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Geocaching – Dad Day Out: Melbourne

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When Peninsula Kids Magazine asked me to review Geocaching, I said “That word makes me think of geckos. I like geckos”. And so I took on the challenge.  It ended up being the GREATEST family weekend we’ve had all year!

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It’s a treasure hunt using mobile technology. When you geocache you literally become a techno-pirate (just need to find a captains’ hat made out of motherboards).
You can geocache anywhere in the world, and discover places you never knew existed, even in your own hometown. You’ll also have mum and the kids begging for more hunts, so it makes for the perfect family day out.

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If you don’t like the outdoors then geocaching probably won’t hit the spot. And if you have a short attention span when it comes to problem solving, brought on by playing modern easy-to-finish video games, then this just might drive you insane.

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Let me answer the first, big question:

What is geocaching?

Geocaching is a digital treasure hunt.

Remember how, as kids, we used to follow clues from place to place and eventually find a prize at the end? Take out the trail of clues and replace with your GPS or mobile phone. Geocaching is all about tracking coordinates to find a devilishly well hidden cache and then leaving your mark.

The best place to find out about getting started is the Geocaching Australia website: geocaching.com.au

Our first geocache hunt.

I had no idea what this geo-something-or-other was all about. Oh well, it’s always best to jump in blind and see what funny stories you can survive. But, just so I don’t die alone, I’ll drag along my energetic toddler and ever-supportive (suffering) wife.

I downloaded the Geocaching Intro app to my iPhone and opened up the map. Woah! There were little dots EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t see the streets for all of the markers, indicating hidden caches. Maybe this is actually a ‘thing’.

Phenom-A-Mum, Little E and I piled into the car, armed with the app, a pen, and some little Moshi Monster toys. “Where are we going?” she asked. “Turn right. And left. We’re here”. The first stash was just around the corner from our house!

Only problem is that we were sitting in a busy shopping centre car park, surrounded by Muggles. The Geocachers have borrowed this term from the Harry Potter books, to describe someone who doesn’t know about geocaching – especially someone who might maliciously steal the cache.
First rule of Geocaching Club: Never let a Muggle see you find a cache.

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I may have looked kinda dodgy standing in the middle of the centre’s garden, whistling innocently whilst waiting for shoppers to disperse. My cursory looks couldn’t spot any sort of cache (what do these things look like anyway?) and when the centre staff began looking at me with a funny squint, I decided that our first attempt had to be abandoned.

“To the geocache-mobile!”

Alright. That was a flop. Not sure why this activity is so popular. So far it just seems embarrassing. We’ll give it one more bash and this time I’ll look for a location that’s more isolated.

I found another dot on the map just a few streets away, in the middle of the local sports fields. Holding the phone like a water-divining stick, the three of us followed the compass until we arrived at a tree. I thought this was supposed to be a little challenging – clearly it’s in the tree. I swaggered up to it, and searched all around. Hrmm. Maybe it’s up the tree?

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I couldn’t see anything from the ground and the lowest branches looked quite high – is it bad form to make a pregnant woman scale a tree? “What if it’s not in the tree?” Phenom-A-Mum asked. Clearly she wasn’t excited at the prospect of climbing.

“Not in the tree? Ho, ho, ho. Just leave the treasure hunting to the experts, love,” I responded, patting her condescendingly on the rump. As I attempted to get my leg above my own head, she called out, “Is this it?”. In her hand she was holding a small length of PVC tube. “I guess that’s the one they leave for you beginners to find…” I responded graciously.

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Little E was hopping with excitement (literally), so we pulled open the pipe and found a rubber stamp and a notepad. We each stamped the back of our hand, and returned it to the cache.

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The most important part of a find is to note the date in the log book (notepad), and come up with a team name to record. The supplied pencil had gone missing; luckily we had our pen.
Second rule of Geocaching Club: Always take a pen and record your find in the supplied logbook.

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Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Our first find. I gotta admit that I was elated, and a little addicted. But I wasn’t the only one. “So…. one more?” enquired Phenom-A-Mum. We followed the map and compass to three more cache sites that afternoon. Two successful finds and one ‘wanh-wanh’ fail.

With these wins however, we joined in the swap game that’s an integral part of the fun. A lot of caches are big enough to hold items, some small, some large. These have been left by previous geocachers, and you are welcome to take one as a prize for your hardwork BUT you must replace it with a new treasure for the next person to find.
Third rule of Geocaching Club: Carry a range of small items to swap, that will be equal or greater value than what you find.

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The treasures we found were for kids, as this is such a great family activity. And it’s the part Little E loved the most! He scored a lollipop and a Kinder Surprise toy. In return he ‘buried’ some cool limited edition Moshi Monsters which, I hope, the next kids will love just as much.

I’ve read rumours that there are large caches hidden around in more remote areas that contain big swap items for grown up finders. I wonder what they could be? And would a Moshi Monster be sufficient currency in return? Maybe three would cover it.

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I was skeptical at first, but Geocaching is AWESOME! My family is hooked and we are already planning to fire up the app next weekend and head to a few nearby suburbs. I’m going to put together a ‘Hunt Bag’ with pens, pocket knife, water, snacks and swap items ready for our new adventures.

And if we really get into it, we can hide our own caches for others to find. Just need to find a tricky hiding spot and craft a weatherproof container of some sort to stash in it. Maybe we could leave a really amazing item for that first brilliant geocacher who finds it!

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You know what? According to the map there’s a cache just off the main road on my way home tonight. Maybe I’ll tell Phenom-A-Mum that I might be a few minutes late.

For more information check out the Geocaching Australia website, by clicking on this link.

And you can also find great information, including the app on the geocaching.com website by clicking here.


[Plus icons used for Dad Rating were originally created by http://www.doublejdesign.co.uk/ and are being used under CC Attribution License]

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David Hawkins

Half nerd, all Dad & Founder of Big Kid Little Kid, the go-to blog for Awesome Dads. David is on a personal mission to become a more awesome dad to his two sons and teach them all the facets of being a major nerd. NES-off anybody?