Hidden treasure at Otaki Gorge

An after-dinner drive today led to a fascinating discovery. My husband and I drove up Otaki Gorge Road [click here to view map], a beautiful scenic road that follows the Otaki River up towards its source in the Tararua Ranges. In many places there are stands of totara which some past landowner with some foresight decided to spare from the scourge of milling and burning that destroyed all trace of most of the other plains forest.* We reached the wobbly one-car bridge [see photo left] that crosses to the north of the river, and I got out to take a photo of the bush-clad gorge in the fast-fading light of the evening [photo above]. My husband also got out to attend to “other business” and, being the attentive person that he is, spotted something that didn’t look quite in place in the roots of a tree by the side of the road. Reaching into to the cavity in the roots, he found a small container in which had been carefully placed a pencil, pencil sharpener and small notepad and a laminated notice. The cache was labeled “Scary Bridge”, presumably after the bridge that we had just crossed (though we hadn’t found it particularly scary).

The notice told us that we had found (completely by chance) a “geocaching” capsule, hidden by “geocachers” – people who, for fun, look for caches hidden by other geocachers, using their GPS (global positioning system) coordinates as a guide to their location. (See the Geocaching website to find more about this worldwide phenomenon.) This struck us as another way to explore, enjoy and appreciate the environment, while at the same time networking and sharing experiences with others who derive similar enjoyment from being outdoors. Not a bad thing, we thought – especially for satellite technology initially developed for Cold War military purposes.

* This foresight had benefits that would have been unimaginable at the time. Owing to this very feature, pastoral landscapes along the Otaki Gorge Road were used in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Ring” films – as the “Outer Shire” woods.

All photos by C.Knight.

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