Mount Richardson

28 01 2018

As a contrast to flat geotrails alongside braided rivers, today’s (Saturday 26th Jan) adventure was more vertically inclined. New Zealanders were early to adopt geocaching and as I have noted in earlier posts I have found some of the worlds first geocaches here. See https://ds8300.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/old-caches/ and https://ds8300.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/north-island-tour/

The cache placed on Mount Richardson (1048 (Canterbury)) wasn’t quite in the “oldies” category but it was placed in 2006 when there weren’t so many caches in the world and many of the New Zealand cachers were also keen hikers (or trampers as they are called in the country). It has been on my “to find” list since it was placed together with Bealey made it (Southern Alps). The latter is at 1836m and the walk there is tough, hence the 5/5 D/T rating. The cache on Mt. Richardson as the name suggests is at 1048m which sounds much easier. The D/T rating is a mere 3/4,5!

So I jumped into the car early in the morning and drove up to the Glentui Bush parking area. I had been here before in 2011 in order to find Fall’n Glentui Bush (Canterbury) – a Letterbox Hybrid cache from 2001. As it was afternoon when I did that cache I decided it was too late in the day to go for a walk up Mt Richardson.

After putting on my hiking boots and rucksack I set off. 08:10 pip! It was around 18C and a pleasant morning. There had been some mist on the drive up from Christchurch but that had burnt off. It was going to be a hot one.

When I first decided to do 1048 there were only the two caches in the area. Now there are nine on the 12 km round trip walk. The preferred route is to walk up to Mt Richardson on the Mr Richardson Track then across the Blowhard Track that follows the ridge to the Bypass Track that comes down to Glentui Bush.

As I puffed and panted my way up the steep track I realised that the pneumonia that I had last year was still affecting my lung capacity. I was pleased to stop at Halfway Hill for an easy find.

Guess where the cache is?

I hadn’t bothered to bush bash at the first cache reasoning that I would look for it on the way down. As I neared the summit a young woman came romping up the track as if it was a Sunday walk in the park. I guess my forty years extra age DO make a difference. I arrived at the summit at 10:06. PiP! Less that two hours! Not bad. We talked at the summit after I had bashed around the bush which had grown substantially over the twelve years that had passed since the cache was placed. The hint “At base of ~1m high alpine plant, access from south side of shubbery” suited a large number of bushes. Luckily, I found the cache. As I returned to the summit a young guy came up the track with a mountain bike across his shoulders! Talk about being enthusiastic! You can see the bike next to me.

The blog author at the top of Mt. Richardson.

After a short rest I carried on only to be overtaken by a guy running along the trail! By now the temperature was up around 26C and the sky was blue with the sun beating down. At You’ll Huff and You’ll Puff (Canterbury) it was time for lunch. From there on it was more or less downhill all the way. You may think that was great but I can tell you it’s tough on the knees and thighs. About 1 km from the car, my legs felt like jelly and I had to tread carefully so I didn’t wobble over the edge of the track into nothingness.

I missed a couple of caches on the way. Why do people insist in hiding micros, even if they call them small, in the middle of nowhere? Waste of time. I was pleased to have been able to tick “1048” off my list and after a couple of days of walking on the flat my sore thighs recovered. The walk had taken 5 and a half hours in total including the stops for lunch and caching.

I followed the trail clockwise from the car park at the bottom of the map.

The hike up Mt Richardson was the most memorable of my geocaching days on NZ this trip, but I made a mental note to cross Bealey off my to do list.

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Geraldine Mountain Bike Trail (G.M.T.B trail)

25 01 2018

Walking 15-16 km in the heat was Ok but I was still kicking myself for not having my helmet with me so I could bike the trail. For the next trail close to Geraldine (starting with Hangmans Row) on the extended G.M.T.B. trail I was geared up correctly. Nice eh?

Ready for action!

I looked for somewhere to stay in Geraldine but most places were quite expensive so I decided that the airbnb place in Methven at 250 SEK/night would be ideal. It was a drive of about 40 minutes from where I was staying so no big hassle. The place I stayed at in Methven was great. The family I stayed with were really hospitable and a cooked breakfast in the mornings was the dot over the “i”!

I stopped in Mayfield to put petrol in the car and just had to take a photo of the local “antique” shop. It was an unbelievable sight.

Mayfield antiques.

Once at the Orari River Bridge, I pulled the bike out of the car boot and set off. Again the majority of the containers were micros. In this case the CO had taken two PET bottle necks and caps and glued them together. The solution was not ideal and a fair number of logbooks were wet on a scale from damp to mush. I logged the condition of the logbook on each cache so that the CO could do some maintenance where needed. My favourite cache along the trail was a “Small” and the clue “91” had me wondering until I found the cache location then it became obvious.

The cache is there somewhere.

Now I know what the hint “91” meant.

Before I set off I had looked at Google Maps, thinking that I could start at the top of the trail and bike south. It wasn’t quite the case. Despite Google wanting me to believe it there is no bridge across the Orari River at Orari Gorge.

Orari Gorge according to Google.

Orari Gorge according ESRI..

Orari Gorge in real life.

After doing the northern end of the trail I visited Geraldine for some food and some Ingressing before returning to Methven via Hinds, Tinwall and Ashburton where I also had Ingress on the agenda. Why no geocaching you may ask? Well, I have found most of the caches of interest in those places. Today, as everywhere, the caches are mostly micros in boring places. I had intended to do the geotrail in Ashburton but decided against it. The only cache I stopped for was at the 44 degrees South sign.

44 degrees South at Hinds.

I had a pleasant evening in Methven and on Sunday (21/1) I started off my geocaching day with Buildings of The Past#9 The Pipe Shed. There is an interesting story attached to this cache that made it worthwhile hunting for it.

Pipe shed in Methven

Once again at Orari Bridge I started off along the western bank of the river on the south leg of the G.M.T.B trail at G.M.B.T #16 – stockbank. All was progressing well until I got as far as G.M.B.T # 30 – Out of the woods where the trail was closed by the farmer who owned the land due to harvesting. Luckily there was a loop on the trail so I could grab a further handful of caches on my way back to the car at Orari Bridge.

The G.M.T.B series of caches.

There was a further series of cache on the eastern side of the river but as I anticipated that it would be just more of the same I decided not to bother and decided to drive down to Timaru on the coast. Again, it’s a place where I have found a number of caches so Ingress was in focus this time.





Rangiora area

21 01 2018

On the Saturday after the wet event in Christchurch I picked up the “cheap and cheerful” rental car from the off-site airport location. Two weeks, unlimited mileage cost me NZ$ 445 or around 2600 SEK which is a pretty fair deal compared with larger well known rental car company offerings. The car was a Japanese import with all the stickers still in Japanese, and 250000+ km on the odometer. It was an automatic and the blinkers and wiper stalks were reversed compared to a European car. After wiping the windscreen a couple of times I go the hang of where the blinkers were.

I had looked at the possibility of renting a bike so that I could get round the powertrails I had scoped out before starting my vacation, but was horrified

to find that it was more expensive than renting the car! My second alternative was to buy a secondhand bike but one of my friends here, John W, said “no problems, borrow mine as I never use it”. Problem solved.

I booked a room in Rangiora for a couple of nights on airbnb not really knowing what to expect. I then threw the bike and my bag in the boot of the car and shot off to Rangiora. Drving on the left is second nature as I learnt to drive in England and I never experience it as a problem. The room I found on airbnb was in a new detached house and even gave me the run of the rest of the house. Breakfast was provided and I sat in the living room in the evenings and chatted with the host Kevin and his lodger James. As it turned out, we were all radio amateurs so lots to talk about.

When I left Christchurch I was running late but got started chatting to my friends’ neighbours and then when I rushed off I forgot my bike helmet. Use of a helmet is mandatory in New Zealand so I had to do the power trail on foot! Grr!

Rangiora geocaching trail

It was upstream along the Ashley River and the round trip was some 15-16 km. Most of the caches were in good condition but FFT – Do you have a weak stomach? was in need of maintenance. I had to sign the container!

Logging the sheep!

I finished off the trail when I got to Karen’s Rockery, an old traditional cache with a proper regular container and logbook.

Karen’s Rockery, the last cache on the trail.

At one point on my walk back to Rangiora I saw some local farmers harvesting some grain, don’t ask me if it was barley or oats, but it wasn’t wheat at least, and they were forming the sheaves by hand! I stopped and talked with one of the farmers and he said that they were one of the few farms where they still did it this way. I didn’t ask why so that I didn’t upset him.

Taking in the harvest the old fashioned way

Hand formed sheaves

It was a hot day so getting back to Rangiora and a cold beer at the local RSA club was really appreciated.

On the next day, I spent the morning on Ingress in Rangiora then in Kaiapoi which is a small town some 20km north of Christchurch on the Waimakariri River. It was known many years ago for it’s woollen mills. I have found quite a few caches in the town and now in the rebuild period after the 2011 earthquake that
devasted the township there are not so many new ones to hunt. In the afternoon I got back into geocaching and did another power trail of sorts but this time in the car. It was one called Lolly Scramble. I did part of it some years ago but for whatever reasons the pocket query didn’t completely download so I missed half of them. I expected my new PQ to fill in the gaps.

Lolly Scramble – still not complete!

There are some gaps where caches have been archived but even so there are a number of caches at the western end of the trail that my latest PQ didn’t pick up. Grr! I am not going back again. I finished off the drive westwards in the little town of Oxford where I did an Ingress Mission just to make a change from geocaching. I have found about half the caches in the township on previous visits.





New Zealand in the rain

18 01 2018

I arrived at 05:00 on Tuesday morning (9th Jan) after a flight route that took me from Stockholm to Dubai then Melbourne and finally Christchurch. It was one of the shorter routes that I have taken. Over the years I have had long stops in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo and of course, Sydney and Auckland. I think that this month´s stay is the fifteenth.

Tuesday was spent with getting a few practicalities sorted out, such as a local SIM card for my phone and toiletries including sun blocker. I have experience of leaky containers in my luggage before and try to avoid fluids as far as possible.

I was raring to go on Wednesday but was met with four days of continuous rain. Grrr! It did, however, give me chance to do some planning and booking of accommodation through ‘airbnb’. The concept sounds fine, but I had no idea what the reality would be like. I had my handheld comm radio with me and spent some time studying the manual, something I never seemed to be able to find time for earlier. As I am staying with good friends who live close to the flight path into Christchurch airport I have been listening to the traffic communications.

I finally got to do some geocaching on Saturday, in the rain of course, and that was an event with a nearby cache followed by a part of a mystery trail for mysts that I had solved over the past couple of years.

The event was Come and Visit Australia in November, 2018 hosted by GeocachingVictoria. Even in pouring rain at least 13 geocachers with families were there. Luckily I logged the cache Sure to Rise – Again! (Canterbury) at the event site as the one I found there in 2005 (Sure Thing (Canterbury)) was archived in 2009, replaced by another one in 2010, which also got archived and finally replaced by this third cache in 2012. Let’s see how long this one lasts.

The event was great in that I was able to connect a few more faces to geocaching nicknames as well as meeting people I know. I was also the fortunate winner of a geocoin promoting the mega event in Australia in November.It will follow me around until then. Let’s see where it gets. Geocoin The Alexandra Event 2017 Geocoin.

A wet event. That’s me holding up the geocoin I won.

As the rain eased off in the afternoon I decided to do some of the “Ahhh! Fresh Breath series” on the Old West Road, west of Christchurch. In total I have solved a couple of hundred mystery caches in the area before I came. Now all I have to do is find them.

The weather forecast for the coming few days is sun, sun, sun but as I write this att 21:00 on 18/1 it is pouring down again.





2017 in retrospect.

11 01 2018

It’s time to recap on my previous year of geocaching. I have been caching at about the same level for the past four years so there is no big difference there. The main change has been the virtually complete lack of activity in the latter quarter of the year. Even though I attended FAD and a few related caches in Uppsala at the beginning of November (where I had a great time) I still didn’t even manage to find a dozen caches in the quarter. Let’s see if 2018 will be a more active year.

The graphs below show my finds performance per month, by type, by difficulty/terrain and by country.

Finds by month.

My best month this year was April and virtually all of those caches were found on a trip to the Isle of Man where my brother (half of Zelger) came with me for the pleasant trek across the island.

Finds by type.


Of note here is that I attended my first mega event after over fourteen years of active geocaching. It was, as already mentioned, Fumble After Dark (FAD) which is a darkness oriented event (of course – considering the short number of hours of daylight we get in November). Another item of note is that 20% of my finds were mystery caches! Over the whole time I have been caching mystery caches have accounted for just 8% of the total.

Finds by difficulty/terrain.

As expected there is a skew to the top left sector of the table and disappointingly no D5’s or T5’s.

Finds by country.

Even though the majority of the finds were in Sweden I did find caches in two new caching countries, namely the Isle of Man and Albania. Tenerife counts as Spain where I have previously found caches.

So that was 2017. What will 2018 bring? Well as I am now in New Zealand I can say that January will probably be the month I have most finds and as I have already solved over 100 mystery caches the percentage for January will no doubt be even higher than the figure for 2017.





FAD 2017

9 11 2017

A Mega event just an hours drive away from home is not something you can miss! Together with Madchicken and Ironhawk67 I drove down to Uppsala on Saturday morning and found a free parking spot close to Studenternas. We had only one thing on our agenda and that was to visit FAD and find the lab caches. Everything else would be a bonus. It may seem strange but this is the first Mega event that any of us had been to and in my case I have been geocaching for more than fourteen years. Not having visited a Mega event meant that I had not found any lab caches either. That gave us a feeling of great expectations!

FAD isn’t just a Mega event either. FAD means Fumble After Dark and is an event that started many years ago in the west of Sweden and has grown in popularity and status with time. It has also had different venues. As the name suggests we were to expect night caches of various types and we weren’t disappointed. We passed the event location on our way to the car park just as the doors were opening and there were just a few people standing in line to go in. By the time we had parked the car and walked back the queue had grown in length so we decided to dive right into the day’s lab caches. The starting point was just a few meters from the entrance to the hall.

Queueing for entry to FAD

There were ten lab caches that could be found here. Finding them involved watching videos then answering various questions at chosen places. A bit like a multicache but without known coordinates. As each cache was solved the key unlocked the next in the series. Three of the caches had a TB code as the answer and were loggable as TB’s

After the lab caches we returned to the event hall. checked in and spent some time wandering around, visiting the well stocked tables of geo merchandise as well finding the lab cache Cubes and grabbing a “fika”.

Lots of geogoodies were on sale

A really good organisation for handling TB’s

We decided to try the nearby Wherigo Pelle Svanslös which was great fun and took us to new places. Well actually, I had been to the same spots previously but now saw them in a different light. Much more interesting

Pelle Svanslös behind the window

As we had no agenda for the day we didn’t feel any pressure to rush around just to get find numbers. Somewhere along the route I mentioned that we had the opportunity to try to get as many different cache types as possible in the day. A quick count told us that we could find a Mega event, Trad, Multi, Myst, Earthcache, Virtual, Letterbox Hybrid on top of the Whereigo bringing us to eight different types. It was agreed that we would try for this. We had already found a Trad on our way around the Lab cache trail Uppsala Slott in addition to two of the new Virtuals, Uppsala Slott

ds8300 blocking the view of the cathedral

Uppsala cathedral where there is an earthcache


and Gustavianum – Virtual Reward

Is the globe that small?

as well as the earthcache Minerals In The Cathedral

What we now needed were a Myst, Multi and Letterbox Hybrid. As Madchicken and I were looking for Multis and Letterbox hybrids Ironhawk67 calmly announced he had just solved a nearby myst. Yes! As the final coords for Lättare än Gormare were a fair distance away we decided that as it was lunchtime that we would drive over to the cache then eat nearby before finding suitable multis and letterboxes. We found a convenient pizzeria in Flogsta. It was then I remembered that I had scouted out letterbox caches earlier on in the week and that there was an easily accessible one not too far away. As darkness started to fall we arrived at Vernisage where we duly left our artisitc creations in the logbook.

Part of the Vernisage

Once that was done we headed back to Studenternas och parked the car in more or less the same place we had picked it up an hour or so ealier. The multi we decided to look for was an obvious choice as it started at FAD headquarters. Svandammhallarna lead us on a short hike but as the time was nearly 5 pm and we wanted to get our coordinates for the night lab caches we broke off and returned to the hall until 6 pm.

Loading the GPS was a painless process even if it wasn’t really relevant for the lab caches. It did make it very easy to know exactly where to go. I tried to download the info to my iPhone but as I don’t often use it for geocaching I am not familiar with the process. Luckily my friends had it covered. We finished off the multi then headed down to Stadsträdgården for the first five of the lab caches.

The caches were all reasonably close to the event HQ, but after the event they will be moved to other areas and be converted into multicaches. Anyway, this was our playground for the evening.

The FAD 2017 playground

The lab caches for the evening can be found here.

Again the name Pelle Svanslös turned up and was the theme for the caches. They weren’t really night caches but child and wheelchair friendly. When we started on the next series, Carl von Linné, which were located around Uppsala castle one night cache turned up but it was first when we reached the forest some way beyond the hospital that the real night caches appeared. The lab caches in both the Niklas Zennströn and the Anders Celsius series were really creative and in a couple of cases quite difficult. Nontheless we were able to unlock the finals, which were bird boxes locked with a code lock. The code came from solving the five related lab caches.

We decided that we didn’t need to do the final series, Maria Strömme and the reflex trail. We had walked nearly 25 km during the day and had a lot of fun so we headed back for home around 11 pm. The day netted us eight different types of caches including a Mega and 15 lab caches. One takeaway, was inspiration to want to copy some of the ideas that had been used in creating the caches. Let’s see what it will result in!





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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