Back in 2001, long before I knew anything about geocaching, a promotions staffer at 20th Century Fox emailed Geocaching.com. The studio was interested in pairing geocaching with promotional efforts for its upcoming science fiction film, Planet of the Apes. Fifteen years later, the results of that promotion led me to visit South America for the first time. (More on that in a minute.)
Jeremy Irish, Geocaching HQ's co-founder and CEO, worked closely with Fox to develop what came to be known as Project A.P.E. (Short for Alternative Primate Evolution, a storyline that Fox created for the promotion.)
Jeremy assisted in hiding the now-archived Mission 9: Tunnel of Light. (Photo from the Aug/Sept 2001 issue of Business 2.0)At the time, geocaching was a relatively unknown game. The first cache was placed less than a year earlier, and only around 450 caches were listed on Geocaching.com. “It was a very exciting project,” Jeremy says today. “The website was still in its infancy, so it was pretty cool that a major movie studio wanted to partner with us. Project A.P.E. did a lot to inform the general public about geocaching.”
An unused A.P.E. cache logbook (left) and the original logbook from Mission 9: Tunnel of Light (GC1169)Jeremy and Fox staffers worked with local cachers to place containers in the USA (New York, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, California, Georgia), the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil and Japan. Each week, clues were released to give hints to each A.P.E. cache location. The clues became more detailed until the complete coordinates were finally revealed. Once the location was known, it was a race to be FTF and get dibs on whatever movie props might be inside the cache.
Vanity Fair article from 2001The first A.P.E. cache was published May 24, 2001. It was followed by 13 more listings, with the final cache location revealed August 10, 2001.
Some of the A.P.E. caches were archived within weeks of publication. Others lived on for many years. Today, only one remains: Mission 4: Southern Bowl.
This cache likely owes its longevity to a remote location. Brazil's Intervales State Park is a 3-4 hour drive from São Paulo, the nearest metropolitan area. The park is renowned for fantastic birding, caves, waterfalls and other natural wonders. Suffice it to say, the A.P.E. cache is only one of many interesting things to see!
My long-planned pilgrimage was helped by a caching friend who lives in Brazil and also happens to be a Community Volunteer Moderator. Rui graciously agreed to meet me in São Paulo and join the voyage to Intervales, even though he had already been there twice! Not only does he know the area well, but he also speaks the language (Portuguese).
Rui and I at Intervales State ParkUpon arriving, we visited with park manager Junior (aka JRintervales). Junior maintained the A.P.E. cache for many years on behalf of its original owner, the legendary JoGPS, who sadly passed away last year. Junior recently adopted the cache listing and is a wealth of information for those planning to visit Intervales.
We chose to stay at one of the park's lodges. There is also a dining hall / restaurant on the grounds which serves three meals each day. Add those amenities to dozens of caches around the park, and you have a recipe for a fun caching weekend.
Hiking inside Intervales State ParkAnd so after 18 hours of air and car travel, we found ourselves on the trail to one of the biggest items on my geocaching bucket list. Only one problem: I had loaded the cache into my GPS, but the GPS didn't recognize the A.P.E. cache icon. So, the cache wouldn't show up on my GPS map! Thankfully, Rui knew the trails well enough to lead us to the general area of the cache. And, as you can see from the photo, the cache is big enough to be pretty easy to spot once you're close. After inking the log, we snapped the requisite celebratory photos before continuing on to a full day of caching around the park.
Me and the last remaining A.P.E. cacheWe were back in São Paulo the next day, and I returned to Seattle the following night. Quite a whirlwind tour!
I think we'd all agree that geocaching takes us to places we might never have visited if not for the game. Isn't it amazing to think that a 15-year-old promotion would lead me and so many others to a beautifully remote area of Brazil that we may not have experienced otherwise?
Have you found an A.P.E. cache? If not, is Brazil beckoning you? [...]