The Accidental Extremist http://theaccidentalextremist.com Because bad trips make great stories. Tue, 26 Apr 2011 04:49:48 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.4 Texas Twister [The Unfriendly Skies] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/03/texas-twister-the-unfriendly-skies/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/03/texas-twister-the-unfriendly-skies/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 13:08:25 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=1025 Continue reading]]>

Come fly away with me, my love!

We married on Valentine’s day left the next day for Texas. Our first fight out was delayed for de-icing we made it to our second stop but the plane we were to get on had a problem with the door: it wouldn’t open. We had to take another fight only to have missed the fight to Texas. After several hours of waiting we finally got a fight to Texas—but not to the airport we wanted. We were very tired and wanted to get to our hotel, only to find out they lost our luggage. We had no clothing and and lost half a day on our honeymoon. The next day about 1pm we received our luggage. We did, however, make the most of our 24 hours we had left of our honeymoon. —Diane Redcay, Coudersport, Pa. was a top-ten finalist of the 2010 World’s Unluckiest Traveler Contest, from TravelGuard Insurance, beating out some 800 other tales of woe.

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Seeing Stars [Drive Like Hell] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/03/seeing-stars-drive-like-hell/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/03/seeing-stars-drive-like-hell/#comments Wed, 16 Mar 2011 13:08:30 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=1033 Continue reading]]>

Seatbelts? With this view? Nah...

It happened in Granados, Mexico, in the summer of 1997. I was 13 and visiting relatives on a family vacation. After a feast with family, laughing together, we got into the back of red pick-up truck. Seat belts in a truck bed? Don’t be ridiculous! Bright stars in a clear sky filled night. Suddenly a brilliant light obliterated the stars and then – crash! Hit head on by a drunk driver. I flew straight forward and hit my head on my cousin’s head, fracturing her skull. Then my head was flung backwards and it slammed into the bed of the truck. I woke up hours later in a small clinic dazed and confused. I was sent home, but in unbearable pain from head to toe. So I was taken to Hermosillo, where X-rays showed a C4 vertebral fracture. I had to return home to start eighth grade wearing a neck brace. You would think that my classmates would be comforting – hah! All got was laughter and teasing. The only consolation was that I got an A on my essay about what I did that summer – I survived! —Jessica Lopez of Oxnard, California was a top-ten finalist in the 2010 World’s Unluckiest Traveler Contest, from TravelGuard Insurance, beating out some 800 other tales of woe.

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Floating to Paradise on the S.S. Montezuma [Howl of Nature] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/03/floating-to-paradise-on-the-s-s-montezuma-howl-of-nature/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/03/floating-to-paradise-on-the-s-s-montezuma-howl-of-nature/#comments Wed, 09 Mar 2011 13:08:07 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=1027 Continue reading]]>

Plenty of room, come on aboard!

After a semester abroad in Costa Rica, I traveled with a friend through Central America. We missed the last ferry from Guatemala to Belize, so we hitched a ride on a large canoe that was filled with at least fourteen people, piled high with cargo, and equipped with an outboard motor. Everything started out well, but far from land the motor cut out. The crewmen tried to start it, but nothing happened. Suddenly, I noticed what looked like a black wall in the distance approaching us quickly. It was a wall of rain!

To top it all off, my friend started to have Montezuma’s Revenge, with no opportunity for relief in sight short of jumping overboard. I started getting really frightened, imagining our overloaded canoe, which now seemed dinky in the vast ocean, getting tossed and sinking in a tropical storm. When the torrential downpour hit us, my friend and I had no protection. We huddled together and prayed that we would survive. We did, but I tell you we both kissed the ground gratefully when we reached Belize. Then my friend ran off to find a much-needed bathroom.—Carmia Feldman, Davis, Calif. was a finalist in the the 2010 World’s Unluckiest Traveler Contest, from TravelGuard Insurance, beating out some 800 other tales of woe.

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Damn the Mosquitoes [When Animals Attack] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/03/damn-the-mosquitoes-when-animals-attack/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/03/damn-the-mosquitoes-when-animals-attack/#comments Wed, 02 Mar 2011 13:08:56 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=650 Continue reading]]>

Come here often?

In order to reach India in time to watch the monsoon make landfall, I had to leave so abruptly I didn’t have time for all my shots. The only thing I needed to worry about, my doctor said, were mosquitoes. If I were bitten by a mosquito during daylight, I would get dengue fever, if I were bitten at night it would be by a different mosquito and I’d get malaria, and if I were bitten a rural area with paddy fields I’d get Japanese encephalitis.

A week later I was on a barge in what I was pretty sure qualified as a rural area, just across the canal from some paddy fields. The first mosquitoes arrived just as night began to fall. Wonderful. I was about to attract a complete trifecta of mosquito-born diseases.

The insects themselves were unimpressive. I’d expected them to be as big as crocodiles, but they actually seemed smaller than those in Vermont. Of course, size doesn’t matter if you’re packing malaria, dengue fever or Japanese encephalitis.

Radhakrishnan, my guide, looked unconcerned. “I will bring fan,” he said. He set up the fan on a chair a couple of feet away from me. Trouble was, there was an awful lot of the lower half of me under the table that was unaffected by the fan, and I imagined the mosquitoes being sucked out of the air outside the boat, hurled against my middle regions, crawling dazedly downhill, coming to a halt on a bare leg, and thinking, “Phew! That was rough! Given me quite an appetite, that has.”

I took the fan off the chair and put it on the floor, but now my upper half was exposed, and at once two or three mosquitoes appeared in the lamplight cruising at that lazy velocity they use when they are calling the tower for permission to land. I went back to my cabin, rummaged around for my industrial-strength repellant, and sprayed myself.

Radhakrishnan reappeared. The fan didn’t seem to be doing the trick, mosquito-wise, I told him awkwardly.

He looked only mildly concerned. “I will light coil,” he said. He brought a small mosquito coil, lit it and placed it upwind of me. I’ve never had much luck with citronella candles, but this was India. They must know their bug deterrents here.

After all my research on meteorology, though, I should have realized that I had created a little microclimate in the cabin, and could have predicted what would come next. As soon as the coil got itself properly ignited, the thread of smoke drifted up, then got abruptly sucked sideways into the draft of the fan and blown into my face. I started to cough.

Radhakrishnan, hearing the sound of his guest in distress, hurried up from the stern. “The light is attracting them, sir,” he said.

“I think I’ll go to bed,” I told him, though it was barely nine o’clock. I’d had it with sprays, fans and coils. I wanted mosquito netting.

Radhakrishnan looked hesitant. “Air under net is getting quite hot,” he explained, but I was having none of it. I wanted to be out of the reach of these squadrons of insects with their payloads of biological warfare. Just as badly, though, I wanted to sleep under the netting because that was the mark of the true explorer, the sign of someone who had been Out There.

Radhakrishnan moved the fan into my cabin, lit a couple of coils and opened the rattan window-boards to let in the cool air. I undressed, sat in the middle of the bed, released the cord and, with a terrific sense of adventure and daring, let the mosquito net down around me.

At once I felt immense relief: I was in, Japanese encephalitis was out. I curled up on the bed, reached an arm under the netting and turned the light out.

At once, something came back to me from the adventure stories of my boyhood. When sleeping under mosquito netting, it was important not to be touching the net, or else a mosquito could land on the outside, insert her proboscis through the mesh and get you while you were sleeping the sleep of false security.

Hmmm. This was easier said than done. I am six foot three. The bed was about six feet. Subtract the parabola of netting-sag along each side, and the area of safe bed was only about five feet by two foot. I curled up, and at the crook of both elbows and knees, at my armpits and groin, at every place where skin touched skin, I felt the stickiness of several dozen applications of bug spray. I was adhesive with spray. I was disgusting with spray.

I couldn’t bear it. I crawled out from under the netting, making sure to let no mosquitoes in, and stumbled into the bathroom-cabin. The bathroom had a shower, but it was my duty, I told myself, cupping handfuls of water from the little sink and splashing myself ineffectively, to conserve fresh water in these deprived parts of the globe. Consoling myself with this and other idiocies, I went back to bed, climbed carefully under the netting so as not to allow any mosquitoes in, extended an arm to turn off the light, curled up as small as I could, and was just drifting off to sleep when the power went out.

With the fan off, the boat was very quiet. Tiny waves lapped against the hull. I was almost lulled to sleep when I went to turn over and discovered that my limbs had stuck together. Radhakrishnan had been right: under the netting, without the fan, it was quite hot. I uncurled my limbs, then quickly curled them again as soon as they touched the net. Every time I curled back up again, the temperature under the netting rose another two degrees. I turned over many, many times, then got up and washed myself off all over again. I climbed back into bed, careful not to admit any mosquitoes. I was slowly going insane.

The power came back on. The fan started up. I sighed a deep, grateful and slightly pathetic sigh, and fell asleep. Then the monsoon arrived.

The burst decided to arrive over the Alleppy canal system at midnight. For the next five hours, lightning flashed in through the uncurtained window of the boat, over and over, appearing to pass, then racing back again—not much thunder, not much rain, just endless lightning, like that torture technique of keeping the victim awake by flashing lights in his eyes. In the hallucinatory theatre of the sleep-deprived, I imagined poisonous snakes and spiders crawling in under the mosquito net, and river pirates swarming in through my window knowing I was bound to be some rich tourist.

In the morning, groggy and pouch-eyed, I found that the monsoon was even more to blame for my ghastly night than I’d thought. Normally they anchor in the middle of the canal, Radhakrishnan said, where there’s a good breeze and no mosquitoes. In monsoon time, though, the winds make that unsafe, and they have to tie up to the bank. Right next to the mosquitoes.

As wretched as I felt, the night had done me a lot of good. I had been bitten numerous times by mosquitoes but had failed to contract Japanese encephalitis–or anything, for that matter. The bites didn’t even itch that much. I was never going to use that wretched, useless, toxic, sticky spray again.— Tim Brookes’ book Thirty Percent Chance of Enlightenment is available at www.thirtypercentchance.com.

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One Last Chip and Salsa for Papa [Insult, Meet Injury] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/one-last-chip-and-salsa-for-papa-insult-meet-injury/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/one-last-chip-and-salsa-for-papa-insult-meet-injury/#comments Wed, 23 Feb 2011 13:08:51 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=1029 Continue reading]]>

Beware the Salsa of Doom!

Our family traveled for an unlucky reason: a reunion to commemorate the premature death of my father. Right after the funeral, the relatives still needed to be together, so we agreed to meet in Mexico to hug, cry, and wind down. We were traveling with four children under the age of five. In Mexico City, where it topped 100 degrees, the customs line moved slower than they are plugging the Gulf oil leak. We wilted in the heat and used up our energy entertaining the small children in the hours long line. We finally cleared customs just as our connecting flight was boarding. We sprinted all the way to the gate. The agent was in the process of giving away our seats to standby passengers. She would not give us our seats back! The next flight was 8 hours later, so she offered us a meal voucher for the airport restaurant. While we knew not to drink the water, my daughter and I ate the table salsa and paid for it by vomiting all night. Our vacation to honor a dead relative nearly killed us. —Jeff Michel, Deerpoint, Ill.

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Deep Trouble [X Marks the Spot] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/deep-trouble-x-marks-the-spot/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/deep-trouble-x-marks-the-spot/#comments Wed, 16 Feb 2011 13:08:59 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=1035 Continue reading]]>

You can't hug a photograph...

In 1961 two friends and I decided to explore the limestone caves of West Virginia. I had a map that caving friends had given me and so we headed south from Pittsburgh. Sure enough we found an entry hole just where the map said it would be. We had carbide lamps, rope and provisions for a few days.  Early Saturday morning, we rappelled down the hole and set out through the slimy cave mud. The cave kept branching into amazing rooms filled with stalactites and other formations. But there were many tiny passageways that we could just slither through. Although we marked our way carefully, somehow we got terribly lost. The fuel for our lamps was the limiting factor. We only lit one lamp, since otherwise it was absolute darkness. Luckily we had left a note on the windshield of our car indicating we were in the cave and expected to be out by Monday. When we finally found the entrance it was late Monday night and we emerged to see a line of torches being carried to the entrance by a rescue party. Hugs all around! —Sam Geffner of San Francisco, CA was a top-ten finalist in the 2010 World’s Unluckiest Traveler Contest, from TravelGuard Insurance, beating out some 800 other tales of woe.

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American Confidence [Hotel Hell] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/american-confidence-hotel-hell/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/american-confidence-hotel-hell/#comments Fri, 11 Feb 2011 13:08:22 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=1019 Continue reading]]>

Electric cars, my ass. America is built Hummer Tough!

Travel, when undertaken with the correct élan, can be as much about reinforcing national stereotypes as breaking them down. One of the great and unique advantages of being in a place where no one knows you is that you can choose to be whatever or whoever you would like.  When I was younger, and more idealistic, I was mildly obsessed with proving to people in foreign countries that I was the opposite of what they supposed me to be: a brash, gun-slingling hooligan who drove a Hummer, voted for Bush and was generally hell bent on annexing everything in his whisky- and tobacco-soaked path…However, it quickly becomes tedious repeating the same canned, leftist speech to every foreigner who demands that you answer for your nation’s sins. Also, said foreigners are always disappointed to find that they have met someone who shares many of the same views about America as they do.

“Oh. You aren’t one of those Americans,” they say, trying the keep the disenchantment from their voices.  It’s the same disenchantment someone might have if you claim to come from Disney Land, but turn out not to be a cartoon creature with a giant head.

For their sake and my own amusement, I often act like one of those Americans when questioned about my country. The Brits swooned like they were getting their first glimpse of John Merrick when I told them that I was an avid deer hunter, especially if I could do it from the front seat of my Dodge Charger. The Spanish grinned at each other knowingly when I claimed a complete ignorance of soccer and proceeded to bounce the ball like a basketball. A few South Americans actually squealed with glee when, fielding questions at a party, I said I was part of Operation Condor part II.  Sure that she had found the American villain of her dreams, one woman blurted out: “I was happy to see the twin towers fall!”  You could tell she had been saving that one for the right person.

It turns out, though, the only thing better than meeting a foreigner who defies all your expectations is meeting one that confirms them. Which is a truism that came rushing back to me in a moment of need a few months ago in Bournemouth on the South Coast of England.

Sometime between the fourth and fifth pint in the local pub, one of the Bournemouthians raised the question of American Confidence.  It’s spelled with a capital C because most British people seem to believe that is is a proper noun.

“Englishmen need a few pints ‘for they can even look each other in the eye, but you Yanks…” said James.

“It’s that American confidence, innit?” interjected his girlfriend, Louise.  “You’re not all awkward around each other like we are.”

“Yea!” James, jumped back in. “You Yanks, at least from what they show in movies and on the telly…it’s like you just say whatevah you’re thinking and do whatevah you feel.”

American Confidence. I thought about that a few hours later, standing on the veranda of the Urban Beach Hotel in the nearby suburb of Boscombe, shaking the locked front door handle and wondering why the hell my key was sitting behind the unmanned front desk. The pubs in most of Britain shut early so there was no question of drinking till sun-up. It was damp and cold so curling up on the doorstep — a traditional British maneuver in these circumstances — was also a bad choice. Plus, notwithstanding a recent civic rehabilitation, Boscombe is primarily known for its marauding bands of heroin addicts.

“What would a confident American do? “I mused tilting my head back to take a deep breath.

The windows. They were all open. If I could crawl through one that lead to a hallway I would be home free.

Britain has more CCTV cameras per capita than any country in the world, which means there is probably a video of me climbing up a rickety wooden fence, hopping onto the roof of the hotel, then poking my head into a dark window. It was pitch black inside the room, so I pulled out my cell phone and slid it open. The pale blue light that it cast revealed the shape of a person, fast asleep in bed. I jerked my head out of the room so fast I almost tumbled off the roof. All I could think, as I sat collecting myself and listening for cars or approaching pedestrians was that my mother would be mortified with me right now. But that still seemed preferable to sitting on the street.

The roof gave way to the top of the veranda which was composed of wooden beams with four foot gaps between them. I hopped from one to the next, Super Mario style, blissfully unafraid of falling because my sense of height had been effectively subverted by my sense of booze. When I reached the window of the linen closet, only the upper of two panes was open, so I had to squeeze myself through it, careful not to kick in the bottom pane, or put too much pressure on it from above and have it come crashing down beneath me. I grabbed hold of a shelf just inside the window and hauled myself through until i reached the inevitable point where the only way to get my legs through was to simply let go and catch myself on my face. When the world stopped spinning, I picked myself up and sauntered triumphantly to the door.

Which was locked. With a key. Something told me I was one breaking and entering and a half voyeur charge past the point of no return, so I turned on the lights and went rifling through linens, tools, vases, silverware, soaps, and towels for a key that would open the door. All I could find was a screw driver, so I said, “what the hell.”  That’s not a turn of phrase, either, I was literally talking to myself at this point. The plan, if you could call it that, was to remove the door handle — one of those Victorian dealies that that looks like a question mark rotated clockwise ninety degrees — let myself out, then screw the entire contraption back on.  The reality was that I took the screws out, the handle on the other side thumped to the ground, the bolt stayed in place and I was left with a locked door, a screwdriver in one hand, and a heavy metal question mark in the other.

And so I found myself contemplating one of life’s quintessential questions: is it better to sleep int the linen closet or jump out the window?

I ended up back on the ground, screw driver in my back pocket, pounding on the front door. Eventually the Polish cook, who apparently slept in a room just off the kitchen, woke up and let me in. Back in the closet, I had left the door handle and the screws in place, hoping I could retrieve the handle on the hallway side and reattach it so that no one would be any wiser. At this point, its almost redundant to say that it didn’t work. So I went to sleep that night/morning with a doorknob and a screw driver beside my bed.

In the morning, I lay, staring at the ceiling, wondering whether or not to say anything to the management, or just ditch the evidence and get the hell out of town. As long as the hotel didn’t have any cameras and everyone assumed the doorknob unscrewed itself, I would be fine.  But my guilty conscience wouldn’t leave me in peace. I imagined hundreds of different ways that the suspicious management could find out that I had broken in.

And what had I gotten up to?  Uh, nothing, Officer, I swear.  I didn’t tell anyone because I, well, that is to say…What’s that?  This doorknob and screwdriver? Oh, these are for um…

Sweet Jesus, things were looking bad. A breaking and entering charge was the last thing I needed in a country that would be more than happy to ban me for life. They probably wouldn’t stop there either. My picture would go up in airports in every country in the commonwealth. I would never be able to go to Fiji.

So I decided to tell them; If these Britishers wanted a confident American, I would give it to them.

I marched downstairs and matter-of-factly informed the young lady at the front desk that I had broken in the night before and removed the knob to the broom closet, and that they should really inform visitors that there is no one working at night.

“Erm, oh, gosh.  I’m erm, ever so sorry…” she stammered, eyes wide in disbelief. “You’re absolutely, right,” she actually blushed.  I had scaled the building, climbed in a window, and vandalised the broom closet and she was embarrassed. I decided to pile it on a bit.

“I really expected more from this place.  After all, I’d heard so much about it, and all the service had been exemplary up until that point.”

“You’re right, you are absolutely right,” she said, looking increasingly mortified as I picked up steam.

Now I was starting to enjoy myself, but worried that when I left she might do something drastic, like self flaggelate, so I handed her the door handle and the screwdriver and mumbled an apology for any inconvenience.

“Oh, no, it’s fine,” she said. “I’m just surprised…that’s to say…how did you get into the broom closet?”

I shrugged with all the American Confidence I could muster.  “I’m American.  We’re all very competent climbers.” —Ted Endo is currently looking for booze, big waves, and trouble in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Where the Wadi Meets the Road [Water Water Everywhere] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/where-the-wadi-meets-the-road-water-water-everywhere/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/where-the-wadi-meets-the-road-water-water-everywhere/#comments Wed, 09 Feb 2011 13:38:50 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=1016 Continue reading]]>

Let's take a refreshing swim while we wait for the tow truck, shall we?

Finding English speakers can be a little hit and miss in Oman. While some locals speak perfectly, others struggle to even understand our very basic attempts at pronouncing place names in ‘gringo’ Arabic  – but it’s not for want of trying.

Our taxi driver Hilal was somewhere in the middle. His English was basic, but that didn’t stop him chattering away the entire way as we changed hotels once the Games finished. With Bob Marley on the stereo he’d take his hands off the wheel to gesture wildly while he pointed out places he deemed of interest, such as the local bowling alley (he’s been twice, but isn’t very good) and the Sultan’s new Opera house, still under construction.

The Qaboos came up constantly in conversation, with Hilal pointing out every billboard and even showing us the picture of his majesty that takes pride of place on the inside of the driver’s sun visor. Hilal, like every Omani you speak to, loves and reveres the Qaboos. “He is a good man, my majesty, a very good man.” Not “his majesty,” but “my majesty.” Hilal’s majesty.

Once we’d lightened the taxi’s load of bags Hilal drove us on to the beach, but not before he took us on a tour. Stopping the taxi halfway up a mountain, with rock rising up on one side and falling away at the other, we were shown the most spectacular view of the Gulf of Oman. Words can’t adequately describe the beauty of this place. The road to the beach cleaves its way between massive peaks of sandy brown rubble spotted with small tufts of vegetation in muted greys and greens. Emerging from shadows of the mountains you arrive at the water’s edge where yellow/brown cliffs with black stains mark the tides give way to crystal blue water. After two weeks spent working by a beach we couldn’t swim at, a day spent lazing about in the sand and the odd paddle was exactly what we needed.

The following day we started early and headed inland in search of a wadi, or valley or riverbed – a beacon of green a landscape otherwise dominated by stone and sand.  After 100km of mountains and sand with the odd cluster of trees and goats, we crested a hill and suddenly saw a sea of green palm fronds below us. We had found the beginning of the wadi we were looking for. We turned off the bitumen, switched to four-wheel drive mode and made our way up the rocky river bed determined to find our oasis.

Our adventure lasted 3km before a particularly soft section of river rocks took hold of our car.  We were stuck. Up wadi creek so to speak – without a towrope and not a soul in sight, water licking at the bottom of the car doors and rocks up to the axles. And so we started going about trying to dig ourselves out, stripping down to our swimmers, stretching out in the water on our bellies trying to free our car from its prison of pebbles. After almost two hours of excavation it was time to see if our hard work would pay off. It didn’t, each spin of the wheels sinking us deeper into trouble.

With the stick my friend Milou had placed in a dry patch of the creek now wet and confirming the water was slowly rising we realised just how serious a predicament we were in. We found a spot where our mobile phones had reception and called for help while two of our group set off back to the village in search of someone with a vehicle that might be able to help us out. An hour later they returned with a local in a land rover. He got out, took one look at the car, shook his head and murmured “mushkila” (Arabic for trouble) over and over, flinging away the large smooth rocks we’d sought out specially with the idea of paving a solid escape path. We were in plenty of mushkila all right, and we all knew what else he was thinking: “stupid gringos.”

With the police struggling to find where we were our local rescuer Nasser went off to find them. Our mood was decidedly lifted when he returned soon after with another landrover in tow. It didn’t last long as the police pulled out a tiny wire cable and a shabby looking red plastic rope.  The shackle on the cable broke first, the rope broke two or three times as the engine refused to tick over with water creeping into the exhaust.  As the lightest of the group Milou jumped in behind the wheel. The car was in neutral but the handbrake was on. Idiots! We decided to keep that information to ourselves – our rescuers thought we were stupid enough. And so with all brakes off and one big push, finally freedom.

As the police departed we tried to find the words and gestures to show Nasser our appreciation. “Coffee?” he replied.

Nasser’s house is the first building perched on a hill to the right at the mouth of the wadi behind an iron gate with blue cladding. As we sat down on straw mats outside on the porch Nasser’s wife and mother emerged fully covered, their smiling faces all that showed besides their hands and feet. The women spoke in Arabic and we replied in English as they offered tiny cups of spicy black coffee along with apples, oranges and dates from their garden.  They admired the henna designs that covered our hands, saying “Omani” as they nodded in approval. We must have stayed there for almost an hour, greeting each of Nasser’s children with “Salaam” as they arrived home from school before his nephew arrived – the English speaker in the family.  Turki “also what you have at Christmas” normally lives in Muscat where he works for Oman Air, but always come home on his days off. As we left Turki translated our thanks, to which Nasser responded: “I did nothing, it’s just coffee.”

If it was just coffee, it’s the best we’ve ever had. It certainly isn’t one that is likely to be forgotten. —Olivia McGrath (@pidgeonenglish) is a lady of leisure and sometime sports journalist with a penchant for shoes and food.

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The Shipwreck Drowned My Homework [Semester-at-Scream] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/the-shipwreck-drowned-my-homework-semester-at-scream/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/02/the-shipwreck-drowned-my-homework-semester-at-scream/#comments Wed, 02 Feb 2011 13:08:06 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=1037 Continue reading]]>

Class dismissed!

In 1963, my wife and I set out on a round the world cruise with over 500 undergraduates in an old tub converted to a floating university. We approached Alexandria, Egypt in a storm so nasty that all the other ships were sitting out at anchor waiting for the waves to abate. But we were under great pressure to get into port to meet a scheduled tour of Egypt. The captain called for a pilot who came out in a small boat. But the seas were so high, the pilot could not board and so he abandoned us.

Shortly after we watched the pilot boat retreat, we heard a horrible crunch and felt a lurch. Our captain had attempted to enter without a pilot—and ran the entire ship aground on a sandbar. He throttled the ship violently forward and backward to get us off, tearing a huge hole in the hull. The ship jerked free, but suddenly began to take on water. Suddenly it was an emergency. All the men formed a human chain to rescue the luggage in the hold. We actually docked just as the ship was sinking.—Dan Feldman of San Diego, Califoria was a top-ten finalist in the 2010 World’s Unluckiest Traveler Contest, from TravelGuard Insurance, beating out some 800 other tales of woe.


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How to Survive a 1,000-Foot Fall [X Marks the Splat] http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/01/how-to-survive-a-1000-foot-fall-x-marks-the-splat/ http://theaccidentalextremist.com/2011/01/how-to-survive-a-1000-foot-fall-x-marks-the-splat/#comments Mon, 31 Jan 2011 06:38:35 +0000 Christian DeBenedetti http://theaccidentalextremist.com/?p=1115 Continue reading]]>

Suck it, gravity.

What did you do last weekend? Oh, really? Well, British climber Adam Potter can top that. He survived a 1,000 feet fall down the side of a huge mountain in the Scottish Highlands.

Here’s the insane story from Gawker.com, via the Guardian; image via Getty:

A helicopter crew found him half an hour later, standing on his feet reading a map. How did he survive?

Potter was climbing a mountain called Sgurr Choinnich Mor with his girlfriend, two friends, and his dog when he slipped on the snow and rolled down a “rough scree slope,” over three hundred-foot-high cliffs, and finally onto a boulder, which he thinks may have knocked him out.

Royal Navy rescue helicopters found Potter on his boulder, looking at his map. Actually, at first, they assumed he was a different hiker altogether, but were able to piece it together thanks to the trail of mountaineering crap he’d left behind:

“It seemed impossible. So we retraced our path back up the mountain and, sure enough, there were bits of his kit in a vertical line all the way up where he had obviously lost them during the fall. It was quite incredible. He must have literally glanced off the outcrops as he fell, almost flying,” [said Lieutenant Tim Barker.]

Potter, who apparently didn’t learn his lesson, is heading off to climb Everest in two months.


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