Sunday, October 11, 2009

The ferry to the North Sandwich Islands

You can’t possibly buy a one way ticket from the South Sandwich to the North Sandwich Islands. The ferry company only sells round trip tickets, as if they wouldn’t want the visitors to stay for very long. They're probably right. As the saying goes, visitors and fish stink in three days.

In all honesty, I was not in the least worried about it. Actually, I had no intention to go back to South Sandwich, but I had to buy the two-way ticket, just like the rest of the passengers did.

The cars were queuing to enter the ship at the harbour. The ferry company staff organised the car boarding in amazingly absolute order: long rows of cars drove inside the ship in perfect harmony.

When the doors were locked behind the last car, the engines started roaring and the ferry left the harbour followed by a flock of seagulls. The passengers fed them with pieces of bread that the seagulls would catch in the air. A large group of ducks swam on the wharf water, picked the leftovers that fell into the water and ate them.

I watched the South Sandwichian coast get farther and the buildings become smaller. My sadness grew deeper by the minute.

We would be sailing on the cold waters of the Strait of Sandwich for a couple of hours until we would arrive in Noordvyken, the capital city of the North Sandwich Islands.

Traditionally, North and South Sandwich have always been irreconcilable rivals. The Sandwichian chronicles are full of collective memories and jealousies, crimes and battles and other sad vicissitudes throughout their history.

In the beginning, there was no division between North and South. There was an only Kingdom: the Kingdom of Sandwich. The problems began two centuries ago when the lovely daughter of the King of Sandwich and one of the Lords of the Kingdom fell madly in love.

The ambitious King of Sandwich didn’t approve of that marriage –he had thought of a prince from a wealthy kingdom to marry the princess, thus ensuring a strong political alliance-. In fact, diplomatic talks had just started for that purpose. But one night, the Lord escaped with the princess and they took shelter in his castle, bordering the river and facing the northern mountains.

The incident started a war that the King of Sandwich lost and resulted in the division of the country in two parts: the North Sandwich islands –where those in favour of the Lord and princess lived- and the South Sandwich islands –where the rest of the citizens lived.

Back to 2009, the last thing I heard about this silly rivalry was that the travellers from both parts needed a passport and a special visa. Thank god Rufus Villain had arranged a new identity for me: my papers were in order.

I went up on the deck, sat on a bench and thought. Nobody waited for me at the other side and I had neither a plan A nor a plan B. I was scared and lonely.

Did I say ‘lonely’?

- Hello loser. –said a familiar voice behind me-.
- Hello Hellgirl. –I said, without even turning my head-.
- Fuck, Leni! I gave you the chance of your life to get a good job and the next thing I know is you nearly kill your first client and then you defame my good friend Demonious High!
- Hellgirl, about Leonard: he alone nearly killed himself with an overdose of Viagra that he took to shag me until I’d get sore, in his own words. I only gave him two sleeping pills to calm his instinct down. And about Demonious… he was going to blackmail Leonard with pictures I was supposed to take of Leonard and me having sex.
- So what? What’s wrong with that?
- I don’t approve of these methods to make money. Blackmail is a crime and they send you to jail. Didn’t you know that?
- Yes I knew, Miss Puritan.
- No I’m not! And now will you please let me go? I’m hiding, you know? I’m unemployed, poor, lonely and I just want to disappear!
- I’m leaving this time, Leni. I have some unexpected business to attend to in Hell. The coal haulage contractors are on strike and if I don’t solve this, all the devils will be freezing this winter. But don’t ever dream of getting rid of me just like this. I’ll be watching you.
–she said, pointing at me with a threatening finger-

Hellgirl disappeared in a cloud of fire and I stood on my own at the deck. It was my fate to be stalked by the hell’s minions, and my only fault for having trusted them in the past. These star appearances and rants were a cross I often had to bear.

A soft drizzle started falling. I was lost in my thoughts when a man sat beside me and opened his umbrella over me.

- It’s… raining. –he said-
- Yeah. Thank you for the umbrella. I was actually… about to go inside the ship.
- Oh. I thought you liked the rain. I like it. My name is Falkenburg
. –he said, holding out his hand to me-
- My name is… -I hesitated- Nicolette Bixby.

I almost screwed up saying “Leni Qinan”.

- Pleased to meet you, Nicolette.
- Pleased to meet you, Mr. Falkenberg.

Falkenberg... that name rang a bell. Where had I heard it before? Wasn't it the Flying Dutchman's captain? You know, the ghost ship with a ghostly crew that was cursed to sail the oceans forever...

We shook hands and continued the conversation.

- Do you live in North Sandwich? – I asked-
- Yes. ¿And you?
- Oh no, I’m just looking for a job there.
- What would you like to do, Nicolette?
- I would accept anything, as long as the boss doesn’t try to swindle me and I don’t have to do a loathing work.

He looked at me very surprised.

- Then, see me at the lighthouse tomorrow at 8am and I may offer you a decent job.
- Well… thanks for the offer, sir. I surely will.

Falkenberg got up and took something from his pocket. It seemed an origami bird that started unfolding its wings and then grew bigger… and bigger… until it became a big white Pegasus.

Falkenberg whistled and jumped on the magnificent animal that took off in the air, making no sound at all. Silent as a shadow, he waved goodbye from his swift steed as he ascended in the air, defying gravity. My eyes followed him until he disappeared in the night. This guy really knew how to leave in style.

Nobody but me witnessed such a spectacular farewell. I was all alone at the deck.

When the ferry arrived in the Noordvyken harbour, I took my backpack and went downstairs to solid ground.

I had no place to go. I took my backpack and sleeping bag and headed to the beach, where I would try to find my way to the lighthouse.

"The loneliest guy" (David Bowie)


Gorilla Bananas said...

Glad you've finally hooked up with someone who appears to be a good guy. You remind a little of Miss Teschmacher in the first Superman movie.

sage said...

Didn't Perseus fly in on Pegasus when he saved Andromeda from the sea monster--at least in one retelling of the legend? I haven't seen, "the Flying Dutchman" I missed it last year when an opera company in the closest city performed it... Now I'm intrigued as I try to understand your story.

Leni Qinan said...

Mr Bananas,
Do I remind you of Miss Teschmacher? I was little when I saw "Superman" with my bros. and I vaguely remember her.

She's a very spectacular bad girl, hahaha (I am bad too -not spectacular-, but not as bad as she is).

I’d be more than happy if I could only make my personal Superman (Ed) feel a little more human and have that kryptonite effect on him…

Leni Qinan said...

Sage, that's an excellent summary of the Greek legend (I adore the Greek mythology and how the Greeks gods played with the humans. Just like my supernaturals do, hahah).

The Flying Dutchman is an amazing story. I'm not sure I would love a complete wagnerian opera, but this other legend is amazing. there have been several versions of it in the literature (Longfellow, Heinrich Heine, and even Walter Scottand also in the movies ("Pandora and the flying Dutchman").

And I hope you have the occasion of seeing another opera soon, Sage.

Grass said...

Oh no Leni, not another stranger with magical powers. ;) I really hope this one is a different entity, if you may allow me to call him. LOL But somehow I feel that this time, this mysterious guy won't be a foe, but a friend.

As for Hellgirl, well, that was to be expected. She's watching you from her volcanic crystal ball so I'm pretty sure that she's got a lot of trick up her sleeve to ruin you for ruining her evil plans. How will you be able to escape her now? Tsk tsk..

Oh Ed , Ed, wherefore art thou Ed?



max said...

Yes, yes, yes, I sencond Grass!!! Ed!!! Where art thou???


Leni Qinan said...

Hi Grassy!
Well, I'm not sure this guy had magical powers (that white Pegassus is a nice trick, worthy of David Copperfield, lol).

He sounds nice (he's goiing to offer me a decent job, we'll see what it is).
As for Hellgirl, I'm afraid she will never disappear from my live. And I'm starting to think that she's not that bad. She could have scorched my hair for leaving my escort job, but she didn't, lol.

Ed? Oh, yes, I wonder where he is right now... I miss him! I'd love to see him again (*sigh*)

Big hug!

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Maxi!

I don't know where Ed is, but as the saying goes... things always happen when you least expect them. ;)

((I'm quite sure he will be in North Sandwich very soon to save me!)) LOL

Leni Qinan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Borah said...

For a moment there, you had me thinking I was going to read an ordinary (slightly boring) travel blog. Probably because of the pictures - I like the way you fooled me!

Fact is that I think the story gets a lot better when things start to happen. I think in the first bit you could easily do without sentences such as:

"In all honesty, I was not in the least worried about it. Actually, I had no intention to go back to South Sandwich, but I had to buy the two-way ticket, just like the rest of the passengers did."

The first sentence of the blog says enough¨. And that way, the dialogue with Falkenburg become more important as well (because what you tell him then, you haven´t told us yet).

I like the story, and I like the names you use!
I´ll be back!

Anonymous said...

Borah is a bit dull. The last thing anyone needs on a blog is a literary critic. Blimey I was so excited I nearly came anyway despite your tendency to create conflicting emotional cadences in one sentence/paragraph ....

Leni Qinan said...

Dear Borah,

Thank you for your review. There's surely a lot to write and to learn with every additional sentence I write. So you're definitely in the test group, lol.

I must say though that this serialised diary is not exactly a travel blog, but rather more a road movie with weird characters, interactions and situations entwined with real life, which seems to never appear, but it’s there.

You’re right, for the moment the story is getting a bit introspective, but normally there is more action, people trying to change their fate, etc

Linguistic considerations are welcomed too. Falkenburg / or berg will reappear again as a kind of benefactor. Events are unpredictable but not everything is bad in this fantastic world!

Leni Qinan said...

My sweet Mutts,

I appreciate your words, but it's ok... I accept whatever my readers want to tell me, within the limits of courtesy, so don't worry, I will survive the literary critics, lol.

Yes, I know I have a tendency to create conflicting emotional cadences in sentences/paragraphs. I must confess I do it on purpose. What excites me most is the effect of these paragraphs in my readers.

So feel free... ;)

Skeeter said...

Hi Leni!

Very cool. Liked how you did the great divide between north and south. nicely done all around :-)

Best wishes,


Leni Qinan said...

Thanks Skeeter! a bit of geography from the Sandwich Islands today, lol. Sounds like it all started with a romance...

Take care!

Dick said...

Those islands look very familiar to me, not difficult to find the lighthouse, just follow the light.

Fernando said...


You´re coming into marine phoptography!!!!

You´ve made my day!

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Dick!

You surely have been at this beautiful lighthouse and maybe also at the restaurant beside it, having a nice cup of coffee with a stranger, lol.

More original pictures coming soon!

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Fernando!

These pictures were taken in August at the North Sea, from a ferry where I was. My camera is not as good as your new one (mine is a humble digital Sony) but I like to take it with me all the time. One never knows what can be photographed. And the sea is a wonderful subject to photograph. I’m glad you liked them.