The Lost Tribe

The Lost Tribe

I’d heard a rumour

There was a lost tribe


Erased from memory

Well, more hidden than lost

It was kept isolated

By nature and, more worryingly

By man made barriers

I’d heard the stories long ago

First in a passing discussion

That sparked my interest

Then began a collaboration

Working with a fellow traveler

A far more experienced explorer

To look through rarely sampled volumes

In all the hidden corners

Of the oldest stores of knowledge

To which we could gain access

As the story pieced together

It revealed a people

Unseen for the longest time

Not simply due to their remoteness

But prevented from reaching the outside world

By a more aggressive tribe

Who concealed them

In a natural prison

With a man made door

Intrigued we searched on

For their location

In many places around the globe

But all became false leads

Until one day the clues we found

All pointed to one place

And there we travelled

Or as near as we could get

The last stage of the journey

Was slow and arduous

Hacking our way

Through the impenetrable jungle

That lay between us and our goal

A maze of entanglement

So confusing

It sapped our strength and will

Forcing us back

Sending us in circles

It seemed to have intention

As if it wanted us to give up our quest

I often wanted to end the search

But my companion drove us forward

Seemingly knowing my mind

Better than I myself

And persistence was rewarded

When one day we heard a river

Coming from the base

Of an approaching mountainside

Just as we had read

This must be it

It was then we realized

We had no plan

To deal with what we might find

Too keen to make discoveries

Without knowing

What to do with them when found

So stop we did

To take stock and rest

Devise a strategy

For how to proceed

And decide what our goal truly was

Tread carefully adventurers

For what you uncover

Has been this way for many a long year

Ideas of reality

Will not be as yours

Do not judge those you find

Against your own values

No ordinary river

This was not nature’s work

A man made channel

Carved into the ground

Like a huge scar

So deep the water ran far below

The sheer sides unassailable

Our side much higher than the other

The channel was fed by a huge waterfall

Cascading down the slippery face of a mountain

Feeding the river as it arced around

Cutting off the narrow entrance

To a mountain pass

What could be so terrible

To warrant such defenses

For a barrier it undoubtedly was

It felt like I knew this place

I have been here before somehow

And I was compelled to leap across

Foolishly feeling sure I could make it

My companion restored my reason

Deciding instead

To look for those who put it here

The land this side was rugged

Not barren but not fruitful

The vegetation scratched at our limbs

As we moved away from the river

In search of the keepers of this barrier

We didn’t have to wait long

As if our presence was known

I had felt watched

We were met

By a large group of people

A tribal delegation

All dressed up

In the most eclectic styles

Clothes that didn’t fit this scene

Mixed and matched

Parts of old uniforms

Bright cloth and feathers

Hats and some coats with shiny buttons

On these bare legged men

Not tribal dress at all

Just for the occasion

To create a sense of pomp and ceremony

We almost laughed

Welcomed with overt smiles and gestures

We went to their village

A poorly kept place

Not best organised

But functional

They showed us their homes

And how they lived

Very eager they were to show us

Almost looking for approval

To impress us

We talked at length

And a feeling of unease stirred in us

As the ceremonial garb they wore

Came off bit by bit

Revealing themselves from their camouflage

The longer we stayed

The more native they became

When we asked about the river

The finery wore off

First they said there was nothing in the valley

No need to go there

No way to enter anyway

Swearing the river was a natural feature

Please stay

And enjoy our hospitality

The longer we stayed

The more we saw their characters

Beneath the fancy dress

Some became short tempered

Others showed fear and despair

While some became angry

When we asked again about the river

As the mask slipped further

Frustration and bitterness began to surface

These people were not what they portrayed

When first they greeted us

As the people revealed their true natures

My companion

An experienced negotiator

Used that skill

To slowly draw out the story

Of what had happened here

As we gained their confidence

We found the legends we had heard were true

There was once a large tribe here

Prosperous and fruitful

Until there was a civil upheaval

And this tribe drove the defeated ones

Into the mountain pass

It happened so long ago

None here remembered it

Nor remember the building of the barrier

None even remember

Ever seeing the lost tribe

Or what was the reason for the split

To them it is only myth

Yet their fear of them was real

No-one ever goes in

And no-one ever leaves

Save for a legend of a boy

Who long ago it was told

Came out of the valley

Before the barrier was finished

And disappeared into the jungle

We stayed a long time

In their uncomfortable hospitality

I felt our presence

Had made them more reflective

Looking at themselves against us

A slight softening of fear occurred

Until we finally persuaded them

To help us to cross the river

They would not come

But a bridge of sorts they made us

Temporary but adequate

They all kept a safe distance

And even turned away

So as not to witness our crossing

Denying their assistance

Once we were out of sight

We heard the sound of hurried work

As the bridge was pulled back up

There was no going back now

Deeper in we searched

Along the pass until it opened out

Into a valley

Lush and green

With clear water

Completely enclosed by white faced

Impenetrable mountains

As far as the eye could see

Like a beautiful idea

Inside a mass of grey

After a time here

We began to feel lighter

The weight of our mission

Less burdensome

Then eventually

There was a sense of life around us


Said a surprised face


He apologised

Unable to remember how long

Since anyone had visited

I noticed a quizzical look

As if he thought he recognised me

And he happily took us to meet the others

Holding back our story

Until we learned theirs

But like those outside

They neither remember why, when or how

The great barrier was built

Yet they were happy people

They were welcoming

Kind, calm and loving

Even to strangers like us

With no needs that weren’t fulfilled

In their little pocket of heaven

But they also lived in fear of the legends

That the outside world

Was not a place for them

Their like would not survive outside

As in the legend

When they would not fight

And were easily driven from their home

Outside was dangerous

There was safety in the valley

Secure behind the barrier

Then we regailed them with stories

Of our travels

Their surprise

When they heard that they were fabled

And of our time spent with their captors

Their former tribesmen

They listened with wonder

As we explained how they neither remember

Why nor how this happened

And that in our time with them

We sensed a softening

And a longing to be helped

But all the help they needed

Was right here

Much time we spent in the valley

And much we learned from them

It was hard to desire to leave

But our mission was clear

Not to expose this to the world

Not yet

Just to expose these people

To eachother

So with bravery and love

We trekked

To the edge of the mountain pass

To the scarred out gorge

Where the water flowed

And there we called out to the tribe

Till our lungs were hoarse

We called to them to meet us

Finally two men came

There was fear

And there was anxiety

But we eventually convinced them

To lower the new bridge

And meet us on their terms

From that day on

After those difficult first stages

The tribes remembered

They were blood

And that small bridge

Was never raised again

In time more and more

The people crossed the divide

Slowly becoming one tribe once more

By the time we chose to leave this place

A permanent crossing had been built

Only then did we know

We could safely leave them

To grow on their own together

Not all would cross that bridge

Some on the far edges would never

But every group has it’s extremes

But in time

One day in the future

That man made scar

May again be removed

Just a remnant remaining

To remind them

Of past mistakes

And where this tribe once lived

Will be whole again


©Copyrighted by Colin Ryan (2010)


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