Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Canberra Caching

For a place that is so hilly and so cold in winter, Canberra offers so much for the outdoor enthusiast and geocaching is no exception. Over my years of caching I have done a few trips to Canberra for big numbers. The place is rife with puzzles, powertrails and geo-art and that’s just the specialised caches, chuck in the standard plethora of caches that litter any suburban area and you have the makings for a good weekend.

After work on Friday 8th steeba, Hoojar and I hit the Hume Hwy in search of the large amount of unfound caches that awaited us around Canberra. We headed straight out to the Captain Flat trail where a few hours of night caching seen us quickly rack-up 80 finds before midnight. From there we opted for an early night camping on the grounds of the Queanbeyan Scout Hall.

Saturday saw us hitting the caching trails early. Today we opted for 2-wheel transport taking advantage of the many hides that hug the bicycle tracks in Canberra. The Majura and Centenary Trail were on our hit-list. Perfect weather accompanied us as we had the day in the saddle. By days end we chose to have a night at the club with a good meal, a few drinks and a couple of games of footy.

Sunday was another early start with plans of finding the Kowen Forest Kangaroo but arriving at the forest we were turned away by the organisers of a motorbike rally which were occupying the forest for the weekend. Dejected we drove away with our plans shattered. Re-grouping we headed across town picking up small pockets of caches which kept us busy for much of the morning. By late lunch time we’d had enough caching around Canberra deciding to return home early.

Our weekend was very profitable in the find count and another great time away with the boys.

Friday, March 04, 2016

SES Geo-Art Puzzles

I’ve been toying with the idea of hiding a geocaching powertrail for some time now. Initially I’d brushed the idea off as just another one of my hair brain caching projects, but the more I thought about the idea of hiding a large number of caches the greater my enthusiasm became. Each time I thought about the powertrail I’d come up with a new twist to what my powertrail would be like. One idea I had was to make some Geo-Art with my geocaches, however each positive thought was met with the roadblock of “where in the Illawarra” could I hide a powertrail of caches.

After way too much deliberation I decided to make a geo-art powertrail using mystery geocaches, that way the artwork could be offsite from the actual hides…. Brilliant I thought, but how could I come up with 30 mystery caches and what would my geo-art look like? I soon had the idea to combine my two passions of geocaching with SES and thus my artwork was born. The internet opened up my thinking to a wealth of different puzzle caches and I soon had the concept to hide 30 unique SES puzzle geocaches.

When creating and deciphering puzzle caches I’ve found there are so many different options but most of them can be grouped into the following categories
  • Hidden information – Often the information we seek is right there in front of us. Text can be in plain sight or in the form a hyperlink, some caches use varying font sizes, colours or typefaces to provide information about the cache. Another good place to hide coordinate information is in the source code of the cache listing. Other less common places to find information are the cache title, cache attributes, cache logs, travel bugs, geocoins or the hider’s profile.
  • Lists – This is common type of puzzle, most cache coordinates will be made up of 15 numbers so if a list contains 15 items it is very likely that each item can be associated with a single digit.  Sometimes a list can be pictures instead of words. Nearly every list requires you to find a particular pattern.
  • Codes and Ciphers – This is where it gets a little harder. A code can be like Morse code, Binary, Braille or even foreign languages while ciphers can range in difficulty from cryptograms to much more sophisticated ciphers that use keys. Many ciphers utilise symbols or letters as a way of substituting or transposition of the real coordinates. Often a frequency analysis can be used to recognise letter patterns.
  • Images – To coin a phrase “a picture tells a thousand words” and this is so true, whether its counting the number of pictures on the cache page or counting items within a picture. Reversing an image or taking away coloured layers can reveal coordinates. Changing the pixels within a picture or animated gifs have been used in the past. Painting with numbers can expose coordinates in an image or the use of stenography.   
  • Word, Maths and Logic puzzles – This is a common form of puzzle with word puzzles being very popular. The puzzle can often take the form of anagrams, acronyms, crosswords, rhymes or word sudoku’s. The use of maths in a puzzle can take many forms, whether its finding the area of a shape, sequencing of numbers, finding constants or the use of base numbers. Finally, the use of logic statements, nonograms or hidatos can be used to reveal the coordinates, often the hider asks a number of multiple choice questions which can be placed into crosshatch grids and/or tables to find the coordinates.
In getting my series of SES puzzle caches published I’ve learned a lot about puzzles and the use of Google earth for my artwork. I hope the finders of my caches enjoy them as much as I have in placing them.

Thanks for undertaking the challenge
The Rats

Friday, November 20, 2015

Melbourne's 1st Mega Event

A geocaching mega event is one of those smileys that don’t come around too often so when Melbourne put their hand up to host their first one we jumped at the chance to attend, but as luck would have it the dates clashed with a close friend’s wedding…. In the end we opted for the mega.

Driving down to Melbourne on the Friday the Rats and mini rats were excited to be achieving respective milestones. For us it was to be our 12000th find while for the kids they were about to chalk up their 1000th find. However before getting to the mega there were a few other memorable caches to do along the way. Melbourne’s 1st geocache GC7A and Devil Bend GCAD are two of Australia’s oldest caches and for us were a “must do”. 

The trip to Melbourne wasn’t solely for caching as it gave us time to catch up with long-time friends we’d made as we travelled around Oz. We also took the time to do a bit of shopping and a drive-by of the latest “The BLOCK” renovation which had Leonie and Sam in awe.

For us the mega was a lot of fun. There was a huge variety of other events attached to the mega, the night time fireworks, the meet n greet, CITO and labs caches were all worthy of our time, but regrettably our time in Melbourne was too short and we were soon heading home after a short 4 day trip.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Road Less Travelled

A power trail to the Rats is like bees to a hive. With this in mind the Rats teamed up with the mini rats and Mizmaz to tackle this new power trail which had been placed by a few geocachers.

As the Rats and mini rats neared respective milestones we were keen to make the Melbourne Mega our milestone cache so we needed numbers quickly. The school holidays offered the perfect opportunity for a 2 day drive around Mudgee.

Heading off mid-morning on Wednesday 23rd we started at the Sunny Corner end of the power trail, after a few hours of weaving our way through the pine forests we found ourselves at Sofala where we setup camp beside the river. For Mizmaz this would be her first experience of bush camping and with a bit of trepidation she managed to get through a very cool night.

Day 2 saw us headed north-west towards Mudgee and Gulgong. The trail winds its way up and over Mt Parwa and then through some beautiful countryside as it drops down onto the open plains. The uniqueness of this trail is highlighted by the different hiders and their unique styles but for much of the way the hides are very good and worth the 2 days of country driving.

By days end, the Rats and mini rats had racked up the required number of finds to make our trip to the Melbourne Mega in a few weeks all the more pleasant.

Thanks to the cache owners and Mizmaz for an enjoyable powertrail.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Stanthorpe QLD 2015

As Queensland prepared to host their first mega event it was a good chance for the Gangsters to get together for another road trip. As with previous mega events the Gangsters head away a few weeks beforehand to find all the local caches so we could enjoy a relaxing mega event with our families. 

Heading to Stanthorpe a few weeks before the event we were blessed with clear skies and a warming country lifestyle. The Gangsters had 4 days in the Granite Belt finding over 400 caches which littered the area. A number of powertrails dotted the countryside in anticipation of the hordes of geocachers that would ascend on the area over Easter. For us, we flew into Brisbane where we collecting a hire and started heading west. Our first night was at the noisy Cunningham Gap. Our next day had us in the thick of the powertrails finding over 240 caches along various road tracks and over some beautiful rural areas. We had another under stars while enjoying a campfire and a few drinks. Sunday saw us doing much of the same however we’d ventured closer to civilisation with us stopping the night in the local caravan park of Stanthorpe where we enjoyed a nice warm shower and the relaxed atmosphere of a nice pub meal. Our 4 days was quickly coming to an end but not before we found a few more caches as we headed for Brisbane…. Our again the Gangsters had shared a memorable road trip. 

As Easter approached we were disappointed to learn that steeba wouldn’t be joining us at the mega due to the pending birth of the 4th child. For the rest of us the weather prediction didn’t sound great but that wouldn’t deter us, we were keen for some time away with our families. Arriving in Stanthorpe on Easter Friday we were barely setup when the heavens opened up setting the tone for the rest of the weekend. I’d packed a huge tarp which allowed us to have a good amount of dry covered area for the kids to run around. Over the course of the weekend we intentionally didn’t do much caching, choosing to focus more on the fun activities organised as well as visiting some of the local attractions, one of which being the guard dog training facility where dogs are trained in the finer points of security and attack work. Throughout the weekend we attended the 3 other events organised around town and found some of the more unique types of hides available at a mega. The mini-rats did exceptionally well in this department finding a credible 10 cache types in the one day. Another highlight for us was the night-time entertainment and the very social atmosphere (despite the weather) of a great mega-event and to see many of our caching friends from around Australia was an added bonus. 

Unfortunately by Monday it was time to pack up and start the long trek home. Except for Leonie, who had to be back at work by Tuesday the rest of us took a leisurely 3-day road trip down the coast to get home.