300km to see a paddock

We’ve discovered a great new internet game, called Geodashing. It’s a bit like Geocaching, in that you follow gps coordinates to obscure places, but there’s no cache. Geodashing is all about the journey.

And a new GPS game was all the excuse lytteltonwitch, rarsberry and I needed for an expedition. We checked out the 40 or so geodashing locations in the South Island for July, and after eliminating most on the grounds of requiring mountaineering skills (the coordinates are chosen randomly each month, so the chances of them being somewhere convenient aren’t great, especially in a country like New Zealand), and a few more on the grounds of being too far away for a day trip, we found a couple that looked manageable. Which meant getting up very early yesterday morning for a trip to Conway Flat, a mere 150-odd km north of Christchurch.

We left Christchurch just after 8.30 am, and set off north. First stop was in Woodend, where we dropped a few books off in a shopping centre (The World is Flat by Thomas L Friedman), then visited the superbly-named Owen Stalker Park, which has a train-themed playground, complete with railway tracks in the footpath, a decommissioned railway engine, and a train-shaped jungle gym. Of course, we left a few children’s books in the playground (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze by Justine Korman and Classic Fairy Tales by Maureen Spurgeon – I’ll have to look out for some train-themed books for next time!), plus I left The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins on a seat in the gardens.

Just past Woodend, my comment of “Oh, we must stop there sometime” as we passed the Brick Mill Gallery caused lytteltonwitch to slam on the brakes. Unfortunately, the gallery wasn’t open yet, but I left a couple of books (Rigby’s Atlas of Earth Resources and Treasure by Clive Cussler) in the attached cafe, which was.

A bit further down the road at Amberley, we stopped again, this time at Chamberlain Park, where I released Freddie as FRO7 by Jon Acevski and David Ashton outside the Scout Hut (which worryingly seems to be part of the park’s toilet block!) and Conquest by Elizabeth Walker outside the Cob Cottage. We stopped to visit the statue of Charles Upham (and leave a book – To Serve Them All My Days by RH Delderfield seemed appropriate, even if it is about a teacher rather than a soldier), and I found the perfect book to leave in the public toilet nearby: The Loo Sanction by Trevanian.

We didn’t know how long it would take to get to Conway Flat, so we decided not to let ourselves be distracted by anything else and drive straight there. We did make an exception though for Cheviot, where we had to check the tearooms for wild books (after having found one there on our way to Wellington last February). no luck this time, but I released a book there anyway, World Cuisine II: Italy. Lytteltonwitch claims the public toilets in Cheviot are a magic release location that guarantee catches, and I once again had the perfect title: There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Louis Sachar (no, I’m not collecting toilet-themed books, they just seem to keep turning up!). There were a couple of sheep statues outside the toilets (presumably of Cheviot sheep), and rarsberry released Psycho Cat on one of them. A few seconds later, a horrible howling noise started up, kind of like an animal in pain, but like no animal we’d ever heard before. We couldn’t figure out what it was, or where it was coming from, so decided the psycho cat must have scared the sheep, and that obviously stone sheep sound different to the regular kind.

Next we had to stop at St Anne’s Lagoon, to show rarsberry, although it’s not as pretty in winter without any leaves on the trees, and the water level had dropped, leaving behind an ugly muddy shoreline. It was a great opportunity to release Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, though, so I was happy 🙂

Finally we turned off the main highway and headed towards Conway Flat and the Geodashing point. We stopped at the beach beside a mysterious W sign and explored a bit while rarsberry released A Walk on the Beach (definitely wins the prize for best themed release of the day!).

We decided the W must stand for “water”, because it was pointing the wrong way for “west”. In honour of the mystery of the W, I released The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle beside it.

Rarsberry and lytteltonwitch try walking to Kaikoura (just visible as the bit of land jutting out on the horizon).

Proof that lytteltonwitch and rarsberry are seamonsters. I discovered their two sets of footsteps leading out of the sea, but none leading in!

Now it was time for the real purpose of our journey: to find a geodashing point. Lytteltonwitch loaded the coordinates into her GPS, and we set off up the road. Google Maps had told us it would be in a field just off the road, and it was right. On a nondescript stretch of road

we got to within 13 metres of the coordinates, well within the 100m limit the site rules allow for logging a visit.

Lytteltonwitch, rarsberry and Ballycumber peer wistfully across the fence and the 13m of paddock separating them from the magic point.

We decided this particular clump of thistles marks the exact spot of the geodash.

And if you’re wondering why we didn’t just leap across the fence and visit the exact spot, these guys who were sharing the paddock with it might answer your question:

Mission accomplished, we were about to head back to Cheviot for lunch when lytteltonwitch noticed her GPS was indicating a geocache nearby. She dug through her bag for the notes she’d printed off, and what did they say but “Park by the W sign, and walk along the beach…” So it was back to the beach again, and a difficult 800m walk on very soft sand to find the cache. According to the notes, there was a petrified forest on the beach near the cache location. When we got there, there were indeed tree stumps sticking out of the sand, but they weren’t actually petrified – they were obviously very old (and looked great!), but the wood was still wood, not stone.

A not very petrified forest (maybe a slightly worried forest?)

Back in Cheviot, we stopped at the Two Rivers Cafe for lunch (great food – I had a wonderful venison and redcurrant pie, and a chocolate brownie that approached perfection). We started off sitting in the garden, but eventually had to admit that even though it was a lovely day, July isn’t quite the time of year for being outside in t-shirts, so we retreated back inside. I left The Dark Descent edited by David G Hartwell behind.

Lytteltonwitch had another geocache in mind, so we set off down a side road. After a slight detour in search of a funny shape that may or may not have been a moa, or might have been in a completely different town anyway (I would say you had to be there, but I *was* there, and I didn’t understand the conversation either!), we found the very discrete sign pointing to the walking track that should lead us to the geocache. When we set off down the track, we discovered why it wasn’t better signposted: because the track didn’t really exist. There were clear track markers, but following them involved climbing over and under several fallen trees (and how come Rarsberry, the tallest of the three of us, was the only one not having trouble getting under them? …oh yeah, might be something to do with being quite a few years younger and more flexible than either lytteltonwitch or I!!!), and wading through a swamp. Eventually we gave up the search (the clues telling us to look under a log weren’t all that helpful in a swamp full of fallen logs!), and set off for the more salubrious conditions of Gore Bay, stopping only to release a few more children’s books in the Cheviot playground (Panda by Susan Bonners and Disney’s Alphabet A-Z).

Looking up the coast from Gore Bay.

Gore Bay is a pretty little community of holiday homes hidden away on the coast. We stopped at the camping ground to release a few books (Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, The French Atlantic Affair by Ernest Lehman, and The Last Victory by TN Murari), then headed up the hill to the Cathedrals, a weather-carved clay cliff.

Of course, the fence around the viewing area was soon covered in books 🙂

My contribution was Wings by Jeanette Angell.

I’d been browsing the road atlas, and worked out that there was a coastal route we could take along the back roads instead of going back to the main highway. Lytteltonwitch’s enthusiasm for this plan was soon explained when she took a detour (off the detour!) to Manuka Bay for another geocache. Another walk along the beach (but on a decent track this time, so much easier going) and up into the bush, where surprise surprise we had to clamber under fallen trees! But at least this time we found the cache.

At Hurunui Mouth we stopped to watch the flooded Hurunui battling with the incoming tide, creating an impressive surge (and of course, this was the moment my camera chose to have a fit and delete most of the decent photos I’d just taken of it)

There was another geocache to search for at Hurunui Beach, but first we decided to have a go at reaching another geodash location. The map showed this one being quite a bit further off the road, but it seemed worth a try. We headed back up towards the highway, watching the distance indicator on the GPS count down. But unfortunately the closest we got was 875m, a long way outside the 100m limit. And high deer fences around the paddocks made it clear the farmer wouldn’t appreciate us wandering across his land to get closer.

Lytteltonwitch did get a topless carwash out of the attempt though 🙂 We were driving straight into the sun, and the glare on the dirty windscreen was getting dangerous, so we stopped to try and clean it a bit. When a search of the boot turned up a great shortage of useful rags, she tried using a tissue to clean the windscreen, with about as much effectiveness as you’d expect. So (after confiscating everyone’s cameras!) I used my t-shirt instead.

Back at Hurunui Mouth, I released Network by Liz Allen and admired the dirty and turbulent river (now we know where the Lewis Pass road ended up) while lytteltonwitch and rarsberry searched for the geocache.

Next stop was Motunau Beach (which for some reason is pronounced locally as “mutton-ow”. I don’t know what it is about the word motu that demands warped pronunciation. Nelson has “motchuweka” and Canterbury has “muttonow”…) We released a few last books (The Money Changers by Arthur Hailey, and Teletubbies: The Flying Toast), and admired the sunset over Banks Peninsula. I always thought it was weird that Cook had thought Banks Peninsula was an island, until I saw it from this viewpoint – Christchurch is so flat that it disappears completely into the sea, and all you see is what seems to be a large island off the coast with no sign that it’s connected to the mainland.

(The little island is Motunau Island – it’s the land mass behind it that’s Banks Peninsula)

Our last stop was at Amberley, where we had dinner at the Nor’wester Cafe (where I just had to release an anthology of an author of the American north-west, Jack London). We drooled over the $30 mains on the menu, but in the end opted for much cheaper soup, which turned out to be a good choice, because as well as being very tasty, it was more than filling enough.

As we were leaving the cafe, we saw a police car with flashing lights parked outside the pub. Lytteltonwitch tried to convince me to run over and release Policewoman by Dorothy Uhnak, but for some reason I didn’t think it was the cleverest idea… 🙂

So, nearly 11 hours, and just over 300km after setting out, we made it back to Christchurch. We’d only managed to tick off one geodash, so I don’t think our team will be winning any prizes, but in bookcrossing terms, we can definitely count it as a success – I’ve had two catches already! The World is Flat, and Alice in Wonderland.

And just because I like playing with Google Maps, here’s the map of our meanderings…

View Larger Map

Books, books, and more books

Well the snow didn’t last very long – rain on Saturday evening meant it was pretty much gone by morning. Oh well, at least it was white and pretty for a couple of hours…

At least I managed to get out on Sunday for my planned release walk (with a secondary aim of a bit of shopping at Northlands). Northlands works well as a target of a release walk – it’s far enough away to be a decent walk without being too exhausting (it takes about half an hour to walk there if you’re not stopping every few minutes to release books :-)), and there’s a couple of decent parks along the way. The rain was threatening again, though, so I didn’t release as many books as I could have:

Temptation Island by Graeme Lay
Pearls by Celia Brayfield
The Sunday Woman by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini
The Goose Girl by Joan Collins
Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat
Never Too Rich by Judith Gould
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Vespers by Jeff Rovin
Kiss Mommy Goodbye by Joy Fielding

Despite the cold weather, there were still quite a few people in the parks, and I even got a catch (for Never Too Rich) before I got home!

Then there was another almost instant catch yesterday morning, when I released George Bernard Shaw’s Complete Plays at the university, and it was caught within the hour.

Last night was meetup night, and we had quite a crowd round the table: angela7715, a very excited lytteltonwitch still buzzing from the Brisbane convention, and bearing gifts from Skyring (thanks Pete, they’re gorgeous!), rarsberry, keenreda, MarcieNZ, and awhina. Oh, and me of course 🙂

Lots of books, lots of talk, and lots of laughter. Always a fun way to spend a Tuesday night.

I picked up The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo, The Schoolmistress with the Golden Eyes by Stratis Myrivilis, and Feline Witches and Wizards by Elizabeth Hardy, and released In Code by Sarah and David Flannery, Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Brothers by Ted van Lieshout, and Armageddon the Musical and They Came and Ate Us by Robert Rankin, so amazingly, I actually managed to leave with fewer books than I arrived with, thus totally throwing the science of Bookcrossing Mathematics* on its head. (It’s ok, the balance of the universe was restored at work today, when I managed to acquire a largish pile of books someone was getting rid of :-))

I’m starting to lose a bit of inspiration for my daily releases, mainly because there’s only a few decent release locations between here and work, and I don’t want to overuse them (otherwise the same people always pick up the books, so there’s less chance of getting new members). At least the students are back next week, so it’ll be worth releasing around the university again, which greatly expands my range of release locations, so I might get reinspired. Anyway, I only released three books today, A Slight Change of Plans by Glenda Garland, Cassidy by Morris West, and Around the World in 80 Days by Michael Palin.

* Bookcrossing Mathematics is based around the observation that at any meetup or convention, every bookcrosser somehow manages to go home with more books than they arrived with. As this is obviously impossible under the rules of normal mathematics, it has been posited that just as in restaurants (Adams, 1982), mathematics obeys different rules at a bookcrossing gathering. Now we’ve just got to figure out how to use this awesome new power we’ve discovered…

Wish I was at BCAUS

[We interrupt this broadcast (before I’ve even written more than the title) to say I just looked out the window, and it’s snowing! It’s been threatening rain all morning, and started to drizzle about 20 minutes ago, but it’s suddenly turned into snow – and quite heavy for Christchurch, too. I don’t know if it’ll settle, seeing as the ground is so wet already, but at least I can watch the pretty flakes fly past.

Ok, so you can’t actually see the snow falling in that picture, but you can see the flake that’s just splattered on the window.

We now return you to your irregularly scheduled programme.]

So it’s the Australian Bookcrossing Convention this weekend, and I’m not in Brisbane 🙁 Even with the added help of the airmiles I accumulated in April, it was just going to work out too expensive. Oh well, I suppose I can’t complain, seeing as I’m not long back from a world convention, but this’ll be the third year in a row I’ve missed BC-AUS, and there won’t be one next year (because they’re all coming to the world convention), so it’ll be 2010 before I get another chance.

I bet it’s nice and warm in Brisbane too…

Oh well, for all of you who are in Brisbane, hope you’re having a fantastic time, and I’ll see you all in April. Release a book for me!

So, I’ve been typically slack in updating, and haven’t even written about my birthday last weekend. I decided to use up the couple of days leave I’d set aside in case I made it to Brisbane, so took last Friday and Monday off and had a long birthday weekend. I had loads of plans for how to use my weekend, but of course hardly got anything done, instead wasting most of it reading and playing The Sims 2 (something to do with H …um …”acquiring” (ARRR! ;-)) a copy of the Freetime expansion pack for me (I’m still boycotting the buying of any EA games until they stop the Securerom nonsense)). Not really a waste, I suppose, seeing as I probably needed some downtime.

The only day I spent really constructively, strangely enough, was my birthday itself. The day started with a breakfast meetup at Trattorie, which we’d given a cat theme too, so we all brought cat books along. Of course, because it was a miserably cold and wet day, “we all” ended up just being me, MrPloppy, rarsberry and lytteltonwitch, but we had a great time anyway, and a good pile of books on the table.

The themed books I’d brought were Cat Catcher by Caroline Shaw, Psycho Cat by Derek Hansen, Even the Cat Could Talk by Muriel Holland, and The Cat’s Elbow by Alvin Schwartz, plus a couple of birthday themed books: The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter and The Thirty-First of June by JB Priestly. I also brought along a few more general books just to share: Into the Wild by John Krakaver, A Year in Provence and Encore Provence by Peter Mayle, andThe Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

After breakfast we collected up the unwanted books and used some to restock the OBCZ a bit (it was looking a bit depleted after certain visitors had been through), and released the rest of them into the wild (using the patented “dump and dribble” technique) on our way back to my place.

There we set to work finishing off the bookstrings for lytteltonwitch to take to Brisbane. We’d made the strings themselves back in March, but we’d run out of gift tags to put on them. So I’d got Mum to cut some more for us with her magic cuttlebug thing and send them up to me, and we spent the afternoon punching out little kiwi and fernleaf shapes to decorate them with and attaching them to the bookstrings. We worked pretty efficiently once we’d got into it, so managed to get more than enough done for Brisbane in only a couple of hours.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in front of the fire chatting, mostly about convention stuff and about a few expeditions we’ve got planned for coming weekends, until I decided I needed a birthday cake, so (after a bit of googling to locate anywhere you could actually buy cakes on a Sunday evening), we dashed off to Riccarton where we found an eminently suitable (if expensive!) chocolate cheesecake, which we had, along with pizzas, for an impromptu birthday dinner (and MrPloppy and I had leftovers of for the rest of the week!).

Not a bad way to spend a birthday, really.

Other releases in the last week or two:

Tuesday 24 June
The Snow Tiger by Desmond Bagley
Midas World by Frederik Pohl

Wednesday 25 June
The Juror by George Dawes Green (caught!)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A Fine Night for Dying by Jack Higgins
Prey by Michael Crichton (caught, by someone who’s seen other bookcrossing books in the wild, but this was the only one to his/her taste)
Indecent Exposure by Tom Sharpe
Field of 13 and Shattered by Dick Frances

Thursday 26 June
After Many a Summer by Aldous Huxley
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (caught!)
Requiem for a Wren by Nevil Shute
The Little Book of Naughty Limericks edited by Tom Keegan
Starswarm by Jerry Pournelle
Star Wartz by Patrick Tilley

Friday 27 June
The Fey Victory by Kristine Kathryn
Lost by Lucy Wadham
Desert Royal by Jean Sasson
Spill by Les Standiford
Follow That Bus! by Pat Hutchins
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
Duncan’s Bride by Linda Howard
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Dolphin Dance by Colleen Payne

Monday 30 June
Barefoot in the Head by Brian Aldiss
Games by Frances Edmonds
In the Presence of Enemies by William Coughlin
Barracuda Final Bearing by Michael Dimercurio
Miss Wyoming by Douglas Coupland
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Tuesday 1 July
The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
Someone to Watch Over by Trish MacDonald Skillman

Wednesday 2 July
Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Grant Naylor
The Three Little Pigs
Robin Hood (Disney version) (caught!)
What’s It All About by Michael Caine

Thursday 3 July
Beneath the Skin by Nicci French
Riding Out by Sally-Anne Robinson
Red Spirit by Humphrey Hawksley
Alive by Piers Paul Read

Friday 4 July
Baby Come Back by Maeve Haran

Quite a few catches from that lot. And a few catches from older releases too:

Wheels by Arthur Hailey – gone to Tauranga, and on its way to Samoa
The Keep of Fire by Mark Anthony – a second-generation catch!
Love’s Cross-Currents by Swinburne – caught and re-released
The Scarlet Bikini by Glynn Croudace – another second-generation catch
Afternoon Men by Anthony Powell

I was going to go for another long release walk today, but seeing as the snow is not abating (oooh, and I think it’s starting to settle in a few places!!!), maybe not. Sitting in front of the fire with a good book sounds so much more tempting 🙂