In 2011, a group of geocachers from the Netherlands set a geocaching record when they found 15 geocaches in 15 countries within 24 hours. Six years later, a group of Finnish geocachers were up to the challenge to break this record. Harjus, Rimaju, Weellu and Wesbridge embarked on Geotrip ‘17 on April 15, 2017 from the Netherlands just a second past midnight. They reached their final destination in Poland at 10:25 pm the same day 22 hours and 25 minutes later, setting the new record!
Just as summer turned into autumn, I was fortunate enough to walk across Spain. Literally. Those 1,043 km took me over 3 mountains, flat through 7 days of the exquisite meseta (plateau), and across more than a thousand years of Spanish Catholic history. Those kilometers also brought me conveniently near several remarkable geocaches. And bonus: two new country souvenirs! This pilgrimage is called El Camino de Santiago.
I began my 38-day walk in the misty French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Although I had gotten a late start that morning, I still walked against the pilgrim traffic towards the cache at La citadelle to earn my France souvenir: magnifique! Later that day, I walked from France into Spain, over the Pyrenees.
On the second day, my new friend Amber asked me what this game is all about. The best way to explain geocaching is to show it, of course! At first, we DNF’d at Caminante No Hay Camino… which is ironic given what that cache title means. We found success at Brujeria – Sorginkeria – maravilloso! – and only because this Dutch woman also speaks Spanish and helped me understand that the hint (pío, pío) is about birds: something not immediately obvious to a non-native Spanish speaker like me. Amber’s first find had a very creative container, and we secured that additional country souvenir.
Walking farther west, we stumbled upon a German-style T5 experience at Casa Paderborn, Pamplona: märchenhaft! I estimated the cache height to be some 21 feet or so off the ground, well beyond the 14-foot ladder I borrowed (a ’14-foot ladder’ is probably called something different in a place where they don’t measure things in feet.) My pilgrim friends and 10 cyclists who happened to be resting below the tree did not understand what was happening. Even I was pretty amazed that WAY UP THERE is where my day went, in a dress, no less. They asked me from the ground: ¿Qué encontraste en el contenidor? What did I find in that container? Adventure and a great story to tell, that’s what.
The Casa Paderborn, Pamplona cache brought me additional joy because I had helped to develop the Paderborner Land GeoTour in Germany. This pilgrim hostel and this geocache both represent a sisterhood between the city where I was and a city that hosts a GeoTour! My worlds were coming together in delightful, mathematically unlikely ways.
By the time I got to La Cruz de Hierro, I was in my 4th week of walking. One of the most significant and powerful moments along the pilgrimage route, I had every intention of finding this geocache as a personal milestone. As it turned out, the significance and power of the moment itself caused me to forget about all about geocaching; instead my thoughts went to so many other far-off places. I recorded that as a memorable DNF since I had intended to find it and once within a few meters of the cache, I simply forgot to look. Has that ever happened to you?
Right outside the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela is a shadowy geocache called A sombra da Quintana de Mortos. Finding it at night when the lights are on makes for the best experience: architectural factors at the location combine, creating the magical illusion of a pilgrim forever tethered to the cathedral walls. It’s quite an improbable combination: the bumps on the cathedral walls were built independently of the simple pillar that creates the shadow. Further, the electric lights were added hundreds of years later. This is not something included in a typical guidebook. This is something I found only because of geocaching.
Signing each of those geocache logs reminded me how geocachers have more than just geocaching in common. My stories intertwined with other pilgrims’ narratives as they each made their way one step at a time towards the city of Santiago de Compostela just like I did, but differently than I did. For example, the logs show that Dauby had started in Prague while I started walking just over Spain’s border with France. I read that the Canadian 3 Bearss were pawing through caches, always just a few days ahead of me. I actually met Maltese superprizz in person in Burgos (at a cache owned by my friend and Community Volunteer Stitch81) and we must have had very different paces since we didn’t run into one another again. Stitch81 himself had walked his own Camino many years ago, and he gave me sound advice and helped me with critical provisions.
It will take me ages to process all my many stories about this awe-inspiring, multi-faceted experience called El Camino de Santiago. At least I have now told you about some of the caches that helped make it an even better adventure.
What is the longest distance you have walked while geocaching?
A pilgrim from Mexico explains what he knows of geocaching to his Swiss friend, who has just downloaded the Intro app
“Buen Camino” is the traditional wish and sometimes a goodbye for all the pilgrims.
Stitch81 and MissJenn at The Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas
Octopus: that’s what’s for lunch! So delicious when prepared with special spices and a bit of olive oil.
Festival dancers all dressed up await their turn on stage in León.
The exquisite meseta is not all flat. This long hill gave me quite the heart-pumping climb.
View of the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, where many pilgrims end their journey.
I sat at a tapas bar and enjoyed super fresh seafoods like scallops with shrimp, grilled to order.
One of my first views of the sea as I approached Finisterre.
Metal sculpture at Alto del Pérdon, altitude 790 m and very, very windy.
This bridge, Puente de la Reina, was constructed by Queen Doña Mayor in the eleventh century so pilgrims would have an easier time over this wide river crossing.
Abandoned boots make a good flower vase and comic relief.
Traffic jam: I had to wait for thousands of sheep (literally) to pass before I could continue.
One of many sunrises I greatly enjoyed along the way.
We were graced with a double rainbow as we entered Castilla y León.
The sign says: “ Take what you need. Leave what you can.”
Yellow arrows mark the Camino. The white/red blazes identify this specifically as the Camino Francés.
Backpacks from a Philippine-American, a Dutch woman, and a Swede, each with a scallop shell symbolising the Camino.
Gorgeous window at the Cathedral in Burgos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I left several MissJenn trackables that can be adopted by the people who find them.
superprizz from Malta finds a geocache in Spain with a new friend from Seattle.
Some days the walk took me right past the grapes in one vineyard after another. Tasty!
“Buen Camino” is the traditional wish and sometimes a goodbye for all the pilgrims.
In the shadows created by another beautiful sunrise, I found a geocache at the ruins of El Convento de San Antón
Any serious geocacher probably has a list of geocaches they wish to find before they “kick the bucket”, so to speak. We’ll be doing an intermittent series dedicated to bucket list geocaches, and today’s theme is, “Beaches.” We hope this blog post inspires you to pack a swimsuit and head to the nearest sunny destination!
1. GC1ZBE2 – Elafonisi Traditional cache in Crete, Greece D1.5 / T2.5
Turquoise water, white sand beach, snorkeling, and sand dunes—what more could you ever want? A geocache, perhaps? Well, it has that too! Find this geocache after a pleasant swim (or wade) from the Greek island of Crete. Yes, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. 😉
2. GC5BPN5 – Nai Harn Beach
Traditional cache in Thailand
D1 / T2 According to the cache page, “Nai Harn is one of the island’s most popular places with in-the-know locals. This relatively tranquil place has only a few hotels and is a popular anchorage for boats during the high season… At sunset, it is a amazing place to watch it go down and take long walks on the beach.”
3. GC11A5E – Whitehaven Beach
EarthCache in Queensland, Australia
D2.5 / T3.5 Often ranked as one of the top beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach offers, “…crystal clear aqua waters and pristine silica sand of Whitehaven stretch over seven kilometres along Whitsunday Island , the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays. It defines nature at its best and provides the greatest sense of relaxation and escape.” Just look at the color of the water in these photos!
4. GCZ6JW – Divi Tree cache
Traditional in Aruba
D1.5 / T1.5 This geocache is located about 130 meters north of a Divi tree used for many photo ops in the area. The twisted Divi tree is, “Aruba’s natural compass, always pointing in a southwesterly direction due to the trade winds that blow across the island from the north-east.” Another interesting fact that despite repeated attempts, the Divi tree will not grow anywhere else in the world. The beach ain’t to shabby, either.
5. GC2E8AM – Flamenco Beach Cache
Traditional in Puerto Rico D1.5 / T1.5 According to the cache page, “This is one of the signature beaches of the Island. To get to Culebra you can take the Ferry from the town of Fajardo or you can fly-in from the Ceiba or Isla Grande airports. Then take a taxi, rent a jeep or scooter and drive to Flamenco Beach. There are food stands in the beach where you can get some local food. The beach has a campground area if you want to stay overnight.” Remember to BYOP – Bring Your Own Pen for this one.
Time to grab that swimsuit, some flip-flop slippers, and go geocaching! Don’t forget your pen and some sunscreen. 😉
Are there any dreamy beaches you’ve visited while geocaching that you would add to this list? What about other “Bucket List” themes or geocaches you’d like to see featured? Tell us in the comments below!
This article was originally published in the Portuguese “GeoMagazine.”
I had heard August is the worst time of year to travel to Japan. So what did I do? I scheduled my two week holiday in Japan at the end of August. Naturally, the only reason I’d do something so silly is because of geocaching. I also wanted to climb Mt. Fuji and the window for doing so safely falls right around this time.
After cashing in airline miles for a free ticket to Tokyo, I started planning my big adventure. I knew I’d need help from locals over there, so I reached out to every contact I knew in Japan. After some months of planning, I decided to join a group of local geocachers at GC5VHCG — A CITO event that would take place on Mt. Fuji. Every year a group of Japanese geocachers makes the trek with the goal of giving back by cleaning up trash on the mountain.
While you can climb to the top and back in a day trip, the group wanted to catch the sunrise on top of the mountain, so it would be an overnight adventure for us. We left Tokyo by 8am and were at the trailhead at 11am. There were 11 of us total. Even though only three of us spoke English and I only knew four words of Japanese, we had little trouble understanding each other along the way.
We started off on the trail and were welcomed by the greeting of “Konichiwa” from every climber we passed along the way. Since the climbing season is very short on Mt. Fuji, there were plenty of climbers heading up and down the mountain. The clouds were low and a mist was falling, so we weren’t treated to great views in the first few hours of our trek.
The Fuji climb is broken up into stations, which provide naturally good rest points every 45 minutes. We started at the 5th station (2400 meters) on the Fujinomiya Trail and had booked a hut at station 9.5 for spending the night. The goal was to reach this station around 5pm, have dinner and head to bed early. We’d get up before dawn and finish the last half hour of the hike to the summit to see the sunrise on top.
I’ve done a lot of hiking over my lifetime and I must say, it’s very rare to run into places that will sell you snacks, water, or even beer mid-hike! Each station on Mt. Fuji did just that, along with providing other climbing gear, souvenirs, or just a warm, dry place to rest. For 200 yen (€1.50), you could even use a vault toilet.
Most of the climb feels like you’re walking on a Martian landscape. Everywhere you look, there’s beautiful red and black volcanic rocks and soil. We took the shortest, steepest route up the mountain. Some consider this the easiest route as I learned other routes tend to be filled with so much loose rock or scree that every step you take, you slide down the hill.
At around the 8th station, the higher clouds lifted and revealed a spectacular view of the side of Mt. Fuji and a never-ending sea of clouds. These are the types of views that make it all worth it.
We reached station 9.5 (elevation 3250 meters) on schedule around 5pm. From here, we could see the Torii (traditional Japanese gate) at the top. I could almost reach out and touch it, we were so close! After getting settled into our hut and having a nice warm meal with beer, we settled in for the night.
In the middle of the night, I woke up to sounds of the wind and rain outside our hut. I worried that this storm wasn’t going to go away by the time we were to make our summit attempt.
My worries became reality when the heavy gusting winds and rain were still there at 5am. The workers at the hut warned us that conditions were only worse on top and that it would not be safe for us to summit. My heart sank. We had worked so hard and were so close. With all the planning and effort that went into making the trip and climb possible, getting turned around by bad weather was very hard to take. But safety must come first.
Sometimes on an adventure you don’t win the “prize” you originally set out for, and that’s okay. The journey you take, the friends you’ve made, and the memories you keep make it all worth it. Now I just need to figure out when I can go back and try for the summit again. I told my new geocaching friends that I would be back someday. After all, the geocaches on the summit are still up there waiting for me!