A Walking and Climbing Talon
Friday was cloudy with thick rain clouds hanging over the mountain, but Matica and Talon still walked to Ramah for his practice. They hadn’t arrived back home when bullet-sized raindrops thundered down on them. Running the last hundred meters to the village, they took shelter in Amos’s house where Talon pressed himself close to the wall and waited, anxiously looking at Matica and the rain.
‘Poor Talon,’ said Jose, who had come home to shelter from the rain as well, ‘it looks as if he does not like the rain, but it will not last long. It is too heavy.’
And so it was. After ten minutes, it stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The blazing sun shone through the clouds, filling the air with hot dampness. Steam rose from the muddy ground and big puddles of water.
As Matica and Talon walked home, Talon went around every big puddle and stepped over the smaller ones, but he would never step into a puddle. Coming to the stony ground in front of the house, he shook his feet to shake off the mud then went inside.
‘Did you tell him to do that?’ Mira asked, amazed.
Grinning, Matica shook her head. ‘No, but he must hate mud and water. He never stepped into a single puddle.’
Talon didn’t go out to continue his training again until late afternoon when the puddles had dried up. Mira prayed they would have fine weather for their walk the next day.
And so it was.
It was a sunny Saturday, still a bit wet and humid, but not as hot as before. No clouds hung over the mountain. It was as clear as it could ever be.
After breakfast, Mira packed their lunch into the basket. Crayn had told the Indians what they intended to do for Talon and they thought it was a great idea but wondered if Talon could manage the long walk and the climb. They volunteered to carry Talon, but Crayn just smiled. ‘That would be a good idea, but I don’t think Talon would let himself be carried.’
On the way to Ramah, Aikon was bubbly and cheerful because he loved the adventure, and Mira hoped that Talon would make it. Crayn thought to himself, Well, I won’t carry him. And Talon? He chatted happily.
Tamo and Tima met them halfway to Ramah. After a short rest at the rock in Ramah, they walked on, but Talon began to limp just as they arrived at the place where the poachers had hidden the egg. They had a long rest, but his limp didn’t get any better; he waddled slowly and let his head and wings drop. Only the encouragement of his parents made him go on. Now and again, he would run and flap his wings to relieve his feet.
‘What can we do?’ Matica said, concerned.
‘Uh-oh… there’s nothing we can do. We can’t carry him,’ Crayn said. ‘Just go on, Mat.’
In the end, after nearly four hours of walking, they arrived at the foothills. Stopping, they admired the scenery. Talon lay down on his side on the grass, relieving his feet.
‘I’m glad I came,’ Mira said, admiring the view and the mountains. ‘I’ve never seen them so close. What beautiful scenery.’ She waved her arms around, inhaling deeply. ‘It’s so peaceful here.’ Looking at Talon, how he was laying, she said, ‘He needs a long rest before he can climb, so we’ll have our lunch here.’
She sat beside Crayn and unpacked the lunch. Next she looked at Talon and shook her head. ‘Look at him. He really must have sore feet to lie down like that. I truly hope he can fly back home. Tsk, tsk, a climbing bird.’
Crayn pulled a face and whispered, ‘Home? Flying, yes, but not home.’
Mira looked at her daughter in concern, then whispered to Crayn, ‘Don’t let her hear that.’ Louder, she said, ‘I have to admit, Talon has done very well up to now.’
‘Look up there,’ Matica said, as she and Aikon sat beside her. She pointed at a high ridge where Tima stood. ‘She’s showing us where Talon has to go.’
‘Oh my, oh my. Isn’t that a bit high?’ Mira gasped. Crayn just shook his head.
‘We’ll see, but see the next ridge?’ Matica asked. Mira nodded. ‘That’s where they had the egg. At least we don’t have to go way up there, but we still need an easy way up. Tamo!’ she called him. ‘Could you look and find an easy way up for us?’ Tamo immediately flew off.
As they packed up their leftovers, Crayn got up to see if Talon was ready to go on. He sprang to his feet and followed him. ‘Okay,’ he said, ‘here we go.’
Now came the last part of their journey. Talon was tired and still limping, but he shook his head impatiently as if to say, ‘I will and I can do it. Let’s go!’
Mira and Aikon stayed behind and watched them go up the mountain.
Zigzagging up the wide, soft and grassy path with Tamo flying before them to show them the way, it was easy going in the beginning with the ground only sloping upwards a little at a time.
‘Dad, no wonder the poachers could get up here so easily and quickly,’ said Matica.
‘Yeah. Tamo should look for a higher place for their next egg, but I think the bad part of the climb is still to come – for Talon, anyway.’
After half an hour of steady climbing, the path became steeper and narrower the higher they went. For Talon with his short legs, it became very difficult. At times, he had to walk sideways, letting his tail hang over the edge and with his raised neck scraping along the slope. One time he lost his footing, but he grabbed the grass on the cliff with his beak and held on firmly until his feet found the ground again. He grunted with effort. He really pushed himself to the limit.
When Crayn looked up, he could see there was still a long way to go. He didn’t think that Talon would make it, but after another half hour, they were quite close to Tima who still sat on the ridge above them. Just then, Tamo landed beside her and both of them encouraged Talon to climb to them.
On the last part of the journey, Crayn and Matica crawled upwards on their hands and feet then heaved themselves over the ridge. Standing up, they watched Talon. He spread his wings to balance himself then clawed his talons into the dirt of the vertical slope and, step-by-step, with deep grunts, he climbed that last, difficult hurdle. He strained his body to the utmost limit of his ability.
Accomplishing it, Talon fell onto the plateau, puffing heavily. Tamo and Tima nudged him then flew to the next plateau and screeched to encourage him. They had a good view from there of whatever Talon was about to do.
‘Dad, look at the view! Mum! Aikon!’ Matica yelled down. ‘You should have come up! It’s breathtaking up here! Hey, Dad, what’s that?’ Surprised, she pointed to a little valley they could just make out between two high peaks. ‘No, it can’t be, but it looks as if it was an old settlement of the Incas. Is that possible? Out here?’
‘Why not?’ said Crayn.
‘So, it is?’
‘Oh yeah, and we can visit it when you come with me to Cajamarca. It’s nearly on the way.’
‘Really? That would be marvellous. I’d love that.’ She looked up at Tamo and Tima. ‘You two always have that great, amazing view.’
‘Hmm, true,’ her father said, then looked at Talon. ‘He’d better plunge down now, I don’t want to stay up here too long. How about it, Talon?’