A Few Difficulties; Indigenous People; and, a Sea Monster.
The best-laid plans of mice and men.
THE expedition was going along so swimmingly that it should have been no surprise that we began meeting with difficulties even before we set foot on the mainland. Before you suspect that my prior comments regarding the helpfulness of our sea captain and his vessel were overly rosy, I assure you that our mode of transport was nothing short of adequate.
Rather, it was more the disembarking. Attempting to transport* to shore with our equipment (and still no sherpas) was a dicey proposition at best. Multiple attempts were met with, well, not much. And by 'not much', I mean effects, or results, and not 'frustration' and 'hair-pulling dramatic fits' -- those we had in abundance.
Going ashore was often likened to wading through molasses in January**. We were repeatedly thrown back to our ship, only to try again.
It was enough to test the patience and mettle of anyone.
Yet, we persevered in the face of such adversity. We hope that the reader, snug in a leather chair, brandy in hand, safe in Caledon or wherever else, can appreciate the magnitude of fortitude required to succeed.
After much ado, wringing of hands, and gnashing of teeth, we landed on the western shores of the Mainland.
* You may read this as 'teleport', with no loss in meaning.
** The Great Boston Molasses Tragedy of 1919 notwithstanding. Ref:
A Meeting with the Natives.
We came ashore without further events. This point of land (we would later learn was called Campello) stood out of the sea on modest cliffs. The hoped-for beaches turned out to be fairly scant. On climbing the cliffs, and portaging our gear, we discovered a lone brick tower. Prof. Krogstad climbed up (as he was the only member of the party not in a skirt), and found no evidence of, really, anything. We were expecting, say, a lighthouse, beacon, or ceremonial site. There was a lovely woven mat at the base, however. Attempting to plant the Caledon Expeditionary Banner met with no success, unfortunately: the ground was unyielding, so we simply held the flag aloft for a moment, and hummed the National Anthem.* Mme. Bellambi thought a photograph would not be meet or right, so we packed up and moved on.
To the north-west, a small bay, and beyond, a hut, in the usual primitive appearance. But what piqued our interests were the, well, for lack of a better word, gaudy** advertisements to be found further inland. Ah, such a pretty sunrise, marred by gauche signs. Three out of the three of us decided not to consider buying land from anyone who displayed his wares thus. Even A.K., normally without much of a sense of style, had to agree.
We then sighted our first native: it was Mme. Bellambi who spotted him. Young, and not particularly dangerous-appearing, he presented a pastoral appearance. He was not dressed in the manner of other natives our readers have no doubt read of, or imagined, with loin-cloth, bead necklace, collection of shrunken heads. No, he wore a simple cloth shirt, and denim trousers. Seeing no others around, we walked up and introduced ourselves.
And what a reception! He introduced himself*** and welcomed us to his land. He was as curious about us as we were him, and stated that he had not only heard of Caledon, but had been there on occasion. His only negative recollection was a lack of gentlemen's clothing. We proceeded to explain that at least that defect has recently been corrected, much to his delight. Mme. Bellambi proselytised at some length regarding the social season, diverse events, amusements, and such. I attempted to keep some context to her evangelisation by mentioning our cultural and industrial efforts of late. Prof. Krogstad wandered off at this point; more about that later.
Our host was soon joined by a lady, who (also pleasant, welcoming, &c &c) was equally enthralled by descriptions of day-to-day life in Caledon. Imagine! While you, our esteemed reader, sits amused by our travels, here is someone who would take equal delight in your every-day existence!
After a time, we obtained photographs of our party with the natives, and provided contact information regarding Caledon and its commerce. Collecting ourselves, we discovered Prof. Krogstad nearby, with an amazing discovery.
* 'Oh Caledon', by Dr. John Henry Holliday: Oh Caledon, Oh Caledon your rolling hills so rolling. Your sea shores full of sea, your forests full of trees. Oh Caledon, Oh Caledon you are the land for me!
** I do not mean any confusion with the extraordinary talents of the architect Antoni Gaudí of Catalan, designer of the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.
*** The natives will be kept anonymous, to protect them from any possible retribution from others on the Mainland who may be jealous of their achievements in manners and poise.
The 'Evil Seat'.
While we were busy chatting up the natives, singing Caledon's praises, Prof. Krogstad had wandered off, as he is wont to do; but on this occasion, he actually stumbled upon a remarkable find.
He found an array of wooden crates, each about half a metre on a side, laid out in a rough circle on the ground. It is unclear if the exact position of the crates was significant; the reader is undoubtedly familiar with the history of Stone Circles (including one in our own Tamrannoch), and their connection to the astronomy of the ancients. What was most amazing was the issue of light -- perhaps more accurately lightning -- from these boxes.
All but four were emitting showers of coloured lights, in the manner of fireworks, but without the loud reports or the scent of gunpowder. They seemed to be fully autonomous, and self-powered. Harnessing this phenomenon would provide for a number of useful applications for home and industry. Prof. Krogstad attempted to remove one of the boxes for further study, but was thwarted: they were firmly attached to terra firma.
The non-emitting four boxes were equally intriguing. Hovering over two of them were an ætherial description, 'Evil Seat'. This alone would be sufficient to amaze (how exactly does one put letters aflight?), but the prospect of what 'evil seat' meant was tantalising.
It would appear, by a vote of actions, that Mme. Bellambi was the bravest among us, since she dared sit. And without noise, or flash of light, or other warning, she was rudely shot up into the air, only to land (after several agonising seconds) among some bushes, upon her backside. Uninjured, she ran back over to examine the crate that launched her some thousand feet. After literally tens of minutes of study, we could find no mechanism or moving part to explain such an action.
The less-educated may regard this as magic, along with the lightning-fireworks. May I submit, though, that sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I may conclude then that at least some persons on the Mainland possess technology far greater than we have devised.
After pondering the intersection of philosophy and science, we moved on.
A Deserted Temple.
We headed north-east. Mme. Bellambi had (briefly) spotted a river in that direction during her unexpected flight, and presuming water transport to be quicker than that over land, we decided to give it a go.
Coming down off a hill, we nearly literally fell into what appeared to be a temple in the Grecian style. The floor mosaic was reminiscent of that of Pompeii, and the columns were either Attic or Doric. The current inhabitants appeared to redecorate in an eclectic fashion, so I can not be certain of the dating of the site. I will also refrain to comment upon the taste in decor the owners seem to have.
One unusual feature was a small collection of pink spheres. Like the wooden crates before, these were laid out in some pattern, the meaning behind which remained opaque. A.K. caught Mme. Bellambi on film whilst she was down examining them. There was something ... unsavoury about the spheres; we will leave the investigation of such to later explorers.
Past the temple, again north-east, was a river. A dock provided a convenient place for converting our flat-bottomed boats from their over-land forms (on a chassis with wheels; see the prior missive). Now happily riding vice walking, we headed on.
Here There Be Monsters.
The river itself was wide, with some 10 feet of draught in places, and an imperceptible current, all of which made navigation a joy. Unfortunately, we were quickly lulled into a stupor of water-bourne convenience, and nearly floated headlong into a sea monster!
Well, a river monster, to be sure. With a length of some 10 to 15 metres, and wings nearly that in span, this lizard-like beast presented us with quite a shock. We were no doubt spared its ferocity due to its lack of consciences; otherwise, we'd have been done for, and our valued reader would be out of luck for entertainment.
Prof. Krogstad jumped out to survey the beast. Its wings were bat-like, but it was certainly no mammal. It had no perceptible limbs, placing it likely in the order Squamata, suborder Serpentes. While not a herpetologist (or a herpetophile, for that matter) Prof. Krogstad reckoned it to be a new species, and set about sketching it for posterity. In the mean time, I procured a snapshot.
Our curiosity sated, we made haste to put the snake behind us*. With sunset nearing, we took advantage of a small dock around the bend of the river. Disembarking, we surveyed the area, and saw a large variety of paintings on display, and various objects d'art -- enough to make for an enjoyable day at least.
Having made it thus far with us, the reader may ask if every day will be expected to hold such content as to keep one in rapt attention, on the edge of one's seat, in fervent imagination of the wild Mainland. In a word, yes. So await the next report with great anticipation -- you shan't be disappointed.**
* "Vade retro!" from: οπισω μου σατανα
** Given suitably ambiguous definitions of 'disappointed'.