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.


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.

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!


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.

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