Geocaching is treasure hunting for the modern age and, for Neil Torrens, a past time that borders on an obsession
How did geocaching begin?
Twelve years ago the US government changed who could access their satellites for GPS. The next day someone hid a tub in the woods and put the coordinates online. A few days later someone went out and found it, and geocaching was born. There are now over two million active geocaches and five million geocachers worldwide.
What made you start geocaching?
I had never heard of it until I downloaded the app for my phone. I tried it for the first time at the Electric Brae and spent half an hour wandering hopelessly amongst the sand dunes. I was about to give up when I looked under a pile of stones: treasure. There was no looking back.
Where has geocaching taken you?
It has taken me to places I would never have visited otherwise. For example, there were caves I never knew existed only five miles from my house. When my girlfriend and I went to New Zealand we didn’t follow a guidebook, we just followed geocaches. Some are placed off the beaten track: I found one under a waterfall with baby seals and my 200th cache was the cave from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, near Perth – in two feet of snow.
What’s the best thing about geocaching?
Nothing quite beats the buzz of finding a cache, especially one that’s been well hidden. Many contain small items that you can exchange with your own. They also contain logbooks written by other geocachers, and I like reading them. I also like receiving emails from geocachers who have discovered my caches – I’ve placed
about forty – if they really like it they can reward you with a ‘favourite’ point.
How do you go about listing your own cache?
There are a number of geocaching websites. To list a cache you have to provide the coordinates, a hint, a cache description, some information about the area where it’s placed. You then rate the cache according to difficulty (from one if it’s easy to fi nd, up to five if it’s well hidden) and terrain (from one if it’s wheelchair accessible up to five if, say, you have to swim across to an island).
What was your most satisfying cache?
My thousandth cache was pretty special: it was on 12/12/12 at the Prime meridian. But finding a moving cache was also very satisfying; they are very rare – there are only 20 worldwide. We found it in Dunoon; it had been there for six months over the winter. You could write a book about that cache. It ended up with Wendy Morrell, who carried the Olympic flame. It’s been up Mount Fuji, on a nuclear submarine – it’s been all around the world.
What’s your best geocaching experience?
I organised a geocaching flashmob in Glasgow, which was pretty cool. I controlled a smiley face made up of a hundred people under a CCTV camera. I also managed to get three moving caches to be at the same place at the same time. Working with the RSPB was also a lot of fun. They asked me to hide a few easy caches at one of their events near my house in Beith and give a quick demonstration – I enjoy converting people to geocaching.
- This feature was originally published in 2013.