Saturday, August 29, 2015

47. View of Womby

Womby hadn't changed much in 20 years. The abandoned light house tower was still there.
Alan clearly drew in the Southwestern Path as it passes Womby on its way to Lizard.
He inked in more people than usually pass through here...

Alan got up early the next morning, dressed, glanced over the low wall at Chloe in the next bunk (still asleep), and quietly walked out to see what Womby looked like. 

He wasn't sure what to think about Chloe. She seems to like him, and he likes her companionship, especially her easy-going manner and willingness to help out with their rather simple meals. He knows he could easily get all rattled about "having a relationship" with her, since he's gotten rattled a few times before. In the last year or so, however, he hadn't put much thought into being with anyone at all. Should he worry about this? He remembers that Michelle came over almost by habit, and he never offered any kind of commitment. She didn't seem to mind, but now he thinks she probably did. 

After climbing the same sand dune as he and Chloe did last night, Alan had a good bright-morning view of Womby and the coast toward Lizard. From this spot he could include both towns! He felt he could probably complete a watercolor of it all in a day, but he wanted breakfast first. 

He walked back down to the Sueville bunkhouse and found Chloe's bunk empty, but heard her voice in the kitchen. When he walked in, she was making a pot of coffee while talking to a younger guy who must have come in later that night. The chap was quite handsome, tan, muscular, dressed just right for a long walk, and all that. Alan felt an immediate wave of jealousy.

"Oh, Hi," Chloe said to Alan. 


"Umm, this is Josh," said Chloe brightly, "And Josh, this is Alan, the guy I told you about who's doing the pictures. Josh is an old friend of my family, Alan. My mum would visit his mum and bring me along. So we kind of grew up together, and, wow, he just showed up here..."

Alan was not impressed. Oh crap...I should have known there would be an old boyfriend or a new boyfriend somewhere. So now what? Just leave?

So he quickly said,"Hi Josh...say, Chloe, I was just up on the dune to look at Womby, and I need to to go back and do a painting of it now, 'cause of the light, so I'll see you later today, okay?"

"Um, Okay. Don't you want to have some breakfast first?"

"Nah, I can grab a Paleo Bar or two. Nice meeting you Josh."  And he was off before Chloe could say anything more.

Surprisingly, after that jolt, Alan was able to concentrate quite well on his assignment for the day. He spent about six hours sitting on the dune painting Womby, the beaches, the path, Ghost heads in the distance, and a whole lot of tiny people who weren't really there. 

He dreaded going back...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

46. On to Womby

Womby looked like this twenty years ago.

Alan's next picture was to be either of the town of Lizard or of Womby.

It was only a five mile walk to the tiny settlement of Sueville,that appeared to be a subsistence tribe. There was no sign of any industry, nor any shops. As he and Chloe walked into the common area, they found only a tavern connected to the post office, surrounded by very humble houses, a few of them abandoned-looking. The town had a lackluster vibe to it; there was no one on the street. Chloe finally spotted a "Lodgings" sign on a side street. The establishment offered showers, a kitchen and a barracks-style bunk-room for walkers. Since it was already suppertime, they decided to stay.

A quiet boy of about 12 showed them the spacious and surprisingly well-equipped kitchen, the bath house, and a large bunk room, the beds in which were partly divided by low walls. He gestured to them to look inside each of the facilities, then pointed to the lists of rules prominently posted near the doors. He then showed his lapel button that said, I am observing my day of silence. Alan nodded his acknowledgment and paid him for their lodgings. They didn't see anyone else.

"It looks like we might have the place to ourselves," said Alan. 
"And maybe the town, too," quipped Chloe. "It sure is quiet here, almost spooky." 

The kitchen adjoined an "honor pantry" with a coin box next to stacks of canned or packaged food, all priced. They picked out a Westhill Freeze-dried Beef Stroganoff Dinner and then added some carrots and dried peas and beans. Chloe insisted on paying this time. 

As they were putting this banquet together, Chloe asked Alan, "So what would you be doing if you were by yourself?" 

Alan glanced at her, "You mean right now? I'd probably be doing this."

"No, I mean, for the, when you were back at home."

"Ohhh, um, well, I suppose I'd be making supper, then sitting down with a book while I ate it, then maybe take a walk, then come back home and read some more or draw. Or I'd watch a movie on TV. It wasn't too exciting."

"You didn't have friends or someone to visit? No family around?" 

"No family in Indiana, but my mom still lives in California. My Dad died when I was 19. I had my friend Michelle, but I really wasn't very sociable otherwise. She'd often come over for dinner, and sometimes stay overnight; but then she'd go back to take care of her mom, who lived nearby." I guess I don't need to hide anything here... 

"Wow, sounds like me."

"Yeah? Oh, right." 

A dusky soft daylight lingered after supper, so they took a walk to the only tavern, called Strong's, and they sat at a table and ordered wine. There were two other patrons, who glanced their way, then went on talking. At their table, Chloe said, "Well, aren't we the old married couple out to tip a bottle, eh?"  Alan smiled and said "cheers" and they clinked their glasses.

They felt lighter as they left Strong's, and they walked out on the dunes, a short distance from the Sueville commons. From the windy dune-top they could see a few house-lights that marked the town of Womby, and more lights of what must be the town of Lizard in the distance. There were no street lights. Dusk was settling to the point where the brightest stars were emerging, and a gibbous moon was well established in the eastern sky.

"Nice out here," said Chloe.

"Yup," said Alan. "I like it here. The place seems so humble, and untamed in a way. I like the people here, too - they seem relaxed, and somehow satisfied. It's much different at home - everywhere you look the land is developed - cornfields, highways, subdivisions, strip malls. Natural places are small and restricted with rules, and often ignored. People are rushed, and no one takes time to sit and stare at nothing, to just be, like I've seen here."

Neither said anything more as they walked back to their lodgings. Finally, Chloe took Alan's hand, and first said nothing, then, "This is only 'cause we're friends."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

45. Where to Now?

Alan is sloooowly checking items off of his list of pictures...

Alan is sloooowly checking items off of his list of pictures...

Alan's next assignment is a picture of the settlements of either Womby or Lizard, both about five miles south of Lizard Point. After that he plans to walk on to Hoodoo Beach, an obscure stretch of sand near Ghost Heads, that Adrian marked on the map for him. 

For their lunch, Alan made a salad with canned tuna, mayonnaise and a chopped-up carrot, and Chloe brought out some crackers and an apple. "Too bad we don't have any more wine", she said. They sat on a grassy hummock and ate (again) in silence; neither feeling the need to say anything. Or relative silence...there was the constant thunder of the surf and a lot of chattering among the birds.

Finally Alan said, "You seem to be feeling better today, and thanks for the shell." 

"I think I're welcome. And don't look at the note!" 

"Oh don't worry. I'll control myself," he grinned.

More silence, then Chloe said, "But I'm not too excited about continuing on by myself..."

Alan continued munching while his mind took off...does she mean I should ask her to come along with me? What would that mean? I don't think I'm ready for relating, but it would be more fun to have a companion. Maybe if I told her 'Okay, but...' and set some rules. 
But what would the rules be? 
Or maybe...

"Uhh, Alan?"

"Oh, um, I was just thinking, should we...or,"

She looked at the ground with what Alan thought might be a hint of a smile. 

He quickly continued, "It looks like, on the map, that my route and yours are the same for some distance. I have to stop, though, to paint a few more places. We could just hang out like we are now...if that's okay with you." 

She looked at him. "Umm, sure, and I suppose if we don't get along, we can split off, right?" 


Chloe took a deep breath - she was taking a leap of faith here. Even at 35 years old, she'd never spent this much uninterrupted time with a man before. Her life had revolved mostly around caring for her mother (who she still painfully missed) and the library. Her only serious relationship, if you could call it that, was with Dennis. 

She was definitely not up for any romantic entanglements right now. This was her trip, and she wanted to maintain her independence. On the other hand, she wasn't against forming new friendships. Anyway, this fellow Alan would only be tagging along for a few days, and that would be it. She hoped her note in the shell won't give him some weird impression...

She did feel good around him. She liked his quiet energy. His youthful, open face belied his age of what, 40? He had a pleasant, calm bearing but also a hint of a mischief and playfulness about him. She liked his slender build, his bushy brown hair that he apparently never combed, his easy gait while walking. And those hands of his. 

"Okay, then," she said, and they shook on it. 

Then they both went straight to the business of cleaning up and packing everything for the next leg of their hike.  Neither said a word.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Special Note to my Readers...


The official New Island Guidebook and the travel map are now complete. This is the culmination of twenty years of drawing maps, painting landscapes of the island, creating coins, stamps, a flag, and other documentation, as well as writing the island's story. 

I've enjoyed every minute of it.

Now that New Island exists, things can happen here! Real people are experiencing New Island by building dream getaways on the island. In recent months I've been writing about a guy named Alan goes there on a job assignment.  Here is a recap of his story so far:

Late one recent spring, in Michigan City, Indiana, Alan Faramond gets a letter from one Margaret Mullen, Head of the Tourism Office on an island in the Indian Ocean. 

Alan's life has been flat lately: He quit his middle-school teaching job mostly due to his own lack of energy for it. His marriage (no children) ended a few years before, his ex-wife having moved on and sold him their house. He grew up in Southern California, and only moved to Indiana after college because the Midwest seemed more "sane" and because of better teaching job prospects. 

Alan really loves to draw, and has been spending his days working from some vivid dreams he has had recently. His production has not been paying the bills, however, and his girlfriend Michelle is getting fed up with his apparent refusal to deal with the real world. Also, his old Saturn station wagon fell apart, and his house is about to be foreclosed upon. 

It was one of these dream-drawings that found it's way to Ms. Mullen. (See how this happened on the "About Alan Faramond" page.)

Ms. Mullen is offering him a job depicting the scenery of the recently independent nation now known as The Commonwealth of New Island. (Photography is restricted there - a long story explained in the guidebook!) It appears that she acquired an extremely accurate drawing he did of her house and surroundings a few years back. She saw his name on the back of it and tracked him down.

At first, Alan scoffs at this hard-to-believe job offer, thinks it's a ruse, but a tiny voice tells him it might be real. He writes back to accept Ms. Mullen's offer, just to see if the offer is genuine. Two weeks later, he receives travel instructions, tickets for several flights and a boat trip, hotel vouchers for the journey, and a departure date! He is stunned.

Michelle looks over the letter and the tickets, and agrees that the offer seems legitimate. She knows that Alan isn't getting anywhere here, and she also realizes their relationship has more or less stalled, so she gives him her blessing to go.


Soon Alan boards a South Shore commuter train to Chicago, and begins his long journey to New Island via Western Australia. In the port town of Fremantle, he unknowingly enters another world of existence when he walks through the doors of the Rudyard Shipping Co. ticket office... 

If you are meant to get to New Island, you'll see these words on this building in Fremantle, WA.
You'll then be able to step inside to the ticket office, and board the ship to Victoria Harbor. (Episode 5)

Alan never questions his situation very closely. Upon arrival on the island, he receives his List of Assigned Pictures from Margaret Mullen at her office in the Ministry of Trade building, on Government Hill. He is then given a railway pass, a cash stipend for supplies and food, and more instructions to his base lodgings near the town of Hazel, on Putney Bay. From there he almost immediately begins his series of trips around New Island to complete his assignment of 105 hand-painted drawings and watercolors of the island's most scenic places. He has completed five so far, and constantly worries about getting all of them done on time, or at all!  Many of the places are far-flung and can be reached only on foot. He's glad he likes to walk!

To get to his first locations, he must hike the Southwestern Path, and has met some helpful locals to keep him on course. In recent episodes, he has also met a fellow traveler, Chloe, who is just beginning her Long Walk, a cultural rite-of-passage on the island.  

I have no idea yet how this story will end. If you feel you want to share any suggestions or have questions, please use the comment box at the bottom. I'd love to hear from you.     

--Lee Mothes

Monday, August 3, 2015

44. Lizard Point

Alan worked fast on this one; he worried Chloe might get bored and leave before he got back to their camp!

Alan woke up to a rather chilly but sunny morning, and decided to stroll out to the end of Lizard Point and get a look at Vanessa Island. 

Last night it was nearly dark when He and Chloe arrived at the wide grassy promontory surrounded by rocky bluffs. They could hear the thunder of surf breaking nearby, but couldn't see much at all. Chloe had strapped on a tiny headlamp that gave enough light to help them to pitch their tents and put together some supper. They shared smoked fish with crackers and raisins for dessert. She then produced a small bottle of wine, opened it, and as a toast, she said dryly, "And here's to getting this far!" and they clinked their cups. 

Her tent was zipped-up and quiet this morning, so he assumed she was sleeping in.

He could see that the light was probably the best for a morning view of the island, which was about the same distance offshore as it was from Capetown. Vanessa Island dominated the western horizon here, and it's sandy shore and dunes were lit with a lovely early-morning glow. He didn't see a sailboat, so the Westend Surfing Assn. must have gone home.

He returned to his tent for his sketching supplies (no sign of movement in Chloe's tent), and walked back out out to the point to set up. Large waves were hitting a big offshore rock, plus he could see another big rock/tiny island near Vanessa Island. The island itself looked pretty rugged and brush-covered, then grassy, then sandy in places.  Hmmm, this one is going to take a while, he mumbled. 

He was sketching a rough outline when Chloe walked up to him.

"Hi." She said.

"Ah. Good morning." Alan put down his pencil. "I hope you had a good sleep."
She sat down near him. "Well, I woke up a couple of times - I'm still not used to sleeping on the ground. And by the way, you snore," she grinned. 

Alan liked that, and continued drawing. "I guess our tents have thin walls," he said.

For some time, Chloe watched him as he sketched, glancing both at his hands and his progress on the paper, then his hand drawing the lines, again. She realized she probably shouldn't talk. Alan was aware of her presence, but he felt he could ignore her, perhaps because her attention (for once) didn't seem judgmental. 

When he had composed the pencil sketch to his liking, He stopped and said, "Hungry?"

"Yes, and I need some coffee," she replied.

So they went about making coffee and a breakfast of Muesli cereal and raisins with canned milk. While eating, they spoke very little, instead taking their time looking out at the brilliant blue ocean and the surging waves. "Great coffee, Alan. You're hired," she said as they finished up. Alan, feeling more elated, said he needed to get back to his painting before the light changed altogether. She offered to clean up and then she took a long walk along the bluffs, then into some sandy coves below. By lunchtime Alan had finished the watercolor, and saw her coming back along the bluffs as he returned to their camp. Ahh, I needn't have worried...she's still here. 

She held out a sea-snail shell that she found among the rocks in one of the coves. "Here, this is for you. I stuffed a note in it, and I don't want you to read it until after we've gone our own way!"

Alan took the shell and Chloe felt happier right now than any other time on her trip. Alan wasn't sure what to think, but he felt something new - a quiet surge of energy that seemed to calm his ever-fretful mind.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

43. On the way to Lizard Point

The Southwest Path just south of Lizard Point.

A woman was sitting off the path with her head in her hands. Alan stopped and gently asked, "Are you okay?"

She looked up at him slowly, her eyes red and teary, and said, "Oh, I guess so. I just don't feel well."

"Anything I can do?"

"Umm, not sure."

"Well...I'm not in a hurry."

She studied his face a moment, then waved her hand in a wide arc, "Sit if you'd like, there's plenty of room!" 

"Um, okay...thanks. I could use a rest."

She looked to be in her late 30s, and wore the usual walkers' cargo shorts and a blue plaid long-sleeve shirt, which looked damp from that squall that Alan just went through. Her auburn hair was pulled back into a frizzy pony tail, equally damp, and the sun had been hard on her peeling nose. Her oversize backpack and a hat were cast off to the side, equally damp-looking, and coated with sand from where it had tumbled.

Alan pulled off his pack and sat down next to her. Neither spoke for a minute. Alan's mind was running fast - should I say something or just be quiet? I probably wouldn't say the right thing anyway...oh, what to do...? To resolve the question, he pulled out his water bottle and took a drink.

Finally, she let out a deep breath, looked at him again, then said, "I, um, I haven't talked to anyone in a few days, so I might seem a bit incoherent...and you probably wouldn't want to hear what's on my mind anyway..."

Alan looked at her, his mind fumbling about, but his curiosity won out..."Well, now you have me wondering, so why not, uh, talk?" Who knows? Maybe I'll learn something...

Tentatively, she started in. "I...where to begin...I don't know if I'm up for this trip. I should be having a good time. These Long Walks everyone raves about are supposed to be a 'Rite of Passage', right? But so far, especially today, I'm tired, and I'm beginning to wonder why I'm out here." She paused. "You're sure you want to hear this?"

"Keep going."

"Okay, let's see. I left my house about two weeks ago. It started out okay, though I thought I'd die the first week -- my feet and legs were really sore. But I kept going. I camped when I had to, but I usually stayed in an inn when I could find one. At Oxbay, I worked for a few days pulling weeds, just to not have to walk for a while. And then we had that rain, and I just sat around in their common room, feeling bummed. So today I got a decent start and was okay until this rain-squall rolled through this afternoon, and I HATE BEING WET!" 

The outburst startled Alan, but he had to agree.

"Well, sorry I yelled, but I think the real problem is I'm tired of hiking on my own." 

"Aaah. May I ask where you started out from?"


"You walked all the way from there?"

"Not quite. I took the train down to Hazel, and then started walking. My plan has been to walk allllll the way around the island," she said sweeping her arm, "or at least the long way back to Putney!"

"Soo, you're not so sure about that now, I take it."

"Oh, I still think I want to do it, but I guess I'm carrying some sadness with me too." She looked at him, "Do you really want to hear this stuff?"

Alan shrugged, smiled at her, and then tried to act nonchalant as he reached into his pack for his energy bars. "You want one?"

"Okay, sure, thanks."

He adjusted his pack to make a back rest, and then stretched out his legs. I'm glad I'm not the only one being lonely or sad. I hope she talks all day... They munched quietly for a moment.

"Well, I'm Chloe." 

"Hi. I'm Alan."

"Hi Alan." She munched on her bar. "These are good!" 

She continued, "Okay, here goes. I took a leave from my job at the Putney Library, where I'm a reference librarian. Have you been there?" Alan shook his head. "I've always loved that library, and I have worked there since I graduated from university. I lived with my mum, who wasn't well, so I never took the Long Walk after public school. My friends all went, and I really wanted to, but I had to take care of her. No dad, and that's another story!" 

Alan nodded.

"Anyway, when my mum passed away, I stayed on at the library, and have always enjoyed it there. Then they promoted me to Research Librarian, where I sit behind this large circular desk ready to answer any and all questions! The work can be fascinating, you know? 

"And then I met Dennis. He came in there to research some obscure ruins in Roger's've heard of that place, right?" Another nod. "There wasn't much about that in my library, but I knew the Antiquities Office or Putney University's library might have more of what he wanted. Anyway, he came back again, asking about other topics, and we got to chatting. He seemed such a fascinating chap. After a week or so, I realized I was constantly glancing at the door, feeling like Marion the Librarian from that American film - are you familiar...?

Alan nodded again, "Ah, yes, The Music Man..."

"Well, you might say I succumbed to Dennis's charms. At first he took me on picnics to the beach or up in the Yellow Hills during wildflower season. And then after only a few weeks he said he wanted to marry me! But I had a funny feeling about him, like he wasn't quite all there. He loved watching the television, and somehow he manged to acquire a set of his own. Later we got into the habit of me visiting him at his apartment, and instead of going out, he would offer me some snacky food and maybe a soda, and then he'd sit and watch stupid telly shows, some from the US - no offence, Alan - or Indian soap operas. He was totally absorbed, and sometimes I had to shout at him to get his attention! Then after a while he'd shift gears and suddenly want to, you know, do it. He was terrible at making love, and I was worried about pregnancies and such, and...oh, I'm going too far here!" 

Alan looked up at her from his trance, and shrugged, "I'm still listening." 

"So anyway, Dennis was really nice, but he didn't really have much going for him, and I didn't see any papers or a computer or any other signs of research in his apartment. When I asked if I could read anything he'd worked on, he was evasive, saying he did all his work in the library. Then we had an argument about food...I couldn't eat the junky stuff he was sharing, and he told me he wasn't going to change - it was his house! Dennis sounded a little too much like my dad, at least of what I remember when I was little. I told him that I didn't think this was working."

" decided this was a good time to take your Long Walk..."

"You got it!"

She sighed, and chewed on her energy bar. "So what about you? What's your story?"

"Well, let's see, I'm not sure where to begin. I'm from the US..." 

"Ah, I thought so," she said, smiling.

"...and I'm here to make sketches and pictures for your Tourism Office." He then told her a little about his life in Indiana, and about how his job here originated from a drawing he did from a dream. "It's so weird that the drawing turned out to be of a place here on New Island, but I had no idea any of this existed! Anyway, they sent me tickets with the job offer and here I am. Now I've been walking on this path about a week now, painting my first assignments. I'm otherwise staying in some inns or camping out, pretty much like you are."

They both looked at the sun hanging low over the shoreline, and then Alan asked, "Uh, not to be too nosy, but what are your plans now?"

"Well,I heard there is a nice camping ground near Lizard Point...and I was on my way there. I think it's only another mile or two."

"Ah...mind if I tag along? That's my destination too, as I'm supposed to make a picture of Vanessa Island from there."

She looked at him, ate the last of her energy bar, took a swig of water, and said, "Okay, let's go." 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

42. Painting Capetown, then onward...

Alan's view of Capetown -- a pleasant stop along the Southwest Path

Alan didn't see Capetown until he was nearly at its edge. The town was nestled among some low grassy hills, allowing most of the residents a fine view of the ocean. Bushy trees and colorful flower gardens adorned the yards around some of houses. Alan could see why this place was on his list!  Alan pitched his tent in a public "trekkers' park" near the edge of town. For 50 pense (about $2.50) he had a camp site, access to toilets, showers and even a common kitchen. There he made up some supper of smoked fish and steamed brown rice. He had to put up with two other chatty travelers, who ere talking about walking to Irian. Alan remembered Irian - the one-time Russian resort town where Jeremy disembarked back on that first train ride. These guys were apparently going to visit friends of theirs, a relatively short trip from where they lived at Tuna Point.

The next morning promised good weather, so Alan ate breakfast early (he thankfully had the kitchen to himself) and climbed a hill east of town to make his assigned picture. This was a straightforward rendering - the town and the hills, with the ocean in the distance. It came together pretty fast, and he was done in time for a late lunch.

After lunch he read his Naked Husband for a spell, then packed up and got on the path. He immediately noticed that some distant nimbus clouds that were out on the horizon that morning had moved in, and sure enough, he was caught out in a blustery shower. Luckily, his jacket and a floppy hat he wore kept him reasonably dry, and he was glad it was fairly warm.

His next stop was Lizard Point, about two more miles along the main path. He was supposed to make a picture of Vanessa Island from the point, so he thought he would camp out there. He hoped to see the surfing club's sailboat, if it was moored where Amelia said it might be. The path was much quieter here, perhaps because most traffic went inland at Capetown.

Then he saw someone, hunched over, sitting some distance off from the path. 


Sunday, July 19, 2015

41. On to Capetown

All storms pass: later in the day, Alan passed this dancer near Oxbay.
Wind-driven rain was splatting on the window in Alan’s room when he woke up the next morning. Not a good day for walking, so he rolled over and slept another hour. Finally, bored with laying in bed, he climbed out, got dressed, and searched for some coffee and breakfast.

The Poppy Blossom's CafĂ© was deserted when Alan walked in.  He sat at a table by the window, looked at the menu, told the waitress what he wanted, then nodded thanks to her. He stared out the window at the rain. For the first time on this island, Alan felt that old melancholy coming on. He still felt like he wasn’t getting anywhere, that he won't finish the drawings, or they won't be any good, and that he’ll disappoint his bosses. This assignment seems like it will take forever. He was also feeling lonely; it would be nice to have a companion on a trip like this.

Then his coffee arrived, and while stirring in his cream and sugar, an elegant, delicate insect landed on the window glass and slowly walked upward, probably looking for a way out. It’s purple body and huge lacy wings (a big lacewing?) reminded Alan how far he was from anywhere he’d known before. From what Adrian had said, this whole island may or may not even exist, and likewise everything on it!

What is real here?
Why was I invited here?

He nudged at the bug with his finger, and it arched its abdomen before moving further up the glass. It seems real enough, he thought. Maybe that’s all that’s necessary, that all this seems real. But he still felt lonely.

Then his breakfast arrived and he realized how hungry he was.


In the afternoon, the rain let up enough to allow Alan to start off for Capetown. He went into the Pangaea Grocery and Etc. and bought some more camp food, some "Paleo Vanilla"- flavored energy bars, and, on a whim, a paperback titled The Naked Husband by an Australian author. He figured it will be quiet the next few days and he'll want something to read. 

Toward suppertime, the clouds were breaking up, promising a gorgeous sunset. The beaches were interrupted by low grassy headlands that ended at rocky points. He soon could see Vanessa Island to the south, sitting only about four miles offshore, looking close enough to swim to it. It is apparently New island's westernmost point. Along the way, He passed the settlement of Oxbay, a cluster of houses adjoining a large community garden. And near there, on a bluff, a woman in a red dress was having a great time dancing and twirling to her own rhythm. She was by herself, and seemingly unconcerned about being observed. He admired her free spirit, and found his own spirit lifted as well! It was a treat to walk along this coast... 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

40. Storm Surf at Samas

Alan awoke to a gray sky. The sun was reddish as he crawled out of his tent, and the place seemed eerily quiet - no birdsong to speak of, but a faint, low roar drew his attention to the distant ocean. From his hillside vantage point he could barely make out a band of white beyond the barrier beach protecting Sandy Bay. It was the spray of great crashing waves! Even from this distance, Alan could see that the ocean was churning!

The surf reminded him of Amelia's prediction that storm surf will likely predate a storm - so Alan ate a quick bowl of Muesli cereal with canned milk, then packed up his gear and set off for Capetown, which he figured he could get to before the weather turned nasty. 

The air was cooler today, and the path was well-maintained so Alan felt he could make good time. The Southwest Path was busy here...many travelers pushed narrow handcarts, a local design with two large wheels, called a felix-hauler. Others rode fat-tire bicycles or trikes, and a few of them rode a kind of recumbent-style bike with a solar-panel roof that powered a tiny motor to assist on the hills. The roof provided the added benefit of shading the rider - ingenious! In contrast, others rode small shaggy ponies or crept along in narrow carts behind ponies, llamas, or pairs of goats! 

There was a liveliness here - a lot of chatting among the walkers and travelers. Everyone seemed friendly enough, and Alan could now spot the young trekkers and other wanderers from those hauling goods or on other business. All this without the sound of a single engine!

Alan had been rounding Sandy Bay since yesterday, and near Samas he noticed great flocks of gulls, terns, pelicans and other birds he couldn't recognize milling around in the channels and on the mud flats, presumably to sit out the storm. Smaller birds flitted out of the salt grasses and then landed again nearby, not sure where to rest. Their nervousness gave Alan a dose of anxiety - he didn't like being caught out in bad weather!

The path slowly edged onto higher ground as it approached Samas, and Alan noticed a low bluff to his left, and he could also hear the ocean over the low dunes ahead. He passed a few acres of raised-bed herb gardens, which he later learned were the "business" of the Samas tribe - dried herbs that they sold to a packager in Pendleton. A few inns, a grocery-and-variety store and a surf shop also supported the settlement.

In town, Alan found the Poppy Blossom Inn and was able to get one of the last rooms, about the size of a closet. He felt lucky he checked in early - apparently a lot of other walkers didn't want to camp out tonight.

It wasn't quite suppertime yet, so Alan followed a few other people out to the beach, about a half mile from town. The path ended at a long wooden bench and the view was breathtaking. Huge breakers thundered offshore, crashing in long white lines before surging up onto the sand. The sun peeked out among gathering banks of cumulus clouds, lighting up the waves here and there, leaving others threateningly dark! He overheard a couple of onlookers talking about riding these...Think we could get out there? ... Naw, it's too closed out - we would only get pounded!

The sky was changing and the surf was building...

Far beyond the breakers Alan spotted a sturdy-looking gaff-rigged sailboat beating over the swells, and a bystander near him said, Hey, I think that might be the Westenders' boat heading out to Vanessa Island...Gawd I wish I were on there. I only surfed out there once and it was a dream! Indeed, it looked like it could be the boat Amelia talked about, plowing and tacking into a freshening wind. Alan figured they knew what they were doing.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

39. On to Shores, Solon, Fernley, Bender and Samas

Alan's route will take him south, around Sandy Bay, to Capetown

Towards evening, the air had cooled off and everyone was back in their clothes. 

Alan wanted to meet these young islanders, so he worked up enough courage to walk over to where most of the crowd was camping. This kind of thing has never been easy for him, though he believes that his "social coach" back in Indiana has been helpful. Plus, he thinks he sticks out like a foreigner. At least he speaks their language! 

Okay, deep breath, off we go...

He also brought along his package of McVitie and Price's Digestives (imported from England). When he showed up at their campfire, he held out the package and they laughed, and a girl said "Ace!" They in turn invited him to supper, and he was grateful! 

All of these campers (the  oldest might have been twenty) were on their Long Walk. Most were paired up but a few were walking solo, and they all had stories to share. They feverishly chatted about places all over the island that Alan had no clue about, and when he brought his map over, they showed him the location of the Berea Cliffs, Samantha's Wild North, the Beatty Ruins, Gay's Asylum, and that strange place none of them had yet ventured to: Roger's Dreamland.

He enjoyed chatting with them as they sat eating a kind of communal fish gumbo. They mostly talked about where they'd been and where they were heading, and Alan listened in, enchanted by their energy. His head was swimming with all his new information as he finally bid them good night and went to his tent. He slept surprisingly well.

The next morning, his muscles were quite stiff, probably from all the running and chasing yesterday. He manged to get dressed, make some breakfast, and then get a fairly early start on to his next picture assignment, in Capetown. On the way, he noticed he'll pass through several small settlements, including the Shores tribe that those girls mentioned. 

His route to Capetown went right by the Hooksands Light, a noble, red-painted stone tower, whose light slowly revolved. He noticed that it must be laundry day at the adjoining cottage, since there were sheets billowing on the clothesline as a woman (with two small kids running about under her feet) put up some towels. She waved and he waved back. This was like out of a picture book, he thought: the keeper's wife (or the keeper herself!) living out at the lighthouse. No automation here yet!

He figured it would be a three-day walk all the way to Capetown, and he was glad he didn't have to rush. He liked the relatively glacial pace here; he didn't feel he had to be anywhere, and, surprisingly, he didn't miss his phone or Facebook or e-mail! He'd like to hear from his friends, perhaps Michelle, but for now he felt okay just seeing what will come next!

Passing through these tribe settlements, Alan felt he was on another planet. The settlements were tiny, with narrow walkways among the houses and the few shops, or the one main building where supplies and groceries could be acquired (bought or bartered for). The buildings were small, but solidly-built, often of sand-bricks. These, he learned, were made of local sand mixed with a bit of cement, dampened, and then pressed into bricks. Ingenious, he thought. 

While passing through Fernley, he watched two women making the bricks - one constantly mixing the batch, and shoveling the mix into a device they call a brick-press; the other cranking on the long handle to make one brick at a time. One of them paused and told him that, after a few hours they would have a few hundred bricks, using no electricity, and for only the cost of the cement!

Alan noticed that some of these tribes were subsistence tribes - they only produced enough to support themselves, and made a little extra income by offering lodging, hot baths, supplies and massages (especially footrubs) to passing walkers. Others, such as the Shores, Solon and Samas tribes, harvested oysters, bay clams or tiny shrimp from Sandy Bay, and then smoked and canned them for sale in the markets. These had to be carried out on foot or behind a horse in a small wagon...part of the charm (and the high prices) of these delicacies.

As the afternoon turned to dusk, Alan stopped to camp on a grassy dune just west of Bender, facing miles of marshlands and the winding salt channels of Sandy Bay. There were settlements nearby, but he was up for a campout. He had enough food but would have to re-stock the next day.  

The sunset over the bay and the ocean was gorgeous!