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Geocaching Adventure in Hong Kong
by Worldtraveler

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 locations.)

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.