Having been detained by the Muggleovians for over a year, we were worried that it was too late and that the anti-matter bomb would have detonated, destroying the world, but as it turns out, it hadn’t… obviously. But the threat was still very real and so during the summer holidays we finally shook off the Muggleovians and got back on the trail.
The last of Wolverine’s diary pages that we had found was now directing us to a village called Standon which lies in the east of Hertfordshire. Having acquired a little intelligence from another agent I had done some handy preparation in the form of installing a Russian alphabet keyboard on my iPhone and getting a translation app. The first thing we needed to do though was to locate a big lump of pudding stone and collect some information that was nearby. This first part was achieved easily and then after a short walk we arrived at another location where we found a sneakily hidden micro container that held some partial coordinates. Together with these and the information we had found near the pudding stone we were able to pinpoint another location nearby where we would hopefully find the next diary page.
It was a walk of about a kilometre from the car across some fields but the weather was dry and warm and so the journey was quickly made. When we arrived, we found ourselves on a footpath that ran through the middle of a deep ditch. The banks rose up on both sides of us to a height of about 20 feet. The arrow pointed straight up one of the banks. Sam and I slowly made our way up the steep slope, using more of a hands and feet approach rather than actually walking. With the help of a couple of trees for support we eventually made it to the top of the bank and Sam found the container hidden with the depths of an old fallen tree. It was an excellent hiding place, one that was never likely to get muggled. Inside we found Wolverine’s next diary page.
We made our way back down to the base of the slope, a task that was, if anything, harder than going up but we managed it without falling “apex over base”. Handing the diary page over to Shar she quickly scanned it and declared that it would need a much closer read, but regardless it looked as if the next stage would be a drive away so we might as well head back to the car.
Wolverine documented in his next diary entry how he had come to arrive in Standon and gave details of more clues to the deactivation codes that he had planted in his previous location. The narrative for Your Mission is very clever but you do have to constantly remind yourself that you are doing the journey in the opposite direction to Wolverine. When he started his quest he was at the location of the anti-matter bomb and in possession of the information of how to deactivate it. As he made his escape, hiding the bomb and fleeing the Muggleovians, at regular intervals he left a page of his diary chronicling his escape to that point. In those diary pages he hid clues to parts of the deactivation code. Eventually he disappeared having left a trail stretching across Hertfordshire and beyond. This trail is peppered with his hidden diary pages and when we started our mission a garbled voice message from Wolverine led us to the last page he had hidden. From there the journey travels backwards, following his trail each time picking up an earlier diary entry until hopefully the last page we find will be the first one he hid and will give us the final location of the bomb so we can find and deactivate it. So you can see, you have to constantly remind yourself, when you arrive at a location and find a diary page, that what you then read is an account of what happened prior to Wolverine arriving at that point and hiding the page you have just found. … take a break for a moment and let your brain cool down then we shall continue.
This next diary page was telling us how he had
hidden the preceding diary entry in a location and then after travelling sometime had secreted half the coordinates in one location before fleeing again to the safety of a nearby church, the coordinates of which he provided. Using names and dates from the gravestones he had then devised a code to hide the latitude and longitude of the location of the next page. It was even slightly more complicated than that because breaking the code would give us half the coordinates for the next page and the coordinates for the location of the other half. Man, it is just doing my head in trying to recount this. You can imagine how delicate a process it was to try and unpick this back at the car. The one thing we did know was that we had to travel to this church to collect the information from various gravestones so Shar entered the coordinates into her phone and then used this information to tell the car sat nav where we had to go. we set off, making the decision that the first thing we would do after we arrived would be to stop and have lunch.
As we drove, still we were hard at work. Whilst Shar desperately tried to avoid attracting the attention of the Muggleovians by attempting to “drive casual”, I set Sam to work translating a piece of Russian text that had also been in the most recent diary page. This, when deciphered gave us another hint that we would need if and when we found the anti-matter bomb. The decode took most of the drive and as we approached our destination we were surprised to see that we were crossing the border into Essex. A few minutes later the sat nav announced that we had reached our destination and we pulled to the side of the road. We were rather perplexed as we were in the middle of nowhere, on a quiet country lane that ran between open fields that stretched into the distance. There was definitely no church here, so what had gone wrong. We hadn’t had to calculate these coordinates so that meant the only possibility for error was entering them into the GPS. Sam and I went quiet and we looked to Shar. After a few awkward moments we realised that Shar had fallen into the trap that unless you live in England, Scotland, France, Spain, Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana or Toto you have more than likely never thought about let alone have to deal with. If you live in one of these countries then you are wary that the prime meridian passes through your country which means you could be dealing with coordinates that are either West or East. Putting in coordinates into a GPS as East when they should be West will result in you ending up in the middle of farmland in Essex… for example. Thankfully because the coordinates were only just west of the meridian we were only about 12km off our target. You might also experience this problem on the other side of the world if you live in Fiji, Kiribati, Russia or a bit of Alaska which all lie on the 180th meridian . If you think that is confusing then consider the poor souls in Kiribati, a collection of island nations in the pacific, as not only do they cross the 180th meridian, but they also span the equator. It is the only country in the world to be in all four hemispheres.
Meanwhile back in Essex… we quickly re-entered the correct coordinates and did a U turn. Within 20 minutes we were parked in front of the village green of Sandon in Hertfordshire with the church behind us and lunch on our laps. Things were generally a lot calmer and clearer after food had been consumed.
After lunch we spent quite some time in the church yard collecting information from gravestones. That is to say that Sam and Shar went searching for numbers and I just hung around enjoying the peace and tranquillity that so often accompanies village churchyards.
Eventually Sam and Shar found all the numbers and set about entering them into a formula that gave us another location to go to where we would find the 2nd half of the coordinates for the next diary page… you remember that yeah. This new location was just around the corner so we moved the car to a good parking spot and set off in search of our next clue. Arriving at the coordinates we found a small bridge spanning a stream on the edge of a wooded area. Due to a cock up on my part, we spent the first 15 minutes searching the trees in the vicinity with no luck. Then once the error was realised we broadened our search to include others things, including the bridge. After about another 10 minutes and when resolve was starting to weaken I eventually got down and stuck my hand under the bridge and pulled out a well-hidden container which contained what we were looking for. We had all apparently “searched” the bridge before but for some reason this time I got lucky. Not to worry we now had the second half of the coordinates to the location of the next diary page. The first half were derived from some of the numbers gleaned in the graveyard so all we needed to do was put these two sets together and bingo. One problem, Shar had left the other numbers in the car.
There was much grumbling as we returned to the car and morale was at a low point. The afternoon was dragging on and it seemed that the succession of little cock ups during the day had worn our little band of secret agents down. The Muggleovians were getting the better of us. Back at the car we got the numbers and entered the coordinates into the phones and found as we suspected that the location of our next diary page was just a short walk from the bridge where we had just come from. It seemed that the general feeling was that no one could be bothered to go back and even I was feeling the same way. However I deduced that more than likely the diary page that awaited us about a kilometre away would contain yet another location that would involve a drive. Having done so much of this cache already I had a feel for the pattern in when the CO would be moving us on to another distant location and I felt that that would happen next. I reasoned that we should go and get the page because if we didn’t, then when we next came to work on the cache we would have to drive all the way here from home to pick up the page only then to have to drive to another location. The most sensible thing to do would be to go get the page now and then go home, and then next time we would be starting off at a new location. Despite being tired, Sam and Shar couldn’t really refute my argument, and so we all set off back the way we had come.
About half an hour later having walked around a large farmers field, there being no obvious way to cut through it, we found ourselves at the coordinates and soon had the next diary page in hand. My hunch had been right and now that we had the information in our possession we all agreed that it had been the right thing to do. Our little team had pulled together and dug deep for that last trip and it had paid off. We returned back to the car tired but satisfied that we had made good ground towards completing our mission and saving the world.
To be continued…
This geocaching adventure took place on Thursday 20th August 2015.