UK: Angry Llamas, Nettles, and Geocaching in the Chilterns

Inside the cache
Inside the cache

Nearest Geocache 2.2km. Centre the compass to face in the direction of the geocache.”

You’ve navigated out of the town and into a field, where a Llama shifts its weight between its legs and eyes you warily. Why is there a llama in a field in Chesham? Is it even a llama?

More importantly: why didn’t you bring more water? You’ve drunk half of it already and you’ve only just started.


Nearest Geocache 2.2km. Centre the compass to face in the direction of the geocache.”

You’ve navigated out of the town and into a field, where a Llama shifts its weight between its legs and eyes you warily. Why is there a llama in a field in Chesham? Is it even a llama?

More importantly: why didn’t you bring more water? You’ve drunk half of it already and you’ve only just started.

It’s a thirty minute walk back into town so you decide to power on. Maybe your body will do that camel thing and respire fat into water; maybe you’ll just become severely dehydrated, sleep for 16 hours when you get home and consider taking the day off work the next day because the headache and nausea hasn’t gone away.

Useful for when you don't have a map
Useful for when you don’t have a map

After a while you recheck the geocaching app and see that the first one is now less than a kilometre away. You keep walking. Crickets leap across your path as you disturb the grass and all you can hear is the constant high-pitched hum of insects communicating.

Then your GPS leads you back to a road, which you follow for a bit until your phone buzzes: “You’re getting close! Start looking for the cache now as your GPS is only accurate to within 30ft.

On one side of the the road is a line of houses. On the other,  nettles and weird spiky dead flowers grow to waist-height around a dozen or so trees. You can’t see anything over there except angry things that will sting you, clouds of flies and webs full of fat spiders who are probably angry too. It’s your first time Geocaching so you decide to check the hint– “In a tree.”

Dammit. Damn. There are lots of trees and there’s no way to get to them except by wading through the nettles and angry bitey things.

You gingerly tread around the nettles and– “Ow, ow, no.”

The hiking trousers are thick enough to stop mosquitoes and UV rays, but not nettles. You retreat and reconsider your plan of attack. You’d forgotten how uncomfortable nettle stings are and almost consider going home and pretending you never went out at all.

But the little Winston Churchill on your shoulder commands you to fight on. The Bear Grylls on the other side advises you to drink your own-

Your own reasoning breaks through: you are the higher species- the nettles don’t even have a brain! A variety of successful companies (BP, Exxon Valdez, Pfizer et al) just destroy the environment when it gets in their way and thus far it has worked out very well for them.

You tuck your trousers into your socks for added protection, and employ the sideways stomp method. Within minutes, the ground is flat enough for a picnic. A quick search of the first tree comes up empty. There’s nothing on the ground and nothing tucked into the tree branches.

One down, five to go. You continue your mindless destruction of the British countryside until you spot a little black thing protruding from a tangle of ivy around the bough of the third tree.

Found another one!
Found it!
Inside the cache
Inside the cache, logbook signed, all on top of a little nettle corpse.

Nettles conquered and triumph running through your veins, you set off in search of the next geocache.

It's down here
It’s down here
Pump Lane
You do not faze me, compost-to-be!

There’s a fallen tree in your path, but you’re on a roll and nothing will stop you now. Within minutes, the cache is in your hands and you are signing the slightly damp logbook.

Feeling both an increasing pressure on your bladder and the symptoms of severe dehydration and heatstroke, you decide to locate one more cache before calling it a day.

You swap a few objects, stick your knee into some more nettles and stumble back to Chesham tube station with a heartbeat like a hummingbird’s, a headache to rival that of David Cameron’s at every mention of Scottish Independence, and a strong desire to vomit.

On the way home you have a nap and wake up at your station feeling like death. It takes you three times longer to walk to your house than it usually does, and it also takes a day or two to fully recover from the ordeal.

Still, you found three caches on your first go.

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2 comments

    • Go for it! It’s free if you already have a mobile phone with GPS on it, and there’s no better feeling than finding that little tub after half an hour of hacking through nettles.

      Also, the items in some of the caches are definitely worth looking for 😉

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