TROPIC OF CAPRICORN

Daily Telegraph: “spectacular sights…like all the best travellers, Reeve carries out his investigations with infectious relish, and in the realisation that trying to understand the country you’re in is not just fascinating, but also hugely enjoyable.”

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Short extract from the book:
'There is no ceremony or fanfare to mark our launch, no champagne, flags or bunting, but I say a few words wishing us a safe journey, almost a traveller’s prayer. We finish our picnic, toss a few crusts to the gulls circling outside and start the engines. Here we go. Deep breaths. We are off.
'Golden sand dunes run right down to the sea just a few miles from the Tropic of Capricorn, and the only way of crossing them is to head inland a few hundred metres and go over the top, one by one. Our drivers, Doug and Jacques, both originally from South Africa, are old hands at travelling through this remote corner of the world, but I still find the dunes intimidating. Initially they rise gently and the Toyota engines purr. Gradually the height increases and the slopes become frighteningly steep, soon they begin to soar. I grip my seat and our engines scream as we battle our way up a dune hill hundreds of metres above sea level.
'We reach the top, balance precariously on the sandy crest and the Namib Desert unfolds before my eyes. I gaze in awe. The landscape of the desert, running 2,000 kilometres from South Africa to Angola, is simply out of this world. Mountainous glowing dunes rise from the very edge of the deep blue Atlantic. Inland, endless ripples of sand snake into the empty distance. I laugh out loud. Any lurking doubts I have about this Capricorn journey evaporate instantly. From the very beginning this random line has already brought me somewhere ethereally beautiful, somewhere remote I would never normally be able to visit.'


In his greatest challenge yet, author and broadcaster Simon Reeve sets out on a unique journey to track the Tropic of Capricorn around the globe. Motivated by a desire to learn more about forgotten corners of the world, Simon heads east through Africa, Australia and South America, discovering breathtaking sights, strange rituals, desperate poverty and exotic wildlife. For the 22,835-mile Tropic of Capricorn marks the southern border of the tropics, and crosses some of the wildest and most spectacular parts of our planet.
This book and TV series has a strong current affairs theme, with issues including vanishing forests, poverty, smuggling, threatened whales and a forgotten genocide. But it is also a spectacular travelogue. Simon crosses the Kalahari Desert and the stark Atacama Desert of Chile, perhaps the driest place on Earth. Following Capricorn takes him over hills, across lush valleys, rusting railway lines, dusty roads, between homes and hovels, through farms and villages, to the biggest city in the entire developing world.

Photos from the first leg of the trip are here
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In this exciting new book and TV series, Simon Reeve finds giant rats detecting landmines and is forced to eat penis soup by Madagascan royalty. Simon meets miners scrabbling for gems in dark, dangerous tunnels and the British anthropologist fighting to save forest communities in South America. He goes hunting with a legendary tribe of former cannibals, struggles the equivalent of half-way up Everest, survives on ‘piss pills’ and coca leaves, eats dried caterpillars, grilled llama, sheep eyes, and searches for wild honey in the forests of northern Argentina.

While following Capricorn Simon is surrounded by a pack of hungry cheetahs, finds flamingoes 4km up in the Andes, a pregnant humpback whale off Australia, lemurs in Madagascar and elephants under threat of culling in southern Africa. He witnesses the age-old ceremony that sparks the Holy Fire of the Herero tribe, discovers desperate Zimbabweans jumping razor wire to get into South Africa, meets a traditional healer now becoming part of the Botswanan NHS and is taught to shoot an AK-47 by Afrikaaner farmers.

Simon visits a diamond mine described as the most lucrative hole on the planet, but discovers villagers living in poverty next to luxury hotels, squalor in the shadow of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef. He meets the French ‘Catman’ saving cheetahs in Namibia, Chinese businessmen making their fortune in Africa, prostitutes ravaged by AIDS and surviving Bushmen who live deep inside the Kalahari desert alongside their lion ‘cousins’.

Next to the worst asbestos-contaminated site in the world Simon finds a devoted couple refusing to leave their home. He travels along Capricorn by van, car, train, boat, horseback, helicopter, plane, and roars through the Australian Outback in a 50-metre-long $1m road train. Simon learns how ‘tavy’ has destroyed the forests of Madagascar, and visits the Great Barrier Reef, the Kruger National Park, and the Iguaçu falls, the most impressive waterfalls in the world.
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The start of the Tropic of Capricorn series, broadcast 10 Feb 2008:


Trailer for Tropic of Capricorn programme broadcast 10 Feb 2008:


The journey starts in Namibia, on a remote beach in the Namib-Nauklaft National Park, where the Tropic of Capricorn hits Africa. The spectacular desert scenery makes this area, like much of this huge country, a huge draw for adventure tourists. First stop is Swakopmund, Namibia’s second city, a place with strong German connections, where Mein Kampf and photos of Hitler are still on sale in the local curio shop. Namibia used to be a German colony and the country has a dark past: German colonisers killed tens of thousands of locals in a forgotten genocide, which Simon learns about from a local historian whose relatives suffered in German ‘concentration camps’ in Namibia. Following an amazing encounter with a pack of hungry cheetahs and a French conservationist nicknamed ‘Catman’, Simon arrives in the capital Windhoek, where he meets prostitutes infected with HIV (Namibia has one of the highest infection rates in the world) and witnesses at first hand the growing influence of China in Africa. Travelling across the vast interior of the country Simon meets members of the Herero tribe, goes out on horseback to round-up cattle, and witnesses the Herero Holy Fire ceremony.

Moving on to Botswana, Simon finds a country that confounds many of the stereotypes of poor Africa. Well-run, with cattle-patrols that keep stray cows off the roads, Botswana is making a fortune from tourism and a natural resource that never seems to lose its lustre: the world’s largest diamond mine, just south of the Tropic of Capricorn, produces millions of dollars worth of stones every week, funding universal education and extensive healthcare. The mining firm has forked out on anti-AIDS drugs to keep its workforce functioning in a country where HIV rates have rocketed up to 40%.

But not all Botswanans are benefiting from the national prosperity. On the edge of the Kalahari desert many of the legendary San people – also known as the Bushmen of the Kalahari – have been moved out of the desert into depressing resettlement camps by a government that says it wants them to be part of the modern world. The government has provided basic huts and schools for the San, who are among the poorest people in southern Africa, but many of the San are having difficulty adapting to the modern world. In a spectacular journey into the heart of the Kalahari Desert, Simon seeks out the remaining San who are still living in the desert alongside their lion ‘cousins’. Some San have won a legal battle, and plan to return to live in their Kalahari homeland, but as Simon finds out, life can be tough in this beautiful, brutal environment.
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Trailer for Tropic of Capricorn programme broadcast 17 Feb 2008:


The second leg of Simon’s journey begins in the northern part of South Africa, a white stronghold during the apartheid era. Simon meets a group of white Afrikaaner farmers who are armed and ready to defend their land in what feels like an increasingly hostile world. The farmers still own the best land and fear it may one day be taken from them, just like in collapsing Zimbabwe, a short drive to the north. Thousands of Zimbabweans cross illegally into SA every week, fleeing hunger and persecution, and at the border Simon witnesses a dramatic human tragedy as young men struggle past thick rolls of razor wire. Simon then heads-out with the white Afrikaaner farmers, who run vigilante patrols rounding up the Zimbabwean refugees. The Boers catch several young Zimbabwean boys, and hand them over to the police, who will send them home.

Heading east along Capricorn, Simon encounters awesome wildlife around the Kruger National Park, where proposals to cull the booming elephant population are causing huge controversy, before he enters Mozambique. This beautiful country is still recovering, 15 years after a brutal civil war. Landmines still litter the country, but Simon encounters an unusual project to clear them quickly using Giant Gambian Pouched Rats, whose keen sense of smell can detect explosives under the ground. Much of Mozambique’s coast is a tropical paradise, and tourism is a great hope for the economy. But on one island of exclusive “eco tourist” resorts, where Leonardo di Caprio has holidayed, Simon finds locals living in abject poverty.

Simon flies across the Indian Ocean to Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island. After the BBC team’s baggage fails to arrive Simon heads out to explore the capital, Antananarivo, known by all as Tana, a unique blend of African, Indian Ocean, and French colonial influences. In the main market Simon’s guide encourages him to eat zebu penis soup, an acquired taste, before the bags finally arrive and they fly to the remote south of the island. Driving across Madagascar takes Simon across one of the poorest but most beautiful countries in the world. He passes through spiny forest, a unique habitat of giant octopus and baobab trees, learns how ‘tavy’ – a form of slash and burn agriculture – has destroyed up to 90% of Madagascar’s primary forest, then witnesses men crawling through dangerous underground tunnels in search of sapphires. His journey ends after he takes a spectacular train journey through the mountainous highlands to the east coast.

Clips from Tropic of Capricorn programme broadcast 17 Feb 2008:





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Trailer for Tropic of Capricorn programme broadcast 24 Feb 2008:


The Tropic of Capricorn cuts through three country-sized regions of Australia (Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland). the vast wilderness of the Outback. This is not the Australia of Neighbours and Home and Away, it is the heart of Australia, a remote and spectacular place populated by extraordinary people and wildlife – and the scene of some intractable and unexpected social problems.

The line hits Western Australia near Ningaloo reef, on the migration route of the mighty humpback whale. Simon witnesses the unforgettable sight of female whales nursing their calves before the long trip south to Antarctica – but discovers their pristine sanctuary may be under threat from plans to build a vast salt pan nearby. Western Australia is rich in natural resources, but this has not always been a blessing. Heading east to beautiful Karijini National Park, Simon arrives in a region with a sinister history. Nearby Wittenoom Gorge was the location of Australia’s biggest asbestos mine. Thousands have died after working at the mine, and the authorities, believing it is the worst asbestos-contaminated site in the world, are demolishing the nearby town. But a few diehards have refused to leave, including a tough Outback couple determined to stay in the ghost town.

Next, Simon hops aboard a three-car road-train which powers its way across the Outback to Newman, site of the world’s largest open-cut mine – which sends millions of tons of ore to fuel China’s booming economy. Newman is attracting workers from across Australia, drawn by huge salaries. This is the last town before the unpopulated deserts of central Australia; Simon’s next stop is Alice Springs, a remote town in the Northern Territory (NT), but also the world centre of Aboriginal art. Many Aboriginal communities in the NT are in a desperate state, wracked by violence, child abuse and poverty. Simon arrives at a crucial moment: a powerful government taskforce has been established to retake control of communities. In the shadow of Uluru/Ayers Rock, Simon discovers third world conditions in an Aboriginal community.

Onwards to Queensland, Simon arrives in cattle-country and stays with a couple whose 183,000 acres have not seen significant rain for seven years – they live in a dustbowl of biblical proportions. Some experts say this is the first time climate change has had a serious impact on a developed country. Simon heads east along Capricorn to stunning Heron Island, home to one of the world’s pre-eminent marine research centres. The island is at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, where Simon learns climate change threatens to wipe out the reef.


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On the fourth and final leg of his journey, Simon started in Chile and crossed the Atacama Desert, perhaps the driest place on earth (some areas receive just two per cent of the moisture in the Sahara). Guided by a local indigenous leader Simon found a beautiful mountain lake, now threatened by mining development, then crossed the high Andes, more than 4.5km above sea-level, into Argentina. In the Andean foothills Simon discovered the shy vicuña, a creature kept and sheared for the finest and softest fibre in the world. Suits made from vicuña fibre can cost £15,000.


In Argentina Simon met John Palmer, an English anthropologist who studies the Wichí forest people, and has married into a community. He stayed in a Wichí community, went hunting for wild honey, and discovered bulldozers using giant chains to log the forests around their village at a terrifying rate. The Wichi community chief told Simon he fears for the future of these ancient forest people.

Crossing into mysterious Paraguay, Simon visited a former torture centre in the capital Asunción with a doctor who was tortured there when Paraguay was a dictatorship. Simon visited a farming area and learnt Paraguay is riding a soy boom driven by European demand for pig feed and biofuel – a hugely controversial issue. Driving east, Simon arrived in the town of Ciudad del Este, one of the world’s great smuggling centres, and crossed into Brazil just as customs officials arrested a bullet smuggler. In the same area, Simon visited the beautiful Iguaçu waterfalls, where the extraordinary opening scenes of The Mission were filmed.

Simon travelled onwards to São Paulo, and was awed by the biggest city in the developing world. With his dreadlocked guide, Simon saw the wealth of the city, then visited a neighbourhood that used to be the most violent place on the planet, where Simon met and made pizzas with young locals who have escaped gangs and drugs. The journey finished next to a Tropic of Capricorn monument on the coast of Brazil, on December 22nd, the day of the solstice.

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Buy Simon's latest book from here via Amazon:

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Silver Award winner at the 2007 Wanderlust Travel Awards

This Capricorn journey starts in Namibia, and takes viewers through Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.
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Press reviews of
Tropic of Capricorn:

Daily Telegraph: “like all the best travellers, Reeve carries out his investigations with infectious relish, and in the realisation that trying to understand the country you’re in is not just fascinating, but also hugely enjoyable.”
Radio Times: “moving stories and remarkable sights”
Time Out: “amusing, disturbing and fascinating…engaging and informative”
The Sun: “an epic quest…extraordinary stories”
Daily Mirror: “Epic of Capricorn...fun, fascinating and frightening...Simon Reeve would give even Phileas Fogg a run for his money”
Wanderlust travel magazine: “a romping good travelogue”
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CAPRICORN FACTS:

Capricorn marks the southern border of the Tropics region of the planet, because it is the most southerly point at which the sun can appear to be overhead (during the winter & summer solstice).

The tropical conditions of the tropics have expanded towards the poles by more than 170 miles over the past 25 years. Scientists expected this, but only under an “extreme” climate change scenario, and only by 2100.

The tropics are mercilessly exposed to the furnace at the heart of our solar system, the region receives a higher dose of the Sun’s energy than the rest of the planet. It is simultaneously the attraction of the tropics to outsiders, and the cause of much of the human suffering in the region.

75.67% of the Tropic Capricorn passes over sea – mostly the Pacific Ocean. Of the 24.33% that covers land, the country with by far the biggest section is Australia at 2,350 miles.

Over a 41,000 year period Capricorn crawls around in a band between roughly 22.5 and 24.5 degrees. In the year 2000 the line was at 23° 26’ 21.448’’. By 19/11/07 it had moved to 23° 26’ 17.76’’ (information courtesy of the team at The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World).

Because Capricorn moves by tiny amounts the length of the line also varies. But on 19/11/07 Capricorn was 36,748,889.697 metres long, or 36,749 km (22,835 miles).
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