I am a proud

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Del Agua Volcano cache hunt, near Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala captivates me. It is the Christmas season and the place is decked out with decorations, Mayan souvenir stands and loaded with tourist from around the world. I quickly learned to distinguish between the exploding bomb sounds that were fireworks and the sounds of El Fuego volcano exploding. El Fuego is a good distance from the city so one is safe but there is a constant and distant exploding sound every ten minutes or so. Let’s pick up with the story of cache #2. I left off with Oficial Francisco Castillo transporting me from the Earth Lodge cache DNF over to the second cache. We were going after Agua Box (GC10DKC) on the top of 12,250 ft Del Agua volcano. This is a beautiful cone-shaped volcano that imposes itself on the landscape south of Antigua. The climb up to the parking area above the town of Santa Maria de Jesus was bumpy and difficult. I appreciated the kindness of Oficial Francisco in bringing me here. Hanging on the back of the motorcycle going up the hill would have been difficult. Along the way we picked up Guatemaltecos that were climbing the mountain and gave them a ride in the back of the truck. In the course of the day I observed that the Tourism Police are regarded differently from the average police force in some of Latin countries. There are great suspicions cast on the police forces of Latin America for their corruption. They typically look for the slightest thing wrong with a vehicle so that they can write a ticket and then pressure the driver into giving a bribe so that they won’t write the ticket. The National Tourism Police were regarded as community servants. I was impressed. Agents Freddy and Saul, my personal bodyguards, were there waiting for me. After a brief picture taking session with them and after posing with some Guatemaltecos who somehow thought they need a picture with the foreigner who spoke their language, we set off on the climb. The parking area is part way up the mountain. Unlike many climbs this one had very few places where you would descent before climbing again. It was basically a steady uphill climb through many, many switchbacks. It was a Saturday and many people were climbing. Later in the evening as we descended we saw a steady stream of folks climbing. Most had come from Guatemala City to climb the mountain, camp and see the special fireworks over Guatemala City. This climb was hard due to the terrain. We alternated between loose dirt and rock-strewn trails up the mountain. Even though I’ve climbed higher mountains than this I found myself tired and having to stop and rest along the way more frequently than usual. I supposed it was that I was still weak from surgery. The rule is to stop and breathe every now and then and then go on. Many young people were climbing and a number of them would speak to me in their limited English and then say “animo”, Spanish for “you can do it”. We got a late start on the climb, leaving the parking area at 12:45 p.m. We reached the crater around 5 p.m. I’m convinced that without me Freddy and Saul could have done it in much less time. They climb one of the volcanoes with tourist on the average of two or three times a month. These guys are in good shape. Both are under 30 years old. Within ¼ mile of the crater I started having cramps in my thighs. I don’t usually get these but because I was sharing my water with the Freddy and Saul I was short on liquid. That was certainly contributing to the problem. I had to stop several times and get through the cramps. I realized I wouldn’t make it to the GC, particularly as it appeared that we would be making our descent part way in the dark. I had trained both men in how to use the GPS so I sent Saul on the mission to get to the cache. The GPS was showing 520 ft to the cache but that was with an elevation of 500 ft or more. Saul took off running up the trail. Amazing! Freddy stuck with me. After the cramps passed we continued the climb and reached the crater. The crater was relatively small. This volcano is dormant. The whole crater was a bustling city of tents. There were a few foreign tourist there but I estimate that 95% of the several hundred people camping out there were Guatemaltecos. At the top of the volcano the wind was strong and the temperature was around 35 degrees F. That was a big change from 80 degrees at the parking lot. On the last part of the climb to the crater one of the many Guatemalteco climbers told us that they saw a policeman detour off the trail several switchbacks below. We figured that Saul had started tracking the needle at that point. To do this he probably was about 300 feet from the GC. Later he told us he was climbing on a steep grade in tall grass. Freddy and I started down the hill to position ourselves where we could see Saul when he came down. Freddy used his police whistle to get Saul’s attention. I’d sent Saul with the spoiler picture that showed the exact location of the cache in some very easily distinguishable rocks. He looked all over the place but found no cache. We think that this one is missing. That’s two DNFs for the day. Am I disappointed? Only a little. Again, the adage that geocaching takes you to remarkable places proves truth. Arriving at the summit of Del Agua Volcano is really what this was about. Soon Saul joined us and we continued our descent. Going down was easy until it got dark. Freddy pulled out his flashlight and we worked together to negotiate the rocks. It was slow going the last 2 hours of the descent as we had to move with care. I didn’t want to take a tumble and injury my shoulder. With the Lord’s help we made it to the parking area without any of us falling. I was amazed at the number of people climbing with flashlight. There would be 500 people on the top of the volcano by 10 p.m. On our way down we only stopped for several photo opportunities. Just before nightfall we got a view of Lake Amatitlán, just south of the capital city. As it got dark the lights of Guatemala City were beautiful. The fireworks had begun in a part of the city and they were clearly visible, as was a full moon behind them. We finally got down out of the cold and reached the parking area. With stiff legs I arranged my swag bag and hiking stick in order to ride on the back of the motorcycle with Freddy. Down the hill at a slow pace we went in the dark. At one point we actually took a tumble but everyone was fine but we had a busted siren. Sitting on the back of the motorcycle I had the pleasure of answering lots of questions about my faith in Jesus. We continued our journey down the mountain to Santa Maria de Jesus and the pavement. Part of the arrangement was that I would provide lunch to these men. Because they knew the climb would take a long time they didn’t even stop to eat so I wanted to take them to eat. They wanted to take the food back to the barracks so we pulled into a place they’d never been: McDonalds. With me balancing the takeout we sped through Antigua to the police barracks. While we were eating Oficial Francisco joined us to talk about geocaching. He insisted on taking me on a tour of the barracks. He told me all about their close relationship with the Del Camino Baptist Church in town. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that one of the Southern Baptist Churches has started a church in the police barracks, is teaching the Tourism Police to speak some English and has helped them by building much need bathrooms. We finished out the evening getting on-line in the office. Oficial Francisco is now registered on and has invited me back to hide a cache with him on Tuesday. He took me back to my lodging and a great day of geocaching, “cachevangelism”, real evangelism and social networking came to an end!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Earth Lodge cache hunt with the National Tourism Police – Antigua, Guatemala

I flew from Quito, Ecuador to Guatemala City, Guatemala on a COPA flight. This was my first trip to Guatemala and it was a pleasant surprise. I somehow thought this country would be just like Costa Rica. It is different in many ways, having its own unique landscape, Mayan and Mestizo culture and lots of pine trees. I don’t see many pine trees in Latin America so this was a nice. My taxi was waiting for me at the airport and brought me to the city of Antigua, about an hour from the capital city. He brought me straight to the home where I would be boarding. I’m staying with a widow lady and her 30-year old son. The folks I stayed with were pretty insistent that I not go alone to the two places I wanted to go to in order to find the caches. They told me that the country has a National Tourism Police that are there to protect and accompany tourism. On Saturday morning I went on a jaunt through the small city to find this special police group. After asking around I finally found them. Oficial (kind of like lieutenant) Francisco Velasquez Castillo, a gregarious, friendly man, received us without any waiting and immediately became our friend. He explained the way their service worked and I right away contracted them to accompany me. It was inexpensive. Actually the cost of taking taxis to the sites I wanted to visit would have cost about the same. Never have I had armed bodyguards when I went geocaching. There is a first time for everything I guess. Up pulled Agents Freddy and Saul, each on their own motorcycle. In no time I was on the back of one of the bikes with a loaned helmet, my swag bag and hiking stick under my arm. We took off up the hill to look for the first geocache. We were in search of Taste the Nature....!!! (GC1B1FR) above the nearby town of El Hato. These agents had never seen or hear of a GPS. I turned our trip into an educational adventure. We stopped along the road and asked some Mayan women if the road curved down the hill anywhere. It looked like the GC would require a significant descent and I thought maybe we were on the wrong road. They told us to look for the “gringos” who had a lodge further up the road to see if we could cut through their property to get down into the valley. As we followed the road it turned and did get us close to the GC. We parked the bikes beside the road and I had Saul take the GPS and lead us to the GC. We somehow missed the entrance to the lodge so we were following the needle. We came to a Mayan farmers land and ask permission to cut across. He and his family were very friendly and pointed the way. By this time the dogs were barking at the lodge below. The Earth Lodge is a small and simple affair. We met Drew and Briana and some of their customers. I told them what we were there for and they gave us permission to look for the cache. Drew said that he only knew the general location of the cache. Saul took us to the GC and we started the search. We looked everywhere but to no avail. The cache page said it would be an easy find so I’m convinced that it wasn’t there. Some of the lodgers came down and helped us look. After about 45 minutes I called the search off because we needed to move on to the next cache. By that time Freddy and Saul were into geocaching. We walked back up to the small lodge and Briana, with her “Tree hugger” t-shirt, was serving up cokes to Oficial Francisco and his machine gun toting driver. I was surprised to see them there. I had told Francisco about geocaching and he was very interested. We had talked about the potential benefit of geocaching to the tourism industry in Antigua and he was enthralled. He had called one of the agents to see where we were and had hunted us down. As we shock hands he showed me an old Garmin model GPS that he had purchase some years before. He wanted to know how to use it. We had a short lesson right there. He sent the Freddy and Saul on ahead and told me that because the road going to the next cache was rough he wanted to drive me in the police 4-wheel drive truck. He knew that I had recently had shoulder surgery and was kindly offering to help out. We had a great time visiting as we traveled back through Antigua towards the second cache. I’ll tell more about the second cache, Agua Box (GC10DKC), in the next installment of Andean Trekker.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Futile Puno cache hunt

On 8 December I traveled from Huancané to a small Aymara town just to the southeast of Puno, Peru. I was traveling with some friends solely for the purpose of sightseeing along Lake Titicaca. We’d seen the geocache Fertile Puno (GC1ACE4) on and wanted to find it. The drive from Huancané took about 2 hours across the flat altiplano (high plains). We arrived at the town of Chucuito and rolled into the plaza in front of the Catholic Church. There across the street was a fenced-in area with the ruins of an old Inca temple. The cache description said to be sure and see this place. But first we had a cache to look for. The needle led us to the location described in the clue. We began the search but, as the description stated, this is a muggle-rich area. In plan view of our activities were about five Aymara women selling souvenirs and about five young people waiting to serve as tour guides of the Inca temple ruins. We decided to line the two families up to get a picture while I stood behind the group looking for the cache. This was supposed to be an easy find but I could not find it. Next each of the other guys tried looking for it but none of us could find it. Apparently the cache, a micro, had been muggled. Since looking for this one without being seen was difficult, I suspect that the last finder in June 2008 was observed. Afterwards some curious muggles probably found the cache. Several kids came over and started poking around while we were there. Unfortunately the only other caches in the area were out on some of the islands on Lake Titicaca and out of our reach at this time. Even though this was disappointing, the owner of this cache had brought us to a location none of us would have visited otherwise. The two families I was traveling with live in Huancané and had never heard of this place. We contracted one of the tour guides, a ten-year old boy and were given the tour of the old Inca temple ruins. As you might have guessed from the name of the cache, this was a fertility temple. It was kind of awkward listening to a ten-year old explain the symbology. I won’t go into the description nor show pictures of the stones as they were somewhat graphic. Suffice it to say that this temple was built by the predecessors to the Inca in this area (probably Aymara ancestors) and then later used by the Inca. At the time the women who were infertile would come and perform the temple ceremonies. If a male child was born later he lived. If a female child was born, she was sacrificed to their gods. This was during the time of the Inca wars with the conquering Spaniards and they wanted all the male children they could get to help in the fight when they grew up. From Chucuito we head back to the northwest to Puno to find a good restaurant for a leisurely meal before returning to Huancané. It’s a bummer to not find a cache but it all goes to show you that caching is more about the places you see. We all got on line to log our DNFs but showing appreciation to the owner of the cache for taking us to the Inca temple ruins. We made it back to Huancane in time to visit Ruben, and Aymara friend. He showed me his loom and some of his handy work. It was great to spend time with these folks. I speak Quichua, the dominant tribal language of the mountains of Ecuador and Peru but not Aymara. I was a little like a fish out of water on the language but enjoyed the opportunity to visit with them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Huancane, Peru - Climbing Pocopaca Mountain

                                                                                                                                                                         7 December was a great day! This morning low_rider73, FreeCuba, his kids, Jessica and I went up Pocopaca mountain overlooking the Peruvian town of Huancané. Because my surgery has left me a little weak we took the 4X4 to the top. We topped out at 13,880 feet above sea level. low_rider73 broke off from our group to hide his second cache ever. He has one in Lima where I introduced him to geocaching. Now he is putting one in a rather out-of-the-way place just above Huancané. While he was off on his mission the rest of us went to the top of the mountain. From there we could see Lake Titicaca with its dark blue waters to the east. It is beautiful. We explored the small chapel and the wondered around looking at the tiny rock piles that have been built up into tiny apartments or houses. In May of each year the people of the town make a pilgrimage up this hill to offer libations and burn candles in hope that a combination of the Pacchamama (traditional Aymara/Quechua earth mother diety) and God will bless them with the house of their dreams. The pile of rocks represents what they are asking for. The confusion represented by petitioning the Pacchamama at the same time as they petition God demonstrates the level of syncretism in their religion. We also found the "tunnel of desires". Someone has fashioned a short tunel into which you go and make a wish. Truly this is an interesting place of superstition and beauty. What a view of the city of Huancané from above and the extensive altiplano (high plains) we had. After a good while low_rider73 returned. FreeCuba was on his first caching adventure. He and his seven-year old son took control of the GPSr and with the coordinates entered and the clue took off with the rest of us following close behind. I know that normally a geocache is placed and published before any hunt takes place. Not this time and we didn't mind. Huancané is far off the beaten trail and I actually wonder if anyone else will ever go looking for this cache. It is in the reviewer's hands now. Plus, this was a teachable moment, one that might be critical in converting a muggle to a cacher. Kind of important. So we went looking. FreeCuba and Elijah learned how to do the drunken bumblebee dance, but with caution as they were on a steep hill. Even though my arm was in a sling at the time I wanted to go along when the trail took us down a steep hill. With FreeCuba's help I scrambled down the hill to discover that we needed to go back up. That's right, low_rider73 wasn't giving us many extra clues. Finally with some searching FreeCuba found the small cache. It was fun and FreeCuba and son Elijah are eager to do more geocaching. We had a great time on Pocopaca. We spent the rest of the day together in other activities. Tomorrow we head for Puno, further south along the lake to look for a cache that is along the beaten path of tourist. It is called Fertile Puno (GC1ACE4)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cache hide on the coast in Lima, Peru

I arrived in Lima this afternoon on the COPA flight, took a taxi to my lodging in the Miraflores section of town, dropped my gear, grabbed my camera and GPSr and headed out the door. I took a taxi over to the costenera (the coastal park high on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean). My mission was to find a place to hide another cache as well as to check on one of my caches that has had a string of DNFs. Yes, I live in Quito over 500 miles away. How is it that I can have caches in Lima? I asked for special permission from the reviewer and got it because I travel to Lima an average of six times a year; enough to maintain these caches. Most geocachers in Lima are tourist who stay in one of the nearby hotels. The costenera is a popular place to go walking or biking. It is a large sidewalk winding along the cliffs of the coast through park after park. I figured that my Surfview cache (GC1H1CP) had been muggled. The area where this one is hidden is along a paved trail that breaks away from the main sidewalk at street level and descends through a small valley that leads down to the ocean. From most places along the trail you can watch the surfers in the cold Pacific Ocean. It makes me think of the Beach Boys "Surfing USA" song. It mentions Peru by the way. When I arrived at the GC I had to wait until some surfer muggles came up the trail with their surfboards. Once they were clear I began to look and right away found the cache. I'm not sure what threw the last three cachers off. There were several who had signed the cache since the string of DNFs but none had gone on line to log their finds. I was happy to find the cache was still there. Back up the trail to the top of the cliff and south through the parks. Soon I came to the coastal lighthouse. Now this would be a great place to hide a cache and there is adequate distance between this location and the other caches. I had a small container ready to go but there were so many muggles there. Add to it that Lima does a great job maintaining the parks. To hide one in this location would take some very good camo and the cooperation of geocachers. Supreme stealth will be required if a cache at the lighthouse is to survive. I had a prescription medicine bottle with a log sheet inside a small ziplock bag. To my right were a young couple. They seemed pretty interested in each other so I don't think that they were watching me too closely. I found some dried vines along the bank. I wrapped the container with the vines to provide the orange colored bottle some camo. I could take up basket weaving. I was proud of my work. I waited and waited. In the end I decided that this location close to the lighthouse just had too many muggles. I moved a little further south, maybe a 100 ft, and the muggle factor dropped significantly. This was the place. A look to the left and the right, no one looking, I stashed the cache in its place. Now to mark it. They thought this was a telephone so they suspect nothing. Mission complete! Wow, I was a little light-headed. This was the most walking I'd done since my shoulder surgery nine days ago. Back to my hotel in a taxi instead of walking. I logged the visit to Surfview and the new hide Lighthouse (GC1JNZO). Many of the tourist geocachers when they log their finds lament that their aren't more caches in Lima. Now there is one more. Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

West Hartford Reservoir, CT - TUC series of geocaches

After leaving Georgia I flew to Hartford, CT. Continental kept to schedule and got all my luggage there just fine. I grabbed my rental car and had a couple of hours of daylight left. What to do? Since I'd prepared beforehand I had already downloaded a number of geocaches around the Bradley International Airport so it was straight from Thrifty out to the north of the airport. The first one was one of my favorites.  It is a virtual memorializing the firefighters who've given their lives in the call of duty. Just north of the airport there's a really impressive monument. See the picture.  One note: Connecticut is cold! I made it out to the west of the airport and found another interesting cache. This one is called Oink! (GCRTK7) and is located along a greenway trail. Just as the sun was setting and the wind was picking up I found this one. I had to run back to the trailhead parking area it was so cold. From there I headed south to the town of Farmington to find my hotel. Thank goodness for my GPSr because I got all turned around on the roads and was able to track to one of the caches that was located close to the hotel. I got checked in and took off to buy some more clothes.  Most of all I needed the cold weather rain jacket I bought. Thanks to sales at JC Penney's I'm set for the morning and supporting the economy.

I left the hotel as the sun came up and arrived at the West Hartford Reservoir parking on the south side just off of Farmington Ave. It turned out to be a sunny but blustery day outside. I worked my way around the hiking/biking trails in a clockwise manner. The west side of the reservoir is hilly. I found a mix of micros, smalls and regular sized tupperware and ammo boxes along the way. Many of these were placed by Tuckerman. I particularly liked one called TUC-90 WHR On the Ridge (GC1FT7A). First, it was a challenge to climb up to. Second, there was a good view of the valley from up on the rocks. Third there was a Travel Bug memorializing the life of First Lieutenant  Jonathan Brostrom who died in Afghanistan. I moved it on. As the day wore on I found myself traveling through woods and beside of frozen over ponds. The temperature didn't rise much and the wind was strong. Finally just before noon I made it to the northern extreme of the reservoir, route 44. After a quick and cold lunch I was off running. Since I didn't know what time the park would close I decided to jog between some of the caches. The return trip was along rolling hills.  During the morning I only saw one person on the trail. During the afternoon I probably saw eight people biking or hiking. The return hike along the east side of the reservoir proved fruitful too. I found several nice caches of all sizes. On this leg of the trip I came on the main lakes of the reservoir. Although one of the caches was named for the turtles that bask in the sun there it was no surprise that they weren't out. What a day! I finished the loop in just under eight hours and found 21 caches! I believe that I hiked about 10 miles on this one.  It was great! Over the next two days I had conferences to attend so I only got out for a short period of geocaching. I picked up a number of TBs and geocoins that I brought back to Ecuador. It was a real blessing to be able to visit Connecticut. If you are ever there, I suggest the TUC series in the WHR!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Berry College, GA and surroundings

I finally arrived at Berry College, just outside Rome, Ga. This is my third trip here in about 11 years. Every time I come I'm amazed at the beauty of the place. I'm enjoying the opportunity to geocache. We got in on Friday night around midnight after a long day of travel plagued by weather travel delays. We rented a car and made it to Berry College in the drizzling rain. I got up the next morning at 6 a.m. to go caching knowing I'd have to be back no later than 8 a.m. It is dark in Georgia at 6 a.m. Instead of snopping around the barns and buildings on campus in the dark; something that might attract unwanted attention from the campus police, I drove off campus to several other caches. On the way out enough morning light made it possible to search without a flashlight. I DNFed two but found one. At lunch break I headed the 500-some feet from the parking lot to the closest cache on campus. Left a geocoin and made it back to the conference on time. The tree colors are beyond peak but the area is beautiful nonetheless.

On Sunday I was up again at the crack of dawn. I headed out, weaving in and out of the herd of deer that congregates on the property. I saw over 50 this morning. No hunting on the Berry College property so they have sanctuary. Found three caches during the morning and made it back for breakfast. I found the first one just as the light started to show in the sky. It was an ammo box hidden in a traditional way. I love ammo boxes. We don't have those in Ecuador. One was a micro and the last was a virtual at the home of one of the Cherokee leaders during the infamous trail of tears. I got back for breakfast and worship. This afternoon my friend jagawe and I hit the roads around Rome. We circled the Berry College area and went out into the mountains around there. The leaves were brilliant with color. We climbed to the top of Fouche Gap to find Fouche (GCPMP8) and had a spectacular view of Rome, Georgia and the surrounding valleys in two directions. From there we visited several state parks and lakes and found caches there. It was a beautiful afternoon for caching!

I repeated the early morning caching rutine several times. One morning I lost one of the TBs that wizzzzard had entrusted to me. I felt so bad but didn't know where it fell out of my swag bag. I went ahead and logged it into a cache so it would get the miles, then wrote to wizzzzard to confess my error. The next morning at breakfast one of the staff from our mission agency came up and laid the lost TB down in front of me. He had looked for the same cache as I (one that we both DNFed) and found it on the ground. He looked up the last holder and saw it was me. We have been friends for years but because we live and work in different parts of the world we didn't know that we were both cachers. A new caching friend made and the lost TB recovered and on its way again.

One evening I took jagawe the local Rome Wal-mart. He bought his first GPSr, a nice Garmin with a color screen and the bells and whistles. I think he's hooked. The next day Phileas Fogg's Adventure Society joined up with us and we spent several hours finding urban caches in Rome. What a great week. While at Berry College I was blessed to find 22 caches. Several that I'm adding to my watchlist.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Las Lomas de Arena

Hey I just remembered a neat cache hunt from last year that I want to add. I traveled to Santa Cruz, Bolivia to visit a friend. He was not a geocacher and had never heard of the hobby. I told him about it and asked if he wouldn't mind driving out to find the only geocache in the area. He agreed and off we went to look for Las Lomas de Arena geocache about 15 kilometers south of the city. First let me say that we couldn't find the cache. It isn't there anymore. Apparently it was discovered or destroyed and disposed of as the result of a brush fire. In Bolivia they do a lot of slash and burn to clear the land. This cache was supposed to be at the base of a cactus. I was saddened to not find it but the trip was not a total loss. Just a few kilometers ahead were the sand dunes. These things are incredible. Out in the middle of shrub brush and cattle pastures rises up a series of sand dunes, some up to five or six stories high. It is the strangest thing to see sand dunes such as you would expect in the desserts of Northern Africa sitting out in the pastures of flat, hot, semi-tropical Bolivia. But there they were. I'll include a picture so you'll believe me. The dunes stretch for several kilometers. Several of the dunes are next to some small ponds of water. These dunes are popular for sandboarding. I climbed up on one of the dunes and felt like I was towering over the pasture land below. If you ever go to Santa Cruz, take advantage of the inexpensive taxis and go visit the dunes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rescue Mission

I'm on a mission! I wish it was a caching run lasting all day but its not. I'm on a rescue mission to save some languishing Travel Bugs and Geocoins. Some of you may be asking what is a TB. Its a small twist on the sport of geocaching. You can purchase a small trackable "dog tag" and attach it to an item you wish to send on a mission. That item can be anything from a stuffed animal or a medallion or, and this was kind of strange, a glob of something or other that was designed to teach people what fat looks like. You drop your TB in a cache, go to the website and indicate it is released and watch it travel from cache to cache around the world. Of course, you indicate where you would like it to go. Some folks take pictures of it along the way and post them to the TB page on Geocoins are coins with a tracking code and they do the same things.

Anyway, listening to Podcacher (weekly iTunes downloadable podcast about geocaching) or reading posts in the different geocaching forums, I’ve heard of Travel Bugs and Geocoins that get stuck in a geocaches and don’t move along. Here in Ecuador with geocaching depending mostly on the tourist that come and go this can be a real problem. We've got some that have been camping out in the woods for months now.

Today I had a particularly stressful day and need some time out in the woods. I took off with a goal of recovering four or five languishing TBs scattered across the Metropolitan Park above Quito. First to Karen's Caper TB Hotel (GC182AC) (Yep, I'm a proud grandfather bragging on my granddaughter's first geocache) where one of wizzzzard's TBs was waiting for a ride to another cache. I also grabbed a Snoppy TB and will move him along too. Karen's Caper TB Hotel required a little stealth as the park entrance and guard tower is not far away. Finding it and recovering the TB was easy. Now off to Cobblestone Corner (GC17DTR) to find another languishing bug owned by wizzzzard. This is one of my caches and it is one of my favorites. It is well hidden and yet easy for the geocacher who reads the description. Now to the big hike. My office work and the errands that took me all over the city of Quito today kept me from getting my exercise this morning. No problem! Getting to Reforestation (GC168M3) to recover another TB is a long and beautiful walk. Off I went. In the whole hike this afternoon I only came across two mountain bikers. I had the woods to myself. The walk was great but the discovery that the languishing TB was no longer languishing but missing, maybe even abducted, was a little saddening. I was looking for the TB known as Add it on II. It's not there. I hope that who ever took it will get on and indicate they have it. Even more I hope that they'll drop it in another cache.

So, I have rescued three travelers and will move them along. I have a trip out of Ecuador and to the US this weekend and hope to drop them in Georgia or Connecticut. I hope to drop some of them in the TUC series of caches in the West Hartford Reservoir just west of Hartford, Connecticut!

A closing note. Thanks to several who've made comments on this blog. Please forgive the lateness in responding. It has to do with my inexperience with how to manage the comments.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Laguna Mojanda, Ecuador

Saturday morning nine of us packed up two 4X4s and headed just a little north of the ecuator to Fuya Fuya Volcano. We climbed up the volcano from the town of Tabacundo. The road was passable but pretty muddy after some hard rain the night before. Once we crested the edge of the volcano we had a beautiful view of the larger of the two lagunas. Even though we knew that one of the roads would be impassable, we drove as far as the Mojanda Volcano cache (GC14AZY). bcargile found the cache! After some quick maintenance, including moving the cache to a safer location, (yes, it is one of my caches) we headed back up the trail and around to the laguna by a safer road. It took a while for us to make up our minds as to where to set up camp.  We finally chose a spot set back from the laguna. We got our tents up, ate a quick lunch and set out on a hike around the laguna. Our party included five adults and four children. The smallest is four. I was surprised at how well the children did. Ignacio and Mercedes took good care of their kids, sometimes carrying the youngest on what turned out to be a 9.5 mile hike. We hiked clockwise around the laguna. The first part of the trail was gentle with little climbing and a well-marked trail. About a fifth of the way around the laguna the trail disappeared and we had to cut through about a quarter mile of marsh. We struggled through the waist-high pampa grass for a long time before leaving the marsh. Once out of the marsh our hopes were that the trail we found would take us to the road bordering the laguna. Not so. After climbing into a small saddle we looked down on a quarter mile of high Andean humid forest running up from the laguna to the high cliffs. Our only choice was to push on and hope for a trail through the forest. No one wanted to go back through the marsh. We climbed down to the edge of the laguna and started into the thick humid forest. There was a barely discernable trail where someone had machetted through. We were climbing under and over Quinual trees, through mud and vines. Finally Dustin, our 13-year old scout out front, called out that we were out of the woods! We were ready for that but no sooner than we cleared the humid forest we found ourselves in another marsh. Fortunately Dustin found a trail right by the laguna and we followed it around to a fish hatchery. Now the fun part. We were half way around the laguna and hard rain set in. From the hatchery we met the mud road that would lead us around the rest of the laguna. We climbed up and down fingers leading down into the laguna, passing by several cars that were stuck in the mud. Some of those will likely be there for several days. We got to one point where everyone took the high road but me. I could see a trail paralleling the laguna edge, about 150 meters above it. It was a cattle trail through the pampa grass. We agreed the that they would come looking for me if I didn't get back to camp ahead of them. Off we went, not in a race, but eager to get back to camp before dark. We were soaked from the pouring rain. The trail I took was wet but good. I made better time than most of the others but still came in behind the fastest in the group who had taken the high road. We were so wet that our first goal was getting into dry clothes and getting our gear into the tents. Then, just as it got dark, we got our stoves going and had a great evening all gathered in the bigger of the tents, fixing supper and visiting. Our climbing boots were all soaked so we made the decision to forego climbing Fuya Fuya then next morning. We had a great next morning fishing, just sitting in the sun and talking and then having a worship service together. In the course of the morning over 50 people, probably acclimating for more challenging climbs in Ecuador, started up the nearby trail to summit Fuya Fuya. Maybe another time we'll get to climb it. We met several climbers, some from Israel, Canada, and England. All in all we had a great weekend at the laguna and are already planning our next camping and hiking excursion. It's a toss up at this point. Do we go to Antisana Volcano or to the Illaniza volcanos? You help us decide.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Unique Caches, part 2

Any avid cacher will discover unique caches along the way.  Sometimes I stand back and marvel at the mind of the person who puts these together.  I really like a cache that breaks the mold and gives you a challenge and a surprise at the same time.  Following along a theme I started last month I'm posting photos and the story of two more unique caches I have found.

1) The Hanging Cache - I found this one during the summer in Greensboro, NC.  I won't give the name or information or else this could be a spoiler.  I was on my son-in-law's mountain bike trying to pick up a few caches on a hot July morning.  I got off the trail and tracked into the woods a ways to where I could leave the bike unseen.  From there I tracked through the woods several hundred feet.  The tree canopy was such that my Garmin Etrex was not getting a good signal.  I came into a small clearing and could see some houses through the woods in the distance, too far for anyone there to be able to easily see me.  My GPSr was getting an accuracy of 60 feet, which is not the best considering that out in the open I was getting 9 ft accuracy.  When this happens I start tracking in to the GZ from different directions in order to find where the tracks intersect.  I did this several times while looking for the cache.  I was checking out every tree stump, the base of every tree with grass around it, holes in the ground, you name it.  Nothing was turning up until I almost walked into it.  There it was hanging from a high tree limb, suspended by fishing line.  It was right at eye level in a green container.  It blended in with the woods in such a way that your eyes don't focus in on it.  While signing the log I saw in the distance a doe come down through the woods.  I had several deer sightings in these woods in July.  Finding this cache was a lot of fun.

2) The bug cache - While in Greensboro, NC for vacation I found another cache that had been a challenge for several people.  I guess I was just fortunate.  Like in the previous case I rode the mountain bike and hid it in the woods off the trail.  I tracked to the GZ and had a lot of bounce on my signal.  After looking around the ground I looked up and saw this one on a tree.  It was a fake caterpillar with a very small clear bison tube attached to it.  The tube was stuck into the tree so that only the caterpillar was visible if you were looking closely.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lagito Churup, High Mountains of Peru - Caching in thin air!

This trip is a week long. I’ve been working six days straight so today I’m enjoying a day off to find a cache. This is no ordinary cache. It is a virtual cache placed in 2002 by some trekkers traveling through the highlands of Peru. See Lagito Churup (GCA637) placed by Cave or Die Dude. To date it has been visited 8 times due to the difficulty involved in getting to it. This is just the kind of cache I like. Tommy Smith, my good friend, picked me up at 8 am at the Hotel Colomba in Huaraz, Peru. It was a 40 minute ride up the dirt roads that ascends out of Huaraz to the parking lot for the Huascaran National Park. We paid our five soles (about $1.75) each and set out on our hike. The guard said it would take an hour and a half. I thought to myself that he is referring to Peruvians living in the highlands, not tourist. We started our climb to the cache at about 12,600 feet above sea level. The cache is at 15,200 feet above sea level. There were others on the trail but none proved to be geocachers. There were Dutch and Austrian groups climbing to see the lower lake. Tommy and I pushed on because we wanted to meet the cache requirements and need the extra time before the predictable afternoon rain would start. We pushed up the trail, conversing briefly with the Austrians in my limited German. The Dutch couple spoke English. The trail started in what is called páramo grass. We were already above the tree line. The trail was full of big rocks so we had to be careful not to turn an ankle. After climbing to an elevation of about 13,500 feet the trail leveled out for about a kilometer. We could see some beautiful waterfalls produced by the runoff from the lakes above. At that point the pass through which the water flowed was in the clouds. We arrived at the base of the waterfall and had a decision to make. The trail to the left seemed more used; the one to the left less so. We were ahead of the tourist groups and their guides and couldn’t ask so we decided to push on via the trail to the left. What a hidden challenge! The climb was steep. Soon we arrived at an eight foot ladder made of the branches of the Quenual tree. It appears in the páramo region. I know I said we were above the tree line. There were a few squat Quenual trees. They have a beautiful orange color beneath the peeling bark. After climbing the ladder we were climbing on all fours and on the verge of needing equipment. Tommy tried another route while I pushed on up the rock face until we met at a beautiful waterfall. After the obligatory photo sessions we were able to cross the stream and pick up the trail that went to the right side of the waterfall. It took us another 20 minutes of climbing in thin air to reach the Laguna Churup. The climb was worth it. The water had an aqua color to it due to mineral content. We pushed on around the north side of the lake following the trail to the far eastern end, then up to the saddle that divides the two lakes. The smaller lake isn’t as pretty as the first lake. The cache requirements are that you take a photo with yourself in it on the saddle that divides the two lakes with the small lake in the background. We did this spending about 10 minutes there when it started raining. Out with the rain gear and off we went. It took about an hour to get to the other end of the first lake. From there we got a glimpse of Churup Mountain. The clouds lifted and the snowy peak was partially revealed. This time we climbed down the opposite side of the waterfall. The rain began to turn to sleet and the rocks were slippery. It took a while to get down the side of the waterfall. Tommy lost his water bottle when it fell into the stream from the waterfall. We were able to get it back and head on. Negotiating the waterfall took longer than we thought. From the waterfall we pushed hard as most of the remaining kilometers were level ground or down hill. In the distance across the valley we saw the first lightning and heard the first thunder. The tourist had already left so we had the trail to ourselves. As we pushed lower we moved from sleet to rain. By the time we made it to the truck anything sticking out from under the poncho was soaked. What a way to spend a free day! I’m tired and content having seen what few see and having logged this special cache! I recommend this cache if you are coming to the highlands of Peru. Remember Huaraz! This is the capital of the Department of Ancash and is replete with Quechua culture. There is so much to see and do. Ya’ll come!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Initiating a new geocacher

Today I had a good time again. I flew to Lima, Peru on the first day and the first leg of a trip into the department of Ancash in Peru. More on that part of the trip later this week. When I got to Lima and settled into my lodging I met up with a friend. His newly acquired geocaching name is Ted Supe. You'll have to ask him what that all means. We headed out into the Miraflores coastal walk area to find a new cache entitled Pacific Overlook (GC1H172). It had only been five or six days since it was activated. Ted Supe went with me, learning how to navigate with the GPSr and familiarizing himself with the paper print out from He was able to walk right up to the cache with me. From there he went to find another (one of mine) further up the coast. Ted found Surfview (GC1H1CP) amidst some significant muggle traffic going and coming from the surfing area. He successfully found, signed and returned the cache to its hiding place. We came back to log the finds and to get him registered. Ted is preparing to return to his home state of Arkansas. We google-mapped his Arkansas home and found a whole bunch of caches close by. I hope that Arkansas has another confirmed geocacher after today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A visit from Swiss geocacher wizzzzard

Last week I received an email from wizzzzard, a Swiss geocacher with years of experience. He informed us that he was coming to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We agreed to get together and go geocaching. This morning wizzzzard, aka Urs, arrived on the KLM flight after 18 hours of flying. He gave us a call and we met at the Radisson Royal Hotel. From his hotel we headed to the Metropolitan Park to look for some geocaches, his first in Latin America. Along with us was sumajhuarmi. We made a curcuit to the following caches: Huicu Crossing, Three Stumps, Hanger, Karen's Caper TB Hotel, Cobblestone Corner, Insight of the Yellow Alien, En Memoria de Geovanni, Log On, and El Descanso. Most of these caches are mine so it was kind of fun tagging along but not giving away the clues. Our friend found all but one, apparently muggled this month. I'll have to replace it. Urs is full of geocaching stories, having many more finds than I do. It was good to hear about geocaching in Switzerland and other European countries. We had a small gift for wizzzzard and his wife. He had several gifts for us. He gave us our first geocoin. We are now the proud owners of a Swiss Geocoin! See the photos. We grabbed a quick meal at the snack shack near the parking lot at the park; then we headed back to take wizzzzard to his hotel. He has to be tired now! It was a great day and we really had a great time with wizzzzard! I hope he'll come back to Ecuador!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Earthcache Laguna Cuicocha

This weekend I had the opportunity to go after an earthcache.  If you haven't heard of such let me explain.  An earthcache is a type of virtual cache.  You don't actually find a container. Instead you learn important information about the earth and by completing a few tasks you prove that you really visited the location.  I've visited Cuicocha many times.  I even have a traditional cache (one with a container, logbook and swag in it known as Sea Breeze - (GC1DD42) along the highest point on the trail.   Since placing my cache an earthcache was put out by a fellow cacher from Germany.  The tasks were to hike the trail, take pictures, and gather some specific information after taking the boat ride out to the islands in the crater lake.  It was fun!  I actually went to Cuicocha with a group of fellow missionaries, some from other countries.  Four of us went on the boat ride while the remaining 12 went on the hike.  One of my friends, also a geocacher, took off to look for the Sea Breeze cache.  He only had a two hour window to do this in so he pushed ahead alone.  Sumajhuarmi and I decided to climb the trail to the cache when he didn't show later. We were a little concerned for him since the trail is along the crater edge and hiking alone can be dangerous.  The incentive to find him caused us to push hard.  We hiked it fast. When we were about 30 minutes from the cache we saw him walking down a road on the outside of the crater.  We pushed on to the cache and sumajhuarmi made her find.  After signing the log we took off down the road.  Sumajhuarmi is a runner and I'm not.  In order to get to the car quicker and since it was down hill we took off running.  She was soon out of sight leaving me in her dust.  Our friend made it to the car and came back up the trail to get us.  We had a great day on the mountain!  If you are coming to Ecuador be sure to look for the caches at Cuicocha (Earthcache -GC1EHA5).

I'm adding some pictures.  I'm the one in the geocaching cap and I'm with sumajhuarmi in one of the pictures.  Also see my friend and his wife at Cuicocha.  Also check out the bubbles in the water off one of the islands in the crater lake.  This is gas escaping from the volcano.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Urban caching in Lima, Peru

arrived in Lima, Peru this afternoon for several days. This afternoon I met up with a new cacher, Low_rider73, and we went to visit two urban caches in the Miraflores area of Lima. The first was the newest Lima cache entitled,
TOP 10 POI Lima (GC1EY5P). This referred to the top ten points of interest for tourist in Lima. It required that you either travel all over the city or, as a minimum, get on the Internet and research the city. You had to match ten photos of key locations with the correct location name and then assign the value of the associated picture number to an equation in order to find the coordinates of the cache. Several cachers had found this one ahead of us. The one before us reported that the cache had been muggled. Another TB lost! The cache owner gave everyone permission to log the cache if they included a photo of the general cache location. Low_rider, sumajhuarmi and I all tried to find the correct coordinates but kept coming up with the wrong ones. The cache owner published a spoiler picture showing a special and easily identifiable piece of heavy equipment in a park. It was easy to find out which park we were looking for with Internet. We went there in order to complete the requirements for finding the cache. We still are scratching our heads about the equation and the coordinates. It was fun nontheless. A park historian told us the park is dedicated to Peruvians who defended Lima against the invading Chileans in the 1880's on the very spot.

From this cache Low_rider73 took the lead and took us to cache Intihuatana (GC17BMA). This is one of my caches so I came along for the ride. Inti means "sun" and "huatana" means bracelet in Ecuadorian Quichua. I suppose it means the same thing in Peruvian Quechua. It is the"Bracelet of the sun". There is an odd piece of modern art at the site that bears the name. The most noteable thing about the location is the view of the Peruvian coast. The cache is located at a gorgeous overlook of the Pacific Ocean. We saw paragliders, hang gliders, and surfers. Because it was a Peruvian holiday, many Peruvians were enjoying the park. This particular cache is in a "muggle-intensive" site. Low_rider73 was able to find the cache, sign the log and replace it without being spotted. I live in Quito, Ecuador and come to Lima every couple of months. The Groundspeak reviewer allowed me to place the cache because the frequency of my visits allows me to maintain it. Today I added a new log sheet. It is interesting that along the way a fellow cacher decided to replace the cache container, log and to upgrade the cache by making it magnetic. At first I was a little put off to see that someone had declared my cache missing and the replaced it. After thinking about it I appreciate him keeping it alive. I appreciate the upgrade to the container too. Intihuatana seems to be one of the most visited caches in Peru. It is in an area frequented by tourist on a regular basis.

What is a visit to cache-poor Lima without hiding another cache or two? Low-rider73 and I each hid a cache along the coastal cliffs today. That was a challenge with all the muggles out and about. Once these are uploaded on we can search for each other's cache. I hope that his cache shows up on the website before I leave on Sunday morning when I fly out for Quito!

Peru has some nice caches. Come on down and visit Macchu Pichu and find some of the Peruvian caches! We'll try to hid some more in Lima too!