GEOCACHING – what am I doing wrong?

We are loo-king for your ge-o-cache.

A few weeks ago, my friends found a geocache. It was hidden in a tree, in a forest near the buddhist monastery at Thyangbochhe, Nepal, nearly 4000metres above sea level, with Mt Everest in the background. It seemed an impossible task, but they found it anyway. I was there and I was most impressed.

But yesterday I failed to find the geocache reputed to lurk at plain old Petersham Oval, Sydney. What am I doing wrong? Somebody help me, please! I want to find a geocache!! Everybody else is finding geocaches – why can’t I???

Petersham Oval - a nice spot, but where's the geocache?


I only recently heard about this sport/game/activity called geocaching. As I understand it, it works like this…

Sad nerdy people with too much time on their hands hide plastic Tupperware-like containers somewhere in the world. Inside these containers are small artefacts – maybe a keychain, a medal, or a coin from an obscure African republic. The ‘hider’ also leaves a notebook for anyone who finds the cache to write in. Then the ‘hider’ goes online and registers the GPS co-ordinates of the hidden cache, together with a cryptic clue as to its whereabouts, on a geocache website.

Next it’s over to the ‘finders’, sad nerdy people like me with too much time on their hands. And a GPS device. Maybe a compass would have helped; I’ll take one with me next time.

I visited a geocache website and discovered that there were a number of geocaches hidden within walking distance of my house in Sydney. Everywhere is within walking distance if you’re a sad nerd with too much time…to paraphrase Stephen Wright. I’d just trekked in the Himalayas. It should have been routine to stroll down the street to Petersham Oval, find the geocache, write a hilariously smug message in the notebook and be home in time for lunch. I’d seen people do it in Nepal, for heaven’s sake…!

My trekking companions Eira and Jemma were looking for a geocache in Thyangbochhe. Eira’s Austrian geocaching friends had given her small artefacts to place in the Tupperware box should she manage to find it. The online notes said it was hidden in an old tree, and that one of the buddhist monks was the guardian and would lead you to it.

Thyangbochhe - the geocache is here somewhere


We’d been trekking for a week by the time we reached Thyangbochhe (Some simply spell it ‘Tengboche’ but I want it to look as exotic and remote as possible for this story). Eira enthusiastically approached the first buddhist monk we saw, a young lad. ‘Do you speak English?’ He didn’t, but he beckoned an older monk to come and continue the conversation on his behalf.

‘Do you speak English?’

This time there was an enthusiastic nod. ‘Yes.’

‘Great! That’s a good start,’ said Eira. ‘Now, do you know where the geocache is?’

Another nod, with a big smile this time. ‘Yes.’

Eira couldn’t believe her luck. Neither could I. There were sixty monks, and she’d found the guardian of the geocache straight away. ‘Really? You really do? We heard that it was hidden in an old tree, somewhere in the monastery. Is that right?’

‘Yes.’

‘Fantastic. This is amazing! Can you take us to the geocache right now?’

Huge smile and an emphatic, ‘Yes.’

And off he strode in the opposite direction, robe flapping. When you only know three words of English, ‘geocache’ is not likely to be one of them. When you only know one word of English, just smile, nod and say ‘Yes’ to everything.

But within an hour, Eira and Jemma found a Spanish trekker with a GPS device, which indicated that according to the co-ordinates the hiding place was in the forest up the hill overlooking our campsite. They headed off into the woods and, precisely between Mt Everest and the monastery they found an old tree with a hole in it. Jemma stuck her hand in…and pulled out the magic Tupperware.

Bradman's plaque

If only my Petersham Oval expedition had met such success. Petersham Oval is perfectly pleasant – trees, bandstand, swimming pool. Its cricket oval is famous because young Don Bradman (for those unfamiliar with the sport, he was the greatest ever cricketer) played his first Sydney grade game here in 1926 at the age of 18, scoring a century (that’s 100 runs and it’s good).

There’s a plaque commemorating the event, and the website says the geocache is very near the plaque, at S 33.53.2928, E 51.08.5928 approximately. That suggested to me that it was somewhere in the grandstand. But the downstairs dressing-room doors were locked and the seats above them littered with broken glass, old bottles and blankets – someone had been sleeping rough there. Not a geocache to be seen.

The website refers to ‘muggles’ – sensible, decent people who know nothing of geocaching and who are mystified by the sight of a man consulting a scrap of paper and a hand-held computer, then feeling around in shrubbery and peering into garbage bins. I tried not to alarm the muggle groundstaff as they watered the cricket pitch and mowed the grass. But I was suspicious – could one of these innocent-looking workers have moved the Tupperware?

Am I doing something wrong? Does anybody have any tips for young players? Should I try again?

13 Comments

Filed under Himalayas, Sport

13 responses to “GEOCACHING – what am I doing wrong?

  1. Bec

    Richard – it’s obvious – you didn’t take a Jemma with you! They’re very handy you know.

    • Ah, yes, Bec, those Jemmas – they’re so persistent. A Jemma would have grabbed the nearest available muggle and grilled it (in the nicest possible way), until it fessed up about the secret location.

      But all known Jemmas are in Perth at the moment and I don’t have the precise GPS co-ordinates.

      Thanks for the suggestion anyway and nice to hear from you!

  2. You must feel like a bit of a failure. You must go back.

  3. I’m surprised that your claim that Don Bradman is the best cricketer ever has been allowed to pass unchallenged. I mean, you’re probably right, but doesn’t anybody want to start an argument about it? Obviously he was the best batsman, and one of the best captains, and probably one of the best fieldsmen, too (I don’t know much about that, to be honest), but he wasn’t much of a bowler, was he? Who is the best bowler ever in cricket, and why isn’t he as good a cricketer as Bradman? Does it have something to do with the convention that batsmen generally captain teams rather than bowlers? And how come everybody has to bat, but not everybody has to bowl, anyway?

    • According to his plaque, Bradman’s debut at Petersham Oval in 1926 also included taking 3/26 as a bowler. Not bad for a rookie, though 9 first class wickets with a best of 3/35 is modest, to say the least.

      His fielding (and I never saw it, even on film) was almost certainly ordinary by today’s standards. Athleticism and technique have improved out of sight since the limited overs game began (on May 2, 1962).

      I know everything, you see, except how to find a geocache!

      (Note my clever segue back to the point of this post.)

  4. Well, I’ve never found a geocache either.

  5. That part about the Monk is so funny, it sounds like something that (in a different situation) has happened to me once or twice.

  6. Have you tried looking up the cache co-ordinates on Google Maps? If you zoom in on satellite view, you should be able to narrow down the final location. Reading the online logs by previous finders may also give you clues, but ultimately the co-ordinates should take you right to the hidden tupperware. If you want any further assistance, I’m happy to help.

  7. I came looking for a picture of a bandstand, and found a very Interesting read. I’m going to have to give geocaching a try. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Hi Richard, we’ve been caching since 2002. There are a couple of small but important points that have prevented you finding this cache. First, your concept of what a cache is was set by a really great cache hidden in a nice bit of wilderness in a solid, lunchbox-sized container. Many caches are either larger, smaller or differently shaped. They vary in size and shape from nanos (eg amyl-nitrate containers) to shipping containers. The one you were seeking was small, not lunchbox sized. Some are very cleverly hidden in plain view, so they can be inside a pinecone or a fake rock. Many use magnets to attach them to unexpected spots. Many of the micros are either magnetic key holders or old film containers. Cache containers also all need to be sturdy and weatherproof and to take the rough handling excited geocachers may dish out. .One finder described this one as being in a plastic bag taped over with duct tape that was then hidden inside a drainpipe. I’m guessing that you were looking for something the shape of a lunchbox hidden under a bush, so did not think to check inside the drainpipe. And I say “was” because it was not very sturdy and did not last long. It was last seen in March 2011, and permanently archive when it was only two years old, so is no longer there to find. There is now a new micro cache in the park at slightly different coordinates. Check it out.

    • Thanks Jessica. I have now managed to find one geocache in Sydney (a very small one, as you say), but that Bradman one in Petersham PArk has so far eluded me. I’ll try again – the quest is the adventure and getting there is half the fun!

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