Saturday 28th July 2018.
07:18. I receive a snapchat, bleary eyed I grope for my phone before blinding myself with the sudden sting of the backlight. I note the sender, my brother, and go back to sleep. Three hours later I will actually open the message in a much more awake state and I will be propelled into an adventure like no other.
10:18. I open up the chat to witness my brother in what appears to be a run down barn with his mate, who is resting against a large, padlocked, steel container. The type reads ‘first geocache find’. A rapid back and forth ensues, I’m dumbfounded as to what he means or what is going on, as ever his responses are vague at best but each is wrapped in the command to do it myself whatever that may be and with the reassurance of that I will love it. Still of little confidence I download the first “geocaching” app I find.
10:19. App downloaded. Level of cluelessness unchanged. Intrigue and excitement increasing in spite of this fact. It turns out what I have got myself in for is a clever form of local treasure hunting that uses GPS to help you locate and caches in your immediate area.
10:19. App opened. I poke randomly at my touch screen, opening menus, clicking hints, spinning around on the spot attempting to line up the compass point with the ‘cache’ location, reading messages, being warned of ‘muggles’. My cluelessness is not depleting if anything it is intensifying. I have no idea what I’m looking at.
11:25. My brother messages me, finally clearing up all my questions. I’m still unsure of it all but will believe in his insistence and his faith of how much fun it is. During the time elapsed I would like to state I was not just watching my phone in anticipation of a message I was in fact diligently helping my girlfriend with a few chores.
12:49. With said chores complete and unsure of what I’m about to embark upon, I click the nearest ‘geocache’. With my somewhat less then enthusiastic and barely convinced girlfriend in tow we somewhat begin our adventure.
12:55. We make our way towards Greenwich park the first location. Clueless (still). Excited (a little). Lacking confidence in what we are actually about to (very much so).
12:56. We are closing in on the ‘cache’ apparently. We are on top of it. Apparently. The description reads that we are looking for a small nano magnet. I open the hint; Box clever. I unintelligibly ponder it as my girlfriend humours my attempt to partake in the game.
12:59. We find it! A random little magnet attached to a metal container, it appears to be the cut out of a country. With the find in hand I turn to my girlfriend and shrug, ‘guess thats it’ and then proceed to replace it, ‘Great!’. We both stand a little unsatisfied. My excitement had piqued, I had fumbled around in search of it, attempting to be discreet in order to hide our actions from the muggles as told to do so by my brother and the app. A muggle refers to anyone uninitiated to the game, giving it a secret agent vibe, a sneakiness, a greater playfulness.
13:01. After a short piece of subdued conversation and with little else to entertain us we decide to move on to the second nearest cache. In the hope we will begin to pick up the idea, understand the enthusiasm for a game that has lasted for over 18 years with an ever growing community. The first ever recorded Geocache was planted by Dave Ulmer in May 2000. It was a a partially buried bucket said to contain videos, books, money, a slingshot and a can of beans. After a brief lawn mowing accident only the beans survive of the original cache which have dutifully be immortalised.
13:05. We trudge on. Deflated but hopeful, me more than my girlfriend. Still unsure she continues to in good-nature humour me on this, our great strange expedition.
17:21. ADVENTURE COMPLETE!
As we twisted off the cap of the tiny little nano magnet we found at the second location to discover an even smaller rolled log of past explorers inside, my mind raced. The fires of adventure, espionage, of secret society’s, of amazement and wonderment burnt ferociously. We went on to find eight more micro capsules, cooly avoiding muggles as we coyly slid our hands behind roadsigns and beneath benches and round lampposts in search of our tiny treasures. Each discovery, each solve, each triumph only further fuelled our inquisitive senses. Driving us on to the next and the next. For years I had dreamed of voyeuristic missions, of collecting secret files, uncovering long forgotten secrets, of communicating with unseen strangers. To be a spy, a secret agent. And here it was, happening right outside my door.
One thing I must note before proceeding well two actually, firstly it is an amazing feeling discovering a secret or unbeknownst little world happening right in front of you, it felt like a an invisible opaque veil had been lifted, my view of the world had been beautifully expanded, just a little bit more. Secondly, we as people are not sly or clever, we are very uncouth, if no one is aware of us we can feel invisible, we can feel secretive, we believe we can cooly and calmly search for hidden items or act nonchalant as we communicate secrets to others. We aren’t. As soon as someone is aware or in on it, that ability, that “skill” goes out the window. For while upon our adventure we encountered some fellow cachers, we watched as they searched for the cache we were struggling to locate, every movement was rigid and obvious. A lean against a railing unnatural and awkward. The muggles may have passed, oblivious to this pairs action but to the initiated, the involved they couldn’t have broadcasted their intentions any more.
It maybe a craze as old as the millennium itself but it is one that strives on today, being passed along by word of mouth, insular to it’s own loving community and completely welcoming at the same time. Adventure is everywhere and anywhere. There are mysteries everywhere in this world awaiting to be explored, to be found and they are a lot closer than you think. Geocaching is just a way to add to it all a little more. To ensure anyone, anywhere can find an adventure, find a mystery to solve. It shows us the world for what it is; a playground, one me and my girlfriend thoroughly enjoyed playing in, so all I can say to close is, go, get outside and play.