Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Geolympix Mega 2012 and part of GMS series

On Sunday 22nd of July, 1000 Geocachers from all over the world came together in Oxford town hall, for the first ever Geolympix Mega, and the start of a summer festival of caching - after two years of waiting, the big day had come, and my moment to make my grand return to caching after my little break. It was fantastic!  I also had a go at the Marathon cache-a-thon series on Monday, the day after, so read even further for my review on that! 

22nd July - 11 cache types in 11 hours challenge, and attending the Mega

As the Geolympix is all about breaking your own records, and being "Outstanding in the field", the challenge set by the team of finding 11 different cache types in 11 hours really stood out to me. This would involve the day being even longer, but I knew it would all be worth it. I had been looking at the map for weeks, trying to work out which caches I would choose - I needed an Earthcache, Traditional, Multi, Puzzle, Wherigo, Virtual, Webcam, Letterbox, plus an event, CITO event and the Mega itself to get the 11 - all to be found within just 11 hours!

Event Icon. 10 to go. Found @ 08:00:
The Geolympix team had organised a flash mob event (1 icon down) in Banbury, at front of Banbury Cross Webcam, starting at 08:00, with the group Webcam shot at 08:15. When we arrived, we were shocked to see nearly 200 cachers all gathered at GZ - we knew we wouldn't be the only ones having a go at 11 in 11!! Saw some friends from back home, and ones I've met at previous events, and had a good catch up, before queuing for the log book, and gathering for....

Webcam Icon. 9 to go. Found @ 08:15
Once the event was coming to a close, Simply Paul, one of the Geolympix organisers, rounded us all up into a group, so we'd be in view of Banbury Cross Webcam. He snapped the photo, and with two icons already done in just fifteen minutes, it was off to do the rest...

Traditional Icon. 8 to go. Found @ 09:05 
From Banbury, we went onto the M40, for a 30 minute drive down the motorway until our stop at J6. Here, we parked in a parking area for several trails, and I went down a little path to bag another icon, fairly easily - there wasn't anywhere else it could be!

Multi Icon. 7 to go. Found @ 10:12 
As we walked back up from the traditional, we bumped into walktall and his friend Lone Hunter, who were just arriving. As we're friends from back home, we knew each other well, and we all decided to set off together to bag the rest of the icons in the area. We programmed in the nearby Wherigo, and while it was running, we set off on the start of a long circular walk of around 7 miles in the area, and the first cache we passed was a Multi, so it was a quick solve of the puzzle before finding the cache. Still no sign of where the Wherigo was leading us!

Earthcache Icon. 6 to go. Found @ 10:52
On from the Multi, and a bit of walking along the roads, walktall and Lone Hunter lead us to an Earthcache, which wasn't the one we were initially planning (but we did all find that one on the way back to the car too) but it was still the coveted icon that we needed. You had to examine the cutting of stone eitherside side of the  M40, from the footbridge crossing it! I was a little concerned about dropping something, possibly the highest footbridge I'd been on, and one of the busiest motorways! I learnt a lot about the cutting though, from my dad walktall and Lone Hunter, so it was all made worthwhile!

Wherigo Icon. 5 to go. Found @ 12:17 
There was still no sign of the Wherigo, in all that time, and we had reached the bottom of a steep hill when the cartridge read "Up 2". It was sending us back up the hill we came down. So, it was up again where it then read "Down 1". Then when we arrived "Down 2". A little later "Down 3". It had led us in a big circle, the irrating part was having to go up some of the paths we had already walked down! However, the area is truly stunning, views were to die for, lots of flora and wildlife to be seen, so we all enjoyed the route - it was beautiful, one of the most lovely parts of the Chiltern Hills I'd been in. Once at the bottom, the cache was finally found very near to another Earthcache (which we then logged) and the icon was finally seen. It took us a while, but thankfully we found it (after starting the cartridge first thing) without any further problems, and enjoyed the route it took us on very much.

Letterbox Hybrid Icon. 4 to go. Found @ 13:51
Once we had bid farewell to walktall and Lone Hunter (thank you both for your pleasant company, which my dad and I both highly enjoyed) we drove a few miles south to Northend, to bag the last icon we needed in this area, and before setting off to Oxford to attend the main Mega event. It was a nice walk through some rich meadows and into the woodland at the top of the hill; we were really in the heart of the Chiltern Hills. The cache was a very quick find, in the only place it could be, and I was over the moon that we had already done seven icons, and there was only four to go!

Mega Event Icon. 3 to go. Found @ 15:01 
The big moment had come. Once we walked into the town hall, and registered, we had another icon bagged, and though most people had left, we still saw even more familiar faces from home, and I had a good time walking around the various stands and purchasing some items. A little sad actually on how empty the place was, but it was still very enjoyable, and I got to meet and thank Simply Paul for all his hard work. My second Mega, and what a superb one it was! Excellent!

Unknown Icon. 2 to go. Found @ 15:12
While I was looking at the GAGB stand, I found the Cuckoo cache, a rare moving cache, and I logged it to claim the icon - that one was easy! Was good to find it at last, and knew I was saving finding it for some reason!

Virtual Icon. Just 1 to go! Found @ 16:38
We left Oxford Town Hall, and the main Mega event, for a walk around Oxford, taking in the lovely sights, and we bagged a Virtual along the way, meaning we only had the CITO event a little later to complete the 11 icon challenge. A very interesting virtual, and after finding it we went onto another, before setting off to have something to eat as we waited for the CITO event to start.

CITO event Icon. Challenge complete!! Found @ 18:43
And that was it! Arrived at the CITO start point, and signed the logbook, meaning we had completed the 11 icon challenge!! But we also saw walktall again, who had done 14 (adding on some types from another listing site) and later on CacheWalker confirmed that he had managed to find all 7 cache sizes too! So a special well done to walktall! But I was happy enough with our 11, and spent the next 30 minutes giving something back, and picking up litter all over the place, before I found a 5/3.5 cache, of which I had to hang off a bridge over a canal! Great fun, and a good way to finish the day (Glad to say I wasn't passed the logbook to sign, I retrieved the cache the hard way myself for a fair and honest find!)

So, that was that! The Mega event attended, the 11 icons in 11 hours challenge completed (with time to spare!) One of the best caching days I've had, and congratulations to Simply Paul and the rest of the committee for a very successful event!!

23rd July - Geolympix Marathon cache-a-thon (GMS) Rings B, A and E 
GMS Series, up to 26.2 miles, Turville, Buckinghamshire 

The next day, we were off to M40 J6 again, but this time to the village of Turville - the main filming location used for "The Vicar of  Dibley" and various other famous films and television shows. The GMS series is set over five rings, A,B,C,D and E,  totaling in around 110 caches. You cross the place you are parked at the end of each ring, so opportunity to stop at any time after any ring. We set off with flyhiy, initially planning to do all five rings, but with B as our starter, we realised how wonderful, beautiful and tranquil the area was, and so we decided not to rush it for numbers, and to take our time to enjoy it, doing as much as we can, and not pushing it with the excessive heat.

B was the first ring we decided to do. And it ended up being my favorite. Started at 06:45, and the sun was just rising, making the dew sparkle beneath us. The hill on our left had a windmill on top, the very one used in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", which was now the only building in sight. We then tackled the first of many big hills. As we rose up the Chiltern Hills, we became surrounded by the most magnificent woodland, and the views from it were amazing.

All the caches were easy finds on B, A and E, with sensible hints , and one thing I liked about the series was the fact that they weren't too close together, so you could enjoy the walk at the same time. 

As I said, on B there was plenty of flora, and lots of orchids - we also saw several red kites - amazing! 

One of the things that made ring B my favorite of the three we did, was the fact that it had such a wide variation in terrain - though most of it was woodland on the hill tops, you descended into open grassland valleys, walked through farmland (several herds of cattle, but they were all too lazy to move under the now scorching sun), but yet there was always some sort of view. And, with the caches being so easy, we could move on quickly and not feel let down by any DNFs. 

As Ring B only consisted of 17 caches, we managed to walk pack to the village finding C18, C19 and C20, totaling in 5 miles so far. The marathon was going great so far, and at the car we stopped to enjoy some cold drinks (though the pub was still closed!) and then we set of for A, which promised to be good, having accumulated the most fave points out of all the rings. 

Ring A was the longest, 6 miles, but we were doing well for time. By now, the heat was unbearable, so we had sun cream and sun hats on! Again, a lovely uphill start, which was proving to be a trend, and then into further woodland to cool us down. One of the things I loved about the day was the fact that there were so many cachers out and about, met Dobunnies on this ring, but whenever we got back to the car, we could see other cars with TB stickers on them - it was just great knowing that these rings have brought so many people from all over the world (saw several people from Norway and USA) to this stunning area. It was good to know that we were almost sharing the fun with them. 

By the time we had finished A, we were starting to feel a little bit tired, only having walked 11 miles throughout the day, but the 30c temperatures were really slowing us down and adding to the tiredness, we arrived in the pub and I enjoyed a cold lemonade. There was two hours to go to the BBQ at "Geolympix 2012 Post-marathon Meet", so flyhiy and I decided to push on to complete one more ring, while my dad stayed in the shade of the pub garden waiting for the event, and chatting to other cachers who had already given in under the heat. 

We set off to do Ring E. We wanted to do D, passing the windmill, but E was the shortest, and therefore most logical as we had to be back in time for the BBQ in two hours. E was just as nice, again going through some more woodland, and it was here that I was certain this is one of my favorite series' overall - just a shame we couldn't do D and C - but it is another reason to come back! While on E, flyhiy and I met another cacher, and the three of us completed E, and we walked back to the pub. 

The GMS series was, well, fantastic! One of the best I've done! As I said, not doing C and D is good in a way, because we didn't rush it (got to enjoy the walk more) and it's a good reason to come back to this stunning area! Highly recommend this series, B was the best out of the three of five we did today, but several other cachers at the BBQ event said D was their personal favorite. But who knows, maybe I'll change my mind when I've done all of the rings? All in all a great area, and up there in the top three days of caching that I've ever done - along with the Geolympix Mega 11 in 11 the day before! 

The BBQ was also the perfect way to end the day, thank you to the Geolympix team for making the Sunday possible with the Mega, and for the brilliant marathon cache-a-thon; lots of work went into it all, which you can clearly see! That's it for now folks, and I might (not 100% sure) be attending the Geolympix closing ceremony on Coombe Hill, if not that ends the Geolympix story for me, if so I might see you there! 

Griff Grof

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