Two years ago a friends father, Reece Johnson aged 47 years of Hamilton, went missing while hunting with two mates in the Hakarimata ranges west of Ngaruawahia. Sadly he is presumed dead but his body has never been found. You may recall the media coverage of the massive search and rescue effort at the time.
To refresh your memory of what we know about that fateful day:
Reece was out pig hunting with two friends deep in the bush out the back of Ngaruawahia. Although they found heaps of sign that the pigs were about they hadn't managed to find one. Late in the day they agreed to separate for a while so Reece could place his very first Geocache. Not long afterwards Reece's mates heard a blood curdling scream. They headed towards where they thought the noise had come from and tried to find Reece, presuming it was him that had made the noise. The two searched until nightfall, but couldn't find any sign of him in the dense undergrowth. Reece was a seasoned hunter and bushman, and had his GPS with him, and despite it being a Magellan they were hopeful he might still make his own way out … but the scream played on their minds.
They called the police when they finally got out of the bush who sent in a search and rescue team including a dog handler at first light. My friend was desperate to help in the search himself but has been wheel chair bound since he and his mother were involved in a car accident some 4 years ago. Unfortunately the day brought stormy weather, high winds, and rain. The Police thought that perhaps Reece may have fallen over one of the many cliffs in the area, and was lying injured somewhere. Another theory was that he had come across one of the massive wild boars known to be in the area. Reece didn't have a gun - he preferred to hunt with a knife. After failing to find him after 24 hours the police tried to escalate the search by getting some of the local men involved but they were too frightened to help. Three other people had gone missing in that same area in the last 20 years and had never been found. There have been rumours circulating for decades about some kind of evil presence in this part of the forest and legends of a huge hairy beast that roams the forest at night go back to pre-European times. Other locals wondered whether Jim Simkins could still be out there somewhere after escaping from the asylum many years ago and going bush.
After a week the official search was called off, with grave fears for Reece's safety. However, his two mates continued to search despite feeling that something or someone was watching them whenever they ventured too deep into the bush. Strange sounds and odd movements, even to these very experienced bushmen, seemed to surround them during their searches. A feeling of foreboding hung in the air like a heavy fog. They always made very sure they got out of there before nightfall. On the 10th day, they found Reece's hunting knife with its hand carved bone handle, covered in blood, deep in the bush, but no sign of Reece or his backpack! What had happened to him? Had the pigs eaten him? Where was his body? There were signs of a struggle, but no drag marks, and no footprints to speak of, probably having been washed away by the constant rain over the past days.
Now, two years after Reece's disappearance my friend has made an amazing discovery on his father's old computer. He found some notes that his father had made about the cache he had planned to lay that day. He took this information to the police of course but they didn't believe it was useful and refused to follow it up. Reece's old hunting mates now live in England and my eyesight is not the best at night which is why I am appealing to the greater Geocaching community to help me help my friend. We are convinced that if you can find the cache that Reece had been planting that day it might somehow solve the mystery of what happened to him, and give his family closure.
This is what was found on Reece's computer:
This cache can only be found at night! You will need a reasonably powerful torch that produces a beam of light. LED type torches are no use at all!
The stated coordinates (S37 41.114, E175 07.429) might be a good place to park REFER REVISION NOTE BELOW but apart from that are no use in finding the cache Follow the track, marked by standard DOC Orange triangular trail markers, across the swingbridge and into the dark forest. After crossing two wooden bridges (ignoring anything less than 2 meters long) you should start holding your torch at eye level (very important) while walking the track. Scan all around until you see an orange glint (NOT the DOC marker!) - the first marker is less than 200 m from the second bridge but I won't say exactly how far for fear of making it too easy! Go there and look for the next glint. Go there and repeat the process again and again. Two glints in the same location means it is time to go off trail up the steep hill and continue following the glints. When you find the spot where there are three glints within a handspan of each other then you have arrived so start looking for the cache. The distance from the carpark to the cache is less than 500 meters but you will need to go off trail for some of it and the terrain is reasonably challenging at night - see notes below.
This is a very special place untouched by humans that I stumbled upon quite by accident some time ago. I believe it might explain some of the old myths about this area. I will say no more and will leave it up to you to explore on your own.
The cache in an extra large camo'ed water proof container. It contains a logbook, pencil, pencil sharpener, stash note plus an assortment of trinkets to be traded. The cache is actually quite delicate so PLEASE BE VERY GENTLE WHEN OPENING IT. It is designed to be opened where you find it so PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MOVE IT.
Some Safety Tips and General Notes:
- Getting to this cache will involve some scrambling up and down some reasonably steep terrain off trail but does not require any special equipment other than a torch and sturdy footwear. The terrain it is not suitable for young children or adults unsure of their footing. If in doubt I suggest you don't attempt it. Also bear in mind that it would be very slippery if wet.
- Please tell some where you are going before attempting this cache. There is no cellphone coverage
- It would not be a good idea to do it alone
- Don't forget to mark some waypoints as you go along so you can find your way out again - I wouldn't want anyone to get lost!
- Whatever you do, be very very quiet… this is an unusual piece of bush and you don't want to disturb any of the local "inhabitants". You may be surprised at what you find….
Hints: (transferred below)
REVISION NOTE (1 April 2009): The listed parking coordinates are for the "old" track entrance. DOC has officially closed this track entrance and removed the swingbridge across the creek. However, you can still gain access here if you want to but you will get wet feet crossing the creek. The official new parking area and track access is approx 1.5 km along the main road towards Ngaruawahia. You can't miss it. This new track takes you to a picnic area which is just across the creek from the old track entrance. To cut a long story short - if you don't mind getting wet feet the old parking coordinates are still valid but if you want to stay dry you will need to use the new track entry and you will have an additional 1.5 km to walk
My friend also approached the Waikato Times with the news of the discovery of Reece's notes and the Times actually published a small article about it a couple of weeks ago. There were quite a few people who contacted him offering support after seeing the article but there was still nobody willing to head into the forest to follow the trail. Some have warned him that it would be foolhardy for anybody to attempt to enter the forest after dark.
There was also one very strange and rather disturbing note apparently written in some kind of red ink that arrived in his mail after the article was published. We have no idea what it means and it is unfortunately almost completely unreadable except for a few words due it getting soaked in his letterbox. We have copied what we can read of it here anyway just in case it proves to be useful. The police think it is from some nutcase and is not related to Reece's disappearance:
I ... where he .... coffin ...
Thank you so much for helping us. I do hope someone will find Reece's cache and maybe even find out what happened to him that day. We are desperate for any information.