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Orbital photo of Capsica, a small world hotter and drier than Earth Orbital photo of Capsica, a small world hotter and drier than Earth. Capsica: Northwest Bel

by Chris Wayan, 2016

This one's for you readers, who pestered me until I had to build it

STUB ONLY

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Bel is about as big as South America. It's the second largest landmass on Capsica, though not by much--Chai and Kifura are nearly as large. Bel's the coldest continent on average; much of it's subarctic, and Eastern and central Bel have extensive highlands, further cooling the climate. That's good for Terran tourists; you can travel freely all over the north, and in winter you can even explore much of the south.

Unlike Chai and Kifura, several separate tours will be required to explore Bel fully; it's a spidery, amoeboid place, and its lobes are very different. Like Siberia, Bel as a whole spans nearly half the planet! It's hard even to photograph from space; bits trail off into night, or over the horizon, or are lost in sun-glare.

High orbital photo of Bel, a sprawling subarctic continent on Capsica, a small world hotter & drier than Earth.
Map of northwest Bel, a sprawling subarctic continent on Capsica, a small world hotter & drier than Earth.

Bel's really not a continent at all in any geological sense; not a slab of lighter rock, nor a unified plate. It's a hodgepodge that just happens (as much of Capsica doesn't) to be cut off by shallow sea. If Capsica were Earth, blessed (or cursed) with deep oceans, Bel's central and eastern uplands would be a smallish continent; the west, an Indonesian maze of island arcs; the southwest, a Borneo with satellites; southeast Bel, a mere Hawai'i.

This tour explores the ridge-maze of Northwest Bel. There's a separate loop for central Bel's highlands, Zil Peninsula to the east, and Smolda Peninsula south of them. To the southeast is the equally long but much lower, hotter and drier Fulisse Peninsula. The tour of hot arid Southwest Bel isn't written yet, so don't click it! >ike the Northwest, it lies on the very edge of the world map, and building less-distorted regional maps is slow work! Rough maps for this tour weren't easy, and are less accurate than most regions.

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Here we'll explore the ridge-mazes of central...

Near the end: if you're masochistic you can peel off here into the deserts of Bel's southwest. (DON'T CLICK! No page yet!)

The saner choice: continue the tour of this much more tolerable central region.

Eventually, on the east side, you can veer off if you wish into northeast Bel and the Zil Peninsula.

Some of the tour from NE Bel can be adapted to describe the Sirru Upland...

By now it's late fall, and pleasant for Terrans there--mountain meadows, daytime temperatures no more than 20-30°C (68-86°F) and downright chilly at night (you DO need that coat), below snowy peaks 7 km high--not too rare in Capsica's low gravity, but these are particularly impressive because unlike most of Capsica's mountains, some are ice-sculpted--not as massively as many of Earth's, for Capsica has no cyclic Ice Ages--but noticeably. Horns, cirques, cliffs. Map of northwest Bel, a sprawling subarctic continent on Capsica, a small world hotter & drier than Earth.

The main problem for tourists is that it's TOO Terran--including the air pressure. It's a mere 1.4-1.5 atmospheres up here, not the 2.4 you have under your wings at sealevel. Capsican are strong fliers with a big safety margin; you're not. Passive soaring's still possible, but flying under muscle power is very hard up here! It's why I led you west an extra week. You could handle the cold of the high, snowy, washboard ranges of northeast Sirru--better, indeed, than the natives--but you couldn't fly those high passes. The western rim of Sirru will be hard work, but passable. And at least as scenic.

Right at the western rim, Sirru breaks up into rugged snowy fingers six km (nearly 20,000') above hot dry basins--Earth has few mountains this tall head-to-foot--Nanga Parbat, Denali, Santa Marta. Those huge ridges generate updrafts the natives can ride, but they're too high for tourist fliers--the air gets too thin. Nor do we want to swoop to their feet; that's deep in the hot red zone, though it doesn't look it--too dry for much vegetation of any hue. The Tsung Basin is hazy dun barely blushed with pink; could almost be the Taklamakan or Death Valley.

So instead we'll slip east of these monsters, across Rethica Steppe. Thin air and hard cruising, but level at least. And pretty. Vast emerald grasslands--real green, not dull pink savanna or tan desert. Green, with looping little creeks, and snowy ice-cream scoops on the horizons all round.

All this lush Rethican grass looks like good grazing. You're puzzled why you don't see vast herds of... something. The answer's that few animals can gain enough energy from the grass to sustain a body temperature near 70° (165°F!)--at least while remaining light enough to fly. Big animals lose little heat; mammoths or moose or even Terran horses would do fine here. But few Capsican animals are that massive--they need to stay light to fly in the thin upland air, and flight's needed on a world of winged predators. Any single factor--the need to bulk up for insulation, the contradictory need to stay flight-trim, the low energy yield of grass--is solvable, but together they discourage grazers in cold regions. Capsica's uplands and arctic have an empty feeling; plant life has adapted but hot-blooded animals generally haven't. The one area where you do see herds munching green grass is the Antarctic highlands--Hithluma and the Dragonspine Range. The commonest animal there is the flightless licha, a grazer with ridiculously thick fur: like a deer with a Persian cat-coat and silly vestigial wings, like a costume from a Nativity play confusing the asses and the angels.

But few animals at lower latitudes have followed the licha. Would you give up flight for a steady meal ticket?

Through XXXXXX Pass, our highest and hardest, 4.5 km up (15,000'), and southeast toward the Lake District. Scenic!

The Wen-Zagrin Lakes are a cluster of large, high-altitude lakes are nearly 4 km up (13,000'); the peaks above them on the west reach over 8.5 km (28,000'). All the Wen-Zagrins are freshwater. The first we encounter is Rin, the highest and westernmost. It's an eerie, milky turquoise from glacial silt. Zag, downstream to the southeast, is a clear blue. By next day we reach Wen, the easternmost and biggest, some 140 km long and 80 wide (85 by 50 mi). Wen's a famously deep azure (silt-free and very deep). The lakes are apparently named for a rare, aromatic Capsican herb surviving hard frosts, found only in the Sirru highlands: wen-zagrin or wintzagriin.

From Lake Wen, we climb west through a twisting pass to the very rim of Sirru, and south along the face of the great wall. Updrafts! Relief! Grand cliffs. Earthlike peaks above, alien redscape below--hazy plains warm even now in winter. Inland basins with little rain.

South for days to the end of the highlands...

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Map of northwest Bel, a sprawling subarctic continent on Capsica, a small world hotter & drier than Earth.

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The southern shore of Northwest Bel is the gateway to the near-continental Fulisse Peninsula Hot and dry, mostly, but navigable for tourists, due to a mountainous spine where Earth travelers will be, not cool, but alive....

High orbital photo of the subcontinental Fulisse Peninsula on Capsica, a small world hotter & drier than Earth.

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May not need five chapters to tour this section, but it's here to be on the safe side. Text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text Map of northwest Bel, a sprawling subarctic continent on Capsica, a small world hotter & drier than Earth.

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Grand summation! Folksy wisdom undercutting postmodern pretension.

Tearful farewells...

Map of Capsica, a hot planet.
Nohaa Island Ralopa Islands Arctic Is. off Bel Notahi Peninsula Eastern Bel Bel: Fulisse Peninsula Continent of Chai Cape Corona Kurai Peninsula Hi and Vepra Yaku (west) and Az (east) Isle of Goret Continent called The Eel Prath Peninsula Continent of Kifura Isle of Valiha Ri Kshen Isles Mt Artho, large tholus, NE Arch Arch, north coast Ekurre Range South Pole Giant World Map

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