Four years ago, the UK held its first Geolympix event in Oxford. That event was so successful that, this year, again coinciding with the Summer Olympic Games, the second Geolympix event was held.
Like the previous event this soon reached MEGA status with well over 500 cachers attending. The Ashridge estate near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire is a large area (5000 acres) of woodland and open fields – ideal for geocaching. The estate is owned by the National Trust event and all the caches were placed with their consent.
Cachers came from far and wide, including USA, Finland, Ireland, Cornwall and Yorkshire to our knowledge. Many of the cachers had t-shirts with trackable numbers on, others had bags and even plastic ducks with trackable numbers waiting to be discovered!
Lots of different events had been put on including caching exhibitors, a film festival, a talk on caching efficiency, National Geocaching Awards, and much besides. To give the event an ‘Olympic’ feel there were certain challenges that could be undertaken – could you find 26 caches in a day beginning with each letter of the alphabet, could you spell your caching name with the cache initials, could you find 11 caching types (icons) in 24 hours ? Reading the online logs after the event many people did undertake some of these challenges.
There were of course straightforward caches to be found and also some lab caches to undertake. Lab caches were a new concept to us, but primarily we visited a location, solved a simple puzzle to derive a code word, and then to claim the lab cache find enter the ‘code word’ into the lab cache website. We managed to find the code words hidden in a crossword, the underside of a rubber duck, locating and reading a QR code and solving a simple number substation code. All good fun but no actual caching container to find!
Many of the caches available to be found had been set out in the weeks preceding the event. We had loaded over 30 and we knew some more would be ‘released’ at midday. Our plan was to be alone in the woods at midday, and see if we could be the First-to-Find for one of these caches.
We starting caching at around 1015 and for the first few caches we didn’t need much geocaching skill. We were following the crowd! Every Ground Zero, had a cluster of cachers passing the log from person to person. As midday approached we did achieve our aim of being alone. We turned on our phone and tried for an internet connection. None. We tried again. Nope. And again.. our plans of attempting a First-to-Find were being thwarted by a poor broadband signal. In the end we gave up and continued our caching trail around the estate.
The next cache we found after this, was Britain’s Oldest Log. Apparently this was Britain’s second oldest cache, placed hours after Britain’s first cache back in 2001, but this cache was the first cache to be found – hence it has the oldest log!
Eventually the further we got from the Mega Hub, we saw fewer and fewer people. Caching was more relaxed, we could search in our own way, cursing the GPS signal, cursing the tree cover and generally having a relaxed walk finding caches.
There were three main series we attempted caches from : Cyclerama, Cyclerama Cross-Country and Home of the Fallen Trees. Of these the Home of the Fallen Trees had the more ingenious hides. Generally hidden in a fallen tree/log .. and lots of places to search!
We found two multicaches on route – both we made a bit of mistake with. Normally we transcribe the questions/formula for multi-caches so we can easily write down the answer. However we didn’t do it this time, and as a result were totally unprepared when we arrived at multi-cache. It was lucky that there cachers around at one of them, as we needed a phone to swipe a ‘yellow post’ to derive the final co-ordinates.
We finished our caching route about 330 ish and headed back to the hub. We hoping to meet with ‘Washknight’ You may have read his ‘Geocaching Blind’ blogs (see also left of this blog). He lives near to the site and had been nominated for one of the Geocaching awards. We sat on a log, drinking a well earned cup of coffee. Had we missed him ? We were wearing bright orange, sorry VERY BRIGHT ORANGE, T-shirts so we might be spotted. But we saw his party first. We had a great chat, and we wished him well for the Award Ceremony (sadly he didn’t win).. but it was great to meet someone whose adventures we have enjoyed reading
for the last year or so. (Ed : if you want to see how orange those T-shirts were, visit washknight’s blog).
We took a different route back to the car and found two more caches. One was almost a ‘gimme’ as we saw two cachers emerging from the bushes who told us the hint and where to look. We went over and found it… it was one of the caches released that day! So not exactly the first to find…but definitely in the top 20!
A very enjoyable, exhausting day. We walked about 7 miles, attended one event (the Mega), logged 4 lab caches, 2 multicaches and 19 standard caches. A great haul…but we discovered when we got home this made our total cache count..1599! If only we had attempted one more!
Footnote : We have subsequently read Washknight’s blog. They found a cache, which we found very early on in the morning. It wasn’t too hard to find (it was technically a puzzle cache), as it was behind large letters spelling the word “GEOCACHE” ! However the paper log had no reference as to what the cache number was so we couldn’t log it online. We now have that number, so we have logged the cache online giving us the magic 1600 caches. Woo hoo!