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Those astonishing circumstances

Occasionally you end up in a strange situation. It happens almost naturally and when you're in the middle of it, astonishment takes over and you wonder how on earth it all took place. This probably happens to some of us, we wander along quite innocently and then, there it is. You've suddenly made a discovery: full of awe, thinking along the lines of impending death, or both.

When I was about 16 years old, I would go out of the main gate at Fairchild AFB, cross the highway and walk down this gravel road. On one excursion I took my camera and some filters with me to photograph the snow. I found the ranch house and asked the owner if I could walk on his property, He said it was okay and off I went. After finishing a roll of 35mm film, I did a short exploration and ran across something rather amazing. A crack in the ground with a creek about 25 feet below. Once spring had arrived I returned and climbed down the cliff face, up the other side, then after about a mile found another similar setting and repeated the climbs. For the ensuing months I would do this often. The State of Washington is mainly volcanic and there are a lot of extinct fissures all over the place. Idaho has the same, some of those cracks are huge and full of water, lakes which go down thousands of feet. In Lake Coeur d'Alene it is deep, plus a dam adds to it.

I remember hearing of a fisherman (I think it was around 1962), on Lake Coeur d'Alene, wanting some Sturgeon for caviar and set his line deeper than normal. A fish hit hard, it took hours but finally he pulled it in. The thing was huge and he didn't know quite what it was. A trip to a university and he had the surprise of his life along with everyone else. It was a pre-historic Sturgeon that was supposed to have been extinct for a very long time. I wonder what else is lurking down in the deep cracks of Lake Coeur d'Alene or Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho Panhandle?
As I may be stuck here for at least another 6 months, I began wondering about what events have taken place and how I arrived at them. If you're like me, you probably don't really consider the steps in-between beginning and discovery, you just go for it. I wonder what the future holds.

Some recollections

I have the time, so spent it looking at some of what I've done and places encountered while on my travels. Here are a few.

A very pleasant surprise
The day promised to clear as I set out to the bus station. My camera, lunch and a full bottle of water were in my small backpack, so that side of things was okay. As bus rides go this was nothing to get worked up about. Stepping down the last step onto the pavement saw me in a completely quiet town. It was siesta with the temperature in the mid 90's and I stood looking at the walled pueblo, a tall church steeple was off to the right. Nobody was around anywhere as I noticed the portal into the old part of the town. It felt odd because most places have someone walking about at this time of day.

I began strolling about without a care, simply enjoying the silence. Once inside the walls a man was noticed entering a building about 60 feet ahead of me. The door closed and the only sound was that of my feet as they contacted the stone under them. Proceeding along the narrow street I noticed each building had a different face. There was a standard brown brick one, others with stone frontages but not the same size or style of cut stone. Some were smooth, others had larger rough pieces of granite. Then I froze and exclaimed, "They have a castle!" Ahead of me, higher up, was a turret and I quickened my pace in expectation. Looking up as I approached the edifice in front of me, the size increased and I was enthralled by the spectacle.
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Can it get any worse?
The driver of the car stopped and I asked the direction to the train station. It was an easy walk of about 2 kilometers, so I set out as normal. Considering the size of the city, there were very few people on the streets and a strange smell was in the air. The rain was pouring down so I had my umbrella up.

Passing a side street I looked up it and saw a manhole cover fly up in the air. This was because the sewer underneath had just erupted and seeing as the roadway was higher than me, it would be a very short time before all that sewage would engulf me. I picked up pace and was glad that the way in front also rose a little, leaving all the crud behind.

Overhead there were a lot of lines between buildings with some on the side of them. Clothing was hanging there in the vain hopes of drying out. A lady stepped out onto her balcony with a pail and threw whatever was inside, down to the street. I moved faster as the contents hit the road surface about 5 feet behind me. What on earth is going on here?

A shop was seen to be open so I went inside to ask for water, because my bottle was getting low. The owner spoke English and informed me he had no bottled water left and the city water had been contaminated—Cholera had broken out! So I bought a Snickers bar, a dozen oranges and large bottle of 7up to compensate.

Eventually I saw the rail station and 6 other backpackers heading toward it. We looked at each other and joined forces. Barcelona was trashed by one of the biggest storms in decades and all we wanted was out of it.

Did it get any worse?
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The summer was hot and dry, something unusual for England and I had decided to make the most of it by going for a hike in an area I had not been to before. The usual public transport thing was achieved and fortunately the station was on the side of the town where I wanted to head out into countryside. No write up was made and I took no fotos.

I'm a 'sun baby', so like this kind weather and was looking forward to seeing what the lay of the land was like plus I had plenty of time. Trails here pass through private property and the areas are separated by various boundaries. To enter and leave one you have go through gates, climb over wooden things named styles or just little entrances which are open.

At first it was the normal sort of deal until I came across a pathway completely grown over, no one had walked down this thing for years. It was next to a wood so I reckoned off trail was a no brainer. My clothing consisted of a pair of quite light jeans, my usual Orvis bush shirt and hiking shoes. Off trail means no pathways, so I grabbed a good stout stick and just beat the bush down.

I made my way through some sections, climbing over fallen trees and pushing stuff aside as the trek continued. The ground cleared somewhat and I simply moved tree branches with my hand, easy enough. Last year's dead leaves covered the ground in varying states of decay. A long thin branch appeared about face high and I just brushed it out of my way without thinking about it. My arm was high and right hand above my head when I let go. Then it happened.

Suddenly a very long strand with extremely sharp thorns was wrapped around my entire body, except for my right arm which was still raised. I froze. Looking down I could see a single string of something filled with small thorns about 3/8ths of an inch long extending from under my shoulders to just below my knees. There were at least 5 wraps. Slowly the un-entanglement began. Bit by bit I turned in the opposite direction of the wrap and had to shuffle my feet away from where the thorn lead was hanging. Taking any kind of step hurt something fierce. My Orvis bush shirt is the thick, heavy one with a lot of room inside and no nasty piercing thing went through. My jeans however were under half the weight of the shirt and every move drove the needles deeper into my legs. It took ages before I was clear, during which I also had to use my right arm to push other branches aside, making sure they did not catch more of these nasty things and make the situation worse. Several puncture wounds were on my legs, but not too much blood so I was okay on that score.

How on earth did this happen? Looking around I could see more of the thorny strands hanging, like skinny malevolent monsters, from other trees and higher branches. The branch I pushed out of the way had caught one and did the whip round on its way back. Oddly enough, my left hand was untouched, which I was glad of because there are some serious veins on the back of hands and that could have resulted in a fair amount of blood loss during the unwrap. Needless to say the rest of the time in the woods was spent often looking up so as to not have it happen again. Was it painful? O-o-oh yes!

A rather big wow factor
Back in February 2016 I planned to spend some time in Italy. The plan was mostly non-existant, I just wanted to wing it for a while and end up in Salerno to explore the south and Sicily. Looking at a map I decided to begin in Florence because I saw the dot on the map and reckoned, why not. Flying anywhere from London is a serious pain, except for the City Airport on the River Thames. Seeing as it was closer than all the others, I booked a flight and then a hostel. The only thing near a map I had was a screen shot of where the hostel was located. That is all I knew about Florence.

Usually any trips out meant getting up at about one o'clock in the morning and making my way via night buses or cab to my departure point. Seeing as the flight time is only about 2 hours, I could do that during the day and be in Florence sometime in the afternoon. The easiest way to get to the airport is by train and then switch to the Docklands Light Railway for the London City Airport. This place is small and mainly for business travelers. Standing in line for 1-3 hours for security does not happen here. It took me about 15 minutes and I was in the international area heading for the gate.

The small plane had around 80 seats and was half empty, so I just took it easy and grabbed a cat nap. After a while I got up and strolled around. I looked out the door window and the clouds had cleared revealing below—the Swiss Alps.

I had never seen them before and was using my smartphone for a camera on this trip. Back and forth across the fuselage I went, taking as many photo's as possible. This was a big thing for me and, adding to the whole scenario, it was winter. The entire mountain range was covered in snow. It seemed to last forever and was truly amazing. I must have taken around 60 shots and returned to my seat. A few minutes later the plane began it's descent into some new cloud formations. The rain began again and a short while later I was in Florence.
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Often, during these experiences, we are in something a lot larger than us. Awe takes us out of ourselves and we can see things from a different perspective. Like what are my troubles in comparison to the majesty of the Swiss Alps.

What about you?

Maybe you've had an event which astounded you. It's probably not the normal walk around the cathedral or similar, but something unexpected and out of the ordinary. Let me know. If you'd like to write a guest post about it, email me and we'll set it up.

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You never know what's around that corner—until you take the turn.

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