It’s natural to re-live all that was awesome about our travels, sharing stories of epic experiences in far off places and awe-inspiring others to want to go too. But what about when things go wrong? I’m not talking drastically life changing wrong, I’m talking unexpected situations, scary moments, sticky situations – the kinds of things that seem like a nightmare at the time but that you eventually look back on and laugh or think ‘bloody hell that was close/we were lucky’ ~ (wipes brow).
As with every day life of course, sh*t happens! And just because you’re abroad doesn’t mean that sh*t escapes you. Quite literally there’s a whole new world of opportunity for it! And you kind of sign up to it once you give in to the wanderlust.
It was sifting through all my old photo albums recently that brought all this to mind. As a relatively new blogger and travel writer I’m looking for inspiration on what ‘cool’ stories I can share, what amazing places I can write a new guide to or recommend. Then it hit me; travel writing/blogging doesn’t have to be all positive and shiny and ‘look where I’ve been’ – no one likes a smug-bum anyway. So why not share my misadventures? Not for any ‘don’t do what I did’ reason – just for a shared laugh and to hopefully hear some misadventures of yours – because we’ve all had them and most of the time (in retrospect) they are hilarious! Here, in brief, are a few of my own…
Stranded in La Paz and near death experience flying through the Andes
Boarding a plane, you don’t expect to see a man frantically pumping the tyres with a manual foot pump. And when it’s a tiny passenger jet about to fly through the Andes the dread kicks in. This was an unplanned / last-minute flight from La Paz to Bolivia as the bus we were originally booked on (in fact all road transport) was cancelled due to yet another road block/protest by the Bolivian work force. These apparently could last for days. Not only did we (my Intrepid Travel group) have a cold night waiting in a public bus station not knowing how we were going to get to Sucre, we certainly didn’t anticipate having to PAY for an alternative mode of transport when our tickets were pre-booked. An extra expense out of my very tight budget! Tensions were high, we were restless and being shouted at and shoved around by very shifty looking ‘tourist information workers’ – eventually squeezed into taxi’s where we nearly lost each other and all our baggage. Then came the rickety old plane being pumped up by foot! What were we stepping on to?? The insides of this plane were literally falling apart, missing chair arms, hanging ashtrays, cracks in windows. Panic set in across the group but here we were about to take off in this thing! Did we fly high enough over the mountains? No we didn’t, instead we were flown directly THROUGH the Andes, literally dipping, rising and sharply turning as the stark mountain sides flew past the windows in clear close up detail…we could have hit the side or top of one at any second and people were screaming. Honestly I was convinced this was how I was going to die. At one point when we took a sharp plummet and that was it, I was sure we were about to slam into the ground. Then, just as suddenly with no change in speed, the nose turned up and we hit the ground in the most violent and unexpected landing I’ve ever experienced. To this day, I cannot believe we made it.
Beach bar brawl and attempted kidnap in Anjuna, Goa
It was our first night in India, my friend and I met a fellow UK lady called Karen at a beach bar on Anjuna beach, she told my friend and I about her life living in Goa and invited us to join her for a drink at her house then the local bar just off the main beach track. Feeling mellow, we obliged and had a great time getting to know this woman. She offered us up all the vodka and weed you could want (Anjuna is a bit of a hippy haven) and we started to have a marvelous old-time. She introduced us to some of her friends, a mix of Europeans also living in the area. When her back was turned they warned us what a ‘nightmare’ she is and to steer clear. Well, she seemed fine enough to us. But a conversation between her and these friends suddenly became uncomfortably heated and an argument ensued going from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye. She took her anger to the bar where a bald-headed burly male friend of hers was stood…when all of a sudden HE punched her square in the face and she fell to the floor! I was totally stunned and enraged all at once, I’ve never seen a man hit a woman, let alone knock them out cold with one punch. My instinct was to run to her aid and knock the guy out (not that I could or would be brave enough) but before that thought had even had a chance to pass completely through my brain the entire bar erupted. Suddenly everyone was up on their feet and attacking each other! Like something out of an old western film, glasses smashed against walls, chairs were broken over people’s backs, punches were being thrown left right and centre! I’ve never seen anything like it! We made a mad dash for the exit where local Indian men started to gather in response to the brawl spilling out onto the sandy street. One man, seeing our panic ushered us into the back of his rickshaw – it was a metal one with proper doors on – not the open-backed ones. Relieved, we high-fived each other having avoided being hit and still in shock at the violence unfolding before us. But a new wave of panic struck us as we tried to get out to encourage our driver to leave but we couldn’t. The man saw us struggling in his vehicle and started laughing with a friend at us. They both got in the front and drove us in the wrong direction away from the main beach while we shouted and banged frantically on the windows. Were we being kidnapped? Where were they taking us? What were they going to do? Is this actually happening?? Our adrenaline kicked in and I managed to smash the small window with my foot allowing me to reach the handle on the outside. As soon as the driver realised we smashed the window he slammed to a halt and my friend and I made a run for it. We were in the thick of beach back woods, it was dark but we just kept running trying to follow the sound of the sea to get back to people. Luckily they didn’t follow us – we just heard the screech of the rickshaw drive off into the distance. It took us an age to find our way back to our hostel, by which point I think the shock had worn off and we were both hit with an OVERWHELMING hunger?! Not sure if that’s a normal reaction following a slight trauma (or if it was the weed munchies) but our final mission of that evening was ordering pizza to our pool side where we slept off the nights events, greasy lipped and exhausted.
Stranded on a Greek Island and Rescue Operation
I know, I know, there could be worse places to be stranded but this was a boat trip from Crete to a secluded beach island on which we were repeatedly told under no circumstances to miss our pick up time at the end of the day as there would be NO returns to collect anyone. Ok, got it. But we didn’t. In an extremely hung over and sorry state we’d spent the day asleep and in pain on a glorious white sandy beach and was certain we headed back to the port at the right time. But we arrived to find no big boats like ours moored and a tiny spec in the seas distance that was in fact our boat making its way back to Crete. Oops. We were preparing to have to sleep on the beach for the night with absolutely no idea how to get back to Crete. Luckily we found one small boat to approach and tried to explain our predicament. A man onboard signaled he’d radio through to our big boat. And he did. But as our Captain had made very clear that morning, he definitely wasn’t able to turn round to collect us. Feeling stupid, guilty and nauseous with our hangovers (my friend, pictured below, was even being sick in the harbor rocks) we waited. Eventually a tiny little dingy appeared. THIS we were told, was to get us to our big boat, which because of us had to stop and anchor up where it was, nearly ashore miles ahead of us. Clumsily we climbed down into this ‘rubber ring’ of a boat and slowly started our painfully slow journey back to our stalled boat. As we finally started to approach the tourist packed vessel, the scorned expressions of our fellow travelers became clear. We were pretty much dragged up onto deck to a cold silence from the deck hands and the crowd who had been waiting for over an hour for us. On the plus side the guys who rescued us on the little dingy were beautiful Greek Gods of men, that made the journey a little more bearable, but still, they knew we were idiot tourists who clearly hadn’t listened to our instructions so we weren’t popular with them or anyone once aboard. The people we had chatted with excitedly on our way out to the secluded island that morning were no longer our friends. Instead we were subjected to rolling eyes, deathly stares, ‘tuts’ and complaining murmurs. This wasn’t our finest hour and we sheepishly stared out to sea for the remainder of our journey. The Captain making a stern public apology announcement ‘on our behalf’ for the delay only added to our embarrasment. Oh. The. Shame.
I could go on with stories of being lost in the Venezuelan outback, having my phone stolen and running out of money in Madrid, getting an eye infection in Caracas, loosing all my belongings in Brussels, but this isn’t ALL about me 🙂 If you have any horror stories you’d like to share, please comment below and let’s celebrate our misadventures together. Because there’s no denying, sh*t happens to us all…