El Dorado

by Clive Holman

El Dorado

This story is true, but likely misrembered in places.

You may know that in the sixteenth century the Spanish were always looking for the fabled El Dorado, a city almost made of gold, somewhere in the Americas.

There was once an expedition launched with this in mind led by a man called Alvar Cabeza de Vaca. His surname actually means 'Head of Cow' strangely enough.

He decided to try his luck in searching for the fabled city by striking inland from the coast of Florida. His ships anchored off shore, he and his men intrepidly marched into the interior.

After much trekking they did indeed find a large city, but it proved a great disappointment. It was built on a lake for defence reasons, and infested with mosquitoes. It was of little interest to treasure seekers.

There was soon enough a serious conflict with the Indians. Most of the party of Spaniards were killed, and only Alvar and three others escaped the dreadful place.

They made it back to the coast, but to their dismay they found that a great storm had sunk the vessels they had arrived in.

They were unsure what to do at first, but they decided in the end that if they followed the coastline northward they might eventually arrive back at the port which had been their starting point, and which would be their means of getting back to civilization. In this assumption they were correct, but of course, as this port lay south and west as the crow flew, and as they would have to walk round the entire Gulf of Mexico, this would mean a great deal of walking.

With great determination the four men set off . It was far from being an enjoyable experience, to say the least. It was highly traumatic for them. Only having access to whatever food they could find in their environment, and only having one set of clothes, they suffered many privations, extremes of hunger, thirst, exposure to the elements. It was a desperate time.

Sometimes they encountered Indians, who would on occasion help them. Despite this they were soon enough reduced to rags, burnt by the relentless sun, their tongues glued to the rooves of their mouths, their hunger pangs almost crippling, disoriented, sleep deprived. No words could adequately describe their wretched state.

After many miles they encountered more Indians. These Indians themselves needed help. Alvar and his friends, dazed and disoriented as they were, suddenly found to their sheer bafflement that they were undertaking works of miraculous healing, reciting the Lord's Prayer and laying on hands. The Indians queued up to be healed through the Holy Spirit by all four men.

The time came however when they had to take their leave of the Indians. They journeyed on in accordance with their plan and eventually did arrive at their intended destination.

The four men parted company and went back for the main part to their old lives. Alvar became eventually the governor of a city in Argentina.

I'm sure none of them ever forgot their amazing Odyssey.

Though for the sake of storytelling l haven't sought to thoroughly check all the details these events broadly did happen, and l just wanted to help broadcast these strange happenings.

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