The comic strip character Hagar
the Horrible once said, “Ignorance is the mother of adventure.” Not having a map
or any familiarity with the area to which I was journeying, I set out from
Kowloon on my adventure at ~08:30 on 26 Oct. 2002. I was searching for two
geocaches benignly rated as 1/1 and 2/1 endeavors. “Piece of cake”, I thought,
“I should easily have these knocked out by noon and still have time for the more
difficult ones up on Victoria Peak.” Little did I know at the time that
geocaches possess the ability to combine and multiply their difficulty ratings
by simply invoking the “adventure factor”.
My strategy was simple: I purchased a 1-day MTR pass and hopped on the subway
headed in the general direction of the caches, surfacing every few stops to get
a new location fix and plot my progress. By timing the legs and estimating the
speed, I finally popped out at a stop only 0.2 mi. from the first cache. Tall
buildings and a myriad of busy streets appeared to obstruct a direct approach,
so I decided to apply some intellect. The name of the cache, “Peace and
Tranquility”, indicated a location isolated from the cacophony surrounding me.
Spying a nearby hillside with a pathway leading upward, I said to myself, “Aha!
This must be the path leading to Peace and Tranquility.”
Firmly convinced, I set out up the hill on a heading perpendicular to the
direction the arrow on my GPSr was pointing. A fence along the path prevented
any shortcutting. “Very clever”, I thought. “Good use of the terrain to increase
the challenge. Curious that they rated this a 1/1, however.”
When I finally reached the top of the hill, I could see that it was broad and
somewhat flat. The GPSr arrow was now pointing back over my right shoulder, and
the indicated distance was ~0.5 mi. I turned right and continued to follow the
fence until finding an opening with a path leading directly toward the cache.
“Finally!” I thought. “It won't be long now.” The pathway meandered more or less
in the general direction of the cache until I was just a little over 500 ft.
from it. The only problem was that the remaining distance was almost straight
down and covered with heavy undergrowth! Not wanting to backtrack the ~1 mi. I
had now hiked, I decided to continue around the rim of the hilltop until I could
find the path that must surely lead to the coveted cache. As I continued my
trek, the distance to the cache increased until I was once again ~0.5 mi. from
the cache. At this point, I was finally able to begin descending the hill and
turn back toward the cache.
Reaching the bottom, I found myself once again only 0.2 mi. from the cache but
approaching it from the opposite direction from where I had started, having
circumnavigated the hill in the process. The remainder of the search was pretty
much uneventful. Following the arrow this time, I quickly found myself at the
intended location and grasped the prize of “Peace and Tranquility” at 11:40. The
hike back to the subway was straight, level, and only 0.2 mi. as originally
indicated. However, the “adventure factor” had bumped the overall difficulty of
this one to about a 1/3.
Leaving Peace and Tranquility behind, I resumed my “prairie dog” strategy on the
subway until I was only 1 mi. from the next cache. There was a slight problem,
however; a steep ridge, towering over 600 feet, loomed before me, and I could
discern no obvious pathway toward my destination. I set out zigzagging up
streets and steps in the general direction of the cache until reaching a
dead-end several hundred feet up. With some difficulty, I inquired of the nearby
locals whether a road or pathway led to the other side of the ridge, and
gathered from their response that a direct approach was not possible but an
indirect path may exist somewhere off “that way”. Descending back a few hundred
feet, I headed in the direction they had pointed (AWAY from the cache) thinking
I may have to detour around the ridge rather than hike over it.
After about 10 minutes, however, I found some broad steps leading upward and
decided to follow them. The path eventually narrowed and turned back toward the
cache, and I was now certain I had come the right way. As I emerged from the
tree cover of the lower slopes onto the exposed upper reaches of the ridge, I
recalled that old Chinese proverb, “A journey of a single mile begins with a
thousand steps (most of them straight up).” At least that's how I recalled it at
the time. And then I spied it! The arrow on my Garmin V was pointing directly at
the summit of the ridge, still several hundred feet above me and (according to
the Garmin) 0.8 mi. away. “What a great place for a cache”, I thought to myself.
“I'm glad I didn't try to detour around the ridge; I would have missed it. But
isn't it strange how objects at higher elevations appear much closer than they
really are?” Then, as I continued upward along the spine of the ridge, something
even stranger happened. The arrow on the Garmin began to swing away from the
summit! (Mental note: caches are not always hidden at great and obvious
It was now painfully obvious the cache lay beyond the ridge I now straddled.
Since I had come this far, however, I decided to continue to the summit before
resuming my search. And once at the summit, I decided to leave a cache I was
carrying with me. No sense wasting a perfectly good location, after all.
After an extended time at the summit, I continued my quest. At least it was all
downhill from here. Nearly 600 feet downhill, as it turned out.
Anyway, I finally found the “Team Mumu's HKUST cache” at ~17:25. The adventure
factor had once again bumped the overall difficulty up a few notches for this
one, but not as high as it could have been; I was able to catch a bus back to
the subway. Of course, I could have also rode it FROM the subway if I’d known
where I was going at the outset. But then it wouldn’t have been an adventure.