300km to see a paddock

We’ve discovered a great new internet game, called Geodashing. It’s a bit like Geocaching, in that you follow gps coordinates to obscure places, but there’s no cache. Geodashing is all about the journey.

And a new GPS game was all the excuse lytteltonwitch, rarsberry and I needed for an expedition. We checked out the 40 or so geodashing locations in the South Island for July, and after eliminating most on the grounds of requiring mountaineering skills (the coordinates are chosen randomly each month, so the chances of them being somewhere convenient aren’t great, especially in a country like New Zealand), and a few more on the grounds of being too far away for a day trip, we found a couple that looked manageable. Which meant getting up very early yesterday morning for a trip to Conway Flat, a mere 150-odd km north of Christchurch.

We left Christchurch just after 8.30 am, and set off north. First stop was in Woodend, where we dropped a few books off in a shopping centre (The World is Flat by Thomas L Friedman), then visited the superbly-named Owen Stalker Park, which has a train-themed playground, complete with railway tracks in the footpath, a decommissioned railway engine, and a train-shaped jungle gym. Of course, we left a few children’s books in the playground (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze by Justine Korman and Classic Fairy Tales by Maureen Spurgeon – I’ll have to look out for some train-themed books for next time!), plus I left The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins on a seat in the gardens.

Just past Woodend, my comment of “Oh, we must stop there sometime” as we passed the Brick Mill Gallery caused lytteltonwitch to slam on the brakes. Unfortunately, the gallery wasn’t open yet, but I left a couple of books (Rigby’s Atlas of Earth Resources and Treasure by Clive Cussler) in the attached cafe, which was.

A bit further down the road at Amberley, we stopped again, this time at Chamberlain Park, where I released Freddie as FRO7 by Jon Acevski and David Ashton outside the Scout Hut (which worryingly seems to be part of the park’s toilet block!) and Conquest by Elizabeth Walker outside the Cob Cottage. We stopped to visit the statue of Charles Upham (and leave a book – To Serve Them All My Days by RH Delderfield seemed appropriate, even if it is about a teacher rather than a soldier), and I found the perfect book to leave in the public toilet nearby: The Loo Sanction by Trevanian.

We didn’t know how long it would take to get to Conway Flat, so we decided not to let ourselves be distracted by anything else and drive straight there. We did make an exception though for Cheviot, where we had to check the tearooms for wild books (after having found one there on our way to Wellington last February). no luck this time, but I released a book there anyway, World Cuisine II: Italy. Lytteltonwitch claims the public toilets in Cheviot are a magic release location that guarantee catches, and I once again had the perfect title: There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Louis Sachar (no, I’m not collecting toilet-themed books, they just seem to keep turning up!). There were a couple of sheep statues outside the toilets (presumably of Cheviot sheep), and rarsberry released Psycho Cat on one of them. A few seconds later, a horrible howling noise started up, kind of like an animal in pain, but like no animal we’d ever heard before. We couldn’t figure out what it was, or where it was coming from, so decided the psycho cat must have scared the sheep, and that obviously stone sheep sound different to the regular kind.

Next we had to stop at St Anne’s Lagoon, to show rarsberry, although it’s not as pretty in winter without any leaves on the trees, and the water level had dropped, leaving behind an ugly muddy shoreline. It was a great opportunity to release Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, though, so I was happy 🙂

Finally we turned off the main highway and headed towards Conway Flat and the Geodashing point. We stopped at the beach beside a mysterious W sign and explored a bit while rarsberry released A Walk on the Beach (definitely wins the prize for best themed release of the day!).

We decided the W must stand for “water”, because it was pointing the wrong way for “west”. In honour of the mystery of the W, I released The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle beside it.

Rarsberry and lytteltonwitch try walking to Kaikoura (just visible as the bit of land jutting out on the horizon).

Proof that lytteltonwitch and rarsberry are seamonsters. I discovered their two sets of footsteps leading out of the sea, but none leading in!

Now it was time for the real purpose of our journey: to find a geodashing point. Lytteltonwitch loaded the coordinates into her GPS, and we set off up the road. Google Maps had told us it would be in a field just off the road, and it was right. On a nondescript stretch of road

we got to within 13 metres of the coordinates, well within the 100m limit the site rules allow for logging a visit.

Lytteltonwitch, rarsberry and Ballycumber peer wistfully across the fence and the 13m of paddock separating them from the magic point.

We decided this particular clump of thistles marks the exact spot of the geodash.

And if you’re wondering why we didn’t just leap across the fence and visit the exact spot, these guys who were sharing the paddock with it might answer your question:

Mission accomplished, we were about to head back to Cheviot for lunch when lytteltonwitch noticed her GPS was indicating a geocache nearby. She dug through her bag for the notes she’d printed off, and what did they say but “Park by the W sign, and walk along the beach…” So it was back to the beach again, and a difficult 800m walk on very soft sand to find the cache. According to the notes, there was a petrified forest on the beach near the cache location. When we got there, there were indeed tree stumps sticking out of the sand, but they weren’t actually petrified – they were obviously very old (and looked great!), but the wood was still wood, not stone.

A not very petrified forest (maybe a slightly worried forest?)

Back in Cheviot, we stopped at the Two Rivers Cafe for lunch (great food – I had a wonderful venison and redcurrant pie
, and a chocolate brownie that approached perfection). We started off sitting in the garden, but eventually had to admit that even though it was a lovely day, July isn’t quite the time of year for being outside in t-shirts, so we retreated back inside. I left The Dark Descent edited by David G Hartwell behind.

Lytteltonwitch had another geocache in mind, so we set off down a side road. After a slight detour in search of a funny shape that may or may not have been a moa, or might have been in a completely different town anyway (I would say you had to be there, but I *was* there, and I didn’t understand the conversation either!), we found the very discrete sign pointing to the walking track that should lead us to the geocache. When we set off down the track, we discovered why it wasn’t better signposted: because the track didn’t really exist. There were clear track markers, but following them involved climbing over and under several fallen trees (and how come Rarsberry, the tallest of the three of us, was the only one not having trouble getting under them? …oh yeah, might be something to do with being quite a few years younger and more flexible than either lytteltonwitch or I!!!), and wading through a swamp. Eventually we gave up the search (the clues telling us to look under a log weren’t all that helpful in a swamp full of fallen logs!), and set off for the more salubrious conditions of Gore Bay, stopping only to release a few more children’s books in the Cheviot playground (Panda by Susan Bonners and Disney’s Alphabet A-Z).

Looking up the coast from Gore Bay.

Gore Bay is a pretty little community of holiday homes hidden away on the coast. We stopped at the camping ground to release a few books (Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, The French Atlantic Affair by Ernest Lehman, and The Last Victory by TN Murari), then headed up the hill to the Cathedrals, a weather-carved clay cliff.

Of course, the fence around the viewing area was soon covered in books 🙂

My contribution was Wings by Jeanette Angell.

I’d been browsing the road atlas, and worked out that there was a coastal route we could take along the back roads instead of going back to the main highway. Lytteltonwitch’s enthusiasm for this plan was soon explained when she took a detour (off the detour!) to Manuka Bay for another geocache. Another walk along the beach (but on a decent track this time, so much easier going) and up into the bush, where surprise surprise we had to clamber under fallen trees! But at least this time we found the cache.

At Hurunui Mouth we stopped to watch the flooded Hurunui battling with the incoming tide, creating an impressive surge (and of course, this was the moment my camera chose to have a fit and delete most of the decent photos I’d just taken of it)

There was another geocache to search for at Hurunui Beach, but first we decided to have a go at reaching another geodash location. The map showed this one being quite a bit further off the road, but it seemed worth a try. We headed back up towards the highway, watching the distance indicator on the GPS count down. But unfortunately the closest we got was 875m, a long way outside the 100m limit. And high deer fences around the paddocks made it clear the farmer wouldn’t appreciate us wandering across his land to get closer.

Lytteltonwitch did get a topless carwash out of the attempt though 🙂 We were driving straight into the sun, and the glare on the dirty windscreen was getting dangerous, so we stopped to try and clean it a bit. When a search of the boot turned up a great shortage of useful rags, she tried using a tissue to clean the windscreen, with about as much effectiveness as you’d expect. So (after confiscating everyone’s cameras!) I used my t-shirt instead.

Back at Hurunui Mouth, I released Network by Liz Allen and admired the dirty and turbulent river (now we know where the Lewis Pass road ended up) while lytteltonwitch and rarsberry searched for the geocache.

Next stop was Motunau Beach (which for some reason is pronounced locally as “mutton-ow”. I don’t know what it is about the word motu that demands warped pronunciation. Nelson has “motchuweka” and Canterbury has “muttonow”…) We released a few last books (The Money Changers by Arthur Hailey, and Teletubbies: The Flying Toast), and admired the sunset over Banks Peninsula. I always thought it was weird that Cook had thought Banks Peninsula was an island, until I saw it from this viewpoint – Christchurch is so flat that it disappears completely into the sea, and all you see is what seems to be a large island off the coast with no sign that it’s connected to the mainland.

(The little island is Motunau Island – it’s the land mass behind it that’s Banks Peninsula)

Our last stop was at Amberley, where we had dinner at the Nor’wester Cafe (where I just had to release an anthology of an author of the American north-west, Jack London). We drooled over the $30 mains on the menu, but in the end opted for much cheaper soup, which turned out to be a good choice, because as well as being very tasty, it was more than filling enough.

As we were leaving the cafe, we saw a police car with flashing lights parked outside the pub. Lytteltonwitch tried to convince me to run over and release Policewoman by Dorothy Uhnak, but for some reason I didn’t think it was the cleverest idea… 🙂

So, nearly 11 hours, and just over 300km after setting out, we made it back to Christchurch. We’d only managed to tick off one geodash, so I don’t think our team will be winning any prizes, but in bookcrossing terms, we can definitely count it as a success – I’ve had two catches already! The World is Flat, and Alice in Wonderland.

And just because I like playing with Google Maps, here’s the map of our meanderings…

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One Comment

  1. I adore seeing pictures like this on people’s blogs all over the world. It’s a WAY better kind of travelog than the ones on tv!

    Beautiful country you live in……

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