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Surprisingly hot temperatures

This month has been quite hot in many parts of Australia. It’s not been too bad here where temperatures usually did not go over 34°C (93°F), but in other parts of Australia it has been quite unbearable. Sydney got to a maximum of 45.8°C (114.4) on 18 January. One night there it was still 35°C (95°)  at midnight and hundreds crowded Bondi beach at night to stay cool.

Even though temperatures were much lower here I was surprised at how hot some things outside got that were in direct sunlight. All the photos below where taken using my infrared thermometer that I used in the previous post about interesting temperatures.

The temperature of the road in front of our house was around 50C.

The temperature of the road in front of our house was around 50C.

The temperature of the concrete path at the back of our house was around 60°C (140°F). I didn't expect it to be warmer than the road as it is not as dark and I expected that it would reflect more heat, but perhaps it gets some reflected heat of the rear of the house.

The temperature of the concrete path at the back of our house was around 60°C (140°F). I didn’t expect it to be warmer than the road as it is not as dark and I expected that it would reflect more heat, but perhaps it gets some reflected heat of the rear of the house.

The bark on this tree was 42°C (107°F). Not that much higher than the surrounding air. I assume the dark bark absorbed the heat .

The bark on this tree was 42°C (107°F). Not that much higher than the surrounding air. I assume the dark bark absorbed the heat .

The temperature of the bottom of our wheelbarrow was very hot at 66°C (151°F). I expected the water in the corner may have kept the temperature lower, but not so.

The temperature of the bottom of our wheelbarrow was very hot at 66°C (151°F). I expected the water in the corner may have kept the temperature lower, but not so.

And finally a reading straight up. Just as in previous times that I have done this there is very little heat to be measured. This time it was only -21°C (-6°F)

And finally a reading straight up. Just as in previous times that I have done this there is very little heat to be measured. This time it was only -21°C (-6°F)

 

 

 

 

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What is Geocaching and how to get started

We have just come back from a weekend away for a celebration of our wedding anniversary. We spent some of the time looking for geocaches. It was so much fun that I thought I would write a post about the hobby.

Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt with hidden containers or geocaches as they are called hidden in over 1.6 million locations throughout the world, including Antarctica and there is even one at the International Space Station.

Why do it?

Because it is fun. It is free to join or for a small yearly fee (US$30 a year) you can become a premium member and get some extra benefits. At the moment we are just regular members, but I’m considering paying for premium membership. Many geocaches have been set up by locals in areas that they find interesting. These spots are often not on tourist maps so you can be taken to some nice and interesting places that regular tourists don’t normally see.

Dangar Falls

You could end up somewhere like this. This is Dangar falls located just outside Dorrigo, NSW, Australia.

Picture of a lookout

Or somewhere like this. Griffith’s lookout Dorrigo, NSW, Australia

The caches often contain ‘swaps’. These are little items that previous visitors have left. Usually they are of little value, but can be interesting. If you take an item you are expected to leave something of equal or greater value. Swaps can make it fun when you start out or with a family, but many experienced geocachers don’t worry about the swaps – they’re just out for the challenge.

You can even set up your own geocaches as long as your follow a few rules, for instance setting one up at an airport is not allowed. Just imagine how badly wrong that could go if security saw someone looking suspicious and hiding a package.

What can you expect to find?

The quality of geocaches and their listings range in quality. After all they are not set up by the staff at Geocaching.com, they are set up by members at no cost. Most caches I have found have been in those plastic clip lock food containers, old style 35mm film containers and eclipse mint containers. A few have been in ammo boxes, which are quite exciting to find, particularly as they can hold a lot of swaps.

Ammo box cache. These are exciting to find. This one had lots of swaps. It was out of town so we didn’t need to try to avoid looking suspicious.

tope of a cache container visible under a rock

This cache was lurking under a rock at the side of  a pond.

There are some tiny caches called nano caches and these can be very challenging to find. I must admit that we groan when we discover that one on the map is a nano because we don’t have a lot of success in finding them, but when you do it can be quite satisfying. Nano caches usually only contain a log and even that is usually just a sliver of paper.

Hidden nano cache

This is the underside of a roadside picnic table. Can you spot the cache? We couldn’t find this one on our first visit and I wasn’t the one to find it on our second visit.

Nano retrieved but not opened

Here it is removed. It was very well disguised.

Opened nano cache showing rolled up log

Here it is opened. Notice the little rolled up log.

what do you need?

There’s not too much you need. You need to register which is free and then you need some sort of GPS, although you may find enough clues in the listings for some caches to find them without a GPS. We managed to find our first three that way, but then we realised the values of a GPS. I thought we would try and find a cache in a forest by looking at Google maps. We didn’t find it. After going back after buying a GPS I discovered we had been looking in an area about 500m away from the cache. Using Google maps may work in built up areas, but it gets difficult in a forest.

You don’t need a dedicated GPS. Many modern smart phones have a built-in GPS which could be suitable although they are not all as accurate as a reasonable dedicated GPS. There is a bunch of reviews by members that is worth looking at to see what others think of any device you already have. If you are going to use a smart phone then a free app such as c:geo for android or the official one for Android and iOS will get you started.

Trackables

Trackables are items that start off by being placed in a cache by their owner. Each trackable has their own unique identifying number and log page. Visitors can collect trackables when visiting a cache, leave a note in the online log and then drop them off in another cache. In this way the trackable moves from one cache to another and its travels can be monitored online by everyone. One of the first ones we came across we dropped into a cache in Australia and within two weeks it was in a cache in Las Vegas and has since moved to Germany. This sort of travel distances is not too common, but not unusual either.

Travel bug on a key ring

This trackable travel bug was found on our weekend trip. The tag is the official bit with unique number. The keyring was added by the owner and is known as a ‘hitch hiker’. This one started off in Germany.

In most cases you should not keep a trackable. In those rare cases that you are allowed, it will be obvious on the log. However, it’s not too difficult for people to steal them and they do go missing. From the few I’ve found the successful ones are usually interesting, but not enough for someone to want to steal.

geocoin

This is a beautiful geocoin that we found. Its actual size is about 4-5cm across. It was still going last time I looked. I hope no one decides to keep it.

First to find

Many enthusiasts soon want to be the first to find (FTF) a newly listed geocache. If you are a regular member it will be tricky because you will not be notified when a new geocache is listed. If you are a premium member you can be notified about these. This would vastly improve your chances being the first. Our family were the first to find one cache. It was pure luck we did. After a visit by my sister and nephew one afternoon, both of which are keen geocachers we looked at the map of our town after they had left and noticed a new geocaches and headed out. My sister and nephew must have done the same or had been notified about it after they left our house too. We got to the cache first. Half an hour later my nephew found it and was still filling out the logs when my sister turned up looking for it.

Pathtags

Pathtags are customized tags that look similar to a small coin. They usually have coloured graphics and/or text. Some passionate geocachers design their own, pay for a quantity to be made and then drop one in some of the caches that they visit. Visitors that come along later can take the pathtag, fill out a note in the tags online log and then keep it. We have only found two of these, but of all the things I have seen in a cache, these have been the coolest and most exciting finds.

Give it a try

If you have never tried it, go to the Geocaching.com website register and have a look at the map of your area. You will probably be surprised to discover that there are some close by – perhaps in a spot that you go past every day.

If you’re interested check out the Geocaching 101 page and have a look at this official video.

Metz gorge: an impressive view in a historic setting

Last weekend our family headed out to the Metz gorge lookout. It was recommend to us by a family member and it turned out to be yet another instance of quite an impressive spot that is unknown to many of the inhabitants of Armidale. I would not be surprised if more people in Armidale have been to England, which is on the other side of the planet than those that have been to Metz which is a mere 20 minute car journey away.

Metz

The lookout is close by Metz an area that was once a mining village that sits on the edge of the gorge. Across the other side of the gorge is the larger village of Hillgrove where some mining still continues.

According to the Wikipedia Hillgrove article, “Hillgrove was one of the major gold fields in New South Wales, with a recorded production of over 15,000 kg of gold. It has also been a significant producer of antimony (14,700 tons) and tungsten (at least 2,000 tons of scheelite).”

The population of both Metz and Hillgrove peaked around 1898. According the Sydney Morning Herald article Hillgrove – Places to See, Metz’s  “… population peaked in 1898 at about 750, at which time there was a post office, two schools, three churches, shops, two hotels, a masonic lodge, a brass band and sporting organisations.” We only saw 2 or 3 houses along the main road through the village although I imagine there are other farm houses in the area. Google maps shows quite a number of streets, most of which don’t exist today.

The Lookout

The Lookout is on the edge of the gorge. Looking directly across it you can see a few houses of Hillgrove and the remains of the old Bakers Creek mine 490m below Hillgrove at the bottom of the gorge. A line through the trees down the side is where a trolley line once went down.

View looking east from Metz lookout across to Hillgrove

View looking east from Metz lookout across to Hillgrove. The air was a little hazy so it is difficult to see any of the buildings at Hiilgrove

Another view looking across to Hillgrove

Another view looking across to Hillgrove. The line through running diagonally across the bottom right corner of the photo is where the old trolley line went down. At the bottom is a large chimney and lots of rubble from previous mining.

View looking South East down

A view looking South East down the gorge. The area has lots of these gorges carved into the relatively flat country of the Northern Tablelands.

It makes you think

It is quite an eerie feeling being in an area that was once thriving but now almost all of the evidence of that has disappeared.

If you are ever in the area and have some spare time it is worth a visit.