Competition: Literally Lost: 47

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The Independent Travel
This excerpt has been taken from a work of travel literature. Readers are invited to tell us:

a) where is the action taking place?

b) who is the author? Blackwell's Bookshops will give pounds 30 worth of book- tokens to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, "Independent on Sunday", 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by this Thursday.

They are laid down in the Longitude of 181, reaching to the Westward as far as 176, therefore their Longitude from England Westward is about 68 degrees. But I believe our Hydrographers do not place them far enough to the Westward. The Spaniards who first discovered them, and in whose draughts alone they are laid down, report them to be a great number stretching North-West from the Line, as far as 5 degrees N., but we saw no more than 14 or 15. Some of them are 7 or 8 Leagues long, and 3 or 4 broad.

They are of a good height, most of them flat and even on the top. Four or five of the Easternmost are rocky, barren and hilly, producing neither Tree, Herb, nor Grass, except a few Dildo-trees by the Seaside. The Dildo- tree is a green prickly shrub, that grows about 10 or 12 feet high, without either Leaf or Fruit. It is as big as a Man's Leg, from the root to the top, and it is full of sharp prickles, growing in thick rows from top to bottom. This shrub is fit for no use, not so much as to burn. Close by the Sea there grows in some Places Bushes of Burton-wood which is very good firing. This sort of Wood grows in many Places in the West Indies, especially in the Bay of Campeachy and the Samballoes. I never saw any in these Seas but here. There is Water on these barren Islands, in ponds and holes among the Rocks. Some of the other Islands are mostly plain and low, and the Land more fertile, producing Trees of diverse sorts, unknown to us. Some of the Westernmost of these Islands are nine or ten Leagues long, and six or seven broad, the Mould deep and black. These produce Trees of great and tall Bodies, especially Mammee-trees, which grow here in great Groves. In these large Islands there are some pretty big Rivers; and in many of the other lesser Islands there are Brooks of good Water.

The Spaniards, when they first discovered these Islands, found Multitudes of Guanoes and Land-turtle, or Tortoise. I believe there is no place in the World that is so plentifully stored with those Animals. The Guanoes here are as fat and large as any that I ever saw, and they are so tame that a Man may knock down twenty in an Hour's Time with a Club.

Literally Lost 46: The book was 'African Laughter' by Doris Lessing. The location was Zimbabwe. The winner is LM Williams of Cardiff.