The Donkey Train
I was lucky that there was a doctor staying at the inn. He examined my ankle to check that it was not broken, and bandaged it, and gave me a painkiller. He advised me not to walk on it for the coming three days or so.
BabyJane helped me hop to the garden, and sit at a table in the shade, and I put my injured foot on a chair. She worried that I was probably in pain, and did everything she could to make me comfortable. I must admit that I secretly enjoyed the attention. This inn was luxurious and had the best food and wine. BabyJane discovered two crutches in a storeroom amongst many other odd things left behind by previous guests, so I could walk slowly without using my injured foot.
The next day my ankle had swollen, and was painful again. Of course, I could not hang-glide soon. The doctor examined me again and said:
"I think you you should go to the hospital in Uipipis, and have some Xrays taken. Possibly a bone is cracked."
But how to go from the inn to Uipipis? (Uipipis is the town where John lives). There is no road near the inn. BabyJane asked the manager of the inn, and was informed that a donkey train will go down from the inn to the valley, and we can ride with it. And of course, we would go by bus to Uipipis from the village where the donkeys arrive.
The doctor gave me some more painkiller, and the manager took BabyJane and me to the yard where the donkey train was preparing to leave.
The donkey driver was a short man, very wrinkled like an old prune, and had huge ears. He gave us a very wide smile, and told us his Casleun name.
"However," he said, "my friends call me Dumbo, because if I flapped my ears, I would be able to fly"
He cackled "You probably think that I work driving donkeys because they have ears larger than mine. However, that's not the case. In fact the average donkey is more clever than the average human. Present company excepted, naturally.
The donkey train totalled about 30. To please BabyJane, Dumbo chose a light grey jenny (female). He said:
"There!, the beautiful woman will ride my most beautiful jenny. She is called Phyllis. She is a smooth walker, and obedient" . "For you, sir," he said, scratching his head, "You have long legs, so you must ride Stupid. I call him that, because he is the most intelligent, and I don't want him to become too proud."
He whistled, and a quite large jack (male) came to us from the herd. Stupid was dark brown, and wore a straw hat decked with flowers. His ears stuck through two holes in the rim of the cap.
Dumbo helped me to get on the donkey, and attached my crutches to the saddle, and then organized the donkeys into a line by whistling and pushing, so the group could more easily go down the narrow trail. I thanked the manager for the crutches, and his help. We left the yard, walking slowly.
At first the path went through the vineyards, and was quite level. The workers waved to Dumbo, and greeted him with whistles. He whistled back and laughed. I asked him what the workers had said.
Unfortunately it was impolite, and asked "Why is a beautiful woman travelling with a smelly old goat like me" The farmers have dirty minds. They suggested that my penis was as big as my ears. They are dirty minded but kind hearted. And they know everything about my youth....
He cackled, and showed his teeth and even more gaps.
We came to the end of the vineyard, and the land was steeper and very rocky. We stopped there for a few minutes. Dumbo examined the harness and the loads of the donkeys to make sure that everything was snug.
He explained "We will be going down the Devil's Valley road. But don't worry. Both Phyllis and Stupid are completely sure-footed, unlike you!" He laughed and pointed to my ankle.
The Devil's Valley road is narrow and very steep and the footpath at first goes down a cliff. I gripped the saddle and shut my eyes. However, what Dumbo said was true, and all the donkeys placed their feet carefully, and chose solid rock. We safely arrived at the bottom of the Devil's Valley road.
This was in the shade of the vertical rock wall, and there was a fast flowing stream with many waterfalls. We had to make several crossings of the stream on wood and rope bridges that shook dangerously.
We finally arrived at a spot that was wide and quite level. Dumbo said we would stop there for the noon meal. There was a small cave in the cliff, and nearby a pile of painted rocks, such as I had seen near where Grom's father lived. Dumbo went over to the pile.
"Look", he said.
He whistled. After a minute, a big golden snake came out of the cave, and went to him.
It was about three meters long, with black, brilliant eyes. Its forked tongue rapidly went in and out of its mouth. Dumbo bowed,and offered it a sugar cube. It slowly shook and raised its head, took the cube, and hissed. He gave it a second cube, and then a third. The snake lowered its head, and returned to the cave hissing.
He then gave the donkeys nosebags, returned to BabyJane and me, and sat on a rock.
"That is my friend, that guards the Devil's Valley road", he said, "On all the trips from the mountain to the valley, I greet it, and give it three sugar cubes. Fortunately, I have never had an accident on these trips. It is extraordinarily old, at least one hundred years. My father knew it. He drove donkeys as well."
"All Loglanders", he continued, "respect snakes, that are wise and noble. The people of Whistle Mountain, respect snakes more than other Loglanders. We believe that they want to whistle, but cannot. Therefore they are mentally distressed, so we must respect and help them. Lojbandians, however, fear snakes. They insult someone by calling them a 'snake', unfortunately.
Yes, I know, I said. And I remembered Lieutenant Josmaos
We started again, and shortly after, left the Devil's Valley road. And, after that, the road to the bottom of the valley was easy. We arrived at the road and several houses. BabyJane and I dismounted from Phyllis and Stupid. After I got on my crutches, BabyJane picked some flowers from the roadside, and put them in Stupid's cap. Dumbo shook hands with us, and gave us each a sugar cube which was quite dusty, as it had been in his pocket, and continued with the donkey train.
We sat on a bench, and waited for a bus.