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Tracking down treasure

If you're anything like me you've always wanted to discover buried treasure. Now here’s your chance. All around the globe, in locations ranging from historical landmarks to city parks, geocachers have hidden secret “caches”, and released the co-ordinates of the cache’s location to other geocaching enthusiasts. It's a family-friendly hobby that requires minimal equipment and is suitable for all ages and levels of ability from preschoolers to grandparents.

Finding caches is easy. You simply visit www.geocaching.com, set up a free account and type in your current address. This brings up the co-ordinates and a brief description of caches in your area. You can also see how difficult the terrain is (each cache is allocated a grade out of five for the level of difficulty) so you can choose a cache to suit your ability. It's a good idea to print off the co-ordinates and directions to take with you before you leave. Equipment-wise you'll need a small handheld GPS, or a GPS-enabled mobile phone. To locate a cache you simply enter its co-ordinates, and a locator beacon will appear, showing your current location, and where the cache is located. Once you’ve arrive at the location, it’s simply a matter of searching. For your first attempt, it's wise to stick to caches that are rated as physically large - it can be frustrating at first if you're searching for hours with no idea of what you're looking for. Over time you'll become more experienced as to the sort of hiding places that appeal to geocachers. The caches tend to be well disguised, so others don't stumble upon the cache and raid or vandalise it.

Each cache is housed inside a waterproof receptacle and contains a logbook and a pen, and treasure. Generally this is in the form of a handful of trinkets (buttons, key-rings, toys, books, etc). When you find the cache, record your details as requested (date, name, what you took, what you added) in the log and take a memento. If you take something replace it with an item of a similar value, then replace the cache carefully back where you found it.

Once you're back at home you can log your find on the website and meet a growing community of geocachers. Once you've completed a few caches, you can set up and place your own caches, or explore a number of variations on the geocaching theme such as multi-caches and mystery caches, geo-coins and many more. Happy treasure hunting!

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