Saturday, February 28, 2009

Okinawa Poker Run Event

Today was the Poker Run event here in Okinawa. The host and hostess put a lot of work into this event, and I had a great time. I think everyone in attendance had fun.

It was fun to meet new people, and see some familiar faces. The event was held near another Geocache, and the venue accommodated us with no problems.

There were five unpublished caches that I had to find prior to the event. I took a card from each container, and couldn't open the envelopes for the cards until the event. My poker hand ended up being Jacks and Threes, and I came in fourth place. The top three hands got to divvy up the pot of donated geocoins (the ante was an unactivated coin). First place got eight, second got five, and third place got three. Quite a haul!

We all voted on the best camouflaged cache container, and another local cacher that is quickly finding his way onto everyone's "naughty" list won that game easily. Is that carrot evil, or what?

We all voted on the "most intriguing cache listing," and I won with the Space Cache Experiement.

We played geocoin bingo, and I didn't win anything on that game. Pure luck of the draw!

There was a word search game, and I didn't play that one. I let the kids that were in attendance have at it.

There was a pop quiz regarding the names of the five unpublished geocaches, and I won that event with some accurate guesses. Well, I knew the location of the five famous casinos, but the other trivia questions were tough! How much do you know about these casinos: Atlantis, Metropol, Clermont Club, Golden Nugget, Monte Carlo.

Another geocacher has his own custom geocoins, and he was generous enough to give some of them out to those that attended. Pretty neat, huh? Now, if I can figure out what the Japanese characters represent, I'll be doing much better!

I had a great time, and a fellow cacher and I will be teaming up to tackle a 5/5 cache tomorrow morning. It has a difficulty and terrain rating of five out of a possible five. The cache listing suggests bringing rope and a machette. I'll let you know how THAT one goes, if I make it back in one piece! Early reports from those that have found the cache indicate that the trek to this seven part multi-cache is nothing to laugh at. The cache owner is the same gentleman that created that evil carrot! The puzzle that needed to be solved in order to come up with the coordinates required some luck, and some intense google searching. Very creative stuff!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Okinawan Scenery and Geocaching Rules?

That's a big hermit crab!

I haven't done any Geocaching since last weekend, so I thought I would post a couple of pictures from previous adventures. There's no real rhyme or reason to these pics, just as there's no real rules to Geocaching.

It's a bit funny how this whole thing works. The game, hobby, sport, activity (whatever you choose to call it) of Geocaching has no real rules. There are suggested guidelines that can be found at the Geocaching Website, but they are just that: Guidelines. The website itself has rules and, if they are not followed, a person wishing to hide a geocache will not get their cache listed on the website. The game itself is played in the public venue, under the supervision of one's self, and there are no real guys in striped shirts to officiate. There are volunteer reviewers that publish the geocache listings, and our two reviewers do a great job (from afar).

View of the expressway, from Chibana Castle

In regard to guidelines, many players are fond of saying that everyone plays the game their own way. I couldn't agree more. As soon as I say that, however, there are a few details that cause me to question that decree. Should everyone just trod forth, ignoring all suggestions? We can if we so choose, but should we? There's another nifty website out there that lists the Geocacher's Creed. I think that if everyone at least tried to follow these simple suggestions, there would be fewer problems. These guidelines need to be tempered with common sense, though.

One of the many well worn paths

What of the "unwritten rules?" Should you pull out your cell phone and "phone a friend," "use a lifeline," or simply, "ask for help," when you cannot find a geocache? I say, go right ahead. I would leave it up to the person you call to decide whether or not to reveal any information. Are you infringing on anyone else by asking for help? Only you know if you've made a tough find with no help. Some of those folks that "rate" themselves in the Geocaching world might argue differently, but I don't think they are paid employees of Groundspeak or Garmin. Some of the other unwritten standards are slowly becoming "the way." This might lead to what we commonly refer to as tradition. Good? Bad? Maybe a little of both, at times.

East China Sea, as seen from Camp Kinser

This is all, of course, just opinion. It's subject to change, and it's a work in progress. I think if people allow themselves to get too wrapped up in this game, they will lose sight of how fun it is, and the amazing places it can take them. What are your thoughts on it all?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Search Engine Referrals

I love Sitemeter. If you look down at the bottom of my sidebar, you'll see a little counter with a link to their site. Gotta be logged in to see my detailed stats :) I enjoy seeing who visited my blog, how long they stayed, and how they got here.

One of the nifty little features of Sitemeter is that it will show me what search words somebody used if they came here via a search engine (Google seems to be the top dog at the moment, but Yahoo is running a close second). Now that search engines crawl and index sites automatically, my humble little blog is actually listed. Here's some of the search terms that folks used to find me:

-"Geocaching lessons"- I'm not sure where you can get actual lessons, but I'll tutor you for a nominal fee! You can also visit Head Hard Hat, and check out some of his videos for more help.

-"Cool cache containers"- I was flattered when I saw that one, but then I realized that it's probably only due to my post that shares the same title. Oh well.

-"Kyan Castle"- Yep; been there. Nice place, and I recommend a visit. Watch out for snakes near the cache though...

-"Kanna Dam"- Yep; been there too. Just a hop, skip, and a jump from where I work. I can even hit that one at lunch!

-"What to hide in a nano cache"- Sorry neighbor; you're not going to have much luck in that regard. Nanos don't contain anything other than a very tiny, rolled up log sheet for you to put your autograph on.

Isn't technology great? I read a few folks' comments on other sites, and some were concerned with privacy. I equate surfing the internet with driving on a highway. While you have some small amount of privacy in the confines of your automobile, it is indeed registered publicly, and you have a license plate on it, right? Well, your computer has an address assigned to it, and it shows up wherever you go (IP address). If you were unaware, you also transmit what version of Java your computer is running, what your screen resolution is, what web browser you're using, and what operating system you're running. Sitemeter even tells me who your internet service provider (ISP) is. Yes! My master plan for world domination is coming along nicely!

Easy Caches?

It's funny how things change over time. Everything from my childhood seems small now, a lot of my clothing seems to have shrunk (only in the waist), my forehead is getting bigger...You get the idea. It appears that it's the same with Geocaching.

I only started this activity eight months ago, but it has morphed into a full-fledged hobby in record time. It has also changed for me quite a bit. When I began, a hidden container that most considered an "easy find," was very difficult for me. Another, more experienced, geocacher said that it would take time for my "geosenses" to develop. I didn't think I would ever get the knack of spotting hidden containers.

"Easy" geocaches still elude me, while some that others consider very difficult will sometimes just jump out at me. Everybody thinks and solves problems differently, and we each come to conclusions via different routes. Sometimes, we even solve problems differently than the last time we faced such a problem. A few folks call that process "learning." It's an amazing process, and that experienced geocacher really did know what he was talking about. Now, many hiding places just seem to make sense, and the cache containers are pretty easy to locate. That's not always the case, but it's usually the norm now, even after my limited number of finds. Getting to the location where the cache is hidden is an entirely different story...

A fellow geocacher that rotated back to the states told me that the caches there seem to be much easier to find than the caches here. I'm not sure if the lack of jungle terrain makes that so, or if he, like me, is just getting better at it. Maybe his "geosenses" are simply more finely tuned now.

What are your thoughts on it?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Okinawan Geocachers

Okinawa has some unique geocaches. We have a variety of terrain, and some great points of interest. We also have some of the best geocaching and geocachers in the world. Don't believe it? Here's a few reasons why I believe it:

-Many of our geocachers are not even here. They're in places like Iraq and Afghanistan right now, fighting those that would destroy us. Many of those that are here have already been to those places, and are heading back again.

-We have cachers that think that if you don't need explosives to get to the cache, you're not bushwhacking (and this guy is one of my personal geocaching heroes).

-We have cachers that will look at a "5/5" and say, "Pfft...Night caching anyone?"

-Our entire caching playing field is 60 miles long and five miles wide at its widest point...We have unexploded ordnance everywhere. We're like a can of starting fluid that has been roughly handled and beaten on. From jungle to cane fields, we have some tough stomping grounds.

-I think we have a higher per/cache coin content than anywhere on earth.

-We have Soldiers, Sailers, Airmen and Marines in droves.

-We have Okinawan geocachers.

-People go home from here and tell stories about geocaching in Okinawa.

-We have Cache Oki

-We have lots of castles!

Badass beaches? We got 'em.

We have amazing flora.
And fauna.

We also have a core group of cachers that have an easy association with each other, and it works. I'll miss it when I leave here.

Oba Chan's Freedom Cache

What a beautiful day it turned out to be here on Okinawa! 70 degrees, sunny, a light breeze, and low humidity (well, low humidity for here). Who could ask for more? (click the pics for full size versions)

Got Wind?

Island trees, swaying in the breeze

After a good lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, my son and I teamed up with a friend of mine to hit a few geocaches in the area. Two of them were new finds for me, and we hit four others that I've found before. I don't mind re-visiting caches, since my friend hasn't found them, and almost every cache here on Okinawa is hidden at a point of significant interest.

We started off by heading to a cache at a local driving school. We quickly made the find, and then headed off to a cache called, "Oba Chan's Freedom Cache." The name is based on the fact that the cache owner calls his wife's grandmother, "Oba Chan." His wife is Okinawan. It's called "Freedom Cache," because it's hidden at a cluster of small caves that were used as hiding places by the locals during World War II. Some of them didn't survive, but those that did only survived because of the shelter provided by these caves. The history behind the location gave this find a much greater significance.

After climbing around the hill where the caves are located, we headed off to a few other local caches, including one hidden at the Agena Castle. There's also a bull ring there, where the locals enjoy watching the bull fights. Don't worry, it's not like the Spanish style of bull fighting. Here on Okinawa, the bulls fight each other, and it's more of a pushing and shoving match than anything. The bulls don't get hurt, and whichever one gets tired first loses.

At Agena Castle

After a full afternoon of caching, my son and I said goodbye to my friend and headed for home. On the way home, we saw a man walking his bull down the road, just like you would walk a dog. I decided that I wanted to get a picture of that, so we turned around, and headed back the way we came. By the time we got back to where the bull was, the man had rounded a bend in the road, and come across yet another man walking a bull. The two bulls decided that they didn't need a bull ring, and they began to fight. They flung their owners around a little bit, but the two men managed to get the bulls pulled apart.

Them's fightin' words!

The bulls will quit when they're good and ready

Monday, February 16, 2009


This little fellow was clinging to my backpack when I got home today. He's about three quarters of an inch in length. He lives in our bushes now. (click the image for full size)

Poker Run Event Cache

On the 28th of this month, I'll be attending another caching event here on Okinawa. It's going to be a poker run, and it will be held at a neat place that I wrote about here.

The rules of the poker run are pretty fun in and of themselves. The event host has hidden five geocaches here on the island, and they will remain unpublished until after the event. He and his wife have emailed all of the hopeful participants with the coordinates to those five caches. Each of those caches contains a bag of envelopes with playing cards in them. Collect one envelope from each cache, don't open it until the event, and show up on game day.

We'll open each envelope in sequence, and the person with the highest card for each cache wins the first to find (FTF) for that cache. They also win an unactivated geocoin. After all five FTFs have been awarded, the person with the highest poker hand wins the FTF for the event cache, and whatever other prize the host has on hand (probably more coins).

My daughter and I went out today and found the five caches for the event. It was a cloudy, crummy looking day, but we still had a good time. All five caches were very well hidden, and a couple of them had us both scratching our heads. The containers were not hard to locate, but actually getting to the locations was pretty difficult. The host was sarcastic enough to write that we "shouldn't need to bushwhack" in the email. He lied.

Finding the five caches was a great time, and I'm looking forward to the event. I'll let you know how my hand stacks up. Here's a couple of pictures from today:

At the beach near Torii Station

No bushwhacking required?

Local park near Kadena Marina

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lazy Hazy Day

It was overcast and hazy today. The weather report said that it was foggy, but I wouldn't quite classify it as fog, just haze. My son and I spent the afternoon touring the Awase area on the eastern shore of the island.

Our first stop was a small park, and the cache was hidden in a fake telephone hookup box. Since I've seen that type of container before, I spotted it as soon as we pulled up. It's almost like seeing an electrical box with absolutely no conduit leading to it...It just looks wrong and out of place. Easy grab, and we were on our way.

Next, we headed to another park, and the cache listing even states that the coordinates are off a little bit. That wasn't a problem, but the horde of young kids playing in the park was a problem. We couldn't really search thoroughly while being watched by the youngsters. We waved off and headed to the next cache.

After a quick find behind the Toys R Us (yep; they have one here), we went inside for lunch. The Okinawan version of Toys R Us has an entire shopping mall inside, with a food court. Don't be confused by the term, "food court." The food isn't what you would find in a mall in the U.S. My son and I each had a nice big bowl of soba, with a big hunk of pork, chopped onions, bamboo shoots, and corn. Good stuff. Who knew that you could go to Toys R Us for lunch?

Our last stop was a multi-cache, or multiple part geocache. I scratched my head for a while, and I think I found part one. The only problem is that I couldn't figure out what to do with part one. It only consisted of four digits, instead of the usual six (both the northing and the easting are usually listed in DDD MM.MMM format, so each leg of a multi usually gives just the last three digits of the minutes, for a total of six digits). I tried substituting the last two digits of the existing coordinates with two each of the found numbers, but that didn't lead me anywhere productive. Oh well; can't win 'em all.

Here's a couple of pictures of the mud flats at low tide (click for full size):

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Seeing the Sights

A couple of weekends ago, while messing around at the haunted hotel (see post below), my friend and I also went to a cache that was hidden near a monument to Commodore Matthew Perry. Apparently, he made a little stop here in Okinawa, and left a lasting impression. There was also a very high-end tomb nearby (Yakuza bigwigs?). Here's a couple of shots:

Tomb with a view

Matt was here

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cherry Blossoms

The cherry trees are in full bloom here in Okinawa. This is cause for a huge festival and much celebration here. The Okinawans take their cherry blossoms very seriously.

Here's a couple of pictures of some trees that I came across today (click to enlarge):

Haunted Hotel

I spent today out caching with a friend of mine, and we headed to the "Haunted Hotel." The Royal Hotel was never finished, and it remains an empty shell today. The developer never had any real plans, and the layout of the place reflects that. There are stairwells going nowhere, passages that lead to dead ends, and a general sense of chaos as you wander the halls.

The view from the upper levels is magnificent, and we had a great time exploring. Amazingly enough, there didn't seem to be any ghosts hanging around the place today (maybe they were all watching the Superbowl).

We then headed to the Nakagusuku Castle, and then to a neat little soba shop for lunch. Here's a few shots (click to enlarge):
One of the castle entrances

Cherry blossoms at the castle

The Haunted Hotel

One of the views from the hotel