Your Mission…

Or, a brief story in which I saved the world.

Well, I finally completed what is IMHO the best geocache ever: “Your Mission…” I started it back in September ’17 and finished it just over a year later on the 10th of November. I didn’t want to give anything away before but the owner has now archived it so I felt a celebratory post was in order.

In case you don’t know, the premise of “Your Mission…” is that Wolverine, a SIS agent, has managed to rescue and hide an “Anti-Matter” bomb and your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to locate and defuse the bomb, thus saving the planet. So, it’s a cache with many stages, with episodes of Wolverine’s escape from the enemy “Muggelovians” hidden in various places. Most cachers have chosen to write their “find” logs in the spirit of the cache narrative, taking on the persona of a secret agent. I was no exception.

Rather than rewrite my experiences for this blog, I’ve chosen to reproduce my logs pretty much as originally written (maybe with the addition of a picture or several). 

Assuming you’re still reading this, here goes!

Oh and by the way, my choice of callsign: Bluebottle = blue arsed fly. 😉

Day 1

Wednesday: I’m driving at full pelt across Hertfordshire with the words of my boss, Harry Pearce, running on an infinite loop in my head. “Adam is dead, Danny is dead. Tom went mad, Jo got shot and Zoe is on the run. Believe it or not, you are our last hope. Don’t screw it up. I’m sending Bob with you as he is the one with the brains. Your callsign is “Bluebottle”, although if you are caught you are totally deniable. Oh, one more thing: leave your gun in the armoury. If it comes to a shoot out you will already be beyond help.”

So, here we are – Callsign Bluebottle – arriving at the coords we gleaned from Wolverine’s last transmission. We set off in what we hope is the correct direction. Following the minimal clues, we press on, through the ruins of an old military installation, deeper into the unknown. After some time we unearth a dead drop left by Wolverine which sends us off to a second location. At least we don’t seem to be pursued by Muggelovian agents at this stage, although how long our luck will hold up is anyone’s guess. Now we have the next piece of info, it’s back to the car and a dash across country to the next location.

Remains of WW2 military camp

Later: We find ourselves creeping through a dank, dark structure. A flashlight would be useful. (Note to self: don’t leave flashlight in car). Suddenly something snags my foot, I try to shake it free to no avail. Have the Muggelovians set booby traps? Nope, turns out to be a tangle of thin wire. Disentangling myself, we carry on, emerging into a wooded area where we find ourselves skirting around a small group of tents, partially hidden in a clearing. This looks worrying, could this be a Muggelovian base camp? Luckily there are no sign of life, so we press on, following the information which Wolverine had managed to leave behind. After a considerable hike, we at last find the next dead drop and acquire the intelligence needed for the next location. We retrace our route back to the car, sneaking past the Muggelovian camp once more. It’s at this point I’m beginning to wish I’d brought Mr. Nine Millimetre. (Note to self: don’t listen to Harry Pearce).

hill with sheep

Later still: Trekking across a broad expanse of land dotted with sheep. I hope they are all actually sheep. I don’t know what the average size and build of a Muggelovian agent is but I’m hoping that they aren’t able to disguise themselves as sheep. That would be unfortunate. And a bit weird. This is turning out to be quite a trek. We take a wrong turning. Consult the OS Map. (Doh!). Take the correct path. Gather some more information. Now we need to use our brains. Getting to the location entails some off-piste action. And a barbed wire fence. Make that 2 barbed wire fences. If only I hadn’t skipped the barbed-wire-fence-climbing lesson on that Special Forces training course. Finally, we have got our hands on the next piece of intel. Darn! Wolverine must have been worried about interception – this one is in code! A bit of a hike now as we head back to the car and a pause while we decode that latest message.

geocache container

One of Wolverine’s dead drops

 

Day 2

The last message I received from Wolverine was encoded and not something I could decipher in the field. Plus it was tea time. Later on, back at base and fuelled by a nice mug of English tea and some Hobnobs, I successfully decoded the message. Today, armed with a transcript of the message, we’ve arrived at the edge of a wooded area. Securing our transport and camouflaging it against possible detection by Muggelovian agents, Agent Bob and I set off for the latest coordinates. After a while we emerge into a large clearing where several Muggelovian agents are stood in a group, chatting. What worries me the most is that they have several attack dogs and I know we will be in severe trouble if they set them on us. We decide to brazen it out and, disguising ourselves as harmless geocachers, we continue nonchalantly on our way. Once back in the safety of the woods, we listen for sounds of pursuit but as the silence surrounds us once more we know we’ve got away with it. After a while, we find the area mentioned in Wolverine’s message and obtain the next piece of intel. After that, we press on back to our transport where we pause for iron rations before heading off to the next location. Was that hill really steep or am I just out of condition? Hrm, moving on…

It seems that Wolverine has been getting ever more careful, he must have been concerned that his messages might be intercepted by the opposition, and the intel he left contained several layers of obfuscation to confound them. Confounds me too at times. Having gathered some more info, we are off again, finally arriving at a promising location. Fortunately we have the place to ourselves as retrieving the next piece of intel is not easy and it’s a good thing that we remain unobserved. I’m getting too old for this secret agent lark. Let’s have a look… What the what? Now I need all my secret agent training to figure this one out!

military pill box in the woods

Back to the transport once more and another change of location. Out in the open now and we feel very exposed, visible to any Muggelovians who have managed to follow us. We seem to be without a tail so we continue to the next point of interest to which Wolverine has led us. From this we figure out where we need to be, so we carry on, dodging a couple of friendly muggles (phew) before homing in on the coords we’ve calculated. Finding Wolverine’s dead drop (and getting to it) requires some special secret agent agility by Agent Bob but in due course we have it.

One of Wolverine's hidden notes

One of Wolverine’s hidden notes

Armed with this latest info we take stock of our situation. The transport is at bingo fuel so we reluctantly make the decision to return to base. Saving the world will have to wait for a bit longer. Oh, and it’s nearly tea time. 

Odometer reading for the day 112.5 miles

This is typical of the mileage on each day!

 

Day 3

Callsign Bluebottle reporting. Back in the summer I thought there would be plenty of time to complete this operation. Just recently I discovered that there really is not much time left in which to save the planet. Things have just got serious. No time to lose, then!

<Slurps tea, stuffs emergency Hobnobs into pocket, grabs car keys. Exit stage left>

I collect Agent Bob and floor it up the Mike One. I’ve worked out where we need to be from the info we picked up at the end of Day 2 and we make good time from one county to the next. Plus the sun is shining. For now.

Later: There are a couple of vehicles at our chosen parking spot: fellow agents or Muggelovians? Remaining vigilant, we approach the area in question. There is a solitary gent some 50 metres away, could be a Muggelovian but maybe not. Seems harmless and anyway isn’t looking in our direction. Picking our way cautiously to the prospective hiding place, we find the next of Wolverine’s hidden containers and retrieve the information he has left. As we head back to the track, we encounter the suspicious gent directly in our path. He has a mobile phone in his hand – have we been compromised? We pass him on the path with a nonchalant exchange of pleasantries. I’m sure he’s an innocent civilian and we press on. Just as we get back to the car, a tractor towing a large covered trailer pulls up and lots of people brandishing sticks jump out of the back. Muggelovians!

We’re about to make a dash for it when we realise it’s nothing more than a beating party, heading off into an adjacent field to frighten some pheasants. Phew! 

Back in the car we examine Wolverine’s latest and calculate the next location. He’s had to be very devious in an effort to put off the Muggelovians (always assuming they’ve managed to do as well as us…) Better punch those coords into the Satnav and get moving. 

A bit later: Belting along, I nearly overshoot the spot.  Что за черт? Can’t park here. Back the way we came and slip into a convenient lay-by. A bit of a walk, looks like. Set off. Realise I’ve forgotten my secret agent reading glasses. Go back for them. OK, off we go again. Bet James Bond never has these problems.

A bit later still: More information acquired. Do you know, I think this is it. We have the coords for the Anti Matter device! We set off on a fairly long hike. Not another soul around, we seem to have the place to ourselves. I’m pretty certain we’ve lost any possible Muggelovian tail so we can head to the device “clean”. Hopefully we’re not too late. If we are, being this close we won’t know anything about it.

Ammo box cache

Even later still: The GPS says we are here. We search a couple of likely spots. There it is! It’s up to me to save the planet! I open the device. Heart in mouth stuff, this! Secret agents should be calm in situations like this. Darn! With trembling fingers I enter the deactivation code and…

BEEP ! BEEP ! BEEP ! …

Silence. Distant birdsong.

I’ve save the world! Well, me and Agent Bob. Also thanks to Wolverine, I couldn’t have done it without him, the fortunately devious Ублюдок! 

The Anti-matter bomb

The device de-activated!

There is still one more task to complete for mission end. Ecstatic from my achievement, we relocate to the place where we complete the paperwork. Typical Civil Service, there’s always paperwork!

Callsign Bluebottle to base: Mission complete. Returning to base, put the kettle on.

And Finally:

A note to the cache owner:

Pharisee, what can I say? This has been the most fun I’ve had geocaching, bar none. An amazing cache: the amount of work that has gone into creating, setting and maintaining this cache is incredible. I’m so pleased that you’ve held off archiving it. Like many others I just wish I could award more than one favourite point. 

Thank you ! 

So, that was it. My version of “Your Mission…”. If you’ve read all the way to the end, I hope you enjoyed my story. 

 

Postscript

The cache owner archived “Your Mission…” because he is relocating. As he said in his final log, maybe Wolverine isn’t dead. Maybe he will resurface with another mission. I hope so!

 

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Off Roading

14th October found us at an off roading event organised by Land Rover Monthly magazine. The trail was a step up from the usual green lanes I’ve driven, on a 3 mile course expertly prepared by the chaps at Experience the Country near Milton Keynes.

a long line of land rovers

There were wooded sections to navigate, through some tight twisty turns between the trees:

following a Land Rover defender through the woods

There were some very challenging sections which I had to skip, due to ground clearance and the absence of low range and locking diffs on the Freelander. Oh for a Defender or a Disco. (sigh).

There was lots of mud!

muddy trail

Here, we are about to follow this chap over a steep hill:

discovery ascending the hill

Some stills from our in-car video:

approaching the hill starting to climb hang on!

Where has the ground gone? over the other side

Terrain Response set to Mud & Ruts throughout and much use made of Hill Decent Control. I continue to be impressed and pleased with the performance of “R2”.

My Freelander 2 and some mud

In a carpark full of Land Rovers he felt right at home. Parking Rules Applied.

Parking Rules Applied. A bunch of Land Rovers

It was great to be using the Freelander in the environment for which it was designed! And yes, we went round the course several times!

Time for the jet wash

I’d quite like to do it all again!

 

Your Mission…

I have finally started the famously difficult geocache: “Your Mission…“. This is widely held to be one of the best geocaches ever and is one I have planned to do for several years. Unfortunately other “life events” have got in the way over the last few years but now I’m in a position where I can go for it.

If you know anything about this cache, you’ll know how long it takes to complete. I’ve done a few stages before running out of time so I’ll keep you updated as I progress towards the final. Once I’ve done it I will try to encapsulate the experience in a blog. Bet you can’t wait!

My Yearly FTF

Let’s be clear about this, I’m no FTF hound. True, it is fun to get a FTF every now and again but I’m just not that dedicated/focussed/obsessed/mad. According to what I’ve learnt from those who are one (maybe all) of the above, I’d have to remain permanently sober, sleep in a chair with my caching trousers and boots on at all times and… You get the idea. (to my FTF crazy friends: I’m only joking. About the sober bit. Honest.).

Let’s apply some perspective: my last FTF was on 22 March 2016. Yes, that is more than a year ago.

Now, I’m always interested in drsolly’s puzzle caches as they often have an IT element which of course appeals to my inner nerd. Yesterday the good doctor published a new cache – n/\m. At the time I couldn’t make any headway solving it but this morning I was taking Skye for a walk when a solution popped into my brain. I had to wait until I got home to crack open my Mac before I could try it out, with… Success! Cue one short, restrained, happy dance. Nobody saw that? Good. Moving on…

Then it was a question of waiting until I could find a suitable window to go look for it, all the while being everso slightly worried that someone else might solve it…

So, it wasn’t until this afternoon that I was able to whizz out in the Freelander, collect Bob (who has considerably more FTFs than me^) and drive over to the location. Once at GZ the cache itself was an easy find. Even better, we were rewarded with a clean logbook. Excellent!

On our way back home, we stopped at another drsolly cache we’d both solved when it was published about 10 days ago. We still managed to be Second To Find on that one!

 

^ 700, as I write this.

 

Valley of Gold

View - The Golden Valley panorama

As part of this summer’s Geolympix event, the team set some caches in the gorgeous ‘Golden Valley’ on the Ashridge Estate. Landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, the Golden Valley is a lovely place to walk with magnificent views of Ashridge House.

Well, I missed the Geolympix due to eye ops, and today was the first chance I’ve had to start the huge, hopefully enjoyable, task of seeking out all the geocaches set for the Geolympix. I thought I’d start small with this mini series of 5 caches. Having said that, I started with a cache which had nothing to do with the Geolympix, a cache placed recently by my mate Bob – GC6P5ZD A Fine Pair #652 – Little Gaddesden. The national ‘Fine Pair’ series is all about combining a red telephone box with a red post box (more info on the cache page). That was an easy find so then Skye and I set off the the Golden Valley.

View - back along the valley

Aiming for the first cache, GC6K9ZE – VoG1: The Valley of Green, I arrived at the waypoint to find I hadn’t. What I was expecting wasn’t there, which was a bit puzzling until I realised I was at the second stage of a different cache. I must have selected the wrong WP! Knowing I would eventually need it later, I made a note of the information before plugging the correct WP for VoG1 into my GPSR and off we went again! VoG1 was itself a multi-stage and so first we had to get to its first stage. Once there I spotted an AAND which to be honest, based on the hint, was not what I was expecting. So I duly worked out the coords for the final and off we went again!

Finding the final was easy enough and I then thought, well I have part of the info I need for  VoG5 so I may as well pick up the rest. I had planned to do the caches in numerical order but what the heck! The second stage of VoG5 required me to find a plaque but arriving at the general location, a substantial brick-built bridge, there wasn’t anything which ‘leapt out’ at me. Skye and I spent a while scouting all around the bridge before I finally spotted the plaque. That gave me the info I needed so it was then time to ‘do the arithmetic’ and obtain the final coords.

view of the valley from an old bridge

Off we go again! From the map it was clear that this cache was not in the general direction of the remaining caches. I didn’t have time to do all of them on this trip so I decided to complete VoG5 and return for the others another day. And so it was that I arrived at GZ for GC6KA4R – The Hill of Pain. I have to say that yes, it was a steep hill but no, it wasn’t painful to climb. Maybe because I hadn’t walked the entire route. Whatever, the wet grass did make for a sometimes interesting ascent but, once we were on the flat once more, it was an easy walk to GZ. Now you know that I don’t include spoilers in my caching tales. Following the hint I homed in on the location. Low down in what I can only describe as a very bushy tree, there was the hint item and a convenient dark hollow. Which was empty! Casting my eyes around and about I spotted another likely hiding place and was rewarded with a tupperware box. Yay!

So that was it for today. It’s a great location and I now have to come back to get the other three caches.

 

DIY SLR

The tech industry has spent millions on the development of camera technology to enable people to take sharp, properly exposed photographs where they can see the results almost instantly. Gone were the days of getting your prints back from the D&P lab to find they were fuzzy and discoloured, not to mention that you cut off the top of Aunt Mabel’s head. Long gone, that is, until now. Lomography (as you probably already know) is an offshoot photography hobby where these “old fashioned” photographic results are the intended end product.

I was once tempted to buy a Lo-Mo camera but frankly they were a bit pricey as well as looking suitably rubbish so I didn’t. Now enter the DIY SLR kit!

As you may know, I like making stuff, so I thought it’s only £25 for a kit which “should” result in a working camera so what’s not to like?

So for a bit of fun, here are my build photographs!

There are lots of parts, just like an Airfix kit:

IMG_4020 IMG_4019

I set to assembling the various parts, the only tool needed was a small screwdriver (which was supplied so I didn’t even have to get my tool box). Here’s (most of) the film winding mechanism:

IMG_4023

The main body taking shape. The top plate with the matt focusing screen:

IMG_4025

There is a bayonet mount for the lens, here you can see the reflex mirror:

IMG_4024

The finished article!

IMG_4028 IMG_4029

Looks pretty good eh? OK so it’s nothing like my old Nikon FM (how I wish I had kept that one!)

There are a few drawbacks to the design, which I guess are there to keep the cost down and make it simple to assemble, so operation is not what you’d get with a modern camera. The lens is a fixed aperture (f10) as is the shutter speed (1/80th) and the simple lens is, unsurprisingly, not glass. It will be interesting to see what the images look like once I have put a film through it.

When I eventually get something back from the D&P lab I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Happy 10th Birthday, England’s oldest cache!

This geocaching lark is great fun. Yesterday evening I attended a geocaching event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of England’s oldest surviving cache, “View from Coombe Hill”.

We all met up at the Russell Arms at Butlers Cross near Wendover for a couple of beers before leaving the pub at about 10.30 and making the night-time trek up Coombe Hill in the dark to the monument at the top. The route was marked out with glo-sticks but negotiating the very muddy terrain, especially the very steep bit, was both great fun and knackering at the same time.

When we had all got to the top, major fireworks were set off in celebration (Oooh! Aaah!). Standing on the top of the hill we had a fantastic view of the surrounding area, with the twinkling streetlights and the well-illuminated Chequers. We wondered what the PM would make of the fireworks…

We then set off to find a celebratory cache and then to the site of the oldest cache itself to wish it a happy birthday, before heading back down to the pub.

On the way up I had thought, “this hill is going to be interesting going back down” and I wasn’t wrong. It seemed even steeper to descend and, what with the very wet and muddy ground, it was only a matter of time before I ended up on my arse. Boot fail! Still, no harm done and I wasn’t the only one by any means. In fact judging by the shrieks of laughter from further up the hill, I think one or two people slid the whole way down on their bums rather than try to stand up! We finally got back to the pub car park at about midnight.

All in all a great night!