Trea­sures lie wait­ing to be found by GPS

A global hi-tech trea­sure hunt has many Auck­lan­ders hooked. Re­porter Jess Lee spoke to a su­per sleuth pair about the hid­den world of geo­caching.

Central Leader - - NEWS -

Hid­den high in trees, un­der park benches and buried on beaches.

There is trea­sure to be found right across Auck­land – if you know where to look.

Geo­caching is a fam­ily-friendly hobby which sees peo­ple, known as geo­cachers, us­ing GPS co­or­di­nates to search for clev­erly hid­den con­tain­ers called geo­caches.

There are more than 2 mil­lion wait­ing to be found through­out the world.

Geo­cachers of­ten em­ploy sleuth tac­tics to avoid the con­tain­ers be­ing dis­cov­ered by non­geo­cachers, known as mug­gles.

It may sound a bit geeky but Trea­sure­seeker88 (not her real user­name) says that’s part of its charm.

‘‘It’s a lot of fun – it’s like a huge, world­wide trea­sure hunt with this se­cret lit­tle so­ci­ety of peo­ple,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s cool that there’s this com­mu­nity that go hide things for other peo­ple and no one knows about it un­til you get into it.’’

The 25-year-old was in­tro­duced to geo­caching by her friend Hide­and­seek24 (not her real user­name) last year. They will not re­veal their names to pre­vent be­ing un­cov­ered by mug­gles.

Auck­land has more than 400 geo­caches within eight kilo­me­tres of the city cen­tre.

One Tree Hill and Al­bert Park are home to some of the most popular geo­caches in Auck­land.

The fun is found more in the hunt than dis­cov­er­ing what is hid­den in the cache.

Some con­tain just a log­book for finders to sign, oth­ers hold small trin­kets to be traded for some­thing of equal or greater value.

Hide­and­seek24 says the best cache the pair has found is a tiny vial dis­guised in a piece of drift­wood at Mt Maun­ganui.

‘‘We walked back­wards and for­wards over the same patch of beach try­ing to find the damn thing but it was so well hid­den.’’

The 23-year-old took up the hobby last year af­ter stum­bling upon a geo­caching app.

‘‘I’ve al­ways loved scav­enger hunts and the idea of hid­den trea­sure and I have a slight ob­ses­sion with solv­ing mys­ter­ies. ‘‘So the idea ap­pealed to me. ‘‘It just gets you out and about and you also end up in places in your own town that you wouldn’t nor­mally go to,’’ she says.

Two out­go­ing women in their mid-20s are not ex­actly what you think of when you pic­ture a ‘‘typ­i­cal’’ geo­cacher.

But Eric Schud­iske, of Geo­caching.com, says there’s no such thing.

More than 6 mil­lion peo­ple around the world take part, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies with chil­dren, pho­tog­ra­phers, hik­ers and techgeeks.

‘‘Geo­cachers have al­ways shared one trait – cu­rios­ity,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s some­thing in all our DNA that wants to see what’s around the next cor­ner or across the coun­try.

‘‘Geo­caching is the tool peo­ple use to power that adventure.’’

Its pop­u­lar­ity con­tin­ues to grow as the web­site and smart­phone apps be­come eas­ier to use.

‘‘More and more peo­ple are chan­nelling into geo­caching as a low-cost way to connect with friends, ex­er­cise and ex­plore,’’ Schud­iske says. ‘‘We’ve seen geo­caching grow from just 75 geo­caches around the world in 2000 to more than 2.5 mil­lion hid­den around the world to­day.’’

New Zealand of­fers some of the best geo­caching in the world, with about 23,000 wait­ing to be found.

There are phys­i­cal chal­lenges, in­clud­ing hill and moun­tain climbs, three or four-day tramps, kayak­ing or moun­tain­bik­ing ad­ven­tures. Some in­volve men­tal chal­lenges with puzzles to solve and codes to crack to re­veal the lo­ca­tion of the cache.

Geo­caching gives peo­ple a rea­son to ex­plore the world around them, Schud­iske says.

Photo: GEO­CACHING.COM

Hid­den trea­sures:

Geo­caches come in all dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes.

Photo: JESS LEE

Trea­sure hunt: Auck­land geo­cacher Trea­sure­seeker88* hunt­ing for geo­caches at St He­liers Bay.

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