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March 8, 2001

Magic of Maps

Australia planning update 1
March 8th 2001

There comes a point in planning any leg of the expedition when the primordial soup of nebulous ideas and formless dreamings take on substance and become a tangible framework of events, people and places. I find this crystallization process happens quite quickly, maybe even in the space of a few hours. It represents the most empowering part of the whole rigmarole of preparation, when the fog suddenly lifts and the path ahead becomes clear. It is that point of ‘magic’ when dream becomes reality (on paper) and the all-important difference between just a great idea and the potential to make it actually happen is born.

But there’s one key element that makes this chemical fusion possible: a map. Maps are the adventurer-seeker’s crystal ball. Etched into their fragile surface lie the secret blue prints of time and space that set the wheels of history in motion. So, I’ve been lying on the floor here, poring over maps of the Australian Outback. With so many hours of recent planning devoted to staring goggled eyed at an LCD screen replying to emails or writing sponsorship proposals, it’s a delight to trace an index finger over real parchment dotted with lines that very soon might take the form of the red dust of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory, blurred beneath the spinning wheels of our bicycles, or the cooling effect of the Palmer River pushing downstream against our legs during a river crossing in northern Queensland. And then there’s the foreignness of it all. The names of the outback towns we’ll be passing through en route sound clumsy and awkward in my mouth: Urandangi, Kaltukatjara, Yuendumu etc. But in three months time when we meet the people who live there and whose ancestors first thought of those names, they’ll sound as normal as London, New York or Sydney.

Maps can also represent a harsh paradox between flights of fancy and cold reality. I remember as a child when I first began to understand that maps represented real places in the real world and taking great delight in closing my eyes, bringing an index finger down at random on to a map of the world and then actually ‘going there’ in my head. “And if I can get there in my dreams as a child” I thought to myself, “then it must be a lot easier to go there for real when I’m grown up!” But with the benefit of hindsight I know the opposite to be more the case. Making a dream come true is often harder and more frightening for an adult than just idling along in the present. For one there’s the issue of following one’s heart versus doing what is appropriate in society’s eyes. And even then if one does reach a point of commitment, there’s an inevitable compromise between what a map inspires in flights of fancy and what is realistically possible on the ground.

The next leg of Expedition 360 is no exception. Although mountain biking 3,000 miles off-road across the Australian Outback seems easier to me than pedaling the equivalent distance through 30ft waves in Moksha, there are very different issues – though just as challenging - to be looked at. There’s the planning of water for hundreds of miles of desert without resupply. Then there’s the problem of dealing with temperatures in the Simpson Desert that can reach 50 degrees Celsius, the snakes and spiders that are some of the most venomous in the world and the crocodile infested rivers we’ll cross in Queensland. And perhaps most difficult of all – at least at this stage – is securing the many permits and licenses needed to pass through Aborginal land.

And just in case things were to get boring we’ve invited a group of eight others from a diverse spectrum of age groups and cultural backgrounds to come along. Over the next few weeks you’ll be meeting some of these people, their backgrounds and why they want to spend 3 months of their life being miserably hot and uncomfortable. In addition we’ll be sharing our plans to get ready and the development of the schools programs that will be such an integral part of the journey: 1,000 UK schools will be using the Internet and a satellite link to follow the trials and tribulations of three of the team who are teenagers, participating concurrently in related curriculum studies developed by our new UK publishing partners Questions Publishing and the World Wildlife Fund.

Anyone who would like to subscribe to an Expedition 360 community discussion group allowing your thoughts and ideas to be shared by other interested expedition followers, send email to x360_chat-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Once subscribed you can send email to the rest of the group at x360_chat@yahoo.com

Lastly, at the end of each weekly update we’ll be posting a list of information, tasks and services that you might be able to directly help the expedition with. Most of you have been following the expedition for some time now or have had some degree of contact we felt warranted adding to this bulletin service - so we hope you don’t mind running your eye down the current wish list each week. After seven years we are still without funding and rely on the goodness of individuals – like yourselves - to keep moving forward.

Bye for now – till next week.

Jason Lewis

Current wish list (as of 1st March 2001)

• British (x1) and Australian (x1) teenagers to join the team (criteria on request)
• Sponsor leads: any companies you think might be receptive to receiving a proposal for sponsoring the next leg in return for media exposure. We recently signed contracts for a 4 x 1 hr Discovery Channel television series.
• Html programmers: to help with the website.
• Database entry: anyone with basic knowledge of MS Excel who might have the odd hour here and there to log some new names and addresses into our database.
• Public Liability Insurance: in order to host the educational activities on the next leg we need to secure Public Liability Insurance. Anyone have any leads on a non-expensive way of going about this?

If you have any feedback or leads for any of the wish list items, please drop us a line at expedition_360@yahoo.com Many thanks!


Posted at 1:21 PM