It’s the way you ride the trail that counts

My life is in the hands of a guy who’s named after chalk. That’s not the kind of situation I’d ideally put myself in, but it’s a damn sight more ideal then dodging angry native-American stereotypes all on my own. I’m just happy that the noble-savage stereotype saved me from the standard-savage stereotype.

Borderline offensive stereotypes for everyone!

Stereotypes... stereotypes as far as the eye can see!

Stereotypes… stereotypes as far as the eye can see!

Stereotypes aside, Follows-chalk is actually a pretty nice guy, although he does seem fairly naive and inexperienced. That inexperience is actually where his name comes from; because, like all good stereotypes, his name doubles as a description of his role in his tribe. He’s a scout, but since he’s a still a novice he is limited to following the chalk signs left by the senior scouts.

Being able to decipher the pictograms is a pretty useful skill, and it makes F-C an ideal guide. I had noticed several of the chalk drawings already, but as I have no idea what the chalk signs mean, F-C’s help has been invaluable.
It’s always a good idea to avoid misinterpretation.

“I think this one wants me to go mad and kill myself”

“I think this one wants me to go mad and kill myself.”

I normally complain about walking a lot. And, to be fair, Joe has had to trudge through a lot of very sandy deserts in his time. But walking is much lot less of a chore here in Zion.

There seems to be interesting scenery everywhere – rivers, mountains, plants and wild-life. Every mile or so I’m able to collect fruit or seeds from about half-a-dozen different plants, which is a positive omen. There are fully fledged farms in the Mojave that don’t produce this much food.

Plus, we bumped into a small family of molerats, which I promptly despatched – they aren’t dangerous, but they are tasty! And you can always use more meat.

As well as the molerats running about, we also saw a bunch of other wildlife, including a few geckos and even a massive bear… Luckily, we were able to move on without attracting being attacked, but the diversity of life means that hunting for food will always be an option.

As the sun begins to set, we stop for the night at an old camp fire. An ancient BBQ and a small amount of antique rubbish seem to indicate that this area was used as a campsite for holiday makers hundreds of years ago. Their civilisation is gone, but their pollution lives on.
The useful stuff, like tents or caravans, have long since wasted away, but that’s not a massive problem, as some time ago I got used to sleeping in the wild without anything more than a campfire for shelter… which is good, because I don’t think that there is going to be an abundance of beds out here.

"Glad to have you with me, Follows Chalk. With any luck you'll avoid the fates of my previous compainions."

“Glad to have you with me, Follows Chalk. With any luck you’ll avoid the fates of my previous companions.”
“Wait. What?”
“Nothing. Nothing.”

The next morning I slap a few Molerat stakes on the campfire and cook up a pretty mean breakfast. F-C doesn’t seem too interested in the food, but that’s okay. That just means I can save the rest for later.

As we leave the camping area, I learn something new. Something wonderful. Something that’s going to make my time here a lot more interesting.
As we pass by an old ranger hut, F-C points out some pale hand-prints on the side marking the wall. Apparently, these markings mean that the hut is a ‘sacred’ place, a place hunted by spirits – places to be avoided by the tribes. He goes on to explain that any man-made structures from ‘before’ are considered taboo to the people who live here – no matter which tribe they are a part of.

Just to repeat that… Anything that looks like something from the old pre-war world is off limits to these guys. I’m not sure what kind of ruins might be out here… but whatever old world ruins are in Zion are all mine! There will be Zero competition.

Soooo...taboo, sacred, tapu, holy.... basicallyvit means 'loot me'"

“Soooo…taboo, sacred, tapu, holy…. basically it means ‘loot me’, right?”

Of course, that might not be a massive advantage if I have no place to trade the stuff I find.

We continue the trek towards F-C’s camp, and today’s trip is a lot soggier than yesterday’s. We follow the crumbling remains of a pre-war road for a short while, before descending a well-warn path towards a rushing river.

There are steep cliffs on each side, so we are forced to wade through the hip-deep water. F-C seems to think nothing of the fact that our shoes are filling with water, and happily splashes onwards without a care in the world.

"You think the Eastern Virgin is good, you should see the Western Virgin. Hubba, hubba!"

“You think the Eastern Virgin is good, you should see the Western Virgin. Hubba, hubba!”

It’s not too bad because, remarkably, this water is fresh and clean – it doesn’t seem to be contaminated at all!
And if that wasn’t extraordinary enough, after a short time wading through the river, rain starts to pour out of the sky.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it never rained in the Mojave. Nor did it rain in the Capital Wasteland (which is probably a good thing, because it probably would have been contaminated). But here, fresh clean water falls right out of the sky and Follows Chalk thinks it’s normal!

As extraordinary as the rain may be, it does make my life somewhat more difficult. The bottom of the river is lined with bear-traps and the distractions are keeping it difficult to concentrate. Luckily, F-C was able to offer me a little warning, so I am able to slowly make my way without losing a foot.

Rain drops keep falling on my head...

Rain drops keep falling on my head…

The river eventually feeds into a lake, and we make our sodden way to the bank. There on the shore, a small group of men and women were milling about – some sitting at a campfire, others cooking food, fishing or training in melee combat. We’ve finally found Follow Chalk’s tribe.

At first, I’m a little taken aback at the small number of people, but it turns out that the initial impression is misleading. The small camp is part of a larger area. In the middle of the camp there is a cave, and that cave leads to a series of tunnels that the tribe seem to use as housing and as a storage room for much of the tribe’s wealth… although in this context, wealth seems to primarily be food and animal skins.

"Let me guess... somewhere there is a great tree that has to be defended from a hostile military occupation?"

“My big-book of Tropes and Stereotypes says that I must now live among you and learn your ways, slowly awakening to the nobility of your more natural lifestyle.”
In a world, far away from his own… Joe will learn… Trees good. War bad.

Turns out that the caves also home to the leader of the tribe’s war-band, and if I’m going to play my part in this cliché scenario, I’m undoubtedly going to have to meet him and help him defend some sacred tree or some such… probably against some technologically superior group that’s a ham-fisted analogy for our western consumerist lifestyle.

Follows Chalk leads me through the tunnels until we come out in a large room, where I’m to meet the war-chief.

My heart skips a beat – there before me is Joshua Graham… the burned man…

Those are angry eyes

Those are angry eyes

What have I gotten myself into?

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