As a coda to our church’s typically rewarding pilgrimage to Bethlehem (no, not that one: this one), Roddy introduces me and a group of others to geocaching.
As a vague description of it, try hi-tech orienteering. Armed with nothing more than a GPS unit (a satellite receiver which will detect your location to within about three metres) and a grid reference, you attempt to find a cache, previously placed at that spot by another geocacher. The cache can be as small as a film container or as large as a plastic bucket.
In our case, we’re in the grounds of Carreg Cennen castle (though not in the castle itself – that would cost money), and we’re looking for something about the size of a sandwich box. Under any normal circumstances, it might as well be a needle in a haystack, but Roddy’s GPS unit is here to guide us. So we walk around the grounds to the coordinates we’ve picked up from the website. We check any likely hiding places. And, well, we find what we’re looking for. We take an item out of the cache box. Roddy signs the cache’s log book to prove we’ve been there. We put a new item into the box. We go back to the car park. We have some coffee. It is good.
Yeah, I know you were expecting a more exciting description than that, but I really can’t say more. After all, you never know when you’d find yourself surrounding a Carmarthenshire castle with a satellite tracker in your hand. And if you do, then here’s what we had to go on. Good luck.
Geocaching will never be a truly mainstream activity, just as GPS units will never be mainstream themselves, but it’s entertaining, perfectly harmless, and in its own way, quite exciting. It gets gadget freaks out into the open air – well, it did me – and that’s never a bad thing. More than that, in the two years since its inception it seems to have developed its own close-knit community. A community that’s based on trust (you have no way of knowing a newly-laid cache is there until someone finds it), honesty (until someone else comes along, no-one knows whether you’ve actually found the cache), and, of course, a spirit of adventure.
And I have to approve of that.