NZ Mega: A Mega-Event Down Under
This past summer, I read posts on CUNB and Facebook about the great fun that cachers in the Maritimes at at Maritime Mega II. I had never attended a mega-event before and it sounded like a pretty great experience. Last weekend, I got to attend NZ Mega in Auckland, New Zealand. This two-day event over Labour Day weekend (yes, they do Labour Day in October) had almost a dozen side events.
The day before the NZ Mega, the organizers planned a series of optional caching hikes in various areas around Auckland. Roughly 25 of us walked the 8 km of the Okura Bush Walk on the Friday, collecting close to 40 smileys. I found the caches to be harder to find than our caches back in Canada, mostly because some of the leafy foliage stays year-round and so caches are hidden in places on the ground or in plants that we wouldn’t typically use in Canada.
On the Friday night was the first of the official side events, with a fish n’ chip dinner meet n’ greet in a local park. Despite the drizzle, I think over 100 geocachers came to say hello. Most were from New Zealand, a few Aussies, and one lone Canadian. The fish n’ chips, incidentally, were fantastic.
The mega event itself was planned over 2 days. The organizers held the event in North Harbour Stadium in Albany, Auckland, New Zealand. This is a stadium used for rugby matches, and in fact on one of the days during the mega, the All Blacks (the national rugby union team and defending world champions) were practicing on the field. I thought that a rugby stadium was a bit of a strange choice for a geocaching event venue, but the stadium had convention facilities and this is where the mega-event was held.
On arrival, the organizers gave everyone a nametag with their caching name, real name and country of origin. They got everyone to sign the log at registration, and handed out a welcome package that included, amongst other things, a pathtag and the heaviest geocoin I have ever seen. To help people get to know one another, they had a couple of games. The first was Geocacher Bingo, and you had to fill your bingo card by getting other cachers to sign squares with such titles as “has found a cache on 3 continents,” “has hidden over 100 caches,” and “has found caches for at least 500 days in a row. All of the completed sheets were entered into a draw for prizes.
At the official mega welcome, the first thing the organizers did was go on skype and connect directly with Groundspeak HQ in Seattle. We were given a virtual tour of the offices, got to speak with Jeremy Irish, and got a big cheer from the Groundspeak staff on the other side of the globe. At the same time, Signal walked into the hall sporting a giant trackable tag.
There were a number of workshops at the mega, including: pathtags, GSAK, ground search & rescue techniques, puzzle solving and an ask the reviewers panel. Because of the size of New Zealand (4.5 m people in an area roughly double the size of the Maritimes), the reviewers here actually cache in the areas they review. In fact, some of them even admitted to trying to get FTF on caches they had just published! Because the reviewers know the areas and some of the cachers so well, one admitted to sometimes messing with cachers who love their FTFs: he will publish a cache in, say, the north shore of Auckland, and then 10 minutes later publish one in the south end (20 min drive), and then when he thinks the FTF crowd are on their way to the second one, he’ll publish another cache very close to the first one. The newest reviewer in New Zealand, Growly Bear, did not attend as s/he is still adamant on keeping her/his identity anonymous. The evening concluded with a quiz game: Geo-pardy.
After the quiz, there was a flash mob and then there was a night caching event with 3 brand new night caches to be found. The last of these night caches was one of the most elaborate I have ever seen, with almost 300 m of trail illuminated with floating, glowing alien heads, a 3 m tall alien on a hillside and a treasure chest for a log. The series actually concluded by taking an electronic key card and swiping it in a computer terminal (yes, in the woods) that eventually released a “missile” to destroy the alien ship.
On Day 2 of the NZ mega, the organizers added a few interesting side games for prizes: an orienteering course/geocache, a geo-rogaine event, lots of activities for the kids, a puzzle solving session for new puzzle caches in the area, a geocaching board game and videos from the Geocaching International Film Festival. The day concluded with a bunch of prizes.
One of the highlights of the mega, in my opinion, was that it was only the 2nd time that lab caches were offered. This new caching type is only available at mega events and geocaching block parties at the moment, and there were 10 of these caches to find during the mega. I’ll write another post about these to explain them in more detail.
The day after the mega, there was another flash mob, a CITO, a pathtag trading event and a farewell BBQ. Over the course of the weekend, it was easily possible to log 11 different caches types: traditional, multi, letterbox, unknown, event, mega-event, CITO event, EarthCache, wherigo, virtual and lab.
For my first mega event, I thought the 4 days of activities over a long weekend were pretty fantastic. I thought I would be the cacher the furthest from home (at 15,000 km from Moncton) but a couple of Swedes and Danes beat me for the furthest travelled. I believe there were 10-15 countries represented at the mega.
That was quite the party. How did it compare with Maritime Mega II? Anything you saw there that you think should have happened here, or vice versa?