In March 1982 I looked at a sign that read ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ pointing east and west across the wide horizon that is western Queensland.
I wondered where the ToC actually went, what landscapes it covered, the people and cultures that lived within its reach and what it would be like to follow this imaginary line that circles the planet.
Just before sunset on December 10th 1999 I sat on a beach gazing east across the Pacific Ocean.
I had just spent 229 days walking 4637kms across Australia following the Tropic Of Capricorn on a walk that had emerged to be a fairly straightforward journey through ‘my own backyard’, nothing too difficult, after all; it was just a walk.
The reason for that expedition could be summed up as “why not?” rather than “why?” and I was not pursuing nor anticipating any kind of revelation at journeys end. I didn't take "a year off" - I took the year on.
But as I sat there, the setting sun warming my back, I began to comprehend where I was at - not physically, but mentally.
Where my inner self was resting.
For the first time that I could remember I had reached some point of purity.
There was a glimmer of light within me, an ephemeral essence of clarity: a small scrap of acceptance of who I was.
Yes, I had come to terms with a chronic illness that had continually prevented me from pursuing my dream job and on a couple of days I had physically pushed myself to complete the trip. But that wasn’t the essence of my thinking. I realised that I was and forever would (thankfully) now be, in a new space. Essentially, I had walked away from the old world.
I didn’t want the journey to stop. I didn’t want to ‘go back’ to the other world of machines and noise and lies and speed and people and consumption and fear mongering. I knew that going back would corrupt me and taint the space that I now inhabited and had made for myself.
I wanted to walk across the water and keep going until once more I found earth under my feet.
So I scribbled a mental note, sent it to the far reaches of my mind, filed it under ‘balance’, turned around, and reluctantly walked along the beach in the semi darkness and back into the other world.
Querencia (n) - The place where you are your most authentic self, from where strength of character is drawn,
where you feel safe, a place where you feel at home.
Derived from the verb ‘quere’ – to desire, to want. The wanting place.
All animals have some type of Querencia. The burrow, the kennel, the small cave in the rocky outcrop, a nest or under a piece of wood. Home. Safety. Humans of have it too, as we are of course animals. Some people find Querencia amongst a huge crowd at a concert, or sitting alone on a beach gazing at the surf, or in an office full of people staring at computer screens.
Some find it in cities, others in nature. The desert, the snow capped mountains, the forest. And some never find it. Some are oblivious of the great balance, the abundant inspiration, and that smoothing essence that their soul desires to be grounded. It passes them by. Worse still, some are aware to it but do nothing about it.
It would be easy to say that I have avoided the classic burn-out of those who inhabit the business world. Despite not being tied to a computer (which astoundingly seems to be the modern definition of work) I have nevertheless been somewhat stuck in a routine, albeit a rather enjoyable and slightly adventurous one. The choices I have made.
And so for quite some time I have waited for the right time to return to 'purity', but all the time aware that I essentially had to make the right time, and aware that this time it shouldn’t be just a visit, or a fleeting moment. It needed to be enduring.
It is now time, so Capricorn Expedition stage two begins.
With any expedition, there has to be thorough planning and preparation. There is equipment to source, visas to obtain, maps to study, and a whole myriad of other things that all go into the planning.
But even though there is a 6-month umbrella of a plan, what happens during the expedition is an open book.
And that is where "Expedition" morphs into "Journey".
Compared to CapX1999, CapX17 will be a more elastic and unpredictable experience, partly because it is an unknown as to how I will cope pulling a 50kg cart and also because I won’t ‘be in my own backyard’, so everything will be new. And that’s what I am really looking forward to.
I am throwing everything into the air, let it land, and will deal with it as it happens.
And language...Aussie bush lingo won't cut it in South America, and apart from Querencia, the only other Spanish/Portuguese I know is Hola and Paella, so there is a bit of work to do there.
I’ve already downloaded the Spanish language app…meu nome é Andrew e eu perdi estou andando do Chile para o Brasil...
But this expedition is not about blogging or instagraming or sponsorship, although filming, photographing and writing will happen by default.
It's simply time to go. And I would still go even if I didn’t have a camera.
Yes, by crossing another continent on foot this is a physical journey, and walking in landscape can revitalise and heal the spirit.
I will be exposed to new cultures, peoples and stunning geographical vistas. As I am fortunate to spend my working life outdoors in magnificent landscapes, that in itself won’t be ‘new’ to me. I am used to incredible moonrises over epic wilderness, sleeping under the stars for months on end, colour-soaked sunsets, clean air, no pollution or man-made noise...but seeing a full moon rise over the Andes will be special.
But this is actually a voyage of the interior kind. I guess you could call it a sort of continuing pilgrimage, an immersion in cultures, and a cleansing meditation, perhaps even a healing.
That’s why I've called this journey "Walking The Inside Out To Ubatuba" because this trip is about returning to a headspace of calm, and as I found by walking across Australia, a journey has many elements – physical, emotional, transformational and inspirational, and parts of that walk deeply ingrained themselves into my psyche for the rest of my life.
So there are the known parts of what is ahead, but what I am looking forward to are the unknowns, and that is what any good journey should expose.
On October 4th this year I sat on a small pebbly beach on the Island of Saint Maria just north of Antofagasta in Chile and gazed back towards Rockhampton in Queensland. It took a while to get here but the next stage of Capricorn Expedition had begun..