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Geocaching is the outdoor treasure hunt taking people out of their comfort zones and around the world


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Geocaching is the outdoor treasure hunt taking people out of their comfort zones and around the world

By Penny Travers
Posted Saturday 17 August 2019 at 8:03am
Geocache hidden in a hollow log
A search of this hollow log reveals one of the 4,000 geocaches hidden across Canberra.

ABC News: Penny Travers

 

Wherever you are right now, you may be surprised to know there are hundreds of treasures hidden all around you — and people out looking for them.

They are concealed on street lights, under rocks and up in trees — little containers at the centre of an outdoor, world-wide scavenger hunt called geocaching. The treasure hunters, known as geocachers, navigate using GPS coordinates to track down and find a cleverly hidden 'geocache' and add it to their tally. The recreation even has its own day. Today marks International Geocaching Day. "Geocaches come in all different shapes and sizes — anything from the size of a button all the way up to a large ammunitions can," retired public servant Thomas Schulze said. As Mr Schulze explains, inside the cache is a logbook, where the finder signs their name. He has done so some 14,700 times.

 

Canberra man out geocaching
Thomas Schulze has found more than 14,700 geocaches across Australia and the world.

ABC News: Penny Travers

 

"Effectively geocaching is my form of exercise so I enjoy it for the fresh air, the sunshine, walking in the bush and going out with friends," he said.

"Often you'll find a spot that you'll never find in a tourist brochure — it's fantastic." When Mr Schulze started geocaching 17 years ago, there were just three caches to find in Canberra. Now there are almost 4,000 — 800 of which Mr Schulze himself has hidden.

"Chances are anywhere in the ACT there'll be one within a couple of hundred metres," he said.

Encouraged to try new things

Before Lisa Kay caught the geocaching bug, she had never been overseas.

But in the past 12 months, the 44-year-old has travelled to the United States, Hong Kong and China in search of hidden treasure.

"It takes you to new places you'd never think of going — hidden little gems that geocaching sort of points out," Ms Kay said.

Canberra woman opening a large geocache container
Lisa Kay opens up an elaborate geocache hidden in Canberra bushland.

ABC News: Penny Travers

There are approximately 3 million geocaches across 190 countries, with more popping up every day. And the respite support worker said the pursuit kept her active. "If you wanted me to walk up a hill, I probably wouldn't," Ms Kay said. "But if you put a cache up there, I'll go. If it's a 'first-to-find' I might even jog a little." Other geocachers, like Kathy Hicks, credit the geocaching for pushing her past her comfort zone. "Before taking up geocaching, I hadn't climbed a tree since I was a kid," she said. "I've climbed about 80 trees in the last seven years to find caches.

"I'm 55 years old, not many of us are still climbing trees."

Ms Hicks even bought a kayak so she could navigate to some of the harder-to-reach caches in the middle of Canberra's lakes.

But she said it was not just the challenge of trying new things that kept her searching for caches.

Lady showing geocaches
Kathleen Hicks reveals a cache disguised as a metal plate on a light pole. Other caches can be as tiny as a button.(

ABC News: Penny Travers

She regularly meets up with other cachers to go treasure hunting together — sometimes even cleaning up rubbish as they go.

"We have a wonderful geocaching community here in Canberra and we have meet-ups called 'Cache in trash out'," she said.

"The world is our playground, so you clean up as you search for a cache."

Mega events are also held annually across Australia, where hundreds of cachers from around the world will come together to share their love of the hobby.

Fun for all ages and abilities

Each cache is rated in terms of how difficult it is to get to and how hard it is to find once you arrive at its location.

Mr Schulze said geocaching offered something for everyone. "If the terrain is listed as a [grade] one, people in a wheelchair should be able to get that — we like to try and accommodate everybody," he said.

 

Canberra mother and daughter out geocaching
Jasmine, 10, enjoys swapping toys in the caches she finds with her mother Danielle Sharma.(

ABC News: Penny Travers

 

Some of the caches contain an item to swap — like a toy or trinket — which was what enticed 10-year-old Jasmine to join her mother Danielle Sharma out geocaching. "You're supposed to swap with something of equal or higher value so the next child that comes along can swap and get a toy as well," Ms Sharma said. "You're giving as well as receiving and it's a good way for children to experience that generosity for others."

There are even gadget caches that are tricky to open and some that require the searcher to solve a cryptic puzzle online before uncovering the GPS coordinates.

"There's something exciting about finding something out in the bush or in town that people walk past every day and never know it's there," Ms Sharma said.

 

Edited by DARKSIDEDAN
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