Thursday, 25 February 2010

Short Cut

Not far from our house is an abandoned resort complex, only three-quarters built. It covers an extensive area and ought to be beautiful with views of the Mediterranean and half-landscaped gardens full of olive and orange trees, lantana and jasmine, but instead it is eerie and sad.

It is also in our way: every time we've walked past it on our way back from the beach, I've wondered out loud if we couldn't just walk through it and spare ourselves half a mile down a long dusty road with no sidewalks, scary dogs, and many potholes. Somehow, we've never had the time to chance this, and it has really irritated me. Cliche though it is, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And looking for shortcuts in weird places is just the sort of adventure I love.

Yesterday, my husband and I went for a walk down to the beach. The weather was perfect for a change and on our way home, as we walked past the rose-flanked entrance for the umpteenth time, it was just too tempting. "There's bound to be a way out," I said. "And it would be a great short-cut to know, wouldn't it?"

My husband shrugged.

"There's no keep-out sign," I pointed out. "No fence or dogs."

My husband considered this. Fierce dogs are a common feature in this area, given all the half-developed building sites just begging to be vandalized. The fact that we couldn't hear any barking was a real plus.

"If there's no way out, we can just retrace our steps. Extra exercise! We'll only be out the time and the shoe leather. Right?"

He cracked. "Okay."

The driveway itself, winding, upward sloping and tree-lined, took five minutes to negotiate. We could hear our footsteps echoing through the empty courtyard as we made our way past the empty pools filled with dried leaves and debris. Parts of the complex were almost complete, while other parts were mere skeletons, waiting to be finished. We skirted the main building, a dark, scary, cavern-like space with no floors and cables dangling down like so many snakes from the unfinished ceiling. There was something really odd about walking past gleaming sheets of marble and glass, stacks of cinder blocks still hermetically sealed in plastic, case after case of brand-new pipes, sparkling porcelain-white toilets, bathtubs and shower stalls.

As the sky darkened, we could see a few lights flickering on in the empty blocks of rooms, very strange considering the fact that there were almost no windows or doors. It was a long, weird walk, through half-formed gardens with the once-churned earth now full of weeds. In fact, there were weeds everywhere, vigorous and healthy as corn, poking up behind packing cases, through piles of cables and building rubble, around the slender trunks of year-old saplings already withering.

The main path that led us through the complex looked as though it was heading straight for our neighborhood. We could practically see it through the trees. It looked very promising.

"See?" I said, nudging my husband. "If we hadn't tried this, we'd never have found this great short cut!"

"We still don't know if we can get through."

I scorned this. "Of course we'll be able to get through!"

Barely a minute after I said this, the path curved around, revealing a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. On the other side of this, the path continued indefinitely, disappearing into a thicket that surrounded a farm. The kind of farm that has scary dogs on the premises, just waiting for a couple of trespassers to stroll past and make their day. After a game attempt to pass under the fence, my husband wiped his hands on his jeans and shook his head. "This won't work. We'll have to go all the way back."

And so we did.

It took over twenty minutes and my husband led me right through that horrible, dark, unfinished main building. He was even nasty enough to grab one of the cables and make a bzzzzt noise as though he'd been electrocuted, making me jump out of my skin.

Still, we were only out the shoe leather and a little time. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and even a small adventure is worth something.

There's a sheep farm-cum automotive garage just down the way from this complex. My husband says I'm crazy, but I'm betting there's a path through that.

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31 comments:

Angela said...

Nothing ventured, nothing gained right? Even tho this didn't work out, I KNOW you'll find a short cut!

(and I would have murdered my husband if he pretended to get electrocuted in a dark, scary building!)

Robin said...

Clearly, you haven't seen enough scary movies. The person who says, "I don't know if it's a good idea..." gets his head lopped off first, but the person whose idea it was, is a quick second. You never see psycho-killers lurking in fields of daisies, do you? Hmmmm? Only take shortcuts through fields of daisies.

Chocolatesa said...

I say bring some nice big wire-cutters with you next time and MAKE your shortcut! :P

Helen said...

You go Mary!!! You intrepid explorer!!!
As I read your description of this eerie place, I had a mental image of you and your hubby (heh heh - he is a funny guy!!!) dressed in crazy swimwear, lounging on banana chairs, with your drinks fridge (your drinks were in half pineapples, plastic monkeys hanging off the side and those little paper umbrellas) sunbathing on the roof of one of these unfinished buildings, when the concstruction people come to finish the job.
Scarey how the mind works sometimes......

Kim Ayres said...

Following on from Chocolatesa's comment, I'm surprised you didin't have a set of wire cutters on you. You've always struck me as a resourceful kind of person :)

Meg McKinlay said...

There's a metaphor in there somewhere, Mary. I love your final line and the way you bring this piece full circle. Dogs and fences notwithstanding, I think there is always a way through.

Postman said...

I appreciate the fact that you only use the word "weird" in its original context: that is, the supernatural, anything evoking witchcraft. A descriptive post. Fun to read, as always.

Mary Witzl said...

Angela -- Oh, I came close! But as soon as he did it I remembered that I'D done it myself with a group of students earlier this week, plugging in a CD player (anything to get a laugh). So I forgave him. (And next time we find dangling cables, I'll get HIM on it, just wait and see!)

But you're right: I'll find that shortcut. It's there, just waiting for me to blaze through.

Robin -- My family won't let me watch scary movies anymore. Apparently my screams drown out what there is of the dialogue. But my imagination is all I need: every inch of the way through that creepy dark room I saw slavering hounds waiting to rip out our throats, mad-eyed thugs crouching in every shadowy corner, ready to savage us and leave us bleeding out our hearts' blood. I suspect they're in the daisies too...

Chocolatesa -- We really need a pair here, come to think of it: wire cutters would be an excellent investment!

Helen -- (Scraping and bowing, modest smiles) I don't do rock climbing or bungee jumping, so this kind of adventure is right up my line. But I have to tell you that we were well bundled up with scarves and thick socks, and not a plastic monkey in sight. Next time we'll bring pineapples and banana chairs!

Kim -- Now I'm kind of ashamed. I've got everything else in my bag, why not wire cutters? Hmmm, wonder how you say 'wire cutters' in Turkish...?

Meg -- You cleverly spotted that metaphor. I wanted to slip it in there at the end, but I cringe at heavy-handed moral points (something I've been known to indulge in even though they set my teeth on edge). So I told myself that people would make the connection anyway -- and you've just proved that I was right!

I'll find my way through or die trying, dogs, fences, shadows and all.

Postman -- It was weird in every sense of the word: all those rooms, all that cheerful paint, everything almost ready for hundreds of people who will probably never come.

No way am I going NEAR that place on Halloween, come to think of it.

meredith said...

I too, would keep trying to find a short-cut, that makes for a fun mini-adventure.
In south of France, all that brand new, un-used building material (pipes, bathtubs, tiles) would be stolen in a flash. When we had our driveway re-done, I didn't sleep the night they delivered the new bricks to the front yard for fear that in the morning they would be gone before being cemented in place.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I once took a short cut when driving out in the Oregon desert. Heck, the little dashed line on the map showed it was paved and it would cut almost an hour from our trip.

And it was paved... up to where the fancy research facility was. But beyond that the "paved" road was rutted and pot-holed so badly our vehicle crawled along. Our "short cut" took us about two hours to transit.

Charles Gramlich said...

Now that's the kind of experience I would treasure.

Charlie said...

If you are going to insist on exploring scary places (which you will), I would suggest carrying Mace. It affects mad dogs, Englishmen, and crazed serial killers.

MG Higgins said...

I love these kinds of adventures--especially where short-cuts to and from beaches are involved. I'm glad you at least tried!

Marcia said...

How sad that this was abandoned. But the kid in all of us wants to explore spooky abandoned buildings, and I love that aspect of the story. Alas, most shortcuts aren't, just like they weren't when my best friend and I short-cutted through woods on the way to school and were tardy ten times in one quarter.

laura said...

You have me beat here! I'm a complete chicken-shit and Hans is the adventurous one. Not for one minute would he have hesitated to trespass on this property as a means to getting to his destination a bit quicker. I have to tell you though, he would have seen the barbed wire as a challenge! Been there done that!

Mary Witzl said...

Meredith -- That stuff wouldn't last a day in the U.K. or the States, either. Our town and the surrounding area has many half-finished places like this. Lots of people built just before the slump, anticipating returns on their investments. Their projects then had to be abandoned and there are literally hundreds of these unlived-in ghost resorts and whole ghost towns filled with brand-new buildings. And from the looks of the weeds growing up around all the abandoned brand-new fixtures and building materials, they're safe enough. Weird, isn't it?

Robert -- Now I'm wondering what that sparkling research facility was all about and why they had to isolate themselves like that...?

My husband and I have been down our share of bumpy, pock-mocked roads and our car has the crappy the suspension to prove it. We've also been through the Oregon desert, which I didn't even know existed until I was in my 30s, I'm ashamed to say. Isn't it wonderful? (The desert, of course -- not my ignorance.)

Charles -- I was pretty sure it would be. YOU have a motorcycle. People who drive motorcycles are good at finding shortcuts.

Charlie -- I'm armed, after a fashion. And I've had two semesters of judo too, though I'm not sure how judo would work on pit bulls or rottweilers. (The Englishman I can handle without mace.)

MG -- Trying is the thing, isn't it? I think even having a half-baked adventure is better than wimping out and taking the long road home every single time.

Marcia -- Good for you! You might have gotten lots of tardy slips, but you got the exciting experiences too. I can still remember the tunnels that ran from our neighborhood under the railroad tracks to Alpha Beta Supermarket and how exciting it was to scuttle, bent in half, all the way through it, heart in mouth, until we saw the first flicker of light. My mother finally found out about it and that was that, but it was fun while it lasted.

Laura -- Hans has cleared a barbed wire fence? Did he actually make it over? He makes me feel like a wimp! We might have been able to handle the barbed wire, but it was rusty, and only one us has had a recent tetanus shot. Plus, we'd have looked ridiculous it we'd have gotten stuck.

Suelle said...

I'm like you, if there's a shorter way to get there then I'm all for it. I don't know how many times I've sent my husband into fits with my attempts at a more "direct" route, whether it's walking or driving. And like Robert the Skeptic, I sent him on a wild ride through the Arizona desert on a "short" route to Saguero (sp) National Park that ended up losing it's paving after a short while.
Adventure!

Falak said...

Any idea behind why the resort was abandoned halfway through it's construction? Maybe it has an interesting story that will add to its spookiness. You really are brave to have explored an empty resort especially when it was getting dark. I would have been the last person to walk by it let alone through it even in broad daylight.

AnneB said...

Um, isn't there a high probability that the sheep farm would have, you know, at least one sheep dog?

Mary Witzl said...

Suelle -- It's not just the time you shave off, is it? I suspect it's mainly the quest for adventure that spurs us on.

Actually, a wild ride through the Arizona desert on an unpaved road sounds like fun! I'd far rather bring that back as a souvenir than silver trinkets and I'll bet you would too. I hope your husband felt the same...

Falak -- There are hundreds of places like that here, started during the boom, then left incomplete when the money dried up, and they're all in varying degrees of completion from barest skeletons of foundations to everything finished, including landscaping, but no tenants. It's very sad, but also fascinating. And spooky! Go on -- have an adventure or two! (Believe me, this is the tame kind.)

Anne -- Yes, but if the ones I've seen lurking near the road are anything to go by, all they need is a kind word and a pat on the head. And remember: I've just had a tetanus booster!

Chris Eldin said...

Robin! Don't warn her. I want a really scary post next time.

Mary, that next path is calling you...

heheheeh!

Hi dearie, been missing you! Visiting blogging buddies today. I started teaching my ESL class. 12 students. Can you believe that? I'm so lucky. They are mostly if not all Korean. I say that because one is Chinese, but I think she grew up in Korea. They are the best!!
I'm loving that I'm gettting paid for the first time in 12 years. Although my kids now expect a bigger allowance.

Amy said...

OK, I was scared reading that. Now I want to know why it was abandoned. And no one has ransacked it?

Marcia said...

Mary, I gave you an award. Details on my blog. :)

Eryl Shields said...

There is something eerie but magnetic about abandoned buildings especially this sort. They're rather like the grave yards of commercialism. You could go back and make your own scary movie!

kara said...

sounds like some of the hostels i've stayed at.

Miss Footloose said...

I would have done the same thing, try to see if I could get through. I would have loved to see some photos of that scary building. I'm trying to get better myself about taking my camera along. After all, you never know where adventure hides.

Postman said...

P.S. I have nominated you for an award, Mrs. Witzl. Kindly head on over to my blog and check it out. I hope you don't have it already...

Mary Witzl said...

Amy -- No one has taken or damaged anything, as far as we can tell. There are buildings like that all over the place here; I suspect the vandals just don't know where to begin.

Marcia -- Ooh, THANK you! I'll get right over to your blog to pick it up!

Eryl -- I love the spookiness of ghost towns, which is what these remind me of. And yes, the scary movie potential with these places is right off the charts.

Kara -- I think an enterprising person could probably figure out how to convert some of these places into hostels.

Miss Footloose -- We've taken literally hundreds of photos of this area and I keep meaning to sit down with my daughter and get her to show me how to put them on my blog. For some reason, this has not happened, but one of these days, I'm going to go wild and post them all.

Postman -- Thank you very much! I've had a cold or I'd have been over sooner.

Barbara Martin said...

Another wonderful post.

I love a man with a sense of humour.

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