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My urban treasure hunt in Liverpool

X marks the spot as Katja Driver goes geocaching - without giving the game away

Written by . Published on June 8th 2011.

My urban treasure hunt in Liverpool

MY colleagues stare at me when I bring up the subject.

“Geocaching? What's geocaching?”

“It’s like urban treasure hunting. It's, er, a sort of hobby of mine.”

That doesn’t seem to work, so I decide to go about it the long way.

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game, I tell them. It uses GPS-enabled devices, eg your mobile phone.

The most important thing
when you find the geocache,
is you don’t let anyone see you
removing it to log your visit or
placing it back in its original hideaway

Participants in cities and locations all over the world play the game by navigating to a specific set of GPS coordinates.

The mission is simple: to find a container hidden somewhere in the landscape. It might be a magnetic cache no larger than the tip of your thumb, or if hunting in nature, a Tupperware box.

cache two.JPGMy colleagues are still frowning slightly, but that is because they are “muggles” - nothing to do with Harry Potter, this time, but the term used for those who don't play the game.

If you are a muggle, you might consider people walking around the street with their mobiles at arm’s length and peering in corners somewhat crazy....

“Hang on,” they say, “can you do this in Liverpool?”

Of course. I reply, and with that I have my assignment for the afternoon.

Geocaches can be found all over the world - New York, London, Paris, Hartlepool - at your local park, at the end of a long hike, underwater or on the side of a city street.

A geocache always contains a logbook or logsheet for finders to sign. Larger geocaches may also contain items for trade. These are generally small trinkets or knickknacks.

 If you take an item, you should leave something of equal or greater value in its place for the next geocacher to find. It’s just common courtesy.

But the most important thing is when you find the geocache, you don’t let anyone see you removing it to log your visit, or placing it back in its original hideaway.

Firstly, it can cause some serious misunderstandings (“Why is that guy hiding something behind the bin? Should I call the police?”) or it might reveal the cache to muggles or other hunters, who would rather find it themselves.

Today, more than 1.4 million geocaches have been hidden, and found by more than 4 million people worldwide. So it isn’t just me.

So, how do you play? Well, to start you would go to a dedicated website (www.geocaching.com is the largest online). There, you can get a free membership and you get all the information on the caches around, and the coordinates you put into a GPS system. Then you go and find the cache.

Sound simple, doesn’t it? It can be. Some caches are hidden in places to where access is easy and the hideout is pretty much obvious. Some demand more effort, some are downright unthinkable. You don’t always find the treasure. Sometimes “muggles” find the containers first and unwittingly dispose of them. Sometimes the weather corrodes them, and sometimes you just can’t figure out where the damn thing is.

 “So, why do you play?”

I suppose I should‘ve seen that coming. Why does anyone play? Geocaching is a great way to get to get to know your surroundings, especially if you are on a trip somewhere new. You can set yourself a course through the town and its attractions or a hike according to cache locations, and enjoy the scenery while on the lookout.

cache one.JPGOne of the drawing points of geocaching is the opportunity to spend time outdoors, in new, undiscovered places. To some, the technological aspect of geocaching allows them to geek over a load of gadgets and still get fresh air and exercise into the bargain.

Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a good old fashioned treasure hunt?

After I leave the office, I log onto the geocaching app on my phone and head towards the nearest cache hideout and eventually unearth three in the Hope Street area.

By serendipity, the final one is near a famous pub. Being new to the city, I realise I haven’t yet had a pint in this establishment and after I’ve logged my visit, I put that right.

Shame it's only the blokes who can use their famous toilets.

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