A short while back, the muggle-missus came home from work announcing she was off to New Zealand for a work conference…. and so of course, I managed to have myself packed as carry-on luggage so I could have my own wee Auckland adventure. While Jen had to work, and would see little other than the inside of her conference room, I had plans to see the sights and delights of the city, using the geo-gods as my guidebook.
I was kind of excited – for the first time in just under 3 years of caching I had a chance to get my first international souvenir, and I just had to get one find for that, so I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the build up looking at caches. Although having said that, I was planning to get more than 1 – I was looking forward to seeing the differences NZ caches offered too, but I didn’t bother to pick out any targets or map any routes to take. I did look at a few of the CBD puzzles though, trying my hand at a few… A couple I asked dad to print off so I could do some sleuthing on the plane, and before I knew it my brains-trust had given me several other resolved coordinates for puzzles all over town. Kind thanks sir, I said, happily plugging in the numbers so that these became more ‘traditional’ targets on the map for me. And so it was, that we left the girls with Opa-Shrek to play baby-sitter for the week, and headed across the ditch.
Oh, and before you get too stuck into my tales, fair warning – we’re talking 4 days and 50-odd finds, so go get your cuppa now…
Day 1: Tuesday 27th September, 2016
Caches Found: 2
As it happened, Jen and I ended up on separate flights to Auckland, with mine getting in about half an hour before hers, so after I had cleared customs I figured I had time to go for a walk and fetch the nearby cache/TB hotel – I had, after all, gone especially to my own TB hotel and signed out any of the travellers there awaiting for a trip to NZ, so a bit of a swapsie sounded good to me.
I headed out of the airport and across the carpark, and as I was about a 3rd of the way to the cache I encounted what I hadn’t planned on – Auckland weather – all of a sudden the heavens opened and dumped a buckload of rain all over me – and so wet and bothered I quickly retreated to the confines of the airport… this cache can wait, I thought, and instead got a coffee and waited for Jen. It was still raining when she cleared customs, so I didn’t end up getting that cache, as we caught the Skybus straight from the airport from the City (I did entertain the possibility I might grab it on the way out, but that didn’t happen either – we caught the bus back in, and I couldn’t be bothered with the walk for it…and you’ll see why!). By the time we arrived, the rain had stopped and skies were clear, just as quick as it stopped…our first taste of Auckland weather indeed – by the end of the following day I had decided it was worse than Melbourne for having 4 seasons in one day!
Auckland Geocaching Lesson 1: At the very least, a spray jacket is a necessary item in the geo-kit.
Anyway, after settling into the hotel, we headed off for a walk and explore together for the evening. We found ourselves at the Marina, so I guided my way to the traditional cache marked on my map, hoping this would be a good place to start my international finds…. and so Coast to Coast was. Being one to check clues out as part of my reading of the cache page, I knew I was looking for somewhere metallic at waist height, but wasn’t really sure whether I was looking for an eclipse tin or what – I even commented to Jen, do Kiwi’s have Eclipse Mints? But then I saw an ’01’ on the garden surround (the bit of the clue that didnt make immediate sense and I at first thought was some oddity of NZ caching) – and with metallic central hole surrounding the tree, I knew where the cache was – so pretty much ignoring the muggle sitting right there, I jumped up and sat on the edge of the planter box, reached in and grabbed the cache – ah…they still have film cannisters in New Zealand 😉
We then wandered down along the finger wharf’s, and thanks to dad’s handy work, I was equipped with the resolved coordinates for Harbour Exposure, so when we reached the end of the wharf, while enjoying our first NZ sunset over Auckland Harbour, I sat myself down next to where the cache was hiding and slid out the systema (they are a kiwi invention after all – credit where credit is due hey?) from its spot – Opening it up, the log book flew out, and while I grabbed it, Jen laughed at me reminding me I had already lost one cache log in the water at Canberra and did I really want to do the same in Auckland?! Luckily I kept it all together, and not knowing if I would find much other than micros in the city, I took the opportunity to add one of the TBs I had with me while I had a cache that would fit them.
We wandered around a bit more that evening, but I knew I still had a couple of days to kill caching, so I didn’t worry about finding any others, although I did take note that the nearest to our hotel was a micro at the nearby church – and while Jen was fetching dinner later that evening she past by, putting her hand on the cache… Those that follow along will know that Jen is a mud-blood missus, who is happy to come along on any outings but won’t look for the tupperware at the end point – but being a good wife, she knew I wanted this one, so took a photo of its placement, to make things easier for me in the morning.
Day 2: Wednesday 28th September 2016
Caches found: 11
Having had a bit of a look at the lay of the land the evening before, I had a little bit of a plan of action to start my first full day in Auckland… so when I was ready to go, the first thing I did was borrow a bike from the hotel (luckily for me, the hotel we had chosen had free 24hr bike hire available), and headed around the corner to where there was a bike path alongside the road, inaccessible to pedestrians – and my first target, Pinky went the wrong way – the only way to get it, by bike. And at the time, while I didn’t realise it, the hint was to become my next NZ-geocache learning…. the COs here like to give very specific hints…. and when I say specific hints, quite often, specific instruction! This made for quite easy finds at times, ones that, in Aus, would probably take a lot longer and a lot more stealth, but I guess that was kind of the COs point – giving more specific instruction and limiting suspicious movement at the cache probably increases the longevity of said caches…. but who knows? All I know was that it meant that in a lot of cases, including this one, I barely had to stop before the cache was in hand. The biggest problem with this one being how to act casually in the middle of a bike path while I signed, sealed and delivered.
Auckland Geocaching Lesson 2: Check the hint beforehand – it is often specific instructions to find/access the cache.
From there I continued on with the bike, pausing by a traditional that I spent about 2.5 seconds looking for before I decided I didn’t like the slippery surface above the motorway I needed to be searching. I also stopped briefly by a multi cache, but quickly realised it was taking me a direction I wasn’t necessarily planning on heading, so I continued merrily on my way, headed for a couple of caches in Victoria Park – but I was stopped in my tracks by a whole lot of construction, and a massive detour, one that took me just about back where I’d started, and so I decided it was time to leave the bike behind and head off on foot. Besides the fact that I had just had a small taste of the mountainous hills of Auckland, it was actually quite tricky navigating to caches while biking around a foreign city.
So leaving the bike back at the hotel and heading off on foot, I first stopped by that church micro – using Jen’s photo as a guide, Send me an Angel was another quick find – and where I learnt that Kiwi’s do indeed have Eclipse tins…not quite the same shape as ours, but certainly the same cache as one has come to know – a rusted off lid, and a shoved in/torn up log in the magnetised tin – but a cache is a cache, and a find is a find, so I’ll take what I can get.
The main cache I was keen to target first up was a multi called Fun with GPS – Reference Only – the cache page and few logs I’d read the night before had intrigued me, and I gathered this was a “library” cache, so I was keen to find it. Making my way down town to the library, I made short work of finding the information at WP1 – stuck to the back of an electrical box was quite a common hiding place for me, but it would seem from the logs has stumped more than one – Then came the fun part. I headed into the Library, and upstairs to Level 1 as instructed. I knew I was looking for the reference book “Fun with GPS”, but had NO IDEA where to start….I wandered around, found a catalogue computer, but couldn’t get it to work, wandered around some more and found a section where I figured the GPS books would be, and found the book title “GPS for Dummies”, but it seemed to be void of any further clues or logbook so I continued wandering and scratching my head. Asking a Librarian for help didn’t yield anything as he guided me back to the GPS for Dummies book, but eventually I found a section that was called “Reference Only” – and seeming to match my clue that it was all in the name, I spent a while here studying all the titles on the shelves hoping to find what I was looking for. Eventually I gave up and found another librarian – and I asked her directly if she knew about the Geocache book. And she did – it was out the back, and so off she went and fetched it, telling me it should be sitting on the shelf in the reference section but had been removed for some reason she didn’t know why. But she happily handed it to me, and told me to leave it on the shelf when I was done, and so I did. And I awarded the cache a favourite for my efforts and the fun.
From there I wound my way around the CBD area, aiming for the next nearest dot on my map – of course, my hopeless navigation skills occassionally had me thinking I was going to one cache, but finding myself headed in the completely wrong direction, but thankfully the satellites were able to keep track of my whereabouts and I just picked out the next dot on the map in the direction I was heading instead. One of the beauties of urban caching – there tends to be a cache no matter which direction you head. And found myself collecting a series of fun caches, called the AFWT series – the first I found was actually a non find, because it was a bison at the base of a long PVC pipe… and one required a magnetic extendable tool in order to retrieve the cache. Of course, the required tool of the trade was not packed in my geo-bag, so I was out of luck on that one. But then I came across several more, ones which were fun and challengeing but I was more equipped for.
Each cache in the series was a fairly easy to find and in-plain-sight PVD tube attached to a power pole or the like. But each required a different retrieval method…. one had a series of holes down the side, and I needed to use the inside of my pen and a small twig I picked up to work the cache container up and out of the PVC pipe, one step at a time- this one took ages to retrieve, and the whole time there was a muggle tradie standing in the same laneway having a smoke. I knew he was watching on curiously but he didnt say a thing, so… the next cache in the series I found had a nail and small cutting on the bottom end of the PVC pipe …. when I pushed down on the nail, I could feel it was attached to a spring inside the pipe – and so like a game of pinball I spent a good 20min crouching beside a power pole in a busy street as streams of muggles walked past the entire time, but not a single one concerned about what I may or may not have been doing.
Auckland Geocaching Lesson 3: Have a well-equipped TOTT-kit
Wandering a bit further I was headed to an appropriately named cache called Hide and…. – but it wasn’t until I reached the strange piece of street art that I realised the sculpture was in fact called “Seek”. The sculpture itself was a weird creature and being metallic I groaned, immeadiately assuming I was going to be looking for a nano hidden somewhere on the sculpture, but realising it was only a 1/1, I instead went straight for the nearby seat – and bingo! What do you know? An eclipse tin, found. And good thing too, because it had started raining so I made a quick retreat across the road to the ‘Countdown’ store (It was Woolworths. Plain and Simple. I don’t know why Kiwi’s call it Countdown – Woolworth’s logo and Woolworth’s printed on their home brand products. It was Woolworths, not Countdown).
Once the rain had stopped (by the time I’d bought a few things and exited the shop, it was like it had never rained to begin with) I headed off once more, finding a few more in the AFWT series…. which seemed to be sucking up my favourite points quite rapidly (not that it matters because I have quite a stockpile anyway!) – thanks to the specific nature of the description and clue, they were all quite straitforward finds… Blowing into a water hose behind a planter box made one cache fly up and into the air; and another that was well hidden in the fork of a tree right outside a university building and muggle central. All of these caches had me smiling, but one in particular took my fancy a little more than others, mostly for a single element of the cache…
A multi cache, #8 in the series, started out on a pedestrian walkway over a busy highway. At first I began searching in the typical Aussie locations, but then I realised something was a little different here…
Auckland Geocaching Lesson 4: There are no no-jump barriers on overhead walkways here – you can still touch the road signs attached to the bridge – and that’s a great place to tuck away a cache!
Finding a set of instructions there, it provided all the coordinates for WP2, WP3 and the final – but made note that it would be useless heading straight to the final… so off I went and found WP2, a clever attachment to the existing water pipe at the back of a garden bed, unscrewing the cap uncovered a key… heading the few meters to WP3, I was at first a little stumped as to where I would find a lock on the sandstone fence in front of me – but then my stumped-ness turned to complete and utter surprise to find a deadlock attached, and attached well, though I cant imagine with what adhesive, to one of the sandstone pillars. I turned the key in the lock, confused as to what it would open – but ended up with a big smile on my face as I realised what was going on – as the deadbolts went down, 3 numbers appeared on the bolts. Ahh. Taking note of the 3 numbers, I set WP3 and 2 back straight and headed onto the final point, not too much farther away – and there I found a letterbox sticking out of the foliage bearing a NO JUNK MAIL sign (my clue). Sure enough, the letterbox was shut tight with a 3-digit combination padlock. Plugging in the numbers, I finally had access to the cache. And being a decent size, and seemingly quite safe from muggle activity, I figured this would be a good spot to drop off one of the travelers.
I met up with Jen again after that, and we spent a few hours relaxing together, but when she headed off for her evening conference event, I figured I would head off on another cache tour. This time, I opted for the opposite direction to where I had headed earlier, and found myself in the ‘Wynyard Quarter’, what seemed to be the old working end of the harbour, with disused silos and things about.
The first cache I picked out took me to a small playground, where I found a Maramataka (a Maori Lunar Calendar) surrounding the play-tank…. This was actually quite cool and for quite a while I forgot all about the cache as I enjoyed learning about the Calendar and then checking out all the details… For the cache I needed to tally several words, out of the sentences printed around the calendar as a guide for each lunar cycle…
Having seen that several people in the logs had struggled to come up with the correct numbers, and not a soul about at this time in the evening, I took my time and rounded the lunar calendar twice just to be sure. Then armed with the coords, and another very specific “hint”, I headed over the short distance to GZ – and there I found the small systema container in the 3rd corner I checked.
After I’d had my fill at that cache site, I headed on over to the big disused silos, or Farming Tanks, as it were… I was headed for another quick and simple traditional I thought, but as I approached GZ I slowed down, dissappointed to find a gang of youths just ‘hanging’ – but as I got closer to the mark, I was pleasantly surprised to find the CO had ensured the placement was out of their prying eyes, with a big cement wall hiding my activity from theirs. And bonus, this cache brought me to the site of Auckland’s Love-Locks…. you know, those places where couples leave a padlock to commemorate their visit, and the area eventually starts to fill with locks and locks and locks. I find them fascinating, so was pleased to be brought here.
As I wandered along the harbourside around the Viaduct Harbour, back towards the CBD, I tried for another couple of caches – both field puzzles, but it would seem my luck had run out, or the caching gods had gone and left the building. The first was a familiar cache type for me, although I did enjoy the method used to get to the final point… had I been able to finish it, I probably would have given it a favourite… The cache had me collecting numbers from a marked shipping container, which led me to a nearby light pole, and provided the combination for the lock attaching an empty water bottle to it.
With that water bottle, I was able to use a nearby water fountain to fill it, and then yet more numbers from the shipping container had me headed to the final GZ, a short walk away. But as I approached GZ I also approached a big fat security fence. GZ was in the process of being locked up for the weekend – a boat show was in town, and the big burley security guards denied me access to the cache.
Then when I reached Queens Wharf I figured I’d give that field puzzle a go – and quickly located the random wheelchair sign on a random pole. Instructions on its back told me at the base of that pole I would find a tool and a container holding the information to get to WP2. I found both – but the container supposedly holding the information was empty.
Dissapointed, I sent the CO a quick message explaining I had been stopped in my tracks, wondering if they could fix it and/or give me that bit of info before Friday – and as it turned out, they got back to me on Saturday, with a note saying I must not have found both objects, which I had, but not that it mattered now. And with that, I called it quits for the day and headed on back to the hotel.
Day 3: Thursday 29th September 2016
Caches Found: 26
My loose plans for this day was to head towards the Auckland Domain, and then head over to Parnell (pronounced Far-nell), where I was led to believe had a little more ‘villiagey’ feel to it than the CBD offered. And they were kind of right – as I explored I likened the area to something along the lines of Waverley – not quite inner city, but still ‘hip’ in some way shape or form.
First off though I had to make my way downtown towards the Domain – this passed me by the same sort of area I had skirted the day before, and through other parts of the Uni…. so first off came another of the AFWT series, Emily’s Place – where I quickly found the cache inside the cap of the barrier surrounding the electricity box… a typical find here in Aus, but based on the logs, perhaps not so typical elsewhere in the world.
Moving on from that, I cut across Auckland Uni – City Campus, so made short work of the cache hidden among the bushes in a garden bed, and collected a quick and simple under the seat eclipse tin near the Uni’s Marae (the Maori meeting grounds and focal point for each Maori community) – no need to Send in the hounds for this find.
Finally I made it to the edge of the domain, and found myself with a geology lesson to be had – afterall, a trip to New Zealand surely wouldnt be complete without at least 1 earthcache find. And 4 more Silverdale Boulders was the one for me. Even though I wasnt equipped with a tape measure or similar device as seemed to be required to get somewhat accurate answers for the questions on this one, I figured a good guesstimate would suffice. So I noted down my best guess on the boulder sizes, and used my geological learnings to describe the rock I was seeing (coz I’m familiar with terms like Feldspar now).
Finding myself at the start of the Coast to Coast Walk, collecting the container in the bushes here was a no-brainer as I headed my way up the hill (volcano) into the depths of the Domain…My next find was the The Geo-Quiz… dad did the quiz and I made the quick find. I did have a chuckle at this one though – several of the logs had commented on the “cool” and “unique” camo on this one… but it was just bark and leaves glued to a systema… nothing that uncommon here! I picked this decent sized puzzle cache as the secure place to leave another TB that had crossed the ditch with me, and then headed on my way further along the path.
As I reached the top of the hill, I paused by another quick find, one of a Solar System series – I couldn’t understand much of the cache description and made head nor tail of what the hell the CO was going on about, but following the dot on my map found me the cache – I would have liked to find the final in this series, being located not far from the motel, near to Auckland’s Sky Tower, but with this series being spread near and far across the city, there was next to no chance of me finding them all, so I didnt even bother making note of the clue for the final.
I reached the top of the hill (volcano) where the War Memorial sat, and wandered around for a little while taking in the outdoor offerings… and while I did that I noted that around the outer walls of the building were the battles that were listed on the Puzzle here – but I could not for the life of me figure out how to get numbers from them, so I decided to pass it on by and continue on my way – the same goes for the couple of multi caches at the head of the domain – they seemingly started out here, but finished some distance away, and frankly, based on the volcanic climbs the description talked about, I simply couldn’t be bothered finding out.
Heading out of the domain on the opposite (Parnell) side, I picked up a quick traditional cache, and then walked on to the main road and what appeared to be the shopping district. Heading for a cache called Getting Stealthy of Broadway I chuckled to myself at the pains the CO had gone to in order to stop this one being muggled, and give the punters half a chance. Again, armed with a super specific
“hint” instruction, I knew what was required…. and a little bemused at the need for stealth and over concern about muggle activity – much the same here in Aus, if not more so in Auckland… some geocachers just dont like muggles I guess, but I usually couldnt give a rats arse about them, so reaching the post boxes, I simply crouched down, ignoring the passer bys and the folk waiting at the nearby busstop, and felt around the base of the letterboxes until my hand landed on the nano cache. Simple. No one cares…they just think ” weird people in the neighbourhood”, and move on their merry way. And lets face it, geocachers are weird.
Auckland Geocaching Lesson 5: Where Sydney CO’s tend to inflate the difficulty rating for increased muggle activity, Kiwi CO’s tell you outright where to find the cache, and are very clear on the need for stealth.
From there I meandered my way ‘downhill’ back towards the harbour foreshore. As I said, Parnell had a more ‘traditional’ feel to it, but upmarket at the same time… Likening it the Sydney suburbs, I figure this is the more ‘expensive’ or affluent inner suburb. I was enjoying my walk, but by this stage I had walked more than 10k’s and was feeling it. Big time. For those that follow along, you’ll have probably already guessed, but I was not equipped with the proper footwear for Auckland caching.
Auckland Geocaching Lesson 6: Auckland is made up of Volcanos. Volcanos equals hills. One needs good walking shoes.
Nevertheless, I continued hobbling along on my way, with blisters rubbing on my toes, and the muscles in my legs and feet beginning to ache. As I wandered I detoured off the main road from time to time to grab a cache or 3, passing by a few others that just seemed like too much like hard work to complete the field puzzle required. As it turns out, finding a cache when you Catch The Bus in Parnell, is much the same as finding a cache while waiting for a bus in Sydney… my hands were on that cache in moments, despite several logs predicting a longer search.
I passed by a section of the suburb that was called “Parnell Village”, and was a few boutique shops, designed to have that village-oldy world kinda feel…. not much to the place, as nice as it was, and I couldn’t for the life of me find the cache there, despite the specific clue instructions….. but next along came quite a Random Cache. The theme fit my Auckland Adventure perfectly – random cache finding was what I was here for, so it stood to reason that I find the cache of the same name. Not that I could understand for the life of me what the puzzle was all about – it seemed to me that I could just find any old cache in Auckland and that could be claimed as my ‘random cache’, but that just didn’t seem quite right…. Luckily for me dad’s puzzle solving prowess gave me a set of coordinates in Parnell, so I wound my way around the block until I located the access point into the small green space reserve area squeezed in behind residential housing…. and once at GZ there I found my random tupperware, which surprised me, despite having had these resolved coordinates, because I still didn’t quite believe that there actually was a Random Cache.
By this stage my feet were killing me, so when I made it back to the footpath I ditched my shoes and continued on my way barefoot, just like Jeff. Heading downhill I reached the Shipping end of the harbour – as I rounded my way around the footpath the foreshore I picked up 2 quick traditionals, both with the now familiar specific ‘hint’ getting me the cache in hand in record time.
Once at the foreshore I was treated with a Walk on Water out to the end of a small breakwall, where I had the pleasure of watching a Helicopter taking off right in front of me while I fished the cache out from its deep hidey hole within the rocks….
Back to the start of the breakwall, and rounding the heli-pad, I then followed Fergie’s Walk, which was a surprisingly placed walkway that was squeezed in along the fenceline of the shiping area and the waters’ edge. The cache description for this one told me clearly “you are looking for a berrocca container”, and so as I approached GZ I scanned the area for places for a berrocca tube to hide. With the further tip from the CO to ensure correct replacement to avoid it being blown away in the storms, one assumed the cache would be on the rock side, rather than on the fenceline, where there was a more obvious hiding place on an information sign – but taking a closer look at the rocks suggested it would be stupid place to hide the cache, and the geo-senses told me to check the info sign anyway – and of course, my hand was quickly on the cache – but it was a bison tube, not a berrocca container. And being attached in the manner it was would make it nigh on impossible for a storm to blow it loose. How confusing. But a find is a find, and I liked where it brought me, so I took it.
Auckland Geocaching Lesson 7: Don’t always trust the specific nature of the description and clues. Geo-senses still work in New Zealand.
I figured it was time to head back towards the CBD and the hotel for a while, especially given how my legs were feeling it, and so I headed back the way I came over to the foreshore, and then skirted the side of the Domain back towards the city – and luckily for me the caching tour-guides showed me a short cut along the way…. I just needed to Watch My Head – the cache was a quick find at the base of a big old tree that a set of neighbourhood stairs led up and around – but the beauty of this cache place was that the big old tree had a big old branch that had grown out and over the staircase – the branch was at head height, and so there were about 3 signs on the way towards it telling me to watch my head, and then the branch itself was wrapped in yellow and black hazard tape. I was quite taken with the efforts to avoid someone hitting their head, especially given how big and obvious the branch was anyway!
Next stop was a carpark, In Clear View of nothing really – I had expected some kind of view, but any view was obstructed by buikdings, so I wasnt really sure why the cache-guide had brought me here – but of course, the guidebook told me. Apparently there was a satellite dish here. Now there is a carpark. So there you go. A short distance from there and I was passing by The Cheese Grater – a building with a metal grate on its side (for air flow or something)… and another common place for eclipse tins to hide in Aus, so I stuck my hand in the standard place, and low and behold – I pulled out a magnetised eclipse tin. Surprise!
With that I headed on back through the CBD hunting for food rather than caches, and ended back up at the hotel – exactly 15klms walked. No wonder my feet were killing me. I spent an hour or two resting up in the hotel room, but when it was time for Jen to head off for her conference dinner, I decided to head off for another walk myself – although I did don Jen’s more comfortable shoes for it.
There was a puzzle cache fairly close to the hotel that I had done some ground work on before leaving – with the numbers coming from the size of a particular sculpture at a motorway junction, I was able to google the information required… but then the numbers needed to be used as an offset or something or other which I didn’t quite get – but engaging the brainstrust gave me a set of plausible coordinates, without the need to have to project anything from GZ, so I headed there, hoping that the coords were roughly correct. From the logs I could tell that there was a trick to accessing the area, which matched the spot I had on the satellite map I was aiming for, so rather than go the Wrong Way, I headed “down and around” as others before me had said, and found myself in the vicinity of GZ. I headed to the mark I had, but quickly dismissed it as a place to hide a decent sized container, so I turned my attention to the logs for clues. Thankfully I noted in one of the log photos a particular part of the environment that matched where I was – so I followed the fence line along, and as I reached a gazebo area, I quickly spotted a lunchbox tucked up between the rafters and the bushes. Bingo! For the efforts I dropped off my final traveller here to await his next journey… one of the racing duck TBs whose mission was completed on International Geocaching Day, and so was now free to explore somewhere else for a while. From where I was there was a gate that would take me directly back to the main road, and although I knew from the logs that it was locked when one tried to access it from the outside, I decided to try my luck with it, and was pleasantly surprised to find it opened without issue and let me out.
Having a look at my map, I could see a few caches that would take me in a bit of a loop down past the Viaduct Harbour that I had explored the night before, and onto WestHaven, where the Harbour Bridge sat, then back up to the city the ‘long way’ via Ponsonby. So off I headed – first stop at the edge of Victoria Park, where after a bit of a search I found Where theres a Will theres a
way Wheel or Two – a cleverly hidden pill bottle in a wagon-type sculpture thingamy. Then onto the footbridge over the motorway to the waterside at WestHaven, collecting a quick eclipse tin On the Ladder as I went. This end of the harbour was the Sailboat end – and finally gave me the answer to my question about why Auckland was known as the ‘City of Sails’.
I wandered along the boardwalk that headed across the foreshore here, and was a little disappointed I couldn’t collect the couple of caches along the way (they were underneath the boardwalk and it was not low tide, nor did I have a kayak so I had little ability to find them), but it was made up for by the “prettiness” of this end of town – and because I’d taken it as an evening cache walk, I’d timed the walk west perfectly to view the sunset so I was actually pretty stoked with myself. As I reached the path that would take me back up and over the motorway again, I paused briefly to poke around in a small bushy area where I found a rock wall hiding the Sail City cache deep in its depths.
As the sun was in its final setting moments I rounded the edge of Point Erin taking photos, before winding my way up the pathways to the Point Erin Pool – empty at this time of year, but looks like a fun and popular place for the locals in Summer. Anyway, the cache here was in a tree – and once I found the right tree with a hole in its truck in just the right place, I had the smiley here. And luckily for me, this little parkland also happened to be the final resting place for another puzzle dad had solved for me – Auckland was another cache in a tree hole, which again the find was only slowed down by half a dozen or so trees to check.
As it started getting dark I started walking back uphill towards Ponsonby….. did I mention Auckland is a bloody hilly city? – but for some reason or another I couldnt get any caches to come up on my map, and my app wouldn’t for the life of it connect to the GPS gods, and so I was limited to finding just the one cache I could remember the exact location from when I was looking before – the Historic Fire Station. With no one around at this time of the evening I didnt have to worry too much about anyone worrying what I might be doing, so I spent a good 5-10 minutes poking around a myriad of hiding places before I landed on the hole that contained the container.
Last but not least, as I headed back into the CBD my phone suddenly sprang to life (Murphy’s Law), and so I was able to make one final find for the evening before reaching the hotel. Back at Victoria Park, although on the opposite side to where I had started sat the solved marker for JB Phone Home, another of dad’s handiwork. And as I approached the phonebox on the roadside I spotted a little nano container resting beside it. Assuming it had been knocked out of place from the underside of the phone surround, I placed it back there once I had added my name to the log, and made a note on in my log for the CO or previous local finder to check it out.
And so ended my epic caching day exploring Auckland – back at the hotel I calculated that I had walked just over 25klms that day. And my feet and calves knew it too. While I think 26 is a pretty impressive find count for my efforts, I did have several DNFs or caches I passed by along the way simply through lack of preparation… just goes to show the difference between caching on the fly, and caching with a plan…. And I quite enjoy caching on the fly.
Day 4: Friday 30th September 2016
Caches Found: 12 (+1)
My final day in Auckland. I had been told that the ferry ride over the harbour to Devonport was well worth the trip to see a more seaside village part of the city, and checking out the cacheing guidebook I could see there were plenty enough caches to keep me busy, and after reading a few of the descriptions it seemed I was planning to walk up a couple more volcanoes…. So leaving Jen at her conference centre, I continued onto the harbour once more, and found the right pier to catch the ferry, and worked out how to buy a ticket, and soon after was on my way across the harbour. The ferry took about 15min, and was as enjoyable as any of the ferry rides one can take from Circular Quay in Sydney, although while the view was nice and different, I’m really not sure it matches up any…. but then I probably carry a bit of bias.
Anyway, the ferry ride gave me a good opportunity to plan a bit of route out, which started at the Wharf as soon as the ferry (and my companion travellers) had headed off – At first I wasnt sure what I was looking for on Devo’s Wharf, and typical, the clue here was a little less specific than those on the CBD side – but eventually I spied a sign that matched it cryptically and working my way along the edge of the wharf with my fingers, I thankfully touched the container. Moving off the pier, I headed to the small park across the road. Stopping at a small monumental plaque I pulled up the instructions for the multi What on Earth Happened Here? – and scratched my head for a moment or two. I needed the first number and last number in the date, but this plaque had 3 dates…. hmmm…. But then I spied a smaller plaque on the ground nearby – one similar to another I had found randomly the day before and had a good chuckle at…. “On this day in 1882 Nothing Happened”. And with that I quickly had the numbers that led me to a nearby tree, and the specific clue led me the rest of the way.
Auckland Geocaching Lesson 8: Kiwi’s apparently like to commemorate nothing
I walked across to the opposite corner of the park next, and admired the giant Fig tree that had grown massive air roots. It was impressive to say the least, and of course, there was a cache there to highlight it for the tourists… and after a bit of a poke and search I landed upon the cache tucked in tight to one of the roots. From there I had plans to head up Mt Victoria, but noticed a traditional up one of the side streets with a heap of favourite points – so I had to go check it out myself. As I walked towards the Spewing Fish fountain, I read the clue… and got a bit annoyed at first – “the cache was close to here in 1998” – and I thought, well how the bloody hell does that help a non local or anyone who started caching after 1998 for that matter…. and then the penny dropped. There was no caching in 1998…. and then I read the plaque at the fish fountain, and it said something about the rock being brought to the location in 1998. Ah… all makes sense now! I rounded the plaque/rock and sure enough there was a fairly large hole in the back. I reached in and out came the decent sized cache. I see why the favourites. A simply executed yet well concealed cache, and a clever clue to boot.
I then hoofed it uphill to the top of Mt Victoria. A volcano and a bloody steep hill. Steeper than you realise till you’re walking up it barefoot (yes, I’d ditched my innappropriate shoes again – the blisters on my feet created the day before were making it super difficult for me to walk with shoes on for any length of time!). Once I reached the pinnacle I spent a little while enjoying the view, checking out the old barrier gun, and wondering where Mario was hiding when I found a bunch of mushroom scultptures right across one of the grassy areas up there…. and then when I had had my fill, I got down to business.
Here’s a Mountain, Now with a View told me to line myself up with a chain, and so spying a chain fence I lined myself up and started to search, but then I looked at my phone and realised I was actually still some ways from GZ, which was a short way back down the mountain – so I lined myself up with the same but different chain fence and sure enough found the container sitting under the tree there.
Continuing on back down Mt Victoria, I traversed town to get to the base of North Head. Apparently the lower area between the 2 hills is also an old volcano, just this one had been flattened out to make way for the township… so technically I had then walked ‘up’ (or across in the case of the middle one) 2 volcanos in an hour and was about to head up the 3rd. Seems so odd for an Aussie like me to be talking about climbing volcanos but thats what they were!
Anyway, I picked up a quick cache as I crossed over the towns sports field and hoofed it uphill – this one was an even sharper asscent than the previous. Making it to the top of this hill had a little more to offer – North head was an old military base used to protect the harbour, and was open to the public to explore the undergound passages that lead from the buildings to the barrier guns and vantage points across the hill. And being the head, had an Awesome coastal view, well worth the climb to the top just for it – and I was even more pleased when I got a clear view of Rangatoto island (another volcano, a pretty major landmark, and from what I understands holds special meaning in local Maori culture – but simply spectacular viewing). Once again when I had had my fill of the view and tourist offerings I turned my attention to the caches – there were several multis up on this hill, but whether it was the lack of caffine in my body at this stage, the altitude, or simpleness, I couldn’t make head nor tail of the instructions given, so I settled for the traditional in the series Game of Soldiers.
By the time I reached the bottom of the hill again I came to the realisation that I was simply exhausted, so I decided it was time for me to head back to the city and find Jen. But of course, the path that followed the watersedge back to the pier held a multi and 4 traditionals, so as I passed by each of those spots I paused and took my time in finding them. Mostly stock standard hides using trees or magnetic signage for the hide, but one was another cool ‘gadget’ cache, just to remind me that Auckland likes the fun ones….Devonport’s Pipe Dream was, you guessed it, PVC piping, sitting in plain sight of all the muggle passer-bys – the tricky bit was the fiddling involved before I worked out that shifting a bit at one end allowed full access to the other end….that took a little while, but I got there. And another of Aucklands’ clever caches took another of my favourite points.
Finally reaching the wharf again, I found myself a much deserved coffee and sat and waited for the next ferry. And that was that for my Auckland caches. As I said earlier, I still had plans to grab that travel bug hotel on my way back out to the airport, but as it turns out by the time we were on the bus to the airport I simply could not be bothered. I was tired. Exhausted in fact. And ready to go home.
And home I went. 3 hrs or so later Jen and I were greeted at the airport by our smiling girls and Opa-Shrek, who chaffured us home – and along the way I heard all about this “awesome cache” they had found in my absence … a new cache on the coast, The Basin Bison – So because “Team mumma-kel” had found it my behalf, and because I wanted a find on this side of the ditch on the same day as a find on the other side of the ditch (2 countries in one day is a little harder for us Aussies, as compared to Europe) I claimed this one as my final find for the day. And because the kids raved about it, and it was a “clever cache”, able to be likened to those that had “stolen” my favourite points in Auckland, I gave this one a favourite point too.
Well, that wraps up my Auckland Adventure. For my efforts I received a shiney new sovenier badge for New Zealand and my first International find. I also scored a new “furthest find from home” and “most eastern find”, with the Game of Soldiers find (of course, the first cache I found achieved this, it just shifted to North Head by the time I left). And added to that my “maximum distance travelled between caches in a day” stat has now increased to 2161km, and by the end of the trip 50 New Zealand finds, plus one, bringing my total finds to 1331.
~~ Stay Tuned – Earthcache Day has been and gone, and I didn’t let that pass me by ~~