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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 AE and his planet-building ape

Introduction - North - West - Southwest - Southeast & North Again

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.
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 long tour looping through east, north and central Bel. To the southeast is long, low, hot Fulisse Peninsula. The tour of hot arid Southwest Bel isn't written yet, so don't click it! Like the Northwest, it lies on the very edge of my master world-map, so building less-distorted regional maps for western Bel has been slow work, and the maps you see are less accurate than for most regions.

Introduction - North - North - West - Southwest - Southeast & North Again

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

We'll start at the edge of the Sirru Highland in northern Bel. Right at the western rim, Sirru breaks up into rugged snowy fingers--the Aissa Range groping west, some 8 km high (26,000'), and the stubbier Trosh Range reaching southwest, topping out at a mere 7 km (23,000'). Both ranges are a good six km (20,000') above the hot dry basins at their toes. Earth has few mountains this tall head-to-foot--Nanga Parbat, Dhaulagiri, Denali, Santa Marta--but in Capsica's lower gravity, such giants aren't rare. These huge ridges generate updrafts the natives can ride west into Northwest Bel, but beware--the ridgetops are too high for tourist fliers like you. You won't black out, but you can't get enough lift. Nor can you swoop to their feet; that's deep in the hot red zone, even though it doesn't look red--too dry for much vegetation of any hue. The Tsung Basin is a hazy dun barely blushed with pink; it could almost be the Taklamakan, or Death Valley. You can, with care, steer along the Aissa front waist-high, between the crash and the oven zones, for a long day or two, to XXXX Pass, just over 3 km high (2 mi) between the Tsung Basin and the cool rainy lowlands of Tam Bay. Here you have an opportunity you rarely get on Capsica: to explore a Capsican port city. It's winter, and the head of the bay's 55° north. It's a frosty 30°C (86°F) down in Tam Port, and not as humid as most of Bel's north coast--Tam Bay is long and mountain-flanked, blocking all but the strongest storms. You can actually visit!

You sweep down the slope from the pass like a diving pelican, and in two hours you've gone from what felt like Central Asia to what could be a quaint Nordic seaport--though of course most of the foliage is red and purple. Port Tam, at the head of Tam Bay, a sound 600 km long (375 mi). It's the biggest port for 2-3000 km in any direction. Eventually we'll have sketches here. For now you'll have to speculate on what the locals look like exactly. All I'm sure of is, they'll fly. The gravity's light and the air's dense; Darwin's practically begging them to.

But after a day or two, the cold snap fades and Port Tam thaws back to a more normal 35°C (95°F). Time to head for the hills of Tam Peninsula and stick to the cooler highlands. As you'll be doing a lot on this tour...

The Tam and Dalnin Ranges form a tangle of ridges, valleys and plateaus called the Zas Knot, rather like the Pamir Knot on Earth. Not quite as high; the Tam Range tops out at 5.2 km (17,000'), but the Dalnin, two day's soar to the southwest, reach 6 km (20,000'). The plateaus and gorges between get storms off the sea year-round, so rainy, lush forests cover most of it--red and purple near-pines in the gorges, but silvergreen near-aspens on the heights. We're far enough north still that the only signs of locals are farmsteads on wide bends down in the sheltered gorges; the uplands woods are cold dark and miserable in local eyes, and the few open ridgetop meadows are windy and even colder. In short, ideal for Terrans! Strip down in the day, a sleeping bag at night, and you're fine. Plenty of pseudo-mosquitoes, but your body's so cold you fool their heat-seeking sense! To many Capsican parasites, you're a living stealth plane.

West to the Dalnin Range, a T-shaped collision (or collusion) between forces. The well-understood force is continental drift--the Dalnins proper parallel the trench offshore; subduction's jamming the Notahi Platelet under them. It's no wonder they rival the Andes--similar forces. But the Dalnins have a long spur southeast, nearly as high, at right angles to the main coastal range. Seems as inexplicable as the jumbled east-west ranges in northern Argentina, or Utah's east-west Uinta Range, or the Mogollon in Arizona. I can only guess the Zas Spur is something like the long straight ridges of the fracture zones in the Arch (or Earth's equivalents, our undersea rifts)--a seam between bits of crust creeping at somewhat different paces, though in the same direction. Or the whole continent corrugates here under pressure--this end of Bel shatters into at least three platelets that on Earth would be mere island arcs, but on drier Capsica, they're high and dry. Whatever the cause, the locals use the Zas Front and the updrafts it creates as an easy flyway across the otherwise flat savannas of the interior; it'll loft you halfway to Fulisse.

We'll get there. But we have the west to see first.

Introduction - North - West - Southwest - Southeast & North Again

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

For a week you sail southwest down the Dalnin Mountains. It's well inland at first--far below you see lush red plains and several arms of broad silver--Keina Sound. Over the horizon are coastal hills up to 1500m high (5000'). It's almost a California with a flooded Central Valley. (Sorry future readers; I know for you "flooded" is redundant. But in my age the Valley was dry.)

At last the great range starts to curve south. On Earth, it'd be an island arc. Here on bare-bones Capsica it's a curving wall of volcanoes nearly 1000 km long (c.600 mi), called BFTSPLK...

It's not a simple, single arc, but (unusual on either Capsica or Earth) several broken, roughly parallel sub-arcs. Rather than slipping meekly under, the oceanic plate seems to have fought back, fracturing the continental one. The nearest parallel I can find on Earth is Indonesian--the Mentawai Islands off Sumatra and Java. And that's a simple, straight double wall.

Not this!

Looking inland, that lowlands are much drier--the Tsesha Veldt. Pink and lilac grasslands sprawl to the horizon--and hundreds of kilometers beyond. Heart of this subcontinent. I'd compare it to India's Deccan, but that's weak. Lowland not high, an alluvial basin not a basalt lava plain... the only similarities are dry and hot.

Introduction - North - West - Southwest - Southeast & North Again

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

All these fragmentary mountain arcs grow lower and more broken as you head southwest. Best to stick to the main, highest inland arc. Coolest.

Difficult day--you cross the gap at the mouth of the NNN Valley where the river, draining breaks through the coastal range to reach the sea. Low hills. Hot.

East a few days...

We reach VVVV Highlands, a knot of mountains north of Liet Gulf. Explore

East along the BBBB Range, the southernmost lobe of the VVVV Highlands....

A grueling two days. You must cross the broadest lowland gap on this tour--from the BBBB range to the Tipseh Hills in the heart of Southwest Bel. The Hills are modest next to the jagged ranges around them, but still reach 3 km high in spots (nearly 10,000')--enough to be quite bearable. But the between the BBBBs and the Hills sprawls the lower Tsesha River's floodplain. Hills do crop up, but nothing over a mile (1600m); it's going to be a hot, miserable couple of nights.

East along the Tipseh Hills to the JJJJJJ Range. South along this jagged ridge up to 5km high (16,500'). It's more scenic and more hospitable for Terrans than anything in weeks.

The southern end of the range is the gateway to two more subcontinents:

  1. Fulisse Peninsula to the east. Hot and dry, mostly, but navigable for tourists, due to a mountainous spine where Earth travelers will be, not cool, but alive. So at least a skeletal tour's in place...

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

    Orbital photo of southwest Bel, a spidery continent on Capsica, a small world hotter & drier than Earth.
    Southwest Bel. Looking south--equator roughly on horizon

  2. Southwest Bel--don't click yet! Touring this lobe of Bel will be rough. It's why I've been putting it off.

    The northern half is a plateau high enough to be tourable, but the southern half's low and furnace-hot. For Capsicans too, I mean.

    Not much rain, either--it's at the latitude of the Sahara, with high lands upwind; they've already squeezed most of the rain out. A sprawl of deserts, marshy lakes fed by the northern mountains (or they'd be dry pans) and savanna, with few mountain refuges for Terrans--or the locals, for that matter. Even Capsicans find these lowlands pleasant only on the coasts. Just too hot.

Anyway, all the travelers to and from South Bel, Fulisse, and more distant Maisila and the Arch, ride along the windwall of the JJJJJ Range. It's an aerial strait, where all of spidery, gangly Bel's flyways finally meet.

That means the sky is crowded. You meet lots of locals.

Eventually, that will mean adventures, and portraits, and inhuman interest stories here...

...but this is a skeleton. I'm just trying to get you through alive.

Introduction - North - West - Southwest - Southeast and North Again

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

Some difficult days hopping east from sky-island to island, above meadows and orchards. It's no hotter, but it's humid now too.

Navigation grows harder; cloud-towers mount above the hills. Even the blood-red flatlands are half-hidden in white.

Fumbling through clammy, steambath cloud, you get nostalgic for the austere but spacious west.

You just can't go farther east, into the vast, fertile, flatlands of Atledu Plain. It's the wealthiest region of Southwest Bel. But it's unbroken hot lowland. Fatal for you.

Instead, north along the Alosi Mts. A single great north-south ridge paralleling the JJJJJ Range to the west. Drier country in the rainshadowed (but still not arid) valley between.

The Alosis start to sag. But you continue north over a gap of sorts--olive-wooded hills still over 2 km high (7000'), hot but bearable--shade, and creeks to swim in.

After a couple of sweaty days you reach the (relatively) cool, high Transverse Range. Only 30°C up here! (86°F)

If you flew northwest a couple of days you'd end up where we started, near the Aissa Pass and Port Tam.

But our way lies east, I think--I want to end at...

The gap across to the Trosh Range, leading back to Sirru in the Eastern Bel tour.

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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