Geocacher Spotlight : Mondo, Yoda of Geocaching (Part 2)

In our first part of the Mondo interview, we covered some amazing ground. We talked about world travel and how geocaching has changed over the past decade.

Join us again as we discuss how Mondo got his name, advice on when to stop searching and the story of one of the greatest finds, ever.

Mondo: (MondoU2)

Mondo at the Spa at Cardo Cache, Spain

Paurian: What does “Mondou2” mean? I read in a book that it’s a reference to a coffee shop, but the closest thing I could find (via a Google search) was either the “Mondo Coffee Bar” on RoyalCaribbean cruiseliners or a “Mondo Caffe” in San Francisco. Could it be that it’s really a tribute to Canadian Ice Hockey’s two-time Stanly Cup winner Pierre Mondou?

Mondo: Mondo is indeed a coffee shop in Moab, Utah that sold espresso long before Starbucks. Their motto was “Still Legal in Utah.” Sadly, I heard it is closed. The user name Mondo was incredibly already taken at the time so I added the u2, which is a work reference (UniServ Unit).

Paurian: Side note to readers, the Moab coffee shop used to have geology haiku mic nights on Saturday to rally your inner geek.

Paurian: What’s your favorite type of cache and why?

Mondo: I suppose I enjoy virtuals the most as a cache type because as with most of the early placed caches, they are in interesting spots that I would never otherwise go to.

Paurian: What is the best prize you’ve retrieved from a cache?

Mondo: After a long hike in Spain I found a business card that said that if I brought it to Budapest the owner would put me up for a week so I could enjoy Hungarian caching and home cooking. A year later I contacted him and made the arrangements to travel there. The family was exceptionally hospitable and I had a fantastic week caching there.

Mondo holding up a stand-in GPSr

Paurian: That’s amazing! What did you take back from that experience? Do you still keep in touch?

Mondo: I have lost touch with them but I will always remember their hospitality. I was amazed that they taught themselves English just so they could read computer manuals and how many caches they had in Hungary. As I recall there were 600 of them – far more than in Colorado at that time. I also got to tavel up north and see some old castles and festivals. All in all it was a trip I will always treasure.

Paurian: Is there any place in the world you’d like to travel to, geocaching or not, that you haven’t been to yet?

Mondo: Planning to go cashing in Ireland next year and having some discussion with a few other cachers about going after the APE cache in Brazil. Someday I would love to find the 100 oldest caches…

Paurian: I’ve been told that cache owners and cachers try to leave a part of themselves in geocaching. Is there any particular geocache that really felt personal to you?

Mondo: I leave a whistle as my signature item – not sure I want to know what that means (he grins). I have had some tribute caches that felt personal but otherwise I do not philosophize much about the game.

Mondo at the Florissant Fossil Beds

Paurian: How long do you search for a cache before moving on?

Mondo: It depends. It is a combination of several factors: the difficulty rating, whether the area at GZ is one I care to search (I usually have a low tolerance for rock piles or trashy areas), the weather, time of day, mood, whether I am on a numbers run or on a hike, and so on. On caches around Denver I will usually look until I run out of places to explore and I will return multiple times. I do not have a pre-set limit as I enjoy the hunting as much as the finding. But, on a power run, I *try* to limit my searching time but I am only mildly successful some of the time.

Paurian: What is the most dangerous geocache you’ve gone after?

Mondo: Monseratt GC2D4 in Spain. This one took two trips to Spain to complete and is my most memorable of the *dangerous* caches. I had to walk up a vertical rock formation using a rope for about half the way and then find hand/foot holds the rest. My wife is an experienced rock climber (unlike me that gets scarred going up a ladder) and says it was a Class IV climb.

Paurian: What excellent feature / element / idea … thing would you like added to the geocaching experience?

Mondo: I have a lot of fun with the game as it is and I believe that is very responsive to new ideas that come up. I am exited about their new map system they are developing and the possibility of breaking out of the 500 or 1000 cache limits.

Paurian: If you could go caching with any celebrity, who would it be?

Mondo: Robin Williams

Mondo Stage Exit at the Outback, Australia

Paurian: Is there a top to the learning curve where, after so many caches, they’re all easy to find or solve?

Mondo: I think it is the opposite sometimes. When I get it in my head where a cache *should* be I tend to miss where the cache is. Perhaps that is a learning curve too. I believe that what one has to learn is how to see the world. To be able to spot what belongs and what does not. What is out of place. To *see* the unusual rather than to look for a cache. There are always clues.

Paurian: How would you suggest people learn that skill?

Mondo: Stop looking for containers and start looking for the unsusual.

What to bring when you geocache

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll notice that over the past month I’ve been posting interviews with geocachers in a “Geocacher Spotlight”. One of the questions I enjoy asking is what they consider the most important non GPS Receiver (GPSr) tool to bring with them in the field. The best answer I’ve received so far is “friends”.

Bringing people with you is good for four reasons, one of which is vital.

  1. People bring their own perceptions to the table and with our variety of experiences, expectations and education, people will look at the hide or the puzzle in a slightly different fashion. As a result, the cache is sought after from different angles which makes finding it easier. To (almost) quote Spock, “The eyes of the many outweigh the eyes of the few.”
  2. One is a lonely number. Sure you might hit caches faster and harder without others, but it can be dull. Sharing any good aspect of life with others makes the experience more enriching. It builds a bond with those you bring. This makes geocaching into a human experience rather than just a hunt. If you want that high-five factor at the end of the day, this is the only way to get it.
  3. People carry stuff with them, so the more people you have, the more tools you have at your disposal. Consider backpacking across the country with a couple of friends. You only need one tent, but that tent is heavy enough on its own that other people would be needed to carry food and supplies. If a group of people have the same goals in mind and most of the people are prepared (long live BSA!) then skills and tools of the collective group will be capable of working past far more obstacles than you would alone.
  4. The buddy system has been taught for ages for a reason. If the bad kind of unexpected happens, having another one there to help out is vital to life. It’s difficult enough to splint yourself if you break a leg, but what about getting up and hobbling to an emergency unit? You’d either need to be very fortunate to have long branches lying around that can be factored into a crutch or you’d need a good buddy nearby.

There are other “things” you could bring with you on a geocache, but none are as versatile, extensible, enjoyable, liberating or vital to the experience and its safety as another human being.

Happy caching!

Geocacher Spotlight : Mondo, 30k Caches and Counting

A couple of weeks ago my family attended a geocache event where I met up with a few fabulous people. One person has nearly legendary status as he’s the 3rd ranking geocacher in the world. This event marked his 30,000th cache.

Mondo with a congratulatory 30K cache card

When he first started, back in 2001, there were only 2500 caches across 42 countries. Project A.P.E. had just recently been announced to promote the “Planet of the Apes” film remake.

It’s been nearly 10 years since then and we now have nearly 1.3 million caches across over 100 countries. If someone asked me to point out a Yoda of geocaching, I’d direct him straight to Mondo. Not that he would, but if Mondo was trying to hide his wisdom in the sport, his wide-brim bush hat, slightly stubbled chin or clay-soiled shoes would betray him… but that’s alright. He’s got an outgoing personality, a friendly smile and a great temperament to go with his adventuresome spirit.

Mondo: (MondoU2)

Paurian: How do caches and their contents differ between countries?

Mondo: I have noticed two things: First, in Hungary they wrap all containers in plastic bags. Second, I rarely find ammo cans or other used military gear overseas.

Paurian: What has been your favorite cache to find?

Mondo: The Spa at Cardo in Spain is my all time sentimental favorite. My brother took me on a caching trip there for my 50th birthday and it was quite a journey and a personal accomplishment to get to the top.

Mondo signing a log in the Australian outback

Paurian: What has been your favorite place to go geocaching?

Mondo: I do not have one favorite place…

Paurian: For you, what makes one geocache more enjoyable than another?

Mondo: I enjoy caches that are accessible by 4 wheeling, hiking, biking, on power trails and in urban areas, in that order. Caching in new areas and countries is incredibly fun. I am partial to the desert too. Heck, after 30,000 finds I think you can safely say I like them all.

Paurian: What are the most challenging caches?

Mondo: The ones that are right in front of your face and dare you to find them – these creative ones are the most enjoyable to find. Some other caches have also challenged my self-imposed/perceived limitations – e.g., fear of heights.

Paurian: What is the most helpful non GPSr geocaching tool that you take into the field?

Mondo: GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife), my personal stamper and tweezers are used the most.

Mondo at the Phoenix salt mounds

Paurian: So much has changed since you started back in 2001. What do you feel has been the most significant change to geocaching?

Mondo: The explosion in the number of caches being hidden and the concomitant numbers of cachers participating have been the biggest change.

The fundamentals are the same – you hide, I seek and I hide you seek. We all walk in circles and do other dumb things to get a smiley.

Paurian: How would you describe the geocaching experience without reverting to the common “treasure hunt” terminology?

Mondo: A silly world wide game of hide and seek using global positioning receivers is what I usually tell muggles.

Paurian: Are there any particularly special experiences in your life that wouldn’t have happened if you had not discovered geocaching?

Mondo: I think the most special one was my decision to ask my then wife to be Diana out on a 4 wheeling cache/date.

Paurian: [Word to the ladies!]