After our three children moved out of our Prince George, B.C., home, my husband, Jim Arnup, and I decided to combine our interest for travel and hockey by billeting international students and hockey players. One of our many students, Thiago, was from São Paulo, Brazil, and after he returned home, he sent regular emails inviting us to visit him and his family.
Our daughter, Jaime, had introduced us to geocaching in 2006 and we took up the sport with relish. We retired and moved to Rosalind, Alta., with our four dogs a year later and geocaching allowed us to explore our new surroundings and meet many like-minded individuals in Alberta. In the winter of 2010, we bowed to Thiago’s pressure and decided to make the journey south to see his country.
Geocaching, being a true international activity with over 1,000,000 caches hidden worldwide, was on our “to-do” list while on the visit. I had been able to find several while travelling to India and Japan with Jaime in 2007 and was keen to add Brazil to our list. Before we left, we stopped in Edmonton to attend a geocaching meet-and-greet where a caching buddy asked us if we intended to find the Project A.P.E. cache while in Brazil.
We hadn’t heard of this project, but after some quick Internet research found that in May 2001, 20th Century Fox, wanting to create buzz about the release of their film “Planet of the Apes,” had hidden 14 caches around the world, each containing an original prop from the film as a prize for the “first to find.” Of the legendary 14 caches, only two were still readily available. One was hidden in Washington State and the other was more than 200 kilometres southeast of São Paulo in the Atlantic rainforest and within nine years, only seven people came across it!
We were not sure if we would have the time to find our way there, but kept it in the back of our minds. Our visit with Thiago and his parents, Shirley and Claudio, was a whirlwind three weeks, with stops in Iguaçu Falls, Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, and the Pantanal. We managed to work in some time to hunt for caches in São Paulo City and Iguaçu Falls, Argentina. At Iguaçu Falls we were looking for an earthcache: a special place that people can visit to learn about a unique geoscience feature or aspect of the earth. When we wound up back in São Paulo, we only had two days left before flying back home. It looked like we wouldn’t be able to go search for the elusive A.P.E. cache after all.
I made a last ditch effort to convince Thiago to take us on a day trip, but he thought we were crazy. His parents got wind of the plan and, being the wonderful warm-hearted people they are, insisted on taking us the next day. While Shirley and Claudio had lunch, Jim and I bushwhacked through dense jungle fighting the vines and spiked bamboo stalks to find the cache. The vines had these hooked thorns and they dug into our clothes and bodies. It was a really tough slog. I think I got a free ear piercing on the way up!
As we hacked our way through the jungle, we heard a “sheee sheee sheee” sound, very like a rattlesnake’s tail. We froze and the sound stopped. When we moved once more, it started up again. Jim hissed at me to head in the opposite direction we had been travelling and to take a round about way to the top of the hill. Never heard the sound again, thankfully. When we told Thiago about it later, his eyes went really wide. I think we were extremely lucky on this one.
I cannot describe the amazing adrenalin high we experienced after logging the cache and being only the eighth and ninth people to find it and, to date, the only Canadians! It was a huge army surplus missile can filled with a logbook, coins and other tradables. We took several geocoins that had been sitting in the cache and put in some Travel Bugs that we had brought with us from Canada. We also brought several Canadian souvenirs and placed them in the cache, too!
I don’t think my feet touched the ground on our trek back to the car!
By Darlene Anderson of Rosalind, Alta.