This will be the last blog I write from the UK as by this time next week I will be a good few steps into the journey that I hope will end up on the Carteret Islands.
The last week or so has been pretty frantic: buying kit; picking up the laptop, solar panel and satellite modem I’ll be using to blog during the journey and trying to get each of these to talk to each other; doctors and dentists appointments (making sure nothing is likely to go wrong over the next six weeks), a risk assesment, rescheduling flights and a few press interviews. I tried to clear as much of the last couple of days as possible to spend with my brother, who is moving to Australia while I will be in Papua New Guinea. We spent this afternoon rock-climbing near our family home in Shropshire – a perfect day, blue skies and the sound of the forest – which will be the last time we will see each other for a while. It’s difficult to find a way of saying goodbye that does justice to just how far each of us is travelling or how long it will be until we see each other, but that is something I know I will get better at over this coming weekend.
The challenge now is working out some way of packing all the kit I want to take into one rucksack. I’m a big believer that a light bag makes for a happy journey, but I think my chances of travelling light this time are pretty slim. Because I don’t know quite what I’ll be getting into, the temptation is to pack everything, just in case. I’ve heaped it all together in one of the rooms downstairs, which really brings home how much there is. On top of the computer gubbins mentioned above there is radio equipment (I’ll be making a doco for the BBC), a camera, camp gear, clothing, a pretty hefty medical kit, maps, books and so on. Pride of place goes to a boxy old Polaroid camera that is probably older than I am. The thinking behind this is that when I meet people I can take a photo and leave it with them, rather than just being another white guy who turns up, takes his shots and walks away. There’s another old saying I’m a big fan of – pack your rucksack once, then take half the stuff out and throw it away. Looking at this lot I reckon I’ll be doing well to get it all into the bag in the first place.
But, in a lot of ways it’s great to be so distracted with the process of leaving that you don’t think about the journey itself. Spend too much time doing that and it only leads to worry. Fortunately, it’s only days now until I do take those first steps and can start enjoying it again. This time next week I’ll be on the far side of the world.
As their island homes are swallowed by rising sea levels, the people of the Carteret Islands are being forced to leave in what will become the world’s first official climate change evacuation. Dan Box will be traveling to the islands in April and will be blogging live on his journey at www.journeytothesinkinglands.wordpress.com
The trip is made possible thanks to the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Journey of a Lifetime Award
This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2009