Backpacking Burro

Backpacking Burro and The Island: Time for a Reboot

Well, the tale just told (The Lost Journal) has really started something – it’s pretty much killed of one of my stalled stories (The Island – TLJ used its plot) and has forced me to question the Backpacking Burro tale.

Thing is, Backpacking Burro is kind of why I started this blog (or weblog, for Dale 😀 ) way back in July 07. I wanted to tell a tale that lasted only a few posts and then led me to a place where I could start publishing the notecard travel guides I was writing and distributing through my group in-world. Problem is the tale sort of got out of hand – I began to tell a grander story with a greater scale and soon I was in a place where I couldn’t finish it and move to the travel guides. Mind you, the travel guides petered out and stopped in early 2008 as I got more and more involved with other activities such as TSMGO.

So there I was with a story that was threatening to engulf me and if that wasn’t enough I had also started the tale of the shipwrecked man in The Island. Both were draining me, I couldn’t see either ending, I couldn’t see where they were going and, eventually, both stalled. I recapped Backpacking Burro a year ago and restarted it, but it soon stalled again. I also recapped The Island and had the next post written, but neither recap nor post ever made it out of draft folder in the blog.

Cut to last month and after I published a series of diary entries I had written two years previously to set the scene for a horror party I organised, Darien Mason suggested we work together to continue the tale. The Lost Journal seemed to unblock me and I poured words onto the screen. Even when poor Darien was cast out of SL by LL, I continued and within three weeks had written more on one tale then I had in a whole for the other two combined.

So what to do with those two tales? Well the easy one is The Island because as The Lost Journal just used its plot I’ve decided that I’m not going to continue with it. I will publish the final post written simply because it took me so bloody long to write it and set up the photos, but after that I’m afraid it’s gone. And you know how it ends anyway; the natives sacrifice the shipwrecked professor and then years later his grandson finds the temple and faces a similar fate but manages to destroy it. The End. I think The Lost Journal handled it better – it became more visceral in its action scenes and amusing in its dialogue, especially with having another person to bounce off in Jeremiah.

As for Backpacking Burro I’ve decided on a reboot, to use the popular jargon of the moment. I have three or four posts written and in the blog’s draft folder – I am going to harvest them for ideas and re-write. The new Backpacking Burro tale, free of the need to include aspects of a travel guide, will be harder and faster than before. I still don’t have an end mapped out, so it will be open-ended but I’m planning that it will branch off into short tales like The Lost Journal and then come back. In effect each tale will be part of the overall quest in the BB tale. I also hope that I can drag some other folks into this, replicating the involvement of Darien & Jeremiah as I really do believe that collaborative roleplay makes this more fun.

So there you have it – expect a flurry of posts as I wrap things up and restart, then I’ll be on holiday so I’ll take the opportunity to write and get back on track when I return 🙂

BB Post 13 – The Forest of Kahruvel, Part 4: The burning tower

(Note: You can read the recent recap here and previous post here)

The wooden ship moved like some great bulbous whale as it swung around and headed towards the tower. It swooped low overhead and out to sea where it came about to leer over the ships waiting in the harbour below.

The crowd stopped as one, as though it were a single beast holding its breath. Hundreds of pairs of eyes were turned out to sea, fixed in obvious terror as the tall figure at the prow of the ship surveyed them with a palpable hatred. A curious blueish glow seemed to surround the vessel and its occupants, all of whom were covered from head to toe in loose black strips of cloth that denied any close examination of their shape or faces. Their leader was similarly clad, but with sharp curved shapes protruding from underneath. He raised his arm high in what looked like a salute to the people below him and then dropped it suddenly like a sword coming down on a condemned neck.

The crowd screamed and tried to run in every direction at once. The front of the hovering ship began to glow with more and more of the blue light, a large crackling spinning ball rapidly forming in front of the dark figure. Below people were being trampled into the ground and the water. The boats moored up cut their ropes and desperately started to row themselves out to sea. A few brave souls fired arrow after arrow up at the ship, but they were wasted efforts. The dark figure, now lit in a brilliant blue light, smiled cruelly and shouted is a voice that made my spine run cold “RAZDA!”. The ball of energy exploded forwards and down into the massed throng beneath me with a sub-sonic WHUMP! that knocked me to the stone floor. The breath was pulled from my lungs and my ears roared with pain as the air around me screamed past, battering me with the force of a gale. Over the bellowing winds I could hear the terrified screams of the people below. I crawled on my hands and knees towards the edge of the tower, each inch was like digging through red hot sand and I was gasping for breath by the time I reached the lip and hauled myself up enough to look over. I wish I hadn’t.

People and animals and carts were burning in a sea of rolling, boiling blue flames. The ships in the harbour had been reduced to raging infernos. People flung themselves into the waters only to burn even more fiercely in a sea that was itself on fire. The sound of horror was unimaginable and I held my hands to my ears in an fruitless attempt to block it out.

And above the carnage hung the strange wooden ship, the rowers cheering and chanting at the work of their leader.

There was a sudden sense of movement behind me and I turned to find a wooden trapdoor opening and a tall, old man in a dark robe pulling himself up onto the roof with me. He looked as startled by me as I was with him and tried to shout to me but the noise drowned him out so he waved me away and struggled to his feet. He held his hand in front of him clutching a small twig sporting a few green leaves and the air seemed to part around it, to flow either side of the stick as if there were an invisible barrier moving in front of him. He walked to the edge of the tower and stood beside me where he began to say something I could not hear above the tempest. There was a sudden, violent vibration in the tower beneath me with what felt like a ripple moving up from the ground through the stones themselves. The tower shook for a second or two and was still again. The old man shouted into the air and the tower lit up like a beacon. A silent explosion threw me up into the air and I came down hard on the stone roof, winded and unable to move. I saw the floating ship erupt into flame, the dark figures screaming and throwing themselves overboard to the still burning sea below. The old man stood uneasily, blinked twice and slowly fell forward, tumbling over the edge. As he fell the stones beneath me began to shift, to slide apart. I struggled to my feet but it was too late… the tower began to collapse beneath me and I fell backwards with the granite blocks towards the burning hell beneath…

To be continued…

Backpacking Burro: The Forest of Kahruvel, Part 3

(Note: You can read the recap here and the previous post here)
Climbing Rodeo Tower 1

The climb was short but treacherous. Loose stones fell under my touch, clattering nosily into the ruined tower or rolling and bouncing into the sea far below. More than once I lost my grip and swung back into space, only for some lightning fast development in my reflexes to save me, pulling me back panting and sweating against the cool stones.
Climbing Rodeo Tower 2

When I reached the top, I hauled myself over the fractured rim of the tower and sat against the edging stones until my breathing returned to normal. To the north of me, the ocean opened like a shimmering mirage. Sunshine and storms danced around like some endless waltz, making a patchwork quit of the sea. The clouds over me threatened rain but seemed to be holding off and it seemed to be a good time to eat before they broke and I received a drenching.

Climbing  Rodeo Tower 4
As I slowly ate the fruits and nuts I found wrapped in banana leaves in my backpack, I surveyed the inlet below me and the forest beyond. Back the way I came and over into the next valley I saw a spindly construction rising high into the clouds from a far peak, as if some giant crane fly had alighted. There would be my next target, I thought to myself, but after I had forty winks under warm afternoon sun.

Cool stones beneath me. Warm air covering me. Silence taking me.


A voice.


Many voices. Languages I didn’t understand. Shouting. Panic spreading. I awoke.

It was night and terror raged around me. I stood on top the tower, now whole and showing no sign of ruin. The air was hot and full of terrified screams. People swarmed at the base of the tower, pushing and fighting into boats crowded on the shoreline. Occasionally one poor soul would fall between the jostling hulls and vanish into the dark water never to re-emerge. Below me an exodus was underway with hundreds of people desperate to board one of the waiting vessels. Amongst the screaming children and panicked parents I saw militaristic figures with what appeared to be swords and pikes in their hands. To the south, back where Cowell lay, the sky blazed orange and yellow the town of these people burnt.

Without warning, a sound like bones splintering only louder than any sound I had ever heard shattered the sky. Over the rise where I had seen the wooden shack a huge tear appeared, frothing and burning at the edges of its gaping maw that opened to a place of infinite darkness. I gaped in awe as a large wooden boat sailed, if sailed was the right word for a boat that defied gravity and flew like an airship, out of a tear. I could make out small dark figures on board, rowing the oars and clambering up ropes. At the prow stood a figure larger than the others and at the sight of him the people below began to scream and panic wildly. I could hear one word repeated in their tongue, rising above the chaos: “Razda”. I had no idea if it meant the ship, the figure or just simply “Run!” but knew instinctively it meant bad news

To be continued…

Backpacking Burro: A Quick Recap

Dear readers, it has been some time (several moons, I fear) since last I told you of my tales of Cowell, Kahruvel and my mysterious backpack. I have been distracted with a multitude of other events and tales, all more up-to-date than my retelling of how I came to be a strange half-gazelle creature and find myself exploring this strange new world in search of artefacts that would prevent a great war from erupting. I fear I have lost my way and for that, I apologise.

In the spirit of making amends, what follows is a quick recap for old and new alike to renew my tale afresh before I continue in its telling. Many things have happened to me since I found the backpack in Kahruvel and my dithering only serves to prevent me from telling you about them.

So, and with all speed, let me start back at the beginning.

Nigh on a year ago I had taken myself off for a trek through the beautiful forest of Kahruvel when I came across a backpack I presumed lost by a fellow walker. Finding no one near and having no one answer my calls, I resolved to return the pack to the Cowell lighthouse where the forest’s guardian, one Salazar Jack, could look to contacting the owner. Alas, as soon as I donned the backpack it rendered me unconscious and I fell into a troubled state resembling dream-laden sleep where I imagined I was being remoulded and reformed by powers beyond my understanding. I awoke transformed from fully human to half gazelle, terrified and confused!

I ran as fast as my legs would bear me (which, being half gazelle, turned out to be impressively fast) for Cowell village only to find it empty bar a strange old man who proclaimed himself a shaman and said he knew what had happened to me. He claimed I had been chosen and, using a potent narcotic, allowed me to enter a strange other-world where I met powerful forces of nature called The Elders as well as the capricious and playful sprit known as The Elemental that, it appeared, was my backpack. They told me that the land know as The Grid by Linden Labs was much older than people knew and a great civilisation once thrived beneath its sun only to be destroyed in a terrible battle of powers known as The Last Great Shamanic War. It seemed that the great power invested in a few by the very nature of this world had riven a once noble order of shamen into to two opposing camps where one sought to protect the land and people whilst the others sought to control and dominate. The war escalated until the world was all but destroyed and the secrets of the shamen were lost forever. Or so it was believed. Now it seemed that some had begun to unearth those secrets and they were doing so in order to once again launch an assault on the world. For my part, I had been chosen (or I had chosen, depending on your point of view it seemed) to find the lost secrets, the keys, before the forces of greed and twisted desire reached them. My first steps, it transpired, were to be deeper in to the village and then back into the forest in order to seek out truths as to the antiquity and nature of this world.

I began to find many of the archaeological finds unearthed by Salazar and his family – the repeating pattern of eight, the strange standing stones that rippled with energy only I could see, the queer feeling that I was walking over land I knew but at the same time could never have known. Eventually I found myself atop a ruined tower looking out to sea where my next step, once I had eaten and rested, was to head over to a wooden lookout platform I had seen clinging precariously to the side of a hill in the next cove…

And that, dear readers, brings me up-to-date. I shall recount the tale of my journey to the lookout and how it led me to wander the streets of Nova Albion City soon…

HeadBurro Antfarm, Backpacking Burro.

p.s. To read more of the events mentioned above, simply start at the beginning of the blog here.

BB Road Trip 4: Across the water from Bodega to Mohr

I had just rezzed up my small wooden kayak in the twinkling waters* underneath Osprey’s gallery and was preparing to paddle my way over to the ominous looking building on the small island in Bodega bay, when I was joined by my old friend Janey Bracken. She had been following my travels and wanted to join me for a while, a delightful prospect for this lonely old traveller and, as she knows how to handle a sword with aplomb, I felt a little safer heading out to the mysterious structure.

Bodgea to Mohr 1

I rowed the little kayak over toward the strange, silent slab-like building, following its granite quay along the humped landscape to a small stone semi-circular mooring point.

Bodega to Mohr 2

I tied up and bravely offered to lead the way lest the natives be angry, unfriendly or just plain hungry. I was being needlessly gallant as had we encountered anything more fearsome than an angry beaver, I would have been calling on Janey’s sword quick sharp!

Bodega to Mohr 2a

In the end though, I needn’t have worried though for the whole place was not only deserted but seemingly locked up tight. In fact it proved impossible to find a doorway into the building no matter how hard I searched. In the end I sat down heavily against the stone wall that faced the mooring point… and promptly fell right through! I was deposited with little respect and a most painful thump onto the floor of what was obviously a hanger and when Janey burst through the phantom wall to see if I was alright, she found me looking up at a beautiful art deco spacecraft that reminded me strangely of Saturday mornings television. The gorgeous machine, however was cold and shut up tight so we could only admire it from outside and continue to explore the hanger.

Bodgea to Mohr 3

Near where we had entered we found a small elevator platform that, upon the press of a button, trundled us up into the room above. A large window looked north at the ever-burning spaceship on Mohr and it was here we found evidence that I was not alone in my desire to explore this world. A wall was decorated with photographs of an earlier expedition and there was both map and journal detailing how Salazar Jack, Osprey Therian, Loki Pico, Ilianexsi Sojourner and Huns Valen led a bold expedition to the then newly formed mainland continent of Jeogeot in the south back in 2004. It was a fascinating read** and all time was lost to me as I followed their trek.

Bodgea to Mohr 4

Bodgea to Mohr 5

Bodgea to Mohr 7

Soon though, as Janey and I gazed silently through the window over the calm, smooth waters of the inland sea to where the black column of smoke rose from the small island of Mohr, we realised it was time to move on.

Bodgea to Mohr 6

We used the elevator platform once more and emerged onto the roof and into the late afternoon sun. It was here that more people joined our explorations, our friends Pinkie Delcon, Drax Ember and Johnnytreadlightly Nightfire swelled our numbers on the roof***

Bodgea to Mohr 8

Bodgea to Mohr 11

My only question now was how was I going to get them all to Mohr… my kayak only took two people!

Yours in Travel. And a kyayk.
HeadBurro Antfarm.

p.s. Follow this trip on the CNN’s iReport website – why not join in and report from SL yourself! All my stuff is tagged HBA

*I have recently upgraded to the Windlight version of Second Life which allows for photo-realistic skies and waters to be incorporated. The results can be stunning.

**You can buy the book here, at Osprey’s bookstore in Grignano.

*** The roof also contained some weird and wonderful items – a wooden helicopter that appeared to work (though none of us was brave enough to try) and a strange electrical device that somehow generated or contained a ball of blue-hued energy with the most amusing of repulsive properties. Walk into the field and try for yourself, although I take no responsibility for broken bones and chipped teeth.

Bodgea to Mohr 9

Bodgea to Mohr 10

Atlas: The dig begins

When I rented the plot in Atlas, I had been wondering if I’d find anywhere to conduct my own archaeological dig along the lines of those undertaken by Salazar in and around Kahruvel. To be honest, when I found the plot in Atlas I held out little hope that I would find anything there due to both its distance from Kahruvel and Nova Albion and the fact the Lindens had obviously embarked upon a large scale engineering project when they put the dam in which I assumed would have turned up anything buried. No, it looked unlikely this would be a spot I’d find any evidence of previous settlements that pre-dated the Linden’s grid but I plumped for it anyway (at the same time mentally noting to bet on that goldfish someone was entering into the next Grand National). So imagine, if you will dear reader, my surprise and delight when, after setting the camp up in a dreadful rainstorm, a preliminary trench uncovered some amazing stone structures and carved figures!

I have a lot more work to do before I would feel confident about presenting my findings here. I will have to contact Salazar but I fear he is up to his pointy ears in preparations for Nova Albion’s fourth birthday celebrations so I will publish here some pictures of the dig once I know that what I have found is not just the remains of some mall bulldozed into the dirt a few years ago.

The dig site as seen from the east:

The dig in Atlas begins
The dig site from the south:

The dig site in Atlas
I’ve had a couple of visitors too – first Nazna (and what looks like a faerie – I’m sure it is just lens flare):

Nazna, the humming bird and a fairy
And Baker:

Baker in Atlas

More soon…

Atlas: A Mainland Home Of My Own

Ahhh, mainland… the cache of old land, the sweet charm of the past, how delightful. And now a small part if it is mine, all mine!!!*

I’m renting a small spot just above the dam in Atlas as this picture shows…

* As long I keep up my rent payments to Prok, of course… 🙂

BB Road Trip: The hills and valleys of Bodega!

Leaving Davenport behind, the road east moved inland. Hills now rose on my left and the way south to my right opened up to afford me an amazing view of Palomarian which led to Pomponio and Mavericks.

Bodega 1- The View Across the Bay

Curving south, the road reached a junction across from a boutique selling a collection of very elegant gowns for ladies. Looking at my map, I realised I had come to the first milestone in my journey and it was from here I had to decide whether to carry on east, or take the short detour south along the spur that ended in Mavericks.

Bodega 2 - Whish way to go?

Before I had time to make my mind up, I spotted a hitchhiker – my friend Osprey Therian who lived in Bodega had been passing and, upon seeing my car, decided to bum a lift back home.

Bodega 3 - Osprey hitching a ride home

I was all too happy for the company – it can be a lonely business exploring, and sometime a little chat on the road is more than welcome. I drove her the short distance back to her home, the sea of Mohr away to my left and the inland waterways and marina of Bolinas, Myrtle and Palomarian to my right. Parking up on the road beneath the circular terraces of Osprey’s home in the cliff, I followed my friend down to where the waters of the inland sea lapped at the shores of her land and a small inlet led under Osprey’s home and art gallery.

Bodega 4 - Looking north over Osprey's home.

The inlet was alive with wild animals! Sharks circled in the bay, a kingfisher dove for fish whilst a duck took its ducklings out for a paddle. On the lad I could hear a woodpecker drilling into a tree and see a squirrel playing around the feet of a loudly complaining turkey. I had even heard that a small family of bats have taken up residence in the nearby cave, but I decided against exploring for fear of disturbing these nocturnal residents. I felt happy here as one of the saddest things about this world, for me at least, is the lack of wildlife, so to find a place where birds swoop low and squirrels chitter at your feet made my heart sing.

Bodega 5 - Osprey's Wildlife

Leaving Osprey to her business, I hiked up into the hills to the west of the inlet, past the beautiful concentric white curves of Osprey’s costume shop next to the road, and up to where an impressive tower rose into the sky.

Bodega 6 - The Myterious Tower

Beyond that, heading north west, I found what could only be described as a hidden submarine base. I made a mental note to contact the owner and see if he could tell me any more, but for now I continued my wandering in the tall hills.

Bodgea 7 - The Equally Mysterious Submarine base

The hills and cliffs around the base afforded this weary traveller with a great view of the bay. A small island bore a stark looking structure that seemed to be built into the rock itself. Beyond that, looking into Mohr, the horizon was stained with the smoke of the burning wreckage of the porky spaceship.


After I had explored the small island just in front of me, I decided I’d have to take a trip out to see that ship. Time, I decided, to get the kayak from the car…

Yours in Travel. And a kyayk.
HeadBurro Antfarm.

Catching up with friends in Bodega

Last night, in the time I had before the CNN weekly meeting, I decided to explore Bodega, the next region on my road trip. I had just rezzed up my car and was cursing to myself after the third smash in the first 30 seconds when who should appear but my mate Osprey, bumming a lift 😀 Obviously she hadn’t heard about my driving as she allowed me to drive her home – is she mad?

Bodega 1

Once there, after a few bumps and scrapes along the barriers, she took me down to the water of her home to see the new kingfisher that has moved in (Osprey never names her critters but he told me that was his name was Keith). She also took me up the hill (not a euphemism) to she her woopecker (also not a euphemism), Wilma and her squiggle, Sebasian. Oh! and lest I forget, her turkey, Atta.

Osprey's Kingfisher


I was admiring all this wildlife when *poof* in popped Enjah! As my camera was right where she appeared at the time, I got a hell of a shock 😀 We chatted a while and took some pics before their friend, Art, trotted over to join us – we entertained the delightful little fella with a dance from the next The Show Must Go On.

Postcard from Second Life.

Postcard from Second Life.

Postcard from Second Life.

It was at this point I had to leave (boo!) to get to the weekly CNN iReporters meeting where I spent a lovely hour with Janey and Pinkie (yay!) and Jim, Nicole, Hibiscus and the others discussing the CNN iReport site, upcoming stories and Janey’s current story on content theft.

Postcard from Second Life.

Postcard from Second Life.

BB Road Trip: Driving Through Davenport

The road east from Noyo leads into Davenport and this is your first glimpse of just how truly stunning Second Life can look*. Here the road hugs the southern coast of the inland sea and away to the north the water rolls over the famous hand of Omidyar and away towards several small islands marooned in the azure forever. One of these islands is the crash site of a huge porcine spacecraft still smouldering from the impact and if you have time, you really must fly (or sail!) out and take a look at this unique sight.

Davenpoert 1 - The road east from Noyo.

But back to Davenport and back to the road. To the south hills rise and dip and it was next to a gap in the hills I parked my car and headed of to explore. Beyond the gap my way barred by a cold, deep water channel that ran roughly parallel with the road, but gazelles are good jumpers and I managed to cross and climb the other side without getting too wet.

Davenport 2 - Exploring the hills and waterways

From here the ground rises and bulges until, guarded by a huge robot lizard, you will find the caldera of the Pompomio volcano – although it looks as though the volcano is at last dormant**

Davenport 3 - The extinct volcano?

The giant sentinel I had seen on my ascent crouched just beyond the lip of the volcano was named, I discovered, Skulk by its creator, one OoPs Galatea. OoPs was good enough to answer a few quick questions and he informed me that the amazing creature was on a sort of spring clean holiday, banished, if you will, whilst its renovated natural home was being renovated**.

Davenport 4 - The Skulk

As I stood in the afternoon sun and gazed across the sea to the north, I spied some impossibly floating gardens and I girded myself for a cold, fast flight up to them. I say impossible, but of course this is Second Life and little is impossible. Suffice to say that a quick “Up! Up! And Away!” saw me swoop over the larger of the to land on the gallery, its glass gleaming brightly against the garden’s stone bulk. These were owned, a check informed me, by the Wood Elf alliance, a group dedicated to preserving virtual nature spots. I wandered around for quite some time, waving at the regular airplanes that flew by from Abbotts aerodrome to the west.

Dabenport 5 - The Floating Gardens

Soon though, the sun was dipping to the horizon and decided it would be best to press on. I used a teleport ball at the gallery to get down and found myself at a delightful white marble arbour by the water. As I watched the sun go down I found myself wondering two things – why was there a huge rubber duck in the water here, and where did I park my car.

Davenport 6 - The Rubber Ducky of the Wood Elves

Yours in Travel. And waders.
HeadBurro Antfarm.
p.s. Look out for the gorgeous firebirds 🙂

Davenport 7 - Firebirds at night

* Providing you have the hardware, of course. You need a good graphics card to really make the most of this world, but even on my weakling of a laptop I am treated to many, many beautiful views.

** The volcano seems to be dead now, but it certainly did used to erupt. Maybe it is just storing up its energy and will take us be surprise any day.