Friday, March 18, 2011

News from Japan

To the very few folks that stop by this blog, I just wanted to say thank you, and we're fine.  In light of the terrible disaster that has taken place on the main island of Japan, I don't think a lighthearted post would be in order.

We're doing well here in Okinawa, and we're hoping that things improve quickly for those up North. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Trip to Zanpa and a New Geocoin

We loaded up the car this morning and took a trip to the Awase area, where I found four caches, including a previous DNF (Did Not Find).  We then trekked over to Chatan to grab some curry from CoCo Ichibanya.  Yum.

Next, it was north to Zanpa Point.  I walked all over that park trying to find the letterbox hybrid cache there, but no luck.  There was a great view from the point, so it was certainly worth the trip.

I also am the proud new owner of a couple of new geocoins.  These are unactivated, trackable, commemorative coins that were minted in celebration of Okinawa having 500 active geocaches.  I got two each in gold, silver, and antique nickel. 

The family and I had a nice Saturday out and about.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Spoiled Geocachers and Regional Quality

What is the geocaching environment like where you live?  A ton of micros?  An endless supply of rural ammo cans?  I've said a few times that I believe I'm spoiled here on Okinawa.  I've cached a couple of times in Southern California and was disappointed both times.  Is there such a thing as regional quality when it comes to geocaching?  I believe so.

Here in the tropical paradise of Okinawa, the majority of the caches are placed at various points of interest.  In addition, most of the caches have trackables in them (geocoins and travel bugs).  The folks over here are very generous with their coins, and we have pretty good luck with them staying in circulation.  There are a couple of suspect geocachers over here, and most of us know who they are, but the rest seem very reliable about logging and moving trackables.

Stateside caches that I've found have not had any trackables in them.  When I did a couple of pocket queries (downloading of geocache listings for a particular area), I was amazed at the lack of geocoins that are out there.  Many folks that leave here talk about how most geocoins get stolen in America, so most cachers don't put them out, or only place them in caches with very high difficulty ratings.  I have a couple of coins that have made their way to The States and (searching for some wood to knock on...) those coins have done pretty well so far.  Are they the exception to the rule?

In addition to the lack of trackables to enjoy, stateside caches seem to be placed in some of the most mundane locations.  I like finding hidden caches, but shopping center parking lots?  Are you serious with that?  Urban micros have their uses, and it's neat to be able to go grab a quick geocache if you're short on time, but some of those lamp post skirt hides are just plain silly.  I must admit though, lamp post hides in hotel parking lots are cool because you can check into your room, and grab a cache two minutes later!

Those of you that have cached extensively in The States may have seen enough areas to weigh in on this; are there regions that are more "lame" than others when it comes to the quality of the geocaches?  What's it like in your neck of the woods?

Herein lies one of the coolest features of this hobby:  I don't have to go search for those geocaches that I don't like!  If a cacher wants to hide a leaky film canister under a lamp post in a supermarket parking lot, they are free to do so and somebody, somewhere, will get some enjoyment from that.  I would never point at a geocacher and say they are somehow inferior because I don't like their particular style of geocache.  Personal taste is exactly that, but have any of you noticed trends in particular areas?

What say you?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Geocache Maintenance

I recently accompanied a buddy of mine while he found some of his first geocaches.  One of our stops was at the Agena Castle ruins in Uruma.  I have previously found this cache, so I figured it would be easy to steer my buddy in the right direction.  We found the cache quickly enough, but we also discovered that the lid was cracked and the cache was full of water.  The contents were soaked, and the logbook was well on its way to an oatmeal-like consistency.

I stopped by this cache this morning and replaced it with a new container and logbook.  I even threw in some swag items.  The cache owner is no longer here on Okianwa, but the cache has not been adopted by anyone.  This is too good of a spot to let the cache get archived, so I decided to lend a quick hand.  Here's a few pictures:

Friday, August 20, 2010

More Okinawan Stuff

As my time on the island of Okinawa goes by, I have to force myself to remember that the quirky little things that I see every day are considered oddities by the folks back home.  Here's a few items from a trip to "American Village," in the Chatan/Hamby area.  

The cars here all seem to have odd names.  Even some models that we have in The States have different names here.  For example, what we know as a Toyota 4Runner in America is a Hilux Surf over here.  What on earth is a Voxy?  

Here's part of my dinner from an Okinawan buffet.  Have you ever had corn on your pizza?  It was good, but it's not like the pizza we grow accustomed to in America.  The meat on a stick is called Yakitori. The little dumpling-like thing is called gyoza.  The salad dressing was a soy-based affair and it was pretty good.

This is part of American Village.  The name is a bit of a misnomer, since there were far more locals in this area than Gaijin.  There are a bunch of little shops, restaurants, and the Dragon Palace (games, slot machines, and other entertainment).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Island Hopping Campaign

I went on a leisurely drive to a couple of the nearby islands today.  My wife and kids joined me on an afternoon trip to Henza Island, Hamahiga Island, and Ikei Island (pronounced eee-kay).  I was three for five on geocaches today, and that's just fine; I had fun searching. You can click on any of the pictures below for larger versions.

We crossed the bridge to Henza Island, and stopped at a park on the causeway, where I did not find (DNF'd) the cache there.  I have been to this geocache three times now, and just can't seem to come up with it.  Some caches are easy, and some are not.  Next, we continued across the causeway to Henza Island, and made the turnoff toward Hamahiga Island.

There's a memorial on Hamahiga Island to Colonel K.H. Shelly, and I never would have found it without the hobby of Geocaching to guide me there.  My daughter and I made the quick find, I picked up a geocoin, and off we went on our tour of these outlying islands.

Next, we crossed back to Henza Island, and stopped at a marina and park there.  This was a neat little park, and appeared to be a bit under-used.  The cache container was a pelican case, which I think are perfect for this hobby (water-tight year 'round), and it was an easy find.  Off to Ikei Island!

We wound our way through the cliffs and ravines of the islands and stopped just after Ikei Beach.  We walked a jungle trail to a small, secluded beach that seems to be frequented by mostly locals.  I made quick work of the cache there, and then joined my wife and kids for a walk along the beach.  We picked up a few shells and "sea glass," and then got back in our van for to head toward an obscure little park.

In the middle of a farmer's field is a little grove that shelters an ancient (300 B.C.) ruin of an Okinawan village.  Some of the huts have been renovated, and the site would be overlooked by most Gaijin if it were not for Geocaching.  I have been to this site once before, and I had a repeat of that visit today.  I enjoyed going to the little park, but I couldn't find the geocache.  I think it may have been swiped, since there isn't much at the published coordinates to search through.  There's also a string of DNFs before my logged visit.  Bummer; this was a great spot for a cache. 

Overall, today was a fun day, and I'm glad I got to share it with my family. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Trackable Items Are Not Swag

I've mentioned before that geocaching in Okinawa seems to have a uniqueness that may cause this hobby to appear dull when Stateside.  I consider myself a bit spoiled here; we have trackable items in most of the caches here, the core group of cachers is very friendly, and almost all of the caches here are placed at real points of interest.

One thing that I have noticed when it comes to trackables (geocoins and travel bugs), is that they should not, but sometimes are counted as swag.  Let me back the truck up here--Swag is the goodies that people place in a geocache, and the premise is that you should leave something in trade if you take something.  For example, if I see a keychain flashlight in a cache, I should leave something equally nifty if I pick it up. Trackable items, however, are NOT swag; the owner of a trackable item wants it to move, almost without exception.  Imagine, if you will, a trinket that you can track around the globe, and you find out that it just sits in one spot because nobody feels like they have something of equal "value" to trade for it.  

Trackable items do not need to be traded for, but some cache owners think that they do.  I've seen some experienced cachers place bulletins on their caches that state something along the lines of, "Don't take the last geocoin out of this cache; remember to trade up or trade even!"  If my geocoin were the last/sole trackable item in a cache, I would still want it to get moved; I wouldn't really care if a cacher left something in its place.

I can understand the desire to treat trackable items like swag, since trackables often draw cachers to a geocache, but that should not be a policy, nor the nucleus of geocaching.  I suppose that, since we all play this game in our own way, one could simply ignore the desires of a cache owner and grab the last trackable out of a cache, but would that be in keeping with the spirit of the game?  

What say you about trackable items?  Do you always grab them, or just "discover" them if you don't feel like you can move it quickly?  Do you feel like you should leave a trackable if you pick one up?