A couple of weeks ago I fulfilled a six month long aim of mine: to find a cave to locate a geocache. Yes, this part of my four-year long hobby of geocaching in which a person must utilise the GPS on their phone (or similar device) to find a piece of plastic in the woods. It is an odd hobby, admittedly, but it is also a highly addictive one. More than that, it is a hobby that forces the participant to get off their backside and delve into the woods, onto coastlines, or into neighbourhoods never experienced before. When I first started it I became a tourist in my own town and region, finding new places that I didn’t know existed. In many ways, then, it ties into the notion of ‘the undiscovered country of nearby’; Hanson Mitchell’s phrase to describe the interesting and exotic that lies right on our very own doorsteps.
When I moved to Torbay – about six months ago – I loaded up the geocache map to locate any notable caches nearby. My eye was instantly fixed on one that came with this description:
“This cache is potentially dangerous and I wouldn’t advise doing it alone. Let someone know where you are too, before tackling this one.”
Well, my interest was piqued, and so I read on further:
“The entrance to the cave requires a fair amount of strength to pull yourself up there to begin with (two people helping each other would make it easier) and then physically entering the cave is a bit of a squeeze. From there on in you will be either hunched over, or on your hands and knees but definitely on your belly to retrieve the cache. There’s no way to turn around in there either, you have to reverse all the way back out.”
Yes, this would be a cache worth finding. In my four-year long caching career I’ve found more than 2,000 caches, with many being simple enough and rather forgettable finds. But this one promised to be something much, much more. However, my usual geocaching cohort – just me and the dog – wouldn’t do for this one. I would need a team.
This team was myself and two adventurous fellows (Mr. T and Mr. G). We parked up at Broadsands and walked along the coastal path, past Elberry Cove Bathhouse, until we could find a path that descended down to the beach at the site of the so-called “Seven Quarries”. These quarries link back to the 19th Century, with the stone apparently being used on local constructions in Torbay.
It was all a bit of a mission; even just touching the beach at the bottom by the quarries involved a level of effort. Then, finding the correct quarry and correct cave exerted more energy, taking the past part of an hour of scurrying and searching. Eventually Mr. T proclaimed that he had found the hidden spot: a cave that matched the one in the geocache description and image. And so, we scrambled up the quarry to reach the opening, at which point Mr. T obliged by acting as a set of steps to allow me to reach the entrance. A tiny, uninviting entrance. But I knew that the cache was within reach, so there was no other option but to fling myself in to put my hands on it.
As the geocache description outlined, it wasn’t easy to move in the cave. Much of it was spent on hands and knees trying to throw myself forwards; in the process I ripped my shirt, banged my head against a rock, and became muddied by the damp of the cave walls. The torch on my phone acted as my sole light and guide until I finally came across the holy grail: the geocache. This wasn’t any mere plastic box, but rather the rarest and most sought after of gecaches: an old ammunition can.
On re-emerging from the cave back into the sunlight, the team descended once more to the beach to wash our faces with water and cool off. Despite being utterly drained of energy we were laughing at our little mission. This geocache was on our doorstep, part of the undiscovered country; we had succeeded where others had failed. I’m glad I have the odd image of myself in a cave, looking out in triumph. I’ll be looking at other possible cave geocaches to continue the ‘Dave in a Cave’ series.