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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Luxury lodges

    Every year around this time, it is the same dilemma. It is the time when I can go on my annual vacation and I just cannot figure out where to go. There are too many choices yet it is difficult to make a right choice since I do not have much information available to make a proper choice. I needed a comparison chart so that I can vacation packgages prices and choose the one which one fits my budget after I have decided my destination. The main factor in deciding one vacation spot over another is that the hotels near the airport will get more preference than the ones further away.
    It was sheer luck that I discovered a luxury lodges which helped to plan out my vacation with the minimum amount of stress. No more hunting around for the best deals in town and worrying about the exact location of the hotel nor what I will be doing during my free moments. This will surely help me to save transportation cost between the different locations which I want to visit during my stay. In the long run, the transportation costs can be quiet substantial. Therefore, if one does a bit of smart budgeting then they can free up some cash and utilize it on some area like entertainment, etc. Read more...

      Wednesday, October 13, 2010

      The enchanted forest

        It had been a long day and it felt good to be home. It had been a cloudy sky when I had left home many hours back and I expected a downpour. During my journey, the sky cleared up a bit and looking up I saw a sickly yellow full moon leering back at me. The pale yellow moon still hung in the sky and it always gave me a chill whenever I saw it hanging there as if following me around. Being a superstitious man, it gave me chills as it was a bad tiding moment. These long drives on long dusty back roads always wore me out and the unexpected car problem in some back road surrounded by a corn field added to my woes. Opening up the hood, I looked inside and could not figure out what was wrong. Slamming the hood down, I went back inside and turned the blinkers on and waited for some passerby to lend a hand.

        It was a lonely stretch of land where nothing could be seen for miles upon miles. The moon still seemed to glare at me through the clouds and at other times through the tops of houses as I walked through the field looking for a house where the folks were still awake. Looking up, I cursed at it telling it to go away and leave me alone and not add anything to my misery. It seems like I’ve been through this area many a times yet something was different. I could feel it in my bones, but I could not put my finger on it. I felt like a leaf caught in the gently flowing river called time which gets swept along vainly struggling to find it own path as it gets swept along at ever increasing rate until all control is lost.

        A huge patch of dense trees in the distance caught my attention. I could see some flickering light there and I changed my course hoping some help could be found. It was an old forest and if it could talk, it might have a tale or two to tell the passerby. I looked around and it seemed like it was alive and could sense me looking at it and walking around. I swore I saw many pairs of large yellowed eyes some distance away staring at me which disappeared when my attention turned towards them. A soft breeze started to rustle the leaves and ruffled my hair ever so gently, yet died down as quickly as it had risen. In this enchanted forest, it seemed like a thousand voices talking to each other and I could not name the source. The voices seemed everywhere. As I walked deeper into the woods, my uneasiness grew in the near total darkness broken at times by the moon peeking through the tree canopy every so often. I heard the sound of water gently flowing down some creek and the sound of a startled deer hoping away.

        Off to a side I saw what seemed like some lanterns going by while some people were whispering to each other. I called out and the voices died as quickly as they had appeared and the lanterns were turned off. I could not make out what was happening as total darkness engulfed me once more. After what seemed like eons, the lights came on once more and the bodiless voices with lanterns seemed to chase each other through the shrubs, weave through the trees and finally disappear some distance away. As the voices fade away, I wonder how so much time in this timeless forest has flown by and how do I find my way home.

        In near total darkness which is intermittently lit by moonlight, I stumble across the forest until I come across a creek. The strange gurgling sound draws me closer and I kneel down to wash my face and fill my water bottle. Yet before I could do so, the sound of hoofs drew my attention. Soon a black buck appears from the dense forest clearing as if being chased by something or someone and races across the open field. As it nears the stream, it slows down and seems to hesitate and finally heads back towards the darkness from where it came from. A shrill cry emerged and the forest was till once more. Startled by the site, I drop my water bottle into the stream. The flowing water seems so black even in this dim moonlight. The splashing and rippling caused by the water bottle subside soon yet I hesitate to pull it out as I see strange lights in the water of what seems like reflections of star constellations even though the sky is covered by forest cover. Losing interest I back off and great full that I have an extra water container.

        Discovering a beaten dirt track alongside the stream, I start wander down it hoping to find the end of this forest. I eventually come to the end of the dirt road after what seemed like an eternity and discovered a village located in the clearing. It seemed very odd one from the distance and looked completely deserted like one of those towns where all have gone to work leaving behind locked houses.

        A toad on a bicycle wound his way through the dirt tracks selling caramel coated fairies on a stick to anyone who was interested. Off to one side, elf kids could be seen scrambling up and down trees effortlessly while the Minotaur lurked in a patch of water lilies looking for another battle. Endless dark forest stretched from one horizon to the next and I wondered how long it would take to cover this distance and what lies beyond. Someone opened a door as I heard the wind chimes twinkle and the sounds of little kids as they ran down the dirt track to buy either a vanilla, chocolate flavored fairies or the caramel coated fairies on a stick from an ice cream seller who was riding past and madly jingling the bells on his cart.

        As I wandered down the dirt path which followed the water way, I eventually found myself at the end of the village. A small patch of land with a boundary wall around it drew me as if I was in a trance. There were dried leaves all over the place and a crunching sound was heard as I walked across the path. As I near the faded bronze gate which has a lion head emblem, a gentle wind rustles through the dried leaves and opens the gate.

        Upon entering the compound, I notice a cot on one side under a shaded area. The bearded man seems to be seemed to be in a deep trance with mind numbing weird symbols floating around him and levitating a few inches above the bed. As my head gets soar from watching the glowing symbols appear out of nowhere and disappear once more, I look around and see that there is a Red Bench of to one side under an old bearded tree which seemed like the grandfather of all the trees. A pair of yellow eyes blinked and one of the thick branches beckoned me towards the chair as if it knew all along that I was coming.

        Sitting on the wooden cot, I wondered how long it would take for my sore legs and feet to recuperate so that I could continue my journey once more. Something about the old tree set me into a relaxed mood as the tension, stress and tiredness flowed out of me effortlessly unmindful of the giant red eyed crows which were going caw caw on a tree branch on top of me. My eyelids started to grow heavy as sleep slowly overtook me and I slowly got pulled into a vortex.

        The shrill cry of many hawks on the hunt woke me up from a horrible dream and I woke up with a gasp and I realized that it was late in the afternoon and the sun was burning away the last remnants of the dream I was caught in. Sweat was pouring down my face and into my shirt which was soaking wet. The dream was persistent and still seemed to pursue me into this world and I toppled backwards and fell out of the chair breaking the roots from the tree limb which was attached to my head until a few moments ago. The evil glint in the yellow eye which was there a moment ago receded and upon rubbing my eyes I saw an old leafless tree surrounded by crumbling walls, broken gate and a rotting broken cot by the corner.

        Not wanting to linger in this haunted forest anymore, I trace my footsteps back to my car in the corn field patch. On the return journey, I see the same houses and yet they seem more alive than the previous night. I walked slowly back towards the houses and the sound of activity was evident even from a distance. The sound of children playing in the streets and smell of food was gently carried over to my general area.

        As I neared the houses, a solid permanent black top road started and my pace quickened. My body was tired yet my mind wanted to go on. Reaching the first door, I knocked on the door. A short while later it opened and an old man stared back at me. He just stood there and gave me a long hard stare as I stood frozen to the spot. After some time, he finally asked if I had been in the woods. Looking back over my shoulder and then back again, I stuttered back yes and asked how he knew. As I was pulled inside, I was told what a fool I had been to venture to those woods and was lucky to come back whole. As I stood in front of the mirror, I saw a white haired wrinkled man who had the haunted look in his eyes. A hot steaming plate of food and some coffee was offered and I was told that I could stay till my car was fixed. The old man went off to the field and I was left on my own to dwell on what happened last night. I found my way to a room upstairs and took a long shower to wash off all the mud, leaves and filth off me.

        I couldn’t fall asleep as the same dream was eating me up. It was the same dream as always. I was roaming around the woods like I not only owned the place but it was the lord and master of all I surveyed. I happened to pass under witches tree house unaware that it was at home. Sensing me under the tree, it hopped out and gave me a chase on its turbo charged broom while throwing all types of nuts. Pretty soon I was outgunned and out maneuvered.

        Looking for some type of safety, I spied a house in a clearing. I dashed towards it and ran inside as the door was open. The witch was in hot pursuit and followed right behind. The lady who owned this house was startled by the commotion and called for help. Help did come and the people tried to scare away the witch through the open door. I was mighty frightened by all the commotion and somehow managed to find a safe hiding place in the luggage space just above the door and it refused to come down no matter what people did.

        The lady of the house decided to take charge in order to bring things under control and hopefully shoo me away in the process. They somehow managed to get hold of the witch and sniped off a small clump of hair. Tying it to a broom stick, they tried to shoo me away. It seemed like a clump of hair just doesn't do it anymore...So a whole witch was needed. Initially, everything is working out well. The witch was under control and it really doesn't know what's going on. As things quicken up, the poor witch becomes mighty confused and disoriented. It starts to squeal like a pig and flap its legs to get away. It’s held tighter until the work and hand is done. Things slowly go out of hand and the noise increases to very high level. Pretty soon, fur is flying all over and they see a very nakkie witch in her hand.

        Everyone realizes that getting a real witch, tying it to a stick and stuck it up there hoping that I would venture out and eventually come down does not always help. I did see the witch and vice versa. The witch on the stick just got a bit agitated ….but I stayed put in its place as I was too scared to come out.

        At this point, I always woke up drenched in sweat and looking around making sure it is just a dream. The day wore on and the farmer came back. He took me to the barn and I was ecstatic to see my car all fixed and humming like new. I tried to offer some payment for the help given, yet the man refused. He did give me a magic charm to wear to ward off the evil dreams as well as a voodoo doll. I had to go back to the woods and to the same tree when the moon is full once more and use it to banish these spirits from my mind and soul. I feel lighter now and there is a spring in my step. No more dreams to haunt me and I feel like a free man. No more short cut nor wandering into enchanted forests unprepared. I finally drove off to my destination having learned something new and hopefully I will be able to return the favor one day.


          Friday, October 8, 2010

          Caravan Holidays

            Every year around this time, it is the same dilemma. It is the time when I can go on my annual vacation and I just cannot figure out where to go. There are too many choices yet it is difficult to make a right choice since I do not have much information available to make a proper choice. I needed a comparison chart so that I can vacation packgages prices and choose the one which one fits my budget after I have decided my destination. The main factor in deciding one vacation spot over another is that the hotels near the airport will get more preference than the ones further away.

            It was sheer luck that I discovered caravan holidays which helped to plan out my vacation with the minimum amount of stress. No more hunting around for the best deals in town and worrying about the exact location of the hotel nor what I will be doing during my free moments. This will surely help me to save transportation cost between the different locations which I want to visit during my stay. In the long run, the transportation costs can be quiet substantial. Therefore, if one does a bit of smart budgeting then they can free up some cash and utilize it on some area like entertainment, etc.


              Wednesday, October 6, 2010

              Those bygone days 2

                It was just another wasted day as I pulled my nets back in once more. For the last many days, I had not caught anything and the river seemed dead. Tilting the hat back and wiping the sweat off my brow, I looked into the hills and saw a storm approaching. Time flew by faster than the swiftest winds as I got busy pulling in the nets, the fishing gear and tying it down in the boat before heading off to the shore. It seems like it was morning till a few hours ago, yet the sun was setting already. The bright ball of fire had turned reddish orange and the shadows were getting longer with each passing minute.

                It had taken many long months to turn the parcel of land which I now called my own into what looked like a home, yet it was not complete. I still lived in the abandoned mansion on a small hill top which I called a home for now as it was the only livable thing in these parts. Looking over my shoulder as I walked over to the house, the river looked so cool, refreshing and it seemed to call me out. I wanted to walk barefoot on the green grass and slip into the river to drive away the coiled up stress. The river had a free and untamed look to it and it always seemed to hold me under a spell whenever I ventured near.

                Looking at the darkening sky, I resisted its call as I felt the wind pick up, lightning flashed in the sky and one could hear loud booming thunder in the distance. As I was running across the land and up the hill, the wind died down suddenly and there was a growing darkness that did not seem like a good omen. There was utter silence all around and I heard a herd of horses neighing as they galloped further into the valley and into the mountains seeking safety amongst the ravines.

                The sudden downpour soaked me to the bone and the dirt road leading up to the road turned muddy. It was no use sinking deeper into it while despairing about the mess I was in. All the power lines leading to the town were knocked out and none of the houses down in the valley showed any sign of activity. Not a soul was in sight and even the stray dogs were nowhere to be seen. The rain died down as quickly as it had started, yet it seemed like there was another storm was brewing just over the horizon. You could feel it building up and in the bones which seemed worse than this one.

                Upon reaching the door, the handle jammed and I kept hammering it till it creaked open. Entering the room, I lit the lantern, shed my wet clothes as quickly as possible and hung them by the fireplace. The fire had died down long ago yet the ambers still smoldered brightly under the ashes. Throwing a hand full of twigs and some straw, I stirred the ambers and kept fanning till the twigs and straw caught fire. Bit by bit, I kept adding the logs till it was a roaring fire and I wandered around to find a clean dry set of clothes.

                A change of clothes made me feel better. I wandered off to the kitchen to hunt up some food. The cupboard was overflowing yet the only item that I wanted was something which could be made as quickly as possible. I eventually discovered a long lost packet of soup which was quickly opened and poured into boiling water. Just as I was sitting down, I heard a knock on the door. As I opened the door, I saw a semi parked down the street and a tall, stocky bearded man staring intently at me. As he started to speak, a flood gate opened in my mind. The past which seemed to have been locked up and forgotten seemed alive and I started to drown in its memory. I felt like a drowning man who thrown in rapidly flowing flood waters, yet it was the past memories I was drowning in and not water.

                Looking past him, I saw that he had come alone. All I could see was a dense forest cover across the street and the street was empty except for him and his truck. After a moment of silence, I asked “What brings you to these parts my friend?” as a steaming hot mug of soup was handed over. I told Bill that I was pleasantly surprised to see him as I had not seen anyone of my friends for many long years as I headed over to the kitchen to grab a mug for myself. We pulled up our chairs near the window and I looked out at the torrential downpour which had started once more. The street had turned into a small river and I couldn’t see the houses across the street. With the passage of time, I had all but forgotten my previous life until this evening.

                I had come here to forget my past and I had never expected anyone I knew to wander down this long forgotten road which had drawn me like a street light draws a moth many long years back. Time had moved on as I lost myself in one nameless town after another until I finally found some peace here. It seemed like everyone had forgotten about me as we grew up and went our own ways, made new friends along the way.

                The room was dimly lit as the only light the room got was from the fireplace at one end and the lantern hanging on the wooden pillar near the door. The fireplace light flickered and threw shadows all over throwing my mind in more turmoil than it was already. The tick tock of the clock was the only sound heard for awhile as both of us were lost in our own thoughts. Coffee was offered and gladly taken as we exchanged stories of our travels around the country once more. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to ask how I was located even though I tried my best not to leave any trace behind. I was told how I was asked about in every bar, highway stops and any other places that served travelers. He met a dead end at every place until a few people mentioned that they had seen me around these parts. Like a blood hound, he finally tracked me down to this place and it unlocked those memories that I thought I would never experience again.

                Bill told tall tales about his travels around the country just like old times and I told him of mine of this enchanting place which seemed like paradise on earth. In what seemed like another lifetime, I remembered that I had always loved going on long hauls for the company and had been doing it for many long years whenever the opportunity presented itself. It had become a routine habit which I had never skipped no matter how bad the weather. The road was like my second home which I never got tired off and it always called me back when I was not on the road.

                The grandfather clock down in the hallway boomed as the hand struck eight. It startled me out of the deep thought I was in and I only realized this by the fact that the logs in the small fire place had burned down to cinders and cold was creeping back into the room. Looking out the window, I saw that the rains had ended long back. Through the partly cloudy sky, a full moon seemed to look down at the land as if looking for something. The star lit night made me wonder what my future holds.

                “You still awake?” I asked. Shaking his head he replied in the positive. I walked around the house to close the windows and check the doors to see if the house was all locked up for the night. This house had been my shelter in more ways than one. It was getting late and I wandered back to ask what he wants to eat as I was heading off to see what I can put together. As I neared Bill, I was wondering what he had caught and roasting on the fire yet my stomach started to grumble and I asked him how soon the food will be ready. We ate the food in total silence for awhile.

                “You know about it right?” I asked Bill. “Ayup. You know how small the town is. How could I miss it as it was the talk of the town. The phones were buzzing for many days. It’s shame ain’t it? ” He said after some thought. There was something on his mind. “What are ya going to do about it?” He asked. “Nothing. I reckon she’s already been dumped as a two timing women that she is.” Came back the reply in a whispered tone. There was turmoil in my mind as I looked over my shoulder and into the growing darkness thinking about the times I tried to lose myself in nameless towns and forget my past. I still feel hollow inside as the emptiness has never got filled. I guess I’ll never trust nor love again.


                We went silent for awhile with each one of us lost in our own thoughts. The roaring log fire had died down to a small fire once more. A few more branches and a log were thrown in to keep it going. The talk shifted to other things. There was something on his mind but he held it back. I let things be as my mind floated back to a bygone era which I seemed to have forgotten till now. I saw myself in my mind’s eye travelling down one interstate highway after another and one dead after another delivering the goods.

                My sun burned gaunt face turned towards the window as the harsh winds that refused to die down swept through the mind. The creaking and swinging branches outside the window startled me out of the dark thoughts I had fallen into. There was silence before I broke down for what seemed to be an eternity. I had lost my anchor in life long time back and I still felt like I was cast adrift on a stormy ocean with no land in sight. A firm hand on my shoulder brought me back. He told me that I had to be a man. The past is gone and can’t be undone. One must learn to let go and the inner wounds shall heal. Life always comes a full circle at the end I was told.

                The power had come back as the house lights flickered on. The street lights down below in the valley showed empty streets and the town seemed deserted except for the stray dogs that were busy chasing a few cars that passed through the town main intersection. The sounds of long haul trucks were heard humming by below and the sound of a blaring truck horn as it went flying past like a tornado woke me out of the half sleep daze I was in. The moon was rising higher and higher and sleep was overtaking me. Throwing a blanket over Bill who had fallen asleep in the chair, I somehow managed to make it to my room and I fell asleep as soon as I hit the sack.

                It had been a long night and it felt good to be awake. Looking out, I see that it is going to be another cloudy day. As I got out of the bed I ran my hand across my face and thought of getting a shave and a bath before heading down to a hearty breakfast for both of us. I needed some food to fill my empty stomach but that will have to wait a bit. Hearing my footsteps on the creaky wooden floor, Bill hollered up the stairs about getting my butt down by the table or else I ain’t getting anything.

                As the day progressed further, I noticed that the sky cleared up a bit. In this lonely stretch of land, in some areas nothing could be seen for miles upon miles except for an endless stretch of trees. The town activity was in full swing and I could hear the sounds of people in the street as they went about their daily activities. The sun still seemed to glare at the land through the clouds and at other times through the tops of houses as it made its journey through the sky. Sometimes on those dark and lonely nights, I felt like a leaf caught in the gently flowing river called time which gets swept along vainly struggling to find it own path as it gets swept along at ever increasing rate until all control is lost.

                After spending a week or so, Bill told me that he had to go since he had realized during the stay at my place that he had to wrap up some unfinished business. I asked him several time what he meant, yet he kept mum. One fine day, he took his leave and I was saddened by his departure. Life slowly yet surely resumed it normal course as I went to the river to see what bounty the nets would bring in and heading down to the town to sell my wares and buy provisions. Life seemed a little emptier, yet it was expected and I got used to the solitary life once more.

                As I stepped out of the house and into the black top road, I saw a sight which not only startled me but took my breath away. It seemed like a ghost from my past had returned to haunt me once more. Bill was driving my truck leisurely up the hill. I had abandoned it in a rundown condition in company warehouse thinking that I’ll never need it and yet at the same time not wanting to sell it off either. As the truck pulled up, I heard it purring and humming just like a brand new machine. “I’ve fixed it up for you and here are the keys” was all he said as he went inside to grab some coffee.

                My breath quickened and heart started to beat faster as I realized that deep inside I really wanted to be behind the steering wheel of a semi once more. My body was tired yet my mind wanted to go on the road and reclaim my past. A few days later, I checked my bags once more before I zipped them a final time and asked Bill to put them in the semi-trailer with the rest of the stuff. One by one, things were packed away and. the house became emptier. What was once a home turned into a house once more. It took some time to double check the empty shell of a house to make sure that everything was shut off, windows closed, utility companies informed and the post office told to route the mail to my old house.

                Locking the door for the final time seemed the hardest thing to do yet it felt like an old chapter had been closed and a new one about to begin. It was tiring and stressful, yet I felt relieved leaving this old house and its surroundings had just too many memories. We finally left for the new destination and our truck being a commercial vehicle took the main roads. A new life and new adventure awaited me.

                After what seems an eternity, the morning sun gently peeks through the tops of the houses as I drive down the tree lined path looking for my house. It’s been many long months since I have been this way, yet it seems like I never left it. So much has remained the same yet a lot has changed. Stopping the truck in front of my house, I get out to see my two kids wrestling each other to see who’s the king of the hill. As a breeze gently rustles the trees leaves and ruffles through my hair ever so softly, I hear children voices heading my way and as they round they turn, they run off towards the park as they chase each other through the shrubs and weave through the trees. The voices fade away and I wonder how so much time has flown by so quickly. Drawn by the voices, the kids notice me and one of them run off inside to tell momma while the other one tries to tackle me. Falling to the ground, we roll off some distance and the little kid tells me with a huge smile that he’s won. Letting the kid climb on top, he sits on my shoulder as we walk towards the house which is finally a home to see what my little lady is up to.

                Time flew by and days turned into weeks. One day, the dispatcher called to tell me that I’m off on another long haul. The heart grew heavy, yet I knew that I had to go. My girl didn’t want me to go, yet she knew that it brought in the much needed doe. Promising to be back soon, I started up the rig and headed around the bend.

                After travelling what seemed many long hours, my weary legs seemed to give out yet I drove on as the distant town lights grew brighter with each passing mile. The wind ruffled my hair and I pressed the horn to let out a long blaring sound as I passed by dozens of cars. The early morning sun sped its way through the horizon as I followed its path through one town after another. The tank was near empty when I pulled into what seemed like another deserted gas station. Waiting for the tanks to fill up, I looked around and wonder how much things have changed since the last time I came this way.

                Pulling out of the joint, the truck ate up the miles as quickly as the swift winds above as I tried to make up lost time. I was already way behind and the truck depot was pestering me to make up lost time. The radio blared out same old songs as the radio jockey moaned and groaned about the Mexican food he ate the night before. Looking over to the side, I saw long haul trucks humming along the highway and blaring their horns as they passed me by. Time flew by as day turned into night and once more in day. The road was my second home and I felt alive behind the wheel as I searched for new adventures everyday.