We are hardwired to perceive our immediate surroundings. The lay of the land near at hand. Birds chirping, water gurgling. The way the valley bends to the right. The feel of the sun on our skin. Around us floats a hub of consciousness, a circle of sensations within our range of perception. Beyond it lies the great unknown. What goes on there, we can only speculate. It is our job to discover it.
We’re a mobile bunch, have been since our earliest migrations. Effectively forever, man and woman have been making transcontinental voyages, on foot, by rowing craft, and later on wheels, through varying terrain, facing hardships along the way; entering new lands; allowing, like water over stones, unique difficulties to wash over calloused skin as, unshakable, they continue on their way.
Admittedly, uncertainty holds romantic appeal; the heart races giddily at the thought of what lies beyond our limited sphere of knowledge. But, as our ancestors found, and as we find when we go blind into the intertwined and overlapping multi-lane bitumen behemoths of Sydney, not knowing where you are going can be more of a hassle than a blessing. Noble aspirations quickly wilt in the face of such inconvenience.
Uncertainty exists to be destroyed. Pretensions aside, we wish to liberate ourselves from the scourge of ignorance, and to instead actually understand what is coming, what lies around the bend. Of course, the mapmaker themselves still has to face this uncertainty; but explorers, perverts that they are, seem to like that. Forging a path so others don’t have to; affronting the fog to bring clear skies to those who follow their footsteps.
In this modern era, most of us lack the free time and inclination to head into a complete unknown. Given how much of Earth has been mapped now, that would virtually be impossible, in any case. The choice becomes not so much, should I use a navigational aid, but what navigational aid should I use? What mapping professionals should I reply upon? The names in the hat aren’t quaint personal ones nowadays, such as Christopher Colombus, but business names, like Hema.
Hema Maps is indeed the name that many adventurers are feeling around for in the hat, hoping they pick up. The reasons for this preference are many. Nowadays, with urbanisation spreading like a rash, it is Australian regions where we find the bulk of our adventure thrills. Such regions are the domain of Hema; that is where the mapping team spend their time, continuously keeping information up to date, such that maps reflect, in real time, the lay of the land.
The Hema team has at their disposal a fleet of specially modified 4WDs, kitted out for remote, offroad, off-grid travel. Using these 4WDs, the team of experienced cartographers travel to remote destinations — think the Simpson Desert or the West Coast of Tasmania — and rigorously build upon and ensure the accuracy of existing information to provide those of us experiencing these regions with the most accurate picture possible.
Paper maps retain an appeal all of their own, and not merely a nostalgic one. They’re something to hold in your hands. Something that allows you a broad overview. Lightweight. Nimble. Out of the way. Awaiting the creases and folds and markings that tell the tale of an adventure well had.
But for those who prefer to harness modern technology to its full potential, a Hema GPS or app is the route many are taking. A major appeal, for those who wish to still retain a degree of independence in favour of passivity, is the ability of Hema’s navigation devices to navigate directionally. You can see a straight line in the direction in which you are headed, and — without muddling your inner compass — imaginatively pursue this direction, improvising your route over ridgelines and gullies. The path is yours to decide. Add to this the ability to navigate via waypoints; because, of course, no journey has merely one destination.
Perhaps best of all, though, is the ability of the device to record your route. Because that is what awaits on the far side of human endeavour: nostalgia, pride, sense of achievement. We not only want to go places, but to look back upon where we’ve gone; to see, in a way our compendium of memories, caught up in the immediate vicinity we occupied at the time, cannot depict. It’s deeply satisfying, once the journey is fully or partially completed, to see how you’ve progressed; to see the trail you have traced over the earth for what it really is.
So, we’ve just entered a new decade. What will define it? What will its main changes be, its primary historical events? Time will tell, but one certainty is that, through the heart of the differences will run a vein of commonality with times gone by. As before, adventurers will travel out into the remote wilderness and strive to make the most of the cavern of time they have miraculously carved out of the marble of 21st century hyper-activity.
And on those forays, the equipment used will go on determining success. It all hinges on the right pants. Right top. Right hiking pack. Right food. Right water filter. Right tent. Right sleeping bag. Right navigation.