A pouncing lagoon pushed the waters washing over a long stretch of white beach, fizzing in echoing rolls and sweeping into the sand to bed its fine grains firmly. There lay a body in a costume fallen like a chunk of log. Someone poked his shoulder with a finger. He opened an eye to find the Strait of Malacca in the night with blacken flora of rainforests covered with dewdrops on the banks on both sides.
A naked girl with long black hair squatting down on heels noticed a twitch in his body. She got up on her feet and cried in native tongue. Some naked folk rushed out of the canopy of heliotrope trees, low palms, octopus bushes and beach plums. They carried the lad on a palm leaf mat up a mile down a pathway with she-oaks…a vast turquoise lagoon on one side and ocean on the other. Laid him on the stone of a vevo – a bathing pool – built of hard coral rocks with steps to descend, filled with fresh water and white jasmines. And those climbers with ornamental pink buds enclosed this clearing with mangroves, sleeper weed, water hyacinth, spider lily, garland flowers, indigo, sword ferns, lantern and laurel trees.
He was bathed and treated with gooseberry, fog fruit, rockweed and devil’s backbone by the women who wore black wraps tucked under the crotch and topless. Some wore silver girdles on their waists weighing lockets of silver. Young girls flinching to see this white lad wasn’t even snipped from a godly coronation.
There came three men with black wraps around their waists. A petite dark man in the middle who looked like a clove wore a fur-lined overgown and nothing under, a red cavalier hat with feathers. They carried this lad to his elder wife’s house that stood in a hamlet of two dozen houses along a broad sandy road. Few houses erected of coral stone and whitewashed with lime plaster. The rest thatched houses. This road natives called ‘Rua Magu’ lay across the island lit in the sunlight with peacock flowers, morning glories, oleanders, sunflowers, bell flowers, rain trees, plumeria, bougainvillea, hibiscus, ylang ylang vines and red jasmine hanging over low fences.
Lawns carpeted of white sand and gardens full of ornamental shrubs, vines and creepers, orchids, white jasmines, periwinkles, cockscomb, wild poinsettia, queen of the nights, four o’clock flowers, needle flowers, beach lilies, firecrackers and white jasmines. Backyards covered of breadfruit trees, jack fruit, papaya, mango, sweet sop, lemon, pomegranate, custard apple, sapodilla, curry leaf, cork wood, pomelo, drumstick, gooseberry, jam cherries and tropical fruit trees.
The garbed man’s elder wife’s house stood at the end of the road. Garden here was dull with creeping one-leaf clover, love-lies-bleeding, catmint, false daisy, bird’s nest fern, hogweed, lemongrass, yellow mallow, vervain, fever nut, hemp and covered of cedar mangrove. Banyan trees and screwpines covered the sky and the ground full of dry leaves. A boundary fenced of sorcerer’s bush and pigeonwing vine.
Each house got a name. This house named after the blue variety of the pea; Kulhandili-mau – Clitoria.
Karanfu sat down on a swing inside his thatched cottage, “Nome?”
“Luís Vaz de Rodrigues,” that fair lad replied. He recovered very well and in good shape.
Karanfu scratched a brow and uttered in native tongue, “He does not understand a word,” and carried on, “De onde?”
Karanfu shook his head, “He’s not Portuguese.”
“Português,” cried Luís.
“Afundou!” he beamed and a row of tainted teeth appeared on his face, “Nome do navio?”
“Flor do Leste.”
He lost his smile. Then uttered in native tongue, “Well, marinheiro koì, settle with my wife.” He offered his home to stay – actually, his wife’s house.
Luís was born to a merchant family in Lisbon. He graduated from Henry’s School of Navigation in Sagres at the end of the world. He could remember the narrow lane down the hill paved of black and white pebbles of basalt and limestone. This road curved down to a busy port full of ships. His house on the hill protracted an overhang so decorated of azulejo and lanterns under a beech tree and the view of the town with red roof houses of the wealthy. The cathedral of Sé de Lisboa soaring like a Romanesque fortress with castellated walls, a great rose window over the entrance and arrow slits in the towers, standing there for 400 years since the liberation from the Moors.
Lisbon, mistress of the seas, was a kingdom of a great colonial empire with trade links to the Far East. A prime market for luxury goods to satisfy the tastes of the elite classes across Europe. A large and far-flung trading hub faced challenges to administer resulting in a gradual decline in Portuguese trade monopoly. King John ordered every male between 20 and 65 to join the military.
Luís entered service enlisted to a square-rigged caravel called Flor do Leste. It came of short notice as the captain called to set sail to the seas.
Luís’s two little sisters, dressed in silhouettes of full skirt ropa with long sleeves in silk Dijon and cerulean colours, embroidered wide neckline, lace up front bodice and jewelled headdresses, were among those faces at the banquet served of seafood, bacalhau and sardines, citrus fruits and wines…on his farewell. It was such a gorgeous evening with a picturesque sunset over the Atlantic.
In the spring of 1550, Luís Vaz de Rodrigues left as a marinheiro at the age of twenty-one. His ship set sail to the Gulf of Guinea. Next, around the Cape to the Indian coast of Mozambique. Then to Goa in India. Here, Flor do Leste joined an armada to reach the Far East. She stopped at Moluccas or the Spice Islands and loaded 160 metric tons of pepper, cloves, cinnamon and balsamic resin. She carried a hold filled with treasure; chests full of gold and silver coins.
It was then the New Year and wind blowing from the east. Captain Furtado set sail to return home. While in the Strait of Malacca, crew discovered missing amount of water and leaks in the tanks. Captain wanted to anchor in the nearest waters and fix the holes. Flor do Leste was a new generation caravel with ovens and storage facility, cabins and dining room. Captain Furtado wished to make this journey in comfort.
Another brilliant day, green waters consistently rolling to the shores covered of mounting forests. A very energetic crew dropped the dinghies and barrels to climb the shore and fetch water from a spring.
Disaster struck at once when a massive cannonball leaped over the waters to blast a portion of the hull and all hell broke loose. Batak tribesmen began to shoot with muskets. Sailors abandoned the dinghies and swam back to the ship. Meanwhile, Flor do Leste armed with 16 guns began to bombard the shoreline. She stopped right under a hidden gun in the bushes covered of sand. There was a fire caught in the brushwood.
Captain pulled up the anchor and slowly his ship moved out of the waters. This narrow strait was infested by pirates and the most dangerous waters to cross on his entire journey. He lost two crews.
Left with forty men, captain made another error to carry on with the journey since the damage could be fixed on the way.
Flor do Leste rolled into the Andaman Sea and its sails blowing in fair wind. She was coated of a deep blue pigment of ultramarine. Crew managed to fix the hole in its hull, at least, temporarily.
By nightfall and quite unexpectedly, huge waves turned swells to surge and the horizon darkened. Winds died and the sails hobbled. Captain Furtado surveyed the rise with a brass and leather telescope looking for a ship with black sails.
Bolts of lightning struck the waters around and thunder rumbled overhead. Then a shower of torrential rain came down from the sky. The ship rolled on its sides and the mended hole breached to bring in water. Finally, Flor do Leste foundered and the crew abandoned the ship in an area close to Pasé where the famous carrack Flor do Mar sank in 1512.