Big Days in Kent

Big Days in Kent

Easy Like Sunday Caching

Kas planned to take the kids away to her mum’s for a few days to finish off their summer holiday and I was due a couple of days to go caching, having managed to worm my way into a two-day pass as a result of some good behaviour at some point.

I planned to head down into Kent to have a pop at a lot of puzzle caches all in one day. I thought if I was lucky I’d be able to manage to do 100 puzzles in one day. Yeah, I know! That’s an aggressive target, especially if you’re starting your day a hundred miles away. But not to be deterred, I left home while it was still dark and made it into Kent the fastest I have ever done. It’s funny how the M25 is fairly quiet at 5 am on a Sunday. The QEII Bridge was also kind of quiet, and a sailed through it quickly as a result of them having installed a cunning ANPR system, which means you no longer have to stop to pay a toll. You do have to remember to pay online within a certain time though, or, as I did, you have to set up an account on direct debit so they charge you whenever you cross. I’d set up an account a couple of months previously after our trips to Dover ( see Doing Dover ).

So meanwhile, back at the plot, my first target was the “Cool Cuban Spirit” series, which I started by parking in West Kingsdown and walking around in a big clockwise loop. It was quite easy aside from the three that I couldn’t find. 58 finds up in about 4.5 hours was a pretty decent start to my attempt at 100 puzzles in a day.

I then ventured into West Kingsdown village and parked up to do a bunch of Church Micros (puzzles, pre-solved) and a couple of nearby Challenge caches. Again, so far, so good.

But then in the early afternoon it all started to go a bit Pete Tong. I’d set aside whole groups of puzzles and challenges just to the west of West Kingsdown that looked like easy walks and easy finds, however I started to get bitten by the twin bugs of caches not being there, and me not being able to find them. I became increasingly grumpy at the high DNF rate and at about 5 pm I had concluded that the 100-in-a-day target was a no-hoper. There was one series of 10 or so challenges where half were either missing or too awkward to get at. Then there was another series based around the Solar System where I missed 4 or the first 7, and couldn’t be bothered to try the remaining ones.

Up to this point I’d made 80 puzzle finds and 3 random others, and whilst there was still some daylight left, the 16 DNFs I’d had on puzzles I had banked on finding now meant that I’d have to drive 30 minutes and start a whole new series to be able to get even close to the 100 target, so at that point I basically decided enough was enough, and I just drove down to my hotel for the evening. Had I found half of the ones I’d DNF’d I might well have kept going, but once it got to 6:30-7 pm I decided I didn’t have the will to try to find a further 20 puzzles. So I gave up on 83 finds, 80 of which were puzzles.

The hotel was the clean, tidy but uninspiring Campanile that sits right under the Kentish end of the QEII Bridge. At least you couldn’t hear any road noise.

Quite Close to Drowning

Monday (the August Bank Holiday) began quite wet. From there it degenerated into “exceedingly wet” around lunchtime, before starting to improve a bit towards the middle of the afternoon.

On my radar for the day I had the Assiduous series of Challenge Caches over in Scadbury Park, which proved to be a little gem – a part of south-east London I’ve never been to before. I found all of them bar one, although there’s several I’m not actually eligible for, but I’ve signed them anyway, just in case I have a day where I do multiple tree climbing or swimming caches on the same day at some point in the future.

From there I drove back up the A20 towards te M25 feeling as miserable as sin, what with me being totally soaked and rather cold. I was on the verge of going home because of the wet, so I stopped at a McDonalds to grab some lunch and phone Kas, to give me the opportunity to get warmer and drier before spending 2 hours in the car to get home. While I was there, the weather started to improve a bit and I got a second wind, so I decided I’d go attack a few more rather than just giving up.

There was a small series of mainly challenge caches that was accessible by parking in the car park at Hall Place just outside Bexley. As with the morning session, there were a couple of challenges here that I didn’t qualify for but signed them anyway, as they looked like things I might well qualify for in the future. As it happens, I do qualify now, so I converted the “Write Note” logs to finds.

After this there was a good looking series of 12 puzzles on a French theme over at Dartford Heath, so I moved the car and went for a pop at these. By this time it had actually properly stopped raining and I was feeling a bit better about the world. The caches were good fun, mainly because the heathland terrain was a bit different to everywhere else I’d been over the weekend, and I actually enjoyed these ones. I didn’t enjoy that I couldn’t find the bonus cache for the series though. Grrrrrrr!

And after all that lot, it was most definitely time to start heading home. I’d got half a mind to stop somewhere easy in Essex on the way home to colour in that county, but when I got through the tunnel on the way home I’d got nice and warm and cosy in the car and quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered to stop again.

When I gave up I’d bagged a further 37 finds (making 120 total for the two days) and have subsequently been able to convert a couple of the speculatively signed challenges into actual finds, now that I qualify for them. One of those 37 was the conversion of a challenge that I’d speculatively signed in Hampshire in 2014. It required the finding of 10 other challenges on the same day, which we’d spectacularly failed at on the day we were in Hampshire. On my two days in Kent I’d bagged 8 challenges on the first and 20 on the second. The 20 is now 22. The 8 would have been 14, had I been able to find them.

The caches I found over the course of the weekend were :


Elsworth Excursion

Elsworth Excursion

This was my first day out caching after our rather epic journey to the Algarve for our summer holiday. The weather was quite Algarvian though.

I chose to drive up to a loop on the way to Cambridge that had been sticking out like a sore thumb ever since I finished the Cambridge CacheAthon series the previous year. The series in question is the Elsworth Excursion, and it consists of 37 caches (plus 8 others not in the series) over a distance of about 11km. That looked like an easy afternoon, so I made it a bit more interesting by trying to pick up a few drive-bys near Papworth Everard on the way in. One of them was a challenge cache I’d had on my radar for a while.

The walk was pretty and not too long, but the main problem I had was that I’d forgotten to pick up anything to drink on the way out. I managed to acquire two quite small bottles of water at quite high prices from the pub in Elsworth as I set off, but they weren’t really enough to keep me going comfortably all afternoon.

By the time I got around to Knapwell, on the west side of my loop and about three-quarters of the way around, I was out of water and suffering a bit. Knapwell doesn’t have any pubs or shops.

Once I got back into Elsworth I availed myself of some further drinks from the pub before jumping back into the car and doing some more drive-bys on the road back to Papworth Everard. By the time I gave up, I’d found a total of 53 caches, which is not a bad afternoon out.

The caches I found on this day were :


Algarve 2015 Day 15

Coming Home

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As it’s a package tour you sort of get used to flights at horrible times, and this was no exception. We were in the car at 6:30 am, scheduled for a 9:55 am take-off from Faro Airport. It was so early it was still dark when we got in the car.

By the time we got to Faro it was light. The return of the rental car was very easy and we managed to get checked in really quickly, however “Oh oh!” the plane’s going to be late.

So we went into terminal and had some breakfast at a coffee place. We then sat around for a couple of hours doing sudoku and getting bored. And then we went into Costa Coffee for another drink. The service was really slow but it’s not like we were in any kind of hurry. I got bored enough to try to photograph a few planes coming and going.

We meandered in through the passport control and got inside to start looking for our gate. It changed while we were waiting in the departure lounge and we actually saw our plane coming into land. It’s not going to leave for at least another hour then…..

Once the plane finally got off the ground the flight home was fine. Birmingham Airport was no trouble and the car was where we’d left it.

On the way home we stopped for one geocache in Northampton, just so we could fulfil all the criteria for the final one of this year’s August souvenir jamboree.  It was a puzzle cache. All we found was a bag with a log sheet in it. No container. Still, it was definitely the cache, and it was in the right place.

By this time though it was getting late and we’d been up for quite a long time, so we asked the Burlaces if they’d keep the guinea pigs for one more night. We eventually reached home at about 7 pm, so 12 hours after we set off, and began the usual “night home” jobs of unpacking and ordering takeaway curry.

We got the girls into bed around 8:30 and then I watched the highlights of the Test Matches that the Sky+ box had recorded. I then fell asleep on the sofa while Match of the Day was on.


Algarve 2015 Day 14

The Final Day

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We had no particular plans for today other than to chill for a while, pack, and empty the fridge of food and beer. The food wasn’t too much of a problem as we’d had a go at it the previous evening, but the beer was definitely a problem. There was a fair amount of it.

We got off to a lazy start before the girls decided that “lazy” was definitely going to be their theme for the day. That’s not really my scene (man) so I headed off for a bit of final-day caching. It proved to be a bit frustrating, as these things often can be.

I started off by heading in the general direction of Guia, finding a handful of caches there (with more than a handful of DNFs too), but then got bored of the constant driving down rubbish unsurfaced roads and decided to head for Albufeira instead to look for a series of caches stuck on the various roundabouts on the main road that runs around town. I found all five of them but couldn’t do the bonus because a couple of the bonus codes were missing, so I had no coords.

Apparently, Albufeira is twinned with Dunfermline. I can’t help but think that the twinning was initiated by the town council members of Dunfermline, hoping to get somewhere sunny to go to on official trips.

From there I drove up to the top of a hill overlooking the marina to find one final cache. It was another rubbish road and I parked somewhere that I would not normally park, if I’m honest. The view from the top was good, but the housing around the way up was not so nice looking.

By this time it was getting towards late afternoon, so I decided to scoot off home and get on with the packing and the beer consumption.  Packing was easy because we’d been washing and ironing as we went along. The beer consumption was hard work.


Algarve 2015 Day 13

Back to Sagres

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We weren’t really sure what to do today so we decided to go back over to Sagres and The End of the World to get a new gift for Ami (after Izzy had accidentally broken the one she got last time) and to chase down a puzzle cache that I’d been working on but only solved after our first visit.

We set off fairly early and arrived in Sagres just after 11. First stop was to go to Sagres Fort to find this puzzle cache. It was a bit of a hike around the outside of the fort and practically over the cliffs, but it was an easy find once we got there.

After that we went over to the end of the world to get a replacement starfish necklace for Ami. Sadly though, we couldn’t get one because that stall wasn’t there. So Ami grabbed some earrings and a little brooch else instead. She takes a little while to decide, but when she does decide, she has pretty good taste.

After this we went through Vila do Bispo and then took a hair raising road down to the nearby Praia do Castelejo, which was probably the most beautiful stop of the whole holiday, if only because it has a very windswept, remote feel much like the west coast of Cornwall. The scenery was similar too, except hotter and with less greenery.

We had some lunch at the only restaurant on the beach, then girls retired to beach while I went caching. I didn’t get to go where I’d planned, mainly because the satellite view and maps don’t give a sense of quite how steep and unpleasant looking the cliffs are. I found an earthcache on beach then two traditionals up the cliffs, but it was dangerously windy on the cliff top so I decided to beat a retreat rather than continue on for another headland. It wasn’t very nice up top.

So we got back in the car and drove down an even worse road to a nearby miradouro/viewpoint above the southern end of the beach we were just on. Whilst the road down to the beach was a bit steep and winding, but covered in tarmac, the one to the viewpoint was dirt track most of the way, and I was very glad that it wasn’t my own car.

The view from the viewpoint was absolutely spectacular. I grabbed a further 2 caches on the cliffs but again the access was a bit dodgy given the state of the wind, so I decided it was better not to risk anything.

On the way back through Vila do Bispo we grabbed three caches, but the girls were looking a bit drained, so we plumped for finishing the day off on a beach. We drove into central Lagos and parked up, then retired immediately to the nearest cafe for ice cream and coffee. The cafe was on the beach, so the natural next stop was a cooling dip. It was late afternoon by this time and it was a bit windy and cloudy, so the temperature was not too bad.

As it was our next to last day we drove home and had a “fridge clearance” for tea, including pizza, nachos, Pringles and various fruits and other stuff.


Algarve 2015 Day 12

Zoomarine

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This morning was meant to be an early start, but we had an attack of not being bothered and eventually didn’t leave the house until nearly 11 am.

Our plan for the day was to visit Zoomarine – a nearby theme park based roughly on marine life, but actually also containing a lot of birds of prey, wave pools and over-consumption of not-entirely-healthy foodstuffs.

We bought our entry tickets from tour rep, which I have to admit I wasn’t so sure about, but when we arrived it all worked just fine. We didn’t have to queue to get in at all.

When we arrived it was late enough that we could justify it being time to go for a drink. After this, we retired to the tropical bird display, which I personally thought was the best bit. There was a bit of a presentation, some audience participation, and some brightly coloured avians of various persuasions.

We had an interesting lateish lunch in one of the cafes. It involved a fair amount of queuing and some fairly mediocre but somehow still expensive food.

Most of the shows were done to a strict timetable, so after lunch we hurried off to grab an early seat at the next performance of the dolphins, or “golfinos” as they call them round here. They were sleek, grey, shiny and wet.

We then had an hour before the next scheduled show of the sea lions, so we went to see the crocodiles and alligators and then went for a ride around on the big wheel and the swingy pirate boat. And we had ice cream.

We arrived early for the sea lion show too, but I was quite disappointed in this. It didn’t seem as impressive or well planned out as the similar event we’d seen at Deltapark Neeltje Jans the year before.

After the sea lion show, we went for a quick look at the queue at the aquarium, but it was so long that we decided to give up. It was hot and none of us fancied standing around waiting for the 45 mins or so it was going to take to get in, so instead we went to the Zoomarine Beach area for swimming, splashing, fountains and lying on the grass. It’s like a whole beach, with a wave pool and everything, except most of the onshore area is grass not sand, so you don’t get abrasive stuff stuck in your orifices, which I personally find to be a good feature. We must have spent an hour and a half here with various phases of the girls getting wet, wanting drinks, wanting toilets and getting wet again whilst Kas and me tried to chill. It was pretty busy in this area too. It seemed to be the place everyone went to calm down a bit after spending the earlier part of their day queuing up for things.

On the way home we stopped off at the supermarket for more provisions, mainly of the snacky variety, and then when we got back the kids went off to bed quite early.

Honest opinion? It was OK but I wouldn’t rush back.