The July school holidays can be a time when you dream of a South Pacific adventure with sun, beach and a good book. However, if like most of us, you're stuck in Nelson, there is loads of fun to be had by going geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing).
This is like a hi-tech treasure hunt that is played by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices or smartphones. The idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, in the outdoors relying on navigation co-ordinates downloaded from various websites.
The caches may contain a logbook and other interesting treasures that you can add to or swap. I hear you ask "how hard can it be if you can use a GPS?" Well, it is hard.
The GPS co-ordinates only get you to within the general vicinity of a geocache and the rest can be challenging. Often the cache is camouflaged and well hidden.
We have found a cache that looked like genuine stormwater pipe, one under a false dwang in a public shelter and another in a hollow screw.
For geocaching, you don't need to join a club. It's free but you do need a GPS (or a smartphone with a GPS app) and an hour to set yourself up.
First up, log into geocaching.com and register, then use the map to find what local hidden treasures are nearby. You can download the geocache name and co-ordinates direct to your GPS. There are hundreds of caches to be found in and around Nelson, so there is bound to be one close to home.
The online clues and instructions are really helpful and tell you how long it is likely to take to find each treasure. My son has had the most successes and I attribute this to his tenacity, as well as not minding what he picks up or sticks his hands into.
Although I have had least success, and haven't actually found any by myself, I do have some tips for those new to geocaching.
First, write down the clues before you go. It may seem like cheating, but geocaches are often hidden in sneaky places. It helps to narrow down your search just a teeny-weeny bit.
Secondly, expect the unexpected. The people hiding the geocaches are really, really clever.
Thirdly, when you find the cache record your details in the logbook. Later there is an option to record your find on the website and/or create your own on-line cache history.
If the cache contains small trinkets you may take one, but only if you leave one in return. Most geocaches we found didn't have treasure and we gained satisfaction from simply finding them.
Who would have thought to look under a metal sign that had its screw removed and replaced with magnets?
After finding several caches and recording these online, you are eligible to make your own. That is where imagination can run wild.
Also, if you become addicted to geocaching there is a worldwide supply of over one million caches in 100 countries. Geocaches even exist on Pacific Islands.
One thing to beware of are "muggles". These are people who not part of the geocaching community and they may look at you strangely as you dig under a fencepost. You are expected to keep the cache location a secret from muggles.
If Nelson weather lets you down and it's too wet for geocaching, have a day or night (or more) of culture.
July is an arts extravaganza that includes an Art Expo, Light Nelson and the Nelson Winter Music festival. The Art Expo runs from July 11-13 and showcases works by South Island artists.
It's an accessible event with all art under $5000, entry $5 for adults and free for children. And while sales are great for the artists, people are encouraged to simply wander and admire the art on display.
The expo is being held in our main sports complex, Saxton Stadium, so there is plenty of space for children to run around, too.
Another wonderful event is Light Nelson, which transforms the Nelson CBD into a beautiful canvas.
When it was launched last year, Light Nelson attracted more than 16,000 people over three nights. This year, over the nights of 11, 12 and 13 July, there will be more than 40 installations located at the NMIT campus, Albion Square and Queens Gardens.
The Nelson Winter Music Festival began 20 years ago and has grown to include some of the biggest names in New Zealand music. Running July 11-27, there is something for everyone, from jazz to musical theatre, and even a poetry slam. This year's festival is mostly taking place in the Old St John's heritage church, converted into a funky music club for the event.
As a parent, I want to make the most of the holidays and give my children excellent memories. Nelson's natural beauty and choices for entertainment mean that our family won't have time to wish they were on holiday in the Pacific.
We will be too busy running around finding geocaches, avoiding muggles, and walking through the city at night marvelling at a laser show.
- The Nelson Mail