Ailsa’s Travel theme: Mystical

Ailsa says, This week’s theme is inspired by a beautiful photograph Vlad posted over at Wind Against Current. Click the link to see his photo, and when you pick your jaw up off the floor, come on back over here and join in this week’s challenge.

Mystical is an evocative term with many nuances. I chose this word because it can be interpreted in so many ways. It can mean spiritually symbolic, otherworldly, ethereal or mysterious. I also love how this word sounds when you speak it aloud, and I can’t help but associate it with mists that conceal the everyday, cloaking the mundane in a veil of mystery. The verb ‘to mystify’; to make mysterious or obscure, is derived from the words mystic and mystery. Ooh, the possibilities are endless.”

I have found myself in a few mystical situations, and usually when we were experiencing less than perfect holiday weather. Some trips seem to be all sunny skies, ice cream and beautiful sunsets, but when we visited Phuket for the second time earlier this year, we were very disappointed with the weather, and especially on the day we were due to take a boat trip across Phang Nga Bay. The tour leaflet advertised “Sail to verdant limestone islands, honeycombed with caves and aquatic grottos, which soar perpendicularly to heights of 984 feet or more, from almost perpetually calm waters.” Well the “perpetually” part fell away when the morning of our trip arrived. This is the best black and white photo I’ve ever taken in colour. 😀 It certainly looked dark and foreboding, and I was more than a tad worried.

Sailing across the bay, those “verdant islands” just looked grey and mystical, but there was no mystery as to where the water which was pooling on our table, was coming from. The boat’s tarpaulin roof had more than a few holes in it. The sea wasn’t at all calm either, but my dad used to be a sailor, so no problem there. 🙂

At one point, we transferred to a canoe, and were taken into one of the ancient grottos. This was definitely a very otherworldly experience, and the fact that there were many bats clinging to the roof of the cave, made it especially eerie for me.

Despite the incessant rain, and paddling ankle-deep in muddy water through the Sea Gypsy Village, the boat trip was a memorable, if  somewhat soggy mystical experience.

Now, I’m sure you won’t object if take you on a little detour to the Grand Old Lady of Venice. On our first evening there, we had a half hour motor launch “Magical Venice” tour of the Grand Canal and some of its side alleys, ending up in Piazza S. Marco. It was so peaceful just sitting in the boat, with just the lapping of the water and the purr of the motor, as we slowly sailed past the decaying grandeur of the ancient palazzos and restaurants. Every so often, we would hear distant church bells ringing, and that together with the fact that we were in total darkness, really made me feel that we were on a magical mystery tour.

Our evening gondola tour, a couple of days later, also turned quite mystical and rather spooky, when we left the main canal, and sailed into the narrow, silent smaller ones. We passed between tall apartment buildings, some with their stone steps half hidden under the water. The plaster had fallen off the outside walls long ago, and their once magnificent facades were looking extremely distressed. As a bell tolled in the distance, I couldn’t help imagining those prisoners of long ago, locked in their tiny cells under the Doge’s Palace, hearing that same bell, every day and night for the duration of their incarceration, which was probably until they died.

Lastly,  I’ll never forget seeing the 386 metre grey columns of Devils Tower appear through the mist, as we drove through Wyoming, on our way to Mount Rushmore. Part of Steven Spielberg’s science fiction movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was shot here, and you really don’t get much more mystical than that. 🙂

Well, those are my most mystical travel experiences. If you want to see what other bloggers have come up with for Ailsa’s theme, just click here.

‘Snow falling on cedars’ on the icy road to Rushmore.

Day 3 from my journal:

We woke up to find that about 2 inches of snow had fallen overnight and it was still snowing. After  breakfast and when hubby had scraped all the snow off the car windows, we set off for Mount Rushmore. I said I wanted a pic of the snowy scene outside the hotel before we set off, but hubby said, “Oh, it’s going to get much worse than this where we’re going. I think we’re in for a bit of what we had yesterday.”  “Great,” I thought, and said, “What ARE we doing?” When you book a holiday, you can never be sure what you will find at the other end. I was reminded of the title of the book by David Guterson, “Snow falling on cedars,” as we set off through the white and grey landscape.

Actually, the snow thinned out after a few miles, and I relaxed. We still had nearly 600kms to go though. A little further along the road, the wind became so strong and the snow was blowing across the road. Every time one of those huge, ugly rigs passed us going in the opposite direction, our car shook from side to side. My iPod was playing Andrea Bocelli singing “The Prayer.” I thought the words were very close to what I was thinking, “ I pray you’ll be our eyes, and watch us where we go…………Guide us with your grace, to a place where we’ll be safe.”  There were few vehicles on the road and it would have been a good day to stay at home beside a log fire, with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate. It really looked like mid winter instead of spring out there.

I was thinking about the time when this area was populated by the Red Indian tribes until the 1800’s. They must have spent a miserable 8 months of the year, living in their tents in the snow and freezing cold with their babies, children and old people. Why didn’t they migrate south to warmer climes, I wondered? We passed through a small town and saw a sign, “88 miles to Buffalo.” Then we were back into the snow-covered countryside. The road was now clear though and we were able to get up to 65mph.  Bob Dylan was singing, “Beyond the horizon,” and I was wondering what exactly was beyond that white horizon I could see ahead. The sky and land matched perfectly; pure white.

We saw a few “nodding donkeys” quite close to the road. These are oil well pumps which draw the oil out of the ground. Hubby obligingly got out to take a photo, and, I suspect, peed icicles behind the car. 😉

We drove through a place called “Ten Sleep” with a population of 343. I wondered whether they repaint the sign after each birth or death. The road then passed through Big Horn National forest, and we saw, through a misty haze, rocks hundreds of feet high, towering on either side and covered in snow and fir trees. At least today there was a crash barrier along the side of the road as I peered down into the chasm way below us. Hubby again stopped to get a pic for me, and you of course.

We rose ever higher around icy hairpin bends and a snow plough going “Hell for Leather” whizzed past us in the opposite direction, with snow flying up into the air, as it cut through the drifts at the side of the road. We passed “Sitting Bull Camp Ground.” Not much camping going down this weather, I thought. Then “Big Horn Ski Resort” which made a lot more sense. Now, the road was all white and only marked out by tall sticks at the side, every few yards. I think the snow ploughs have a full time job here. It was actually much worse than yesterday, but it didn’t seem as scary today because we’d done it all before.

We saw a sign pointing to pre-Cumbrian rocks, 3 billion years old, but couldn’t see anything for the snow, and driving through “Powder River Pass” there was a complete white-out. We just had to have faith that the road would eventually lead us somewhere and soon. I asked silly questions like, “Are you sure we have enough petrol?” and “How far to the nearest loo?” As we started to descend, hubby took the car out of 4 wheel drive. The roads became clear of snow and the temperature rose to -2 degrees. The wind was still gusting across the road, but we could see the green grass and then soon a few house came into view.

In Buffalo, population 3900, we found a loo in a supermarket and speaking to a couple of locals, were told that the snow is very unusual so late in the season. Chunks of ice were falling off the roof of the car as we pulled into the gas station. The sun was coming out. A rough-looking guy tried to hitch a lift to Casper, whilst hubby was pumping gas. I gave  hubby my ‘Death look’, but he isn’t the type to give a ride to a stranger. This guy might be a serial killer on the run, my fertile imagination tells me.

On to the Interstate 90 and there was no snow to be seen, except on the mountains behind us, It started to rain hard, but that was better than snow. We passed a huge truck with a sign painted on the back saying “DO NOT PUSH.” Would anyone really try?

We made a slight detour to Devil’s Tower which rises dramatically to a height of 1,280 feet above the Belle Fouche River. This has become a rock climbing Mecca and was featured in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” It was an important landmark for the Plains Indian Tribes, who called it “ Mateo Tepee” or “Grizzly Bear Lodge.”

After seeing this, we stopped off at the ‘Devil’s Tower Trading Post’ for a hot chocolate and blueberry muffin, which was so very welcome after the long journey. The parking spaces right outside were reserved for Harley Davidsons, but no sign of any this weather. We drove on to Rushmore and found our lovely hotel for the night. Clever hubby had found it on the internet and got 25% discount for a last minute booking.

I’m sorry that we are only here for one night. The suite is really gorgeous and there is a gym and a hot tub down the passage.Tomorrow we will actually go to Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, the Custer Memorial and then on to Billings Montana.

Now I’m rushing off to play the piano for the shoppers at the mall, But I’ll be back tomorrow to tell you some more of my tale. Have a great day everyone.

 

 

Weekly challenge: Close

I really couldn’t decide what to show you for this challenge, but then I remembered that a couple of years ago whilst on a trip to Yellowstone Park, we came upon this amazing 386m monolith situated in the Black Hills in northeastern Wyoming. It’s a national monument, called “Devil’s Tower.”

“What has this got to do with Close?” you might be asking. Well this site was made famous by Steven Spielberg’s 1977 awe-inspiring science fiction movie. “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind,” when it played a prominent role as an alien landing pad. This shot from the movie shows the government compound at the entrance to Devils Tower. This is actually the true entrance station to the monument, and you can even see the roof of the historic ranger station behind the cars and fencing.

(photo from Wymark -movie locations)

“Did you know that the oft used tagline, “We are not alone,” came from this movie poster.