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!