Saturday, 17 November 2007

DAY THREE - heatstroke and mermaids

Back at the CFZ headquarters in rural North Devon we are in a peculiar state of limbo. Our whole day’s activities revolve about waiting for one garbled two or three minute ‘phone call. After a long and fairly dull day, Richard ‘phoned just before 10.00 this evening GMT.

It has been another long and eventful day for the five-person expedition. First of all we want to reassure you that everybody is alive and well, although they are finding the heat very difficult. After all, they are not that far from the Equator. It is a mark of quite how hot it is out there that Richard – who is usually pretty good in tropical climes – collapsed with heat stroke this afternoon. When he ‘phoned, he sounded dreadful, and we would like to stress that the satellite ‘phone link-up is of spectacularly poor quality, so although we guarantee that the gist of what is in this and future reports is correct, we are not certain that names of people or places are necessarily accurate.

Yesterday, we told how the team visited the home village of their guide and mentor Damon Corrie. We told how the ‘phone cut out for a few seconds so we could not tell you the name of this village, but we asked Richard today and as far as we are able to ascertain, Damon’s home village is called Pakuri (or something like that anyway).

Because communications are so difficult, we tried to have two or three people on the line listening every time a call comes through. This has been particularly irksome at times this evening when three of us answered the telephone at once, agog with anticipation, only to find that it was my beloved younger step-daughter wanting help with renewing her mobile ‘phone contract. This is just one of the mildly amusing aspects of running the world’s largest mystery animal research group from a family home.

Jon and Graham listened intently as the weak and garbled voice struggled through the ether. Hisses and pops punctuated the gems of information, which were, however, well worth the wait.

The team has spent today trekking deep into the grassland savannah. There is very little cover, and Jon Hare told us that the only thing that made the intense heat bearable were the occasional breezes. Jon told us that earlier on today they had found a small creek, and the whole team had waded in to cool down. He was particularly struck by the shoals of small fishes, which appeared – as if from nowhere – and immediately set to nibbling at the skin of our intrepid explorers. By the creek they met an old hunter. “Old” is a relative term. He was 53; no great age here in Britain – after all Corinna, Graham and I are rapidly approaching that venerable status, and Chris Clark on the expedition is quite a few years older than that. However, in a poorly developed third world country, 53 is quite a venerable age. Jon got talking to the hunter, who had tribal tattoos on his back, and told him how when he was young, at this very creek, and armed with only a machete, he had killed a jaguar.

They reached a village, which we think was called either Tolshiba (Graham’s interpretation) or Calshida (Jon Downes’). Unfortunately, at this point, the line broke up. Richard told us how an eye-witness reported seeing the didi a couple of years ago. He described it as looking like an enormous white man covered in hair. At this point we cannot confirm whether this witness was at the village of ?Tolshiba/?Calshida, or whether this was an incident which took place earlier.

What we can confirm is that yesterday, at Letham Station, they met a number of eyewitnesses to giant anacondas. However, the largest of these was reportedly only 25 foot long. This is one hell of a snake, but it is just about within the accepted size range for this species. However, other eyewitnesses told them of tracks found in the jungle near water, which appear to be from much larger snakes. They intend to return to Letham Station at some point during the next fortnight and to visit the places where these snakes have been seen, with the eyewitnesses.

Jon Hare told us something very peculiar. Apparently, in the middle of the savannah, miles from any water there is a large flat rock known as ‘Mermaid Rock’. Allegedly, within recent living memory, human figures with fishy tails have been seen sitting atop this rock performing the ultimate mermaid cliché of combing their hair. What mermaids would be doing so far from any water, beggars belief, but it is interesting that such a piece of archetypal European folklore has been transplanted to a rock deep in the heart of nowhere.

Tomorrow they will continue travelling across the savannah. They intend to avoid the worst of the mid-day sun by travelling very early in the morning and in the later afternoon. Either tomorrow or the next day, they will reach a rocky area containing some ancient caves. These caves were allegedly inhabited by people eons ago. Jon Hare told us how they have been told stories of ancient human remains having been discovered deep in these caves. These bodies had been ritualistically interred in a similar way to some of the archaeological sites Jon has studied in Indonesia.

This is particularly interesting to cryptozoologists because, as Damon Corrie told us on the telephone last week, these caves have been reportedly the haunt of didi in recent years.

We await, with anticipation, the next report from the team.


Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Sorry to hear Richard has heatstroke; that's not nice at all and I hope he feels better soon. Sounds like they're having an interesting time apart from that.

I've heard of fish that nibble human skin before. I saw a news story on TV about it; i think it was from Japan. Apparently it's quite good for you. The fish eat dead and damamaged skin allowing new skin to grow more easily in its place. Sufferers of ecsema and psoriasis have been encouraged to bathe with these fish as some people do with dolphins.

youcantryreachingme said...

In spite of the heat stroke, isn't it great news to hear of an expedition like this? People out there, on the ground, exploring in a culture and environment that harkens back to the 18th century. Paints a fairly romantic picture!

Yes, I believe there are springs in Europe in which psoriasis sufferers can bathe to receive therapeutic skin cleansing from the nibbles of fish. Of course, anyone who has kept barbs - from Asia - and put their hand in an aquarium will know they're keen on nibbling too, therapeutic or not.

The mermaid rock story certainly is interesting. It almost sounds as if someone is trying to give them a run for their money.

Once again, great to have people on the ground with their eyes and ears open. Looking forward to future updates.

Where Light Meets Dark

twas_brillig said...

I wonder if the fishes that nibbled on their skin while they waded were Exodon Paradoxeses (also known as the Bucktooth Tetra). These fish are known for cleaning the dishes of the natives, they also school with Pirahnas and eat the small scraps and scales of other fish that fall prey to their larger cousins.

Thank you for the updates, I eagerly await the next chapter.