As another random aside before I start the actual post, my mother found a CD of bagpipe music today and bought it for my dad. As I type, the CD's horrendous noise is stampeding down our passage, permiating everything!
One of the caches that we went in search of was a type of cache where the coordinates published are not those of the cache itself, but of a clue that then leads you to the cache. Given that this was the second cache that we had gone in search of, it is understandable that we were rather excited and enthusiastic about finding it.
We arrived at the site. We were a little confused at first because the clue on the internet had said something about a bird sanctuary sign and, while we could find a whole range of signs about ecosystems and the importance of conservation, we had, at that stage, not been able to find the bird sanctuary sign. To compound the problem, the area was crawling with muggles, the geocaching term for non-geocachers. Part of the fun of the game is trying to find and access the caches without being spotted. So, unable to spot our sign immediately, we decided to follow the GPS coordinates to the sign. They seemed to suggest that we follow a path that went off into the bush. So, trusting in the all-knowing GPS, we headed off into the bush.
About 5 min into our walk along the path, we realised that the site we were looking for was now behind us, in the direction from which we had come. We decided that we should head back, and did so. Once back at the start of the trail, we looked around again for the sign, with the not-quite-so-trusted-as-before GPS in mind. After about 2 min, Duncan exclaimed that he had successfully located the sign. It had turned out that it was obscured by some brush and that we had to walk along a small, easy to miss path to get to it.
At this point I must note that Duncan is eerily good at this sport. He seemed to have some sort of ESP about where the caches or clues would be located and 9 times out of 10 would be the one to find things. And he never used the GPS…
We found the clue and with it, the coordinates to the location of the cache. The coordinates pointed to the opposite side of the lagoon, on the banks of which, we were then standing. That side of the lagoon is a nature reserve that is accessible only from one side as the lagoon flows out into the sea and there are not bridges across into the reserve. After I volunteered to swim across, examined the water and its contents and retracted the offer, it was decided that we would drive around to the other side and walk to the location along the shore of the lagoon.
After driving around, parking, and walking through the somewhat dodgy camping ground at the reserve, we embarked along the banks of the lagoon in search of our prize. At the time, the tide was in, which meant that the water level in the lagoon was high, leaving little of the sand beaches exposed. Eventually we reached a point where there were trees growing along the edge that extended out over the water. The vegetation in the area is very thick and bushy, making traversing it a bit of a mission. So, the only option available was to walk through the water.
While this may seem harmless enough, it wasn’t. The ground of the lagoon-side dropped off sharply after the edge and given the recent rains in the area, the water was a dark brown, like black tea, from all the dissolved tannins of the trees upstream. This made it impossible to see through the water any time that there was more than 15cm of water below you. To make matters worse, the lagoon tends to receive all manner of charming little things that usually come down with the floodwaters. These little estuarine delicacies included all manner of trash, faecal material, and more unmentionables.
It was for this reason that Duncan, very wisely, decided not to join the remainder of the expedition in search of the cache. This left Helen and I to find the hidden treasure.
We began to walk our way through the water, along the edge of the lagoon. We experienced the usual sensations associated with travelling through alluvium: squishing between the toes, the occasional creature scuttling across your foot, the odd poke in the sole from some unidentified pointy thing hidden in the mud. But we soon managed to get around the trees and reach the beach on the other side. However, once we got there we realised that shortly along the beach was another tree that had grown over the edge of the water. As we looked further along, we realised that there were quite a number of such trees. It appeared that we would have to walk through the silt for almost all of the rest of the way there. I was not looking forward to that in the least! But, with the determination of stupid first-timers, we trudged on.
The next tree pass was different to the first. And not in a good way.
This time, the tree extended quite a bit further out than the last one. As before, the colour of the water made it near impossible to be able to judge depth, nor was it possible to be able to see what it was that you were standing on. We continued none the less and, about halfway to the edge of the tree, to our horror, the ground gave way to a very steep slope down into the depths. Helen had gone ahead of me and seeing how she suddenly plummeted down into the water, I decided to leave my T-shirt behind on the shore. Once I removed it and draped it over a bush, I too began my rounding.
I went in and around the same place as Helen, dropped into the depths. The water was about chest height now, and as water in large bodies usually is, the top part was not unpleasantly cool, while the lower reaches felt bitterly cold. To make things worse, the lagoon is home to all manner of creatures (including the rare Knysna seahorse!), many of which live within the grass-like seaweed that grows on the bottom. This seaweed has a slimy, but at the same time, raspy texture and is not at all fun to swim in.
I for one don’t enjoy the slimy, raspy, creepy-crawlies of the lagoon and, for lack of a less colloquial term, it freaks me out! So when I was walking around the edge of the tree and I put my foot into a large patch of seaweed, I instinctively released a squeal and dropped into the water, having decided to swim the rest of the way. This naturally had Helen in hysterics because, as most would tell you, this is not a particularly manly response to an aquatic plant…
This process of walking and periodically squealing and dropping into the water to doggy-paddle to the next beach continued until, eventually, we reached our destination. The GPS is water-resistant for a depth of up to 1m so it was fine with all the swimming. But, just to play it safe, we had kept it switched off for most of the swim. Now that we were at the beach, we switched it back on and waited expectantly for the all-knowing GPS to guide us.
Now, as anyone who has ever used a hand-held GPS would tell you, they are not 100% accurate. They can get you to within a few meters of your destination, but usually can only handle a resolution of about 5-10m. 3m on a VERY good day. Naturally, the resolution all depends on the type of GPS being used, but in this case, these were the stats we had to work from.
We gazed expectantly at the GPS. It just looked yellow and thoughtful. Once started up we saw that we were within 10m of the cache but the GPS was pointing back over the lagoon towards the bird sanctuary. We soon realised that the GPS was also saying that what we knew to be north was in fact west. So we decided to ignore it completely and to go looking around on the beach and the banks of the lagoon.
After about 20min of searching, and revealing little more that an empty Fanta bottle and a human turd, I suggested to Helen that we admit defeat and head back. Helen had other plans in mind. She was determined to find the cache no matter what. We continued to argue for some time and eventually, she agreed that we should head back. So we turned to return to the camping ground.
We hadn’t realised this on our way to the beach but the current had been on our side then and was certainly not cutting us any slack for the return journey. So we swam upstream, trying to walk wherever the seaweed had been denied a place to root. Eventually we arrived at the beach where my shirt had been left. I collected it and we walked around the last tree, now smelling a bit like a very salty septic tank. After meeting up with Duncan, we decided to have a quick shower at the beach to wash off. Once we were both as clean as we were going to get, we decided to go after one last cache. It was one at Gerike’s point, a small island-like lump of rock that stuck out from the point of the bay. While the weather threatened us, we went ahead. Duncan once again decided to remain behind and sit this one out.
About half way to the point, the drizzle began. By the time we reached the point, we were getting very wet. So it was decided that we would turn back, ending our rather unsuccessful geocaching day.