Saturday, 19 September 2009

Geocaching / Waymarking — more ways to waste time in pointless activities using state of the art tech.

Over the last two decades gps units have decreased in price, increased in accuracy (no small part due to Prez Bill Clinton’s decision to turn off the ‘inaccuracy’ in the civilian version of the us mil controlled gps service. Bill—he was a president to be proud of), and gained in functionality. These beneficial advances have given rise to many different improvements in our daily existence: navigation, the saving of lives, etc., however, as always, technology has produced a beneficial effect in our recreational life (but this time not sex). The rise of the gps has also given rise to gps based recreational activities.

Today I will discuss two of these: geocaching and waymarking. The two are related, but the first—geocaching, is the more prominent. In its simplest form one obtains a gps spot from a website, navigates to that spot, and then records the site in a log. Not too exciting you might ask, well you would be wrong if you answered in the affirmative. One must plan, think, and hunt to track down the elusive gps spot. It is an enjoyable pass-time.

You might think that the gps location itself would be enough info to find the cache, if so, you would also be wrong. A gps is accurate to no more than a few metres at best, and tens of metres at worst. Also the cache is usually hidden so as to not be too obvious to the casual passerby.

To find the cache you need to follow the info on the website. This info includes pics of the geocache, its surrounds, and a description of the location. Even then it is not always easy. There are also different types of caches, some small, some larger, some contain trinkets for the finder, some have items which are slowly making their way around the world to a destination courtesy of each geocacher who finds them, and is going in the right direction. The minimum of each cache is a logbook into which you can record your find.

As geocaches are frequently placed in interesting spots the journey itself can be fun and pleasant. Some can be a few minutes walk from your home or hotel, and located in the middle of a tourist sport, others can be in obscure spots and require info from locals.

The flip side of finding a cache is to create and then manage a cache. This involves finding a good spot, selecting and placing the cache, documenting its details on the website, and then managing it over time. As I am traveling at them moment, it is unlikely that I will be able to create my own caches any time soon.

My first cache I did not find. It is located on a busy portion of the Pattaya beach rd. It is a micro-cache, and hidden from easy view. I found its location with my iphone 3G gps, read the clues, but still could not find. I am not alone, several others logged their non-discovery of the cache. I will go back and try again. My second cache was more successful. It is located under a beam in the ‘The Avenue’ shopping mall. A few clues as to its location, a pause or two to wait for wandering ‘muggles’ (a term for those who are not geocachers borrowed from ‘Harry Potter’—hopefully not copyrighted), and then I reached down and under and retrieved the microcache. After a few moments of elation I opened it, recorded the date of my discovery, wrote my name, and then returned the cache to its original location. Success!

The second of the two gps sports is waymarking. Waymarking is similar, and easier, in that there is no cache to be found, simply a gps spot with, usually, an easily identifiable feature. The feature can be one of many things, from nothing more complex than a McDonalds restaurant to a famous historical locale, or an obscure geographical feature, even an attractive piece of scenery.

The overall process is similar. A waymarker finds and records a waymark for other users, who are then free to find and log their discovery.

Both geocaching and waymarking have their own ‘official’ websites (is that a surprise?). Here one can both add gps spots and find gps spots to visit. You can register, and become an official member, buy merchandise, and become fully informed as to your new hobby and interest. These websites have all the information you need to start your own geocache/waymarking career.

Take a look:

Have fun.

until next time