Following on from MEGA Wales caching – PART 1…
Saturday – Evening
Saturday Evening was the camping event which was very convenient for us! We headed off to the other field with our BBQ, chairs, burgers, and drinkies and sat in a little circle. It was all very cosy!
Along with the logbook there was a welsh flag that we all signed. I’m not sure what happened with that though. We enjoyed our burgers, beer, and in my case a rather large amount of Pimms! (oops!)
I heard that a few new caches had been published after about an hour of being there so we all rushed off to sign them. When we came back we met up with all our caching friends from Essex and huddled around our BBQ.
Not a lot else was happening and the kids looked a little bored, so we discussed going off on a little night caching run on a series of 6 caches, Ryers Down, next to the campsite. We had seen the loop, but weren’t going to bother doing them as we had heard there were loads of cows at cache #4, however Helen of HnB seemed very unscared of cows so we figured we could hide behind her if they came after us! 😉 I’ll take 50% blame for dragging us all of night caching, and I’m laying 25% on Helen, and 25% on little Cas as when asked “What do you want to do? Go to bed, or go night caching?” said “NIGHT CACHING!” And with those wise words, we were off! I really wasn’t in a fit state for caching, but when you’ve drunk as much Pimms as I had it sounded like the best idea in the world!!!
There ended up being 19 of us on the series, all us Essex cachers: HollynCharlie (2), HelennBrian (5), mel-ray (2), LegoMission (1), Happycabbage (1), and Cassandy (2). And then we were joined by two Australian cachers ozibags, and micaparamedic who thought it might be a good idea to follow these crazy people from Essex!.I think I may have had a hand in persuading them! Some of us drove there (The ones that weren’t over the limit, that was!) and the others ran the half mile up the road. We were then joined by some more cachers, Geoscouts.eu (4) who had arrived at the campsite earlier from France, not had chance to do any caching and thought they would run after us to join in with the fun! BRILLIANT!
Cache 1 was quickly found by the army of geokids who had fun on the bails of hay whilst the log signing duties were done.
You’d think that our respectable collection of cachers could have found the footpath from cache 1 to cache 2, but every single one of us ignored the GPS, climbed a stile, took the wrong path and headed in the wrong direction. Haha! We all headed back and were soon on the right path. I don’t remember all that much of it, apart from I had a great laugh and there were some very muddy and hilly parts in places so we were all going down the hills like a train. The geokids seemed to love it and found all of the caches for us. They were quite excited with the swag inside as it was a relatively new trail. The trail was perhaps a bit longer than we expected, 3 miles for 6 caches. I think a lot of others didn’t realise it would take a good few hours to complete. It was such a fun evening though, I’m smiling now just thinking back to it. A massive THANK YOU to everyone who came along!
On Sunday I awoke with a hangover (hehe!) Well! What did I expect after the night before? I nursed it with a bacon and egg sarnie and got to a stage where I was kind of fit for the MEGA event! We grabbed a few nice drive-by caches before making it to the event, including HONK where the geese greeted us thinking they would be fed, and the Fairwood YOSM Trig point.
After this we headed to the hall where the MEGA was hosted. It was a massive, grand building.
Outside we bumped into the organisers of the Piratemania event, who were such a lovely couple and without any persuasion at all convinced us to go to the Piratemania event next year!!! We also met ‘Apollo Ferret’ a very different cacher who was actually allowed into the hall as he had a special box, and a name badge!
The hall was pretty packed inside. There were various stalls around the outside, GeoTees, Magellan, MEGA 2012, GAGB, Oak geocoins, and a GPS retailer. At the front of the hall was the famous golden ammo can. There was also a side room where there were presenters giving geocaching-related talks throughout the day.
The main organiser of the MEGA meet gave a speech with the mayor and after that there wasn’t that much to do so we decided to head off. I had kind of hoped that a MEGA would be a little more exciting than that, so my experience of our first wasn’t quite what I had hoped, however saying that I shall definitely be heading to the next as it’s a great excuse to meet up with other cachers and have some fun!
We returned to the Sidepoints series which we had abandoned on Thursday after a DNF on the first cache, however heard so many great things about it that we just had to return! It seemed like EVERYONE had done it and was raving about it due to the custom containers that were used. After hearing so much about it it also meant we had a bit of an advantage that we’d heard a lot about the hides and had a good idea what we were looking for!
We parked up at cache #5 again and unlike our previous attempt it was in our hands in seconds (Helps when everyone tells you where it is!) we had seen a couple of other cachers at the spot as we drove up and they disappeared in the distance as we started to approach. We were sure we’d catch up with them though. This particular cache was an urban hide hidden next to someone’s garden fence. We retrieved the log and as we were signing a little boy popped his head up over the fence and said “Another one signing!” hehe! It was hilarious! We tried to be sneaky putting it back, but I do doubt the cache will go missing, not just because it’s so hard to find, but because the little kids won’t be able to reach it! We caught up with the cachers in front of us at cache #7. They turned out to be BHA Loyal and Sparky230 from Sussex. We’d met BHA Loyal briefly before, lovely guy, and it was a real pleasure to continue the series with them both. We had a good laugh, good chat, and helped each other out with the cache finding.
Nearly all of the cache containers had something special about them. There was a section in the quarry where boulders had gold spray paint on them. There was a bullseye, exclamation mark, question mark, and an eye. We were unsure if they had something to do with the cache, but after reading the cache description when home we realised they do. Not encountered a series where a CO has spray painted items. I’m not sure if that’s allowed, but I shall stay quiet about that!!!
We also bumped into a big group of welsh cachers, mushroommike, juggling jill, romanrob, and tazfixit. We stopped and had a nice chat. Then ahead of them was a group of 5 German cachers. The others had bumped into them earlier, but we had caught them up. I don’t know if it was due to the communication barrier, but they were really quite unsociable and we overtook them, found a cache, then they would stick their sticker in the book and move on leaving us to replace. When they found a cache however they would pass it onto us and move off! They didn’t want to join in with the team work!
We headed back to the camp site quite early leaving plenty of time to relax and enjoy a lovely curry that mel-ray cooked up for us. As we were winding down, Wales decided it would spoil the bright sunny weather that we had been enjoying for the past few ways by chucking it down with rain. This was slightly inconvenient for us as we had planned to spend the evening doing some night caching on proper night caches, our first ever! 🙂
We teamed up at 9pm with some of Helennbrian, HollynCharlie, Mel-Ray, Legomission, and Heffalump for a journey to a little woods where there were two night caches: Dark Side and Night Owl The rain had made the paths very muddy and it was a bit boggy in parts, but we were determined!
We started with Night Owl. The other cachers with us had done night caching before so were pretty good at it. I however was RUBBISH! I was far too busy shining my torch downwards looking where I was stepping to use it to check for tacks or reflectors! The path was a narrow, slippery one which went right alongside a river. If I wasn’t already petrified of falling in enough, there were little bridges made of nailed broken branches that you had to cross the stream on. Very, very authentic and it felt like we were in the amazon! I’d never crossed on anything quite like that. We managed to follow the reflectors ok for this first cache and eventually were rewarded with the stash. The CO had even placed an owl at the top of the tree looking over the cache. It was brilliant!
Next we continued on to Dark Side, just a short walk away. A muddy walk, but not so close to the river this time. We reached a point where the tacks went left, but we carried on ahead to get a separate traditional. We were minding our own business being careful when all of a sudden Mel spotted a cache. “I’VE FOUND IT, I’VE FOUND IT!” she screamed. We opened it up, but it told us that it wasn’t the cache and we had to look up. We did just that and noticed firetacks, rather than reflectors. Strange. We started to follow them, but there was some confusion as the previous path headed left. After much debate we just decided to follow them and see where they went. It took a long while, but eventually the tacks stopped and we revealed a cache, but it wasn’t the cache we were looking for, it was Golden Pig’s Bog which was a 5/5 multi. We were ecstatic! This cache was also hollyncharlie’s 4000th find, and what a brilliant cache to have as a milestone! It was a brilliant cache though and the retrieval method was amazing. We headed back on track and off back to Dark side. It wasn’t too long after this that we found Dark Side. Concealed in a spooky wall, with a few spooky additions to GZ. It must have been about midnight by the time we finished. I don’t think it was due to it being a long walk, but we had to be so careful where we stepped. It was such a brilliant night, I can’t think of a better group of people to go caching with. 🙂
Monday’s weather continued on from Sunday’s and meant we had to pack up a wet tent. Never fun! It also meant that we would be climbing up the Pen-Y-Fan mountain in the Brecon Beacons in the rain. The Picnic on Pen-Y-Fan event was at the top, however that’s not the reason we did the climb. There was a cache (or rather 2 caches!) up there which had a D/T rating that we needed. With only 5 left on our whole grid, we were going up that bloody mountain even if it was snowing (I told Andy this as well!) 😉 We had been told that possibly the least steep climb up the mountain was to park at the reservoir and make our way up from there. It looked like it would be a 3 mile walk up. So we parked down by the reservoir with mel-ray and started our ascent. There was a spooky atmosphere with mist gathering around the trees on the hillside.
The first major climb came on a grassy stretch up the hill side. There were many sheep around wondering what on earth we were up to, but stayed out of our way. The grassy stretch was extremely tiring and we were all out of breath. Ray led our little mountain expedition in an expert way, however and ensured we took regular breaks to lower our heart rates and drank lots. After the grassy bit, came the rocky bit. This was my favourite part. It was interesting to see the rocks that we had to scramble up. They were red and square. Compared this with the large round boulders that we scrambled up in the Peak district. A very different experience. The climb up the rocks wasn’t too bad and there was only one point where we had a big step up.
At the top was a massive pile of rocks. We all added a rock to the pile, Ray’s rock however was perhaps bigger than all the others and needed quite a shove to throw it on top!
Once that part of the climb was out of the way we were at about 2100ft, and we were in for a steady climb which looped around the mountain to the event. On the way there we passed BBC6 Fire and Ice which had the 1D/4.5T rating that we needed. We then also grabbed SWMCC 3. As we went further around the top, the weather worsened and it was windy, very rainy, and very misty. We couldn’t see very far at all.
It was hard going. Really hard going. The constant battling against the elements made the climb 3 times as hard and it was a bit disappointing that we didn’t get to enjoy the wonderful views of South Wales that Pen-Y-fan is famous for. Having started at 11am, we arrived at the event at 1:30pm which was good news as the event ended at 2pm! We were able to grab the virtual, and a traditional on top as well as the event.
The CO’s had brought along some sweeties and cakes and we refuelled. Most other cachers that made it had approached from a different angle along a steeper but shorter route. We were kicking ourselves that we took the longer route. It was clearly harder. I suppose we console ourselves that our route meant that we picked up 3 extra caches. We finished by grabbing Tommy Jones on the way down. It was a hard one to get and Ray volunteered to do it. It was perched on the edge and there was such poor visibility that we told him to leave the cache and come back as safety was more important. He did however continue to get the cache. Brave man!
On the way down it kind of brightened up enough for us to get a view. Not much though!
By the time we got to the bottom our shoes were soaked and our feet sore and blistered. Water had penetrated our waterproofs, but surprisingly not as much as the other weekend when we went through that rape field on a series near Peterborough!!! I was a tad grumpy when we got back to the car and immediately changed out of my wet clothes using a bath towel as a screen. By that point I was past caring and just didn’t want to be wet anymore!!! Mel and Ray sorted us out with a cuppa and biscuits. We really needed them! We ended on a 5 hour, 8 mile hike up the mountain for 6 caches. Was it worth it? You bet! What an adventure to end our trip in Wales!!!! We had an amazing time. Thank you to all of the cachers who we met and cached with along the way. We can’t wait until next years MEGAS (It’s plural now!)