Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tropic of Capricorn Part 1

This is the first of an odd series of posts woven around, within and about the Tropic of Capricorn. Odd since I have not personally done all that I am going to chronicle in these posts though a vast tract of it have I traversed and also odd as to the genesis of these posts. They arise out of a chain of correspondence I did a while ago with a very dear friend who is born under the sign of Capricorn. She is an armchair traveler, till now, and a dreamer like me and when I wrote these mails to her, dedicating them to her zodiac, I had intended to fill her up about some of the remotest and prettiest locations on Earth. So I took her on a whirlwind trip around the world staying near the circle of Tropic of Capricorn. After our virtual trip ended, I felt that this needs to be shared with a wider readership since we all dream of such wonderful places and incredible voyages that I have been fortunate enough to have undertaken. So here it is, for all of you, whether or not you are a Capricorn. Read, travel and enjoy the journey called ‘Life’.

As you all know our Earth has several imaginary lines covering the globe, either running north – south or east – west. We normally call them longitudes and latitudes and any point on earth can be localized and pinpointed by a combination of the two or as we call it by the coordinates. But among all these imaginary lines, there are six major ones – five of which are latitude parallels and are mainly used to define and enclose common climatic zones and the last one is used as a base for all longitudes. The five are (from north to south) – Arctic Circle, Tropic of Cancer, Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, Antarctic Circle and the sixth one is the Prime Meridian or it is also the Zero longitude or the Greenwich meridian. Now let’s look at Tropic of Capricorn in a little more detail.

Tropic of Capricorn (TOCAP) is an imaginary line that runs along the parallel of latitude roughly 23 degree 30 minutes South. But in reality this line is constantly shifting by a miniscule amount every year in a northerly direction. The reason for this is too complicated to be explained here and is not really relevant to understand or know. So today the TOCAP is actually more around 23 deg 27 min South. Now when I think of TOCAP two things come to my mind. One is the novel by Henry Miller of the same name. It is a soul searching book and mostly autobiographical by the great author and has a good dose of adult material though not in a cheap porno way. It was first published in Paris since US banned it as too obscene. Now the other thing about TOCAP which is more interesting is to trace its path and see through which all countries does it pass or in our case where all would we go if we set sail along TOCAP. To my knowledge no one has ever done it in that way that is just stay on TOCAP either by a boat (since most of it is on water) and then by foot / on animals or car (wherever it ran over ground). So let’s go over it and find out the lands we would come across! A magic carpet can be real handy. Needless to say, I have been to all the countries that TOCAP runs through but not all the way along this line so that’s something that even I haven’t done. A suggestion at this point; it would be prudent to have an atlas or a globe handy as you read this post.

So let’s start our journey from Australia and then travel east and go around the Pacific and then return to the Indian Ocean after covering South America and Africa and many islands in between.

Well, we begin our journey from Australia and land in Perth, from there let’s rent a 4X4 all terrain camper van and head north towards Charalta Creek and the Warroora Bay. En route we cross Monkey Mia Island that is haven for the eponymous dolphins. We cross desert dunes, swamp forests, marshlands and real wilderness and reach the coast and reef of Warroora exactly where TOCAP enters Australia mainland and the blue waves of Indian Ocean laps up the reef. We stay on the coast for a day and then head due east along TOCAP. Our aim is to stay right atop the line. As we head east, the first place we run through is the great Gibson Desert. Mind you now we are in extremely arid conditions and we will need to conserve our water and also make water from the air and desert. The desert will turn very cold at night. The desert is also full of life and perils. We have a rugged and difficult journey across nearly 2500 miles through Australia.

Let’s make a little detour and stay put and catch the local colors at the quaint town of Alice Springs. After that we enter Queensland. Let’s make our next stop at Longreach town, from where we drive almost parallel to the Landsborough Highway. After a while we come across the Capricorn Highway. Jordan Creek would be difficult to cross but I am sure we would find a way around before we enter the Great Dividing Range where little towns are often named after gems like Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, etc. What comes thereafter cannot be crossed right through on a vehicle, so for Retreat Creek we got to come down a bit to the Capricorn Highway proper. Next stop Duaringa – what fun. It’s a tiny town with less than 500 people, mainly all railway workers and great beer drinkers. There are some dramatic waterfalls, cliffs and bushwalks around that I think we should do since it has been a long and tiring journey so far. After a few days of merry making we head up and onwards and make our next halt at Rockhampton. This is a merry town that is full of tourists on the way to the Pacific Coast. We are now rather close to the Ocean again. We soon cross the Fitzroy River and then head for the coast. Shortly we reach the Ocean and our Australia tour along TOCAP is concluded. Now we enter the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

After few days of scuba with shark and coral watching, we hire a dhow and set sail further east from the Keppet Bay in the Coral Sea. Soon we cross the Heron Island and the Capricorn corals where we dive for a while. After all we have all the time and money in the world and we must cover TOCAP at leisure. Soon we sight One Tree Island to our south.

Covering nearly 1100 nautical miles (1 nautical mile =1.852 km) we now enter the New Caledonia archipelago which belongs to France, so practically we enter France. Though on TOCAP there are no islands of Caledonia I think you all would like to make landfall in the nearest Isle of Pine. Barely 50 miles north of TOCAP, Pine is a tiny little isle of 15 X 13 km area. It is often called as ‘The closest island to Paradise’ and with good reason. I was lucky to have been here and this is another must visit islands for all of you in this life. It is famous for scuba diving and snorkeling and amazing coral reefs and ecology. Among its numerous land animals it houses the world’s largest specie of gecko. For a climber like me, it has mind boggling boulders rising straight out of the turquoise lagoon waters that one can start climbing straight away without any danger of falling and getting hurt since you will fall into the water. The sea is as pleasant and calm and blue-green as you can imagine and perhaps beyond. After few days of sheer bliss we again weigh anchor and set sail across the great Pacific. Now we enter the Melanesia group of Islands and pass to the south of Vanuatu, Fiji (no, we can’t land at any of these two exotic islands) and head for Tonga. Yes, here we do turn north and make a landfall at the Eua Island of Tonga group.


1 comment:

  1. The Isle of Pine sounds so dreamy and after googling it, its definitely paradise!!!! wondering how and when to visit it LOL.... thanks S.