Barnaby Plays Geocaching

When Barnaby visited Australia he told his host family about an old English game called ‘letterboxing’, which is like a treasure hunt with word clues. There were no hidden letterboxes in Tasmania but there were lots of geocaches.

Geocaching is hunting for treasure with the Global Positioning System. Satellites orbiting earth send signals to a hand held GPS unit to tell it exactly where you are using coordinates of longitude and latitude, and even the height above sea level. Barnaby’s host family decided to learn to play and bought a brand new GPS unit which looked just like a big orange mobile phone.

In the game people hide a geocache (a container with logbook and treasure) and publish the coordinates on a free website where members can look them up.
What sort of treasure! Barnaby was keen to find out.
After setting up the GPS and practicing they looked up some near home and searched but the GPS was only able to tell them they were 3 to7 metres away from the exact spot and there were a LOT of bushes to look under! The view was spectacular though and Barnaby learnt a bit about about the founding of Australia’s government at Braddon’s Lookout – even if you don’t find the cache people hide them in special spots they want to tell you about. Geocaching is like having a local tour guide.braddon.png

Finding them was going to take more practice. Geoaches have been really well hidden, even camouflaged to make them harder to find accidentally. Some are as small as a pill! These are called micro caches. Micro caches are usually hidden in urban environments like the Chocolate Factory. At last they found a small box and a logbook to sign – the treasure was plenty of free chocolate to taste and a yummy lunch! Anver’s Chocolate Factory

Next day Barnaby traveled to Sydney – the GPS had moved so far from home it had to be recalibrated.

They decided to try something easier – a “virtual cache”. Barnaby had to find his favourite plaque near the coordinates given 915.jpg and send a photo of himself with the GPS to the website to log a “find” for “Writer’s of Renown“. When you log a find your get a smiley face and the find is counted on your user statistics. Barnaby chose Rudyard Kipling’s plaque and logged his first find barnabys-virtual-cache.jpg

But he still wanted to find some treasure!

There were lots of caches in Sydney. They tried a multi-cache which has several little caches each with clues to a big one but they couldn’t find the first waypoint although they had an interesting visit. At last they tried a cache with a very good HINT. Barnaby had to decode the hint using a cypher called ROT 13 ( rotation 13 ). Make a cypher wheel

The GPS was pointing right in the middle of a walkway so they had to wait till no one was looking before Barnaby and Michael who are small crawled underneath and found a box sticking to a beam by a magnet. It had a geocaching sticker on the front and inside small souvenires from visitors from around the world. TREASURE at last!cache.jpg

Barnaby chose a keyring, Michael chose a badge and they left some souvenires from Tasmania in trade. They read the log book, wrote a bit about their trip and added a stamp with their signatures (Michael’s Mum had decided to carve a stamp and hide some letterbox-geocaches when they got home.)

Then they carefully hid everything back just where they found it when no one was looking!

You can find out more at this website – http://www.geocaching.com You might even meet a ‘travelbug’ named Barnaby Bear. This little bear wears a metal tag with a tracking number on it and travels around the world hitchiking with geocachers who take him from cache to cache.

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