Caching in on Christmas – Geocaching, Gold Mines, Muggles and Viaducs

The weather finally cleared on Christmas Eve and, since most of us were feeling better after going down with various coughs and colds, we headed off for a spot of geocaching. Chris, Rors and I haven’t done any for ages, and Caiti and Benj had never had a go. So it seemed a nice way to make the day a bit special.

Chris tracked down four geocaches quite close together not far from Chambon sur Voueize. The first one was labelled as Le Mine d’Or – the Gold Mine at Chatelet. Gold was discovered there in 1886 when the railway station at nearby Budéliere was being built. We had no idea previously that there was a gold mine in the area. It’s currently being restored.

The search for the cache took a while as we were on a fairly busy road so we had to stop searching every time a car came by. You must never let any Muggles see what you’re doing when you’re geocaching. (Non-geocachers are Muggles, in case you were wondering!) Benj eventually came up trumps.

Rather chilly, we moved on to the next spot. There were three caches at different points along a section of currently disused railway track. Now, this is a stretch of the railway line that ran from Montluçon in Allier to Ussel in Corrèze. It was taken out of service in 2008 due to safety issues, but it hasn’t officially been closed. It’s state owned, since it runs through three departéments and two régions, so any definitive decision regarding its future will take a long while. Its condition had been steadily deteriorating since the 1950s apparently and in 2008 it needed 40 million euros of repair work to bring it up to standard. Presumably that’s what all the problem is. It’s a lot of money. However, it’s in a touristy part of Creuse, and has Néris Les Bains and Evaux Les Bains, two thermal spas, on its route. And the countryside around is fantastic. Wait till you see the viaduc in a moment. I hope it will be saved. We need more railways.

Anyway, we set off along the railway line. It’s surprisingly tricky to walk along a railway track.

The sleepers were slippy so we had to walk on the gravel between them. But the sleepers were unevenly spaced so we had to watch our step all the time. But it was still pretty cool. We found the first two caches – Benj, who’s obviously a natural at this, got the first one and I got the second.

Caiti examines a cache

Then we came to the viaduc. Oh boy, it’s incredible. Possibly this is one of the safety issues responsible for the line’s suspension. Caiti and I headed out across it.

The dots in the distance are me and Caits!

Chris who’d stayed back with Rors yelled at me to move to the side since he noticed that the metal plating I was walking on was incredibly thin. This temporarily freaked me out as we were a very, very long way up. However, my daughter was carrying on across it so I did too.

Bits of metal were missing here and there and the poor old bridge looked the worse for wear in places, but wow. What a feat of engineering! I have no idea how you can build something so tall across such a precipitous gorge.

See what I mean about being high up?

There was a very stiff breeze blowing and we were, as I’ve mentioned before, extremely high up so we didn’t hang around for long! Caiti and I went all the way across, and then Chris had a walk over it too. Rors wasn’t keen on venturing across and Benj couldn’t be bothered.

We got all the way across

On the drive out we’d been amazed to see four wind turbines up. Only a couple of days ago there’d been only one and a half. So I took some photos on the way back.

We’ve also discovered that we can see one of them from our garden. It’s a long way off, but because it’s so tall, there it is, in view. An elegant new addition to the skyline.

It's very faint - can you make it out?

We plan to go geocaching again on Boxing Day. It’s an addictive pastime. There are people who have clocked up thousands of finds. We have a total of six between us for this year so far, so we have a way to go yet!

0 Replies to “Caching in on Christmas – Geocaching, Gold Mines, Muggles and Viaducs”

  1. We have been geocaching several times in Portugal – really enjoyed it. You would not got me on the viaduct!
    Like to buy our own gismo, but was totally confused by the options as we do not want anything to fancy 🙂
    PiP

    1. Good! My Dad always used to say you should “learn something new every day”. Geocaching is fun and quickly becomes addictive. We’ve been out all day today on the trail of some more caches. Got the lot this time, hooray!

  2. I’m clearly a muggle and need a bit more information about the concept of geocaching. In one of the photos, Caiti is examining a cache – but who put it there and who told you where to look for it. Is it a company who hides these things and then you rent one of the GPS?

    That’s a great photo of the shadow cast by the bridge.

    1. Geocaching is modern day treasure hunting. It all began in May 2000 when ‘selective availability’ meant that everyone, and not just the military, got to use GPS. This meant treasure hunting could move into the twenty-first century. No more ‘three paces south from the oak tree’ and ‘X’ marks the spot on a tatty map but a string of GPS co-ordinates that you can download. The caches are put there by enthusiasts like us. They’re very well hidden so there’s a lot of searching and it’s quite an energetic sport. We’ve been out over 6 hours today on the trail of some more – on our feet for most of that time, so that’s walked off the Christmas pud. You find the caches using your GPS. Those get you to within 10 metres generally so sometimes you get extra clues. The website to check out is http://www.geocaching.com/ which will explain things far better than I can!

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