At the grand old age of 4&¾, The Boy has accomplished 37 of the '50 Things To Do Before You're 11&¾' tasks created by the National Trust; a list designed to get children outdoors doing the fresh-air things which children should be doing in the most innocent years of their lives. The range of tasks very much encourages children to step away from technology and embrace their 'natural childhood', however there is one that does involve technology and that is geocaching.
On a wet and grey Sunday a fortnight ago, we decided to try it out for the first time with The Boy.
I'll be honest, I didn't have a clue what to do.
Geocaching is something that Mr. TBaM and I had experienced only once before, on a sodden beachfront in Llandeilo with his sister and her children. With horizontal rain which drenched us all within thirty seconds, racing around with a GPS tracker in our hands trying to find a Chinese takeaway container filled with a scrap of paper was not something which had me excited in 2008, and I wasn't expecting much better in 2014. However those 50 Things are like a personal challenge to me, never mind The Boy, so I called out to twitter for help and was pointed in the direction of Geocaching.com. This site holds the key to the mystery of the technological phenomenum, and is an essential resource.
"Geocaching is the real-world treasure hunt that's happening right now, all around you. There are 2,385,282 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide."
I registered for an account and discovered that there were around six in the Cardiff Bay area, focused around the Barrage and docks. However some of the descriptions seemed a bit bizarre with talk of nanocaches and the like, but a quick consultation on twitter again explained all. There are different sized and types of caches available, twelve different types in total! Those that we needed to find were nanocaches or microcaches; essentially smaller than 100ml and more likely to be a film canister or tiny little screw-cap capsule which is magnetically adhered to the surface.
We loaded up the app onto both of our phones and tootled off to the barrage expecting to have the first one ticked off within ten minutes.
Forty minutes later and we still couldn't find it!
I hate giving up on something, especially when I know that it's possible; the app showed that someone else had found it just a few hours before. Finding the location was easy as the app shows a map and uses the GPS on phones to track exactly where you are; but even an area of only 3mx3m can be the largest in the world when you're hunting down a tiny, grey, metal capsule in amongst grey, metal railings!
The boys started scooting off to the next one, when I bellowed to them that I'd finally found it. And that's the object in The Boy's hands above. Tiny isn't it?
Buoyed by this we set off to find the others in Cardiff Bay, with the stormiest sky I've seen in a long time as our backdrop.
In the end we found four of the six we were after; we didn't manage the fifth as there were some 'gentlemen' smoking a dubious substance in the location, and the sixth genuinely foxed us. Mr. TBaM has even been back in his lunchbreak and stillcan't find it. I will not let it elude us for much longer though!
Geocaching is a fun activity to do, even in slightly damp weather as you forget the rain in the efforts of trying to find the cache. There are some things I've learnt for next time though:
- charge up phones fully as having mobile data and the GPS on drains the battery quite quickly;
- take a pencil to sign the logbooks inside the caches;
- have a selection of tiny little odds and sodds as some of the caches have an item which you can take as a treasure, but must be replaced with something else of similar worth and size;
- don't let people see you, not only because it's supposed to be a secret activity, but also because they will think you're odd!
Huge thanks to Toasting Marshmallows for holding my hand through our first geocache adventure.