May 18, 2019
I am a meticulous planner, but willing to abandon those plans if the risk-reward scale outweighs a spontaneous adventure. I traveled to Costa Rica with the intention of finishing my second book that I started too long ago.
I called it my Ernest Hemmingway, writing sabbatical.
I planned on writing for two days consecutively; take a day to play, and repeat this cycle until the book was completed or when my vacation was over. The day to play would be with my Costa Rican friend, Arturo, whom I met while traveling on business year’s prior.
Since this is his home country, I suggested a trip to Arenal Volcano as I was denied it the first time I visited. He was delighted to show me one of his country’s national treasures. My reasoning was two-fold: to see this active volcano and finish up old business, and to show my friend the Joy of Geocaching.
I was supremely confident that he would love it if shown properly. Besides, I had been asking about it prior to my arrival constantly.
We employed his friend, Jorge, to drive us out to the volcano, as I didn’t know Arturo wasn’t licensed to drive or own a vehicle. I thought, cool enough, as long as we get there.
After the obligatory tour activity of selfies, photos of the landscape, etc., I opened the Geocaching App. I knew that a geocache was hidden nearby that I wanted to find to earn my digital Costa Rican country souvenir.
It was my treat myself day, per se.
Arturo being naturally curious asked if he could accompany me. I replied, of course, that was my intention. We followed the coordinates to the location. I coached him that while I didn’t know exactly what we were looking for, it would be an object that seemed out of place, that just didn’t naturally occur.
With my keen sense of observation, and having found several hundred geocaches at this point, I found it first. with my eyes only. I guided Arturo over to it to let him find it.
It was a Thermos converted to a geocache. We opened it up together, I demonstrated to sign our names to the logbook to prove we actually found it. I displayed the trinkets inside of it, i.e. SWAG, and more.
I placed it all back the way I found it, and anti-climatically remarked, “That’s that.”
He asked, “Now what? What do you do next?”
I laughed, “Now you find another one, and another, and you play until you don’t want to anymore.”
He smiled back, “You, mi amigo, will never stop playing.”
I chortled, “You’re probably right. I’ll play until I can’t move anymore.”
“Amigo, please, let’s find more! This is fun, ” Arturo implored. I knew it. My planned worked: he’s addicted to the Joy of Geocaching.
Coast To Coast
When they dropped me off at my rental, I resumed my writing until our next planned day of adventure. I suggested to Arturo since we visited the East Coast of Costa Rica, perhaps we could visit the West Coast in a couple of days.
I remembered Arturo grew up on a coastal town, and that his home was also out there. I also knew there were several geocaches out there that beckoned to me.
One was published, i.e. hidden, in April 2019 that had yet to be found by anyone.
I live in Washington State, more specifically in the Seattle area. After 5 years of playing, I hadn’t been able to be the first to find because of the saturation of players meant if you didn’t find it within an hour of publishing you most likely wouldn’t be.
It’s been 30-days, and no one has found it.
I plotted our route with the hopes of being the first to find, FTF, this particular geocache. On the day of, Arturo arrived with a different friend. Arturo was so excited; he practically jumped out of the vehicle.
He was amped to show me what he did over the last couple of days. He signed up for the Geocaching Premium Membership, watched all the demonstration videos, gathered up pens, and trinkets to trade, and downloaded the app on his smartphone.
I was stunned. I didn’t realize that the first experience had inspired him so profoundly. He did all of this on his own, and without my knowledge. I had a besmirched smile on my face the entire ride out to the west coast.
Our driver today was not as polished, or as cordial, as Jorge. As I learned from the backseat of this non-air condition car, that he was hung over from the night before. In fact, to this day, I’m sure he was still intoxicated like a drunken sailor that we woke up after a beach, bonfire party to drive us somewhere.
His command of English wasn’t fantastic, and he seemed disinterested in exploring the countryside. I shrugged, MEH, it’s a means to an end.
At the geocache’s entrance was rickety, wooden security shack with a guard inside that was about 1,000 years old. Arturo spoke with him, the guard wrote down our license plate number, description, and allowed us to proceed.
Rocky Mountain High
The location for the hiding place was perch with a view of Coconut Beach on Coconut Bay. It was amazing. Once parked, I got to work. We had been on the road for hours, so being cooped up like that had me anxious.
Using the three pieces of information: geocache description page, coordinates, and a cache-owner provided hint, I searched with Arturo.
Again, I found it first, but nudged Arturo in the direction so he could find on his “own”. He sought out the logbook, and found it blank.
He seemed surprised, “Amigo, no signatures.”
“Correct, amigo,” I agreed. “We are the very first players to find it, meaning we have bragging rights of FTF. First To Find. Congratulations to us both!”
We laughed as we signed the logbook. For an outside observer, such as our driver the scene was anti-climatic. We drove hours to the coast only to find a plastic container and be the first to sign a piece of paper.
From our perspective it was a big deal, and part of the Joy of Geocaching: enjoying your first EVER First To Find! There are some players that never have that experience, and Arturo’s second geocache to find is a monumental!
From my backpack, I fished out two beers. I opened them up, handed one to Arturo with the words, “Victory is ours, let’s celebrate with what I call, Victory Beers. “
After a few sips, Arturo remarks, “I’ve had this beer for many years, but this one tastes better than all the rest.”
I laughed, “That’s because it’s a VICTORY BEER, bro! They always taste better!” My day simply couldn’t be better.
We killed our beers while enjoying the scenery below from our perch above. Little did I know that Arturo would pass away nine days from now which made (makes) this memory bitter sweet for me anytime my mind wanders over to review it.
What I’ll never forget is Arturo’s exciting experience of being the first to find a newly hidden geocache. The Joy of Geocaching doesn’t get any better than that.