delicious.

Some of the event participants on a hunt

One of the remaining buildings at Axmar Bruk

The third event was 2017-07-16 Build your crew: The lost treasure of Mary Hyde which was again an activity initiated by geocaching HQ. Over a period of time several souvenirs are to be gained by achieving various goals. As we are now in the middle of the activity I don’t know all the stages. More can be found here.

The event meant an early start from Gävle but the sun was shining and I was curious as to what the EO had in mind for us. He had formed a colourful cache description page and promised to release some caches at the event. The event location was Hohälla, some kilometers north west of Storvik. In the middle of nowhere! Again, this was a well attended event and there were plenty of geocoins to log (thanks Gluggfan) and a new mystery trail that we all followed in a caravan of cars and which lead us to a real treasure chest. Fantastic. An eloge to SE81293 for all the effort put into the event.

Participants at the Mary Hyde event at Hohälla

Is this Mary Hyde’s treasure chest?

The first Mary Hyde souvenir

After the event I decided to start ticking off some more of the GL3 trail caches and did the most westerly ones before the rain set in – GL3 #A21 to GL3 #A26 together with Lealetar. Since then I have found over a dozen more and hope to have found them all before the summer is over. More to come in a new post.





Flughem

10 05 2017

After a cold start to the month Friday (May 5th) was really warm, with temperatures well over 20 C. It’s not usual for May and the following days have given us snow, freezing nights and cold days. Anyway, as I had looked at the caches at Flughem and worked out the coordinates for ground zero where needed I decided that this would be a great way of spending the afternoon. It was all decided on the spur of the moment so I hadn’t noted much about the area. Forest. That’s roughly what I thought and didn’t expect it to be much different to the rest of the forest in the area. I know that there has been mining activity in the triangle between Hofors, Torsåker and Storvik and many years ago I had read a little about the geology of the area and have visited a few places to see old ruins.

So off I set with GPS, spare batteries, pen and paper, letterbox stamp and pad, plus my old iPhone 4S with the geocaching® app. No water, no coffee and sandwiches, no sunglasses. No mosquito repellant, as it was far too early in the year to need it. I was going to be in the car most of the way and the final few hundred meters were bound to be on easily tramped forest paths!

My first stop wasn’t planned but I saw the multicache icon for Välten vid Lapphagsgruvan and decided to stop and see if I could find the cache. The calculation of the coords for GZ was simple and there were clearly remains of an old mine to explore.

The cache at Lapphagsgruva.

My GPS thought I should examine a wall but luckily the hint was very clear! I dropped off a TB that I had picked up the previous weekend and continued on to Epicentrum which was quickly retrieved.

Between the main road RV68 and Flughem was a mini power trail consisting of ten PET preforms. Nothing special but it’s nice to add numbers to my finds list. The first of the Flughem caches was a simple mystery, but a well composed and interesting one. I really had a laugh when I found the cache. So appropriate. I won’t post a photo here as it will spoil the fun for future visitors. I parked my car at the suggested spot and made my way to the letterbox hybrid at Flughems Kalle. Again this was a well thought out cache and a great container. I never understand why visitors to letterbox hybrids are too lazy to bring a stamp with them. It’s a small investment and makes the logbook much more interesting to look at than just a nick or in best case just the cache’s own stamp.

A well filled cache at Flughems Kalle.

It was now that the real geocaching fun started. In the early days of geoaching regular size containers were placed somewhere out in the forest usually under a rock and you were expected to bush bash to get to them. Sometimes there was a path leading close by. Usually, the path was found once you had reached the cache through bush bashing. I now felt some nostalgia.

The starting point for Vitheten i det lilla korset was quickly located. Behind the cache were the remains of old mining activity. After the reading the cache page and activating a vast array of detecting devices, well my smrtphone and GPS I continued along teh path wondering what would happen. Pip! Data started flowing from out of nowhere and I suddenly knew that I had a few hundred meters walk to the cache.

The white cross at the start of Vitheten i det lilla korset

That’s where the fun started. I didn’t have a paper map with me and the maps on my smartphone and GPS don’t show paths in the forest, so I kept on walking but after a while realised I was heading south and the cache was to the west. I found a track and started following it. Suddenly there was no track just a steep slope strewn with mossy boulders and a fence at the top. I realised I was on the south side of the limestone quarry. I continued on wondering where on earth the cache was going to be. A sweaty twenty minutes later I arrived at GZ. What a view. It was 24 C and a perfect place for a cup of coffee and a sandwich – if I had thought to bring something with me. This shouldn’t be hard I thought, there aren’t too many hiding places. After 20 minutes of futile searching I decided to “phone a friend”. I started with the CO only to find that the number I called had been transferred to someone else. He doesn’t work here any longer. I called Ironhawk67, X_1, Gustafs Lisa, Olleoljud and noone answered. It was then I considered giving up but I made another circuit around GZ. Nothing but mounting frustration. An idea popped into my head. Geocaching app message to the CO. Another circuit, this take anticlockwise around GZ. Yeah! There it was, hiding away under a stone overhang in a bed of moss and heather. Thirty seven minutes of my life had gone into finding the cache. Yes!

The logbook for Vitheten i det lilla korset

Well, as I was here and sweaty but pleased to have finally found the cache I set off up another hill towards Mot Körbergsklack #09 where there was a great view over the surroundings.

The wind shelter at the top of Körbergsklack.

Of course after I found the cache I also found some well defind paths, which made it a lot easier for me to find the next few caches before getting back to the car 47 minutes later (according to my GPS tracklog). Amongst the caches I found were the earthcache Klapperstensfältet vid Körberget, a very old and wizened spruce, that according to the photo in the cache description was quite impressive a century ago Krypgranen vid körbergets fot and a multicache at the limestone quarry Kalkbrottet.

A rather wizened creeping spruce.

I didn’t try to get too close to the edge of the quarry as it seemed to be a long drop down to the water. It was far easier getting back to the car from where I was. I just followed a clearly marked trail and once back in the car, the AC was immediately turned on so I could cool down. I enjoy warm days but this one came as a surprise and I don’t think my body was ready for it. The tracklog and elevation plot from Google Earth show in principle where I stopped on my wander through the forest. The limestone quarry can’t be seen but it’s in the centre of the “circle” that my route took.

Google Earth elevation and speed plot

A walk around Flughem starting at my car to the right and climbing to the highest point at the top left.





BBC, JJEF and FF40

24 04 2017

Once my trip to the Isle of Man and England was known to zelger, he suggested an outing close to his home with a group that he is involved in: WKMU3A. U3A is the abbreviation for University of the third age and is for active people who have retired. WKM is for Wokingham where most live. I am still working but my younger brother and his wife who form “zelger” are both retired. Go figure.

I was given a list of potential walking loops of about 5 km that ended at suitable eating and drinking establishements. One that caught my eye was north of Reading and was a series of 40 mystery caches. I looked at them and found about half to be doable. The rest I just gave up on. That meant I had a list of around twenty caches in nice woodland. However, mysteries are not something that zelger or the WKMU3A group are keen on so the idea was parked.

We arrived at Gatwick after an uneventful flight from Ronaldsway airport on the Isle of Man and took the direct train from Gatwick to Wokingham. It’s very convenient as it completely misses out on having to go into London. zelger had some things to sort out in the afternoon so he sent me off out on the BBC trail. Now, for me BBC stands for British Broadcasting Corporation, but in this case it meant Binfield Bridal Bicycle Circuit and consisted of a mixture of twenty six traditional, mystery and letterbox hybrid caches. zelger thought it was too complicated for them so they had parked it. I thought it was great fun. In the first two caches BBC#1 and #2 were laminated cards that gave the coordinates of BBC#3 and #4 which were mystery caches. Got it? All along the trail new coordinates were given so you are forced to follow the series in numerical order.

Spring had really arrived and it was great walking along the country lanes and bridal paths that the caches were placed along.

Country lane on BBC trail

I managed to get to BBC#8 which was a letterbox/hybrid cache before my time was up and I had to meet up with my brother again for the evening activities. In the middle of the trail were a couple of JJEF caches, The ATM cache and Bobbing Pot. Our plan for the following day was that with zelger and WKMU3A we would attempt a series of JJEF caches in the morning ending with lunch and that zelger (both members of the team) and I would do a further series in the afternoon.

We met up with three of the potential fourteen members of WKMU3A (not counting zelger who are also members) and started off for Rampant Rhododendron. When we got to GZ it looked as though a tornado had passed through the forest. Not a rhododendron in sight!

Now where is that rhododendron?

We had better luck at Opposites Attract which Bernie was keen to find.

Bernie – Gone fishing

From there we moved on to The Green Hill No. 2 which was a block of wood hung up in a tree with a cable lock on it. There were letters carved on the wood that translated into the code for the lock. The look on everyones faces when they cracked the number at the first attempt was priceless.

Neat construction

The Green Hill No. 3 was equally well constructed. This was a wooden box with a similar kind of lock and a block of wood with numbers on it. It was necessary to divide a huge number with a smaller number to get the code for the lock. I was just pulling up my smartphone in order to work out the answer when one of the U3A team whisked up a calculator out of their bag. A calculator! I haven’t seen one for years!

Locked box

Still dazed by the sight of the calculator we moved on to the remaining caches in the series and The Green Hill No. 4 was even better than the previous three caches that we had found. A padlocked birdbox hanging in a tree had a nearby plastic tube containing the key. I won’t spoil the game by telling you how to get hold of the key but everyone was really wound up by the caches we had found. This was much better than a film canister in an ivy covered tree.

Cache hanging upper right, lock lower centre

We carried on and found a couple more caches by the same owner and DNF’d two more. Can you spot the last cache the group found?

Can you see the cache?

There was a lot of talk over lunch about the experience from the morning and how much fun it had been. So, after lunch both halves of zelger and I set off on the six caches that comrpised the Fifield Frolic series. The trail passed along open and not so open paths in the area. Again, there were no two caches that looked or functioned in same way and all were well made. They were placed four years ago and a lot of growth of the vegetation had occured making some of them a little more well hidden than they would have been when placed.

Overgrown paths

After a full day of JJEF caches we had a quiet evening and spent the Friday morning sorting out the TB’s and geocoins we had found before moving off north towards Sonning Common and FamousEccles Favourite Forty mystery caches!

Typical FF40 beechwood cache

The puzzles I could solve were fun and the caches were located in a beech forest which luckily was still in it’s winter overcoat with little undergrowth. It will be a different story in a few weeks time. As we followed the paths an animal jumped across the path ahead of us. Was it a deer? Or a dog? It ran over to another of it’s kind and I learnt then that it was a muntjac. It’s an Indian deer that is proliferating at a great rate in England and is now quite a pest. I took a photo but it’s not worth publishing.

We also saw other wild animals including this golden pheasant and a rabbit. They didn’t seem to mind each others company.

Golden Pheasant and rabbit

So the day ended with a visit to my brothers daughter and grandson on the way to catching a train to Heathrow and the flight home. The following days were spent logging over a hundred caches and a dozen or more TB’s plus updating my blog. Phew!

END





Transportation – Isle of Man

21 04 2017

After the previous day’s walk from Douglas to Peel, which the GPS tracklog showed us to have been just over 25 km we decided to have a lazy day. The island is known for it’s working museum transport so we walked up to the Electric Tram terminus at the north end of the promenade where we parted with £16 for a day pass on the Manx transportation system. That included travelling on modern buses, the electric trams, horse drawn trams and steam trains. We had already travelled by bus a couple of times and liked the £2:70 single fares.

There are in principle two electric tram lines. The first runs between Douglas and Ramsey in the north and the second runs from Laxey, half way between Douglas and Ramsey, to the top of Snaefell (621 m). The steam trains run from Douglas to Port Erin at the south end of the island. The horse drawn trams run along the promenade from the Electric Tram terminus.

Electric tram at Douglas terminal

Interior of restored tram

A tram pulled into the terminus as we were buying our day passes and a few minutes later we were aboad. It didn’t take long before the tram was full. Not bad for a cold day in April. I wonder what it will be like in summer when that tourist season is in full swing?

We set off at a moderate speed following and crossing back and forth the road to Laxey. The trams are much slower than the usual traffic but have precedence at the road crossings. At Groudle Glen we noted that there was a private Victorian 2ft narrow gauge railway that covered a kilometer or so up the glen. When we arrived at Laxey we got of the tram and got on a waiting tram that is specially built for the steeper incline up to the summit of Snaefell. The route is characterised by having a third central rail that allows a mechanical grip type brake to operate in case the normal motor brake fails.

As we moved out of Laxey we saw the famous Laxey wheel. This is a 22 m diameter water wheel built in 1854 to pump up water from the 460 m deep lead mine (now disused) and still in operation. Signs of mining were seen further up the valley.

Water wheel at Laxey

The wheel at Laxey

Remains of old lead mine

At Snaefell summit we jumped off the tram and rushed up and over the remaining few meters to get to the Six Kingdoms cache so we could get back onto the tram that started it’s downward journey in 30 minutes. It was blowing hard and zelger and I were both pleased that we had hats and gloves with us. Of, course as a radio amateur the masts were of interest and I had listened to traffic on and tried to activate GB3GD and GB3IM-S without success on our walk between Douglas and Peel.

ds8300 at Six Kingdoms

The Snaefell tram at the summit terminus

After spending some minutes at the earthcache twoofnine (two of nine) we jumped back on the tram and rolled back down into Laxey.

View from the journey up Snaefell

On the way down. Note the rope safety brake!

After a few minutes the tram to Douglas appeared and we made our way leisurely back into the main town.

View of Douglas bay from the north

We had intended to take the horse drawn tram along the Promenade but the next tram was too late for us to get to the railway station for our next leg of our travels, so we jumped on a regular bus that wisked us away towards the station. We got off a few stops earlier to log the virtual cache NOW I AM ON MY OWN.

At the station we had just enough time for a quick cup of coffee. We bumped into Steinmann, a geocacher (and radio amateur) from Germany that we had met a couple of days previously at the Meet a Swede event.

Steam train to Port Erin at Douglas Station

No 13 Kissack

ds8300 travelling first class

We chose a first class carriage and enjoyed the leisurely journey into Port Erin. We had time for a short walk (no geocaches in sight) and a pint in the pub opposite the station before making our way back.

Port Erin

Some kilometers out of Port Erin we stopped to swap locomotives with the train coming from Douglas. It seems that loco No13 (Kissack) lives in Port Erin and No 8 (Fenella) in Douglas.

Changing locos

No 8 Fenella

Upon arrival in Douglas we set off towards Manx the islands oldest geocache.

Douglas inner harbour

On the way we passed by the inner harbour and found two urban nanos at Back in Time and Tongue Twister.

We finished off our geocaching with The Isle of Man’s Shortest Multi-cache which wasn’t easy to locate but when zelger triumphantly fished it up from it’s hiding place we both had a laugh. I won’t post any spoiler, but it’s on my list of caches to copy.

So after an evening meal at the same location we used for the event we went back to the hotel and packed ready for the early morning plane to Gatwick and more geocaching adventures.





Heritage Power Trail – Isle of Man

20 04 2017

Isle of Man flag


The last time I visited the Isle of Man was in 1964 and the railways were still in operation. Fast forward to 2016 and I had the notion that I would like to revisit the island and add another geocaching country to my list. I mentioned this to my brother who is half of team “zelger” and he said that this would be a great opportunity for a “lads reunion”. Anyway, time passed and nothing materialised due to everyone having commitments. Finally, in March 2017 I raised the idea again and booked my tickets for Easter 2017. Half of zelger decided that this was not an opportunity to be missed and booked tickets too.

The aim of the trip was twofold. Walk the Heritage Power Trail in a day and spend a day of nostalgia on the electric trams and steam trains on a second day. While we were at it I threw in a geocaching event so we could meet some of the local geocachers. A friendly bunch they were too. The event was Meet a Swede, which isn’t quite a lie as I have dual nationality. Teamkiisseli from Finland were relieved that they were able to speak English not Swedish and didn’t need to discuss ice-hockey.

The Heritage Power Trail crosses the Isle of Man from Douglas in the east to Peel in the west. There are other trails as well but this one seemed to be the definite trail and also gave us the chance to brag that we had walked across the island. After a hearty but early breakfast at our hotel we made our way through Douglas to the start of the trail. Well actually, the end of the trail. Number 1 is in Peel and the last one, number 79 is in Douglas. I had been watching the weather forecast for a few days and it seemed as though we may be in for a wet day. Apart from some light rain early on we had no problems. The sky remained cloudy most of the day but cleared up for a while in the afternoon. There were several information boards along the trail. This was close to Douglas.

Steam Heritage Trail – Douglas to Peel

Our walk together with lunch and a couple of other diversions took all day but was worth it as it gave a nice string of smilies right across the island.

Heritage Power Trail – done in a day!

The majority of the caches were micros, either film canisters placed in nifty little wire baskets on trees and fence post or PET preforms. A few of the caches were larger, notably the TB hotel, the letterbox and the bonus cache.

Bonus cache

Of course, as the trail follows a disused railway line there are no really tough gradients. I think that the highest point we reached was 49 m asl. There were various remains from the days of the active railway, amongst them a couple of rusty bridges like this one.

A rail bridge across a river

The old station at Union Mills has gone along with all the track but there are details available on line for those interested.

Maps of the trail at Union Mills

Historical railway crane at Union Mill

After the third run of micros it was great to find the TB hotel. There was a TB in the box that we picked up and took with us along the trail.

zelger extracting a TB from the trail’s TB hotel

Even though it was overcast and only about 8 degrees C spring was still well on it’s way and there were flowers of all kinds along the trail. These were just some of them.

Plenty of flowers along the trail

Needless to say we were pleased to get to HPT #24 at Tynwald Hill so that we could get lunch. We got there a couple of hours later than expected but a couple of pints of beer to replenish our fluids and a hearty Manx cheese sandwich put us back in good spirits. I had originally planned to find a handful of caches at Tynwald Hill but decided to skip them as we were running late. Tynwald is also the name of the legislature for the island of Ellan Vannin (Isle of Man).

Tynwald Hill – of historic significance for Ellan Vannin (Isle of Man)

As we neared Peel the track followed the River Neb and the scenery changed somewhat. There was plenty of bird life including this heron.

Heron and mill wheel

Heron

After the intial difficulty we had finding HPT #76 the rest of the caches were easily found, until we got to Peel that is. HPT #2 was located at a sign but we couldn’t see anything. As we were searching we heard a voice. “Are you looking for the geocache? It’s in the …” It was a local guy getting something out of a nearby parked car. He saved our day. He had probably given the same hint to others before us too.

Peel Harbour

As we arrived at Peel Harbour we just had HPT #1 to find and that was a nano under a bench. Of course there were four people sitting there but we HAD to find that cache so we told them what we were doing and suddenly there were six people on their hands and knees searching for the cache. We found it after a rather long search much to our relief. All that remained was to get the bus back to Douglas. We had to wait an hour as it was Easter Monday and the busses were not running the regular weekday service. Once on the bus we were back in Douglas ready for dinner in just over half an hour.








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