People in Latvia enjoy spending time outdoors, which is why orienteering and geocaching are popular activities.
Orienteering contests are a very popular type of outdoor activity in Latvia. Events take place in almost every region of Latvia, and both the young and old, pros and beginners line up. The popularity of orienteering can be explained by its democratic nature: it is a true people’s sport and is always well attended in terms of participation. Because orienteering is interesting and exciting, it appeals to everyone: you can both run as fast as you can and compete for medals or slowly mosey along, or make it into a power walk, relaxing in the woods after a strenuous day at work.
Orienteering competitions are held throughout Latvia, yet Magnēts in the forests of Greater Riga attracts the greatest numbers. Several hundred, and sometimes a thousand, participants go to the starting line, and stages take place all year round. In the summer season, there are three weekly meets, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, whereas in winter: on Saturdays and Sundays. Competitions are held for all age groups and there are separate routes for Nordic walkers as well as mountain bike orienteerists.
Exciting orienteering competitions also take place in the forests around Ogre (the Reljefs series), in the vicinity of Ropaži (Prizma), in Smiltene (Azimuts), in Cēsis (Meridiāns), in Valmiera (Valmieras Magnēts), in Jelgava (Alnis), in Alūksne (Horizonts), in Daugavpils (Orientieris), in Saldus (ABC), in Madona (Madonas Kausi), in the Dobele region, in Kuldīga (Taciņas), in Ventspils and Talsi in northern Kurzeme, in Tukums and many other places.
Of course, there are also the Latvian orienteering championships and various cup competitions. The 2008 European Championships took place in the vicinity of Ventspils, while the most popular orienteering event in Latvia and the Baltics as a whole is the multi-day Kāpa. For over 20 years now it has been taking place in late June or early July in one of the Latvian regions. Athletes compete for three days at Kāpa, and participants hail not only from all over Latvia, but from the entire world. For example, the 2010 Kāpa took place near Smiltene with athletes representing more than 20 countries, including even some experienced orienteerists from Australia. The Australians were exhilarated and admitted that they had never run a course so complex and interesting as this – and in a forest this thick, at that!
Rogaining contests also take place in Latvia – which are orienteering contests over a larger area for teams, on courses that take several hours and even the entire night and day – as well as various adventure races that incorporate orienteering, bike orienteering, boating, rope climbing and obstacle courses. These adventure races are gaining popularity and the xRace series (http://www.xrace.lv/) is held throughout the summer.
Hide-and-seek, hidden treasure, geocaching… Call it what you want, but it remains an exciting adventure and an interesting hobby which allows you to combine hunting for geocaches with exploring Latvia and sightseeing, to visit fascinating places that are normally out of your way.
Geocaching is a cool hobby and an active pursuit that is becoming ever more popular not just around the world, but in Latvia as well. Anyone can participate in it as it does not require a large financial investment. What exactly does geocaching mean? The object of the game is placing and finding small geocaches, or “treasures”, in varied locations according to certain coordinates. Every participant in the game hides a “treasure” and announces its coordinates, while the others have to track the geocache down. Usually the “treasure” is a waterproof box containing a small notepad, which is used as a guestbook – everyone who has found the “treasure” leaves behind a log entry.
You can participate in the search by registering on the game website, geocaching.com, where you can familiarise yourself with the rules. Then pick a specific geocache and go looking for it. Once you find the “treasure”, sign into the guestbook and announce your successful find on geocaching.com.
However, you must keep one important rule in mind: when searching for a geocache, you are not allowed to attract the attention of the people around you or approach the geocache when strangers can see you. In order to play along, all you need is an internet connection and a global positioning system, or GPS. In the summer of 2010, over 1,500 geocaches had already been placed around Latvia. They may be located in every imaginable place: they can be easily accessible or well hidden, or you may need courage or specialised skills to access a particular geocache. There are, for example, geocaches that have been placed on building roofs. There is a fair number of geocaches in Riga – over 200 – and on the outskirts of the city. Of course, there are also geocaches everywhere else in Latvia. When seeking “treasures”, participants can learn many new and unusual facts about Latvia, explore Latvian history, nature and architecture and admire wonderful landscapes because there are geocaches that have been placed in some truly spectacular locations.