By Kathryn Kimberley
NELSON Mandela Bay residents are hunting for treasure as far as Italy, Germany and even China – wherever their GPS coordinates lead them.
Geocaching is a game played using clues and a GPS to find a specific location where a cache is hidden.
The "game” was created in 2 000 and has blossomed in popularity, with Port Elizabeth residents quickly catching on.
First, a player must register on www.geocaching.com, where the rules of the game are explained and all the information as to where you can find a cache is supplied. You must then create a profile for yourself and you can play under an alias.
Treasures, which have sentimental rather than monetary value, are hidden across the globe. Players who find the objects have to replace them with others, which could range from a plastic toy to a keyring.
Players joke that they use million-dollar satellites to find "tupperware” in the woods.
One such piece is hidden at No 7 Castle Hill Museum in Central. Curator Grizel Hart said at least 10 players visited the museum each year to retrieve the cache.
She said players hailed from all over the world.
Alistair Horne of Park Drive signed up in 2010.
"A former colleague was talking about it one day and it immediately sparked my interest. I found my first cache a day later,” the 35-year-old said.
His greatest find to date was his first and only FTF (first to find) in Ashton in the Western Cape. Horne said an FTF was a great honour among players.
"My first cache was simply hidden under a rock, but it still took me a while to search around and find it. However, now you’ll find me happily sticking my hand into dark holes in the quest of finding that treasure.
"I’ve discovered so many hidden gems and sights in various towns around SA. Had it not been for caching I don’t know if I would ever have known about these incredible places.
"This hobby rewards patience and imagination. Sometimes you will find the cache easily on the first try, other times it will take you much longer, with several return trips. Some of the caches hidden out there are truly ingenious,” he added.
Evan and Gundula Wells, together with their children Michaela and Shanna, both 16, say the hobby "has taken us to places we would never have gone”.
"There are four caches in town, situated at fortresses used in World War II, the main library in PE, the walking paths along the Baakens River, as well as the Angola Boer War concentration camp in Uitenhage,” Evan said.
Jaco Oosthuizen, 27, and girlfriend Karla Bouwer, 23, plan to go further afield.
"Geocaching takes you all over the world. We have only toured the Western and Eastern Cape, but would like to see more of SA and then take on the world,” said Oosthuizen.
And Wicus and Ansie Benade are living the dream.
The couple are currently hunting abroad and recently logged a cache in Pisa, Italy.