Earlier this week I shared some of my favourite memories from my round-the-world trip though India, south-east Asia and Australia ten years ago. But travel has its fair share of downs as well as ups, and the things that seemed a disaster at the time usually make the best stories. So it’s time to balance out the good with some of the experiences that were memorable for all the wrong reasons. And there were a fair few for me to choose from. Transportation blunders, weird people and random injuries seem to follow me wherever I am in the world, so here are some of my top misadventures from my 16 months on the road.
Getting dysentery within the first week
When you plan a trip to India you usually expect to pick up a case of Delhi belly somewhere along the way. But I did think I might manage to get through at least a week with succumbing to it. Despite a food hygiene obsession that meant I only ate vegetarian food, avoided salads, dairy products and ice in drinks, I still ended up with dysentery after only five days in the country. My memories of Goa are pretty sketchy, having spent most of my time in a fever and regularly passing out whenever I attempted to stand up. A few days, a delirious rickshaw trip to the local doctor and a handful of giant mystery pills later I was back to normal, and managed to get through the entire next 15½ months without any further outbreaks.
Waiting eight hours for a train and still missing it
Indian trains are a law unto themselves, so on our third overnight train trip we were expecting it to be late. We’d arrived at Tundla Junction outside Agra four hours early and then had another four hour delay, so had well and truly exhausted the fun possibilities of the station. Finally the train was on its way so we lined up on the platform… and were plunged into complete darkness when the power went off. Fifteen minutes later the power was back, but the train had gone. It’d been changed to another platform but without any lights or announcements we didn’t know it. So we’d been sitting around while it left without us. It was another three hours til the next train, where I ended up spending the night wedged in a corridor between a bin and a toilet, thinking wistfully of my empty bunk bed somewhere three hours ahead of me.
Getting stuck in the jungle with a potential madman
Khao Sok in southern Thailand is a beautiful National Park where we decided to spend a couple of days relaxing in a resort where you could stay in a treehouse. The days were spend kayaking, walking and swimming in this idyllic jungle. The nights were another matter though. Second night there the place was deserted save for a lone guy who seemed to be in charge for the night. That day we’d broken our one remaining mobile phone and the power had gone off, so we really were in the middle of nowhere and on our own. I’m not sure whether he was on something, or just a bit weird, but he definitely wasn’t the person you’d like to be stranded with. After his attempts to practice English focused in on the conjugation of the verb ‘to kill’ (“I kill you or you kill me, what do you think about that?”) we decided it was time for bed, where we barricaded ourselves in for the worst night’s sleep ever.
Sinking a sea plane in the middle of the night
On a weekend escape from working in Brisbane, a group of us ended up staying with an eccentric friend of a friend. He fancied himself as a bit of an inventor, and was currently building his own sea plane. It was at a pretty early stage – no wings or engine yet – but he wanted to test how watertight it was, so roped us in to help. Only problem being he wasn’t sure the police would be too happy about it, so we had to do it at night. What could possibly go wrong? So once it got dark we loaded it up onto a trailer, unloaded it a deserted stretch of riverbank and pushed it out into the water… where it promptly started to sink. Not as watertight as he’d hoped, the water rushed in and we ended up swimming out to try and haul it back to the bank and bail out a few hundred litres of water. I only hope his first flight test went a bit better.
Breaking my ankle after not looking before I leapt
After travelling down the east coast of Australia, it was our first night in Sydney so a celebratory night out was in order. Fast forward a few beers and a few hours and we decided to head down to the beach in Manly. Someone decided to do a running jump into the sand so I followed on behind. Unfortunately long jump isn’t my sport, so instead of landing on the sand I only reached the concrete steps. Landing down hard the pain was intense, and both ankles soon started to swell. I couldn’t put any weight on either foot so ended up being carried back to the taxi rank and off to Manly hospital. After spending the night in a temporary toe to hip cast, x-rays showed I had broken one ankle in two places and sprained the other. Not the time to realise that my travel insurance only covered the Asia part of my trip. Luckily Medicare covered part of the cost and I was lucky not to need it pinned, but it’s not a risk I’ll be repeating.
So there you have it – my top misadventures from 16 months travelling around the world. Also in the running were almost falling off a waterfall, dropping through air pockets on a Lao Aviation flight, spending two days dolphin spotting without seeing a single dolphin and getting banned from my flight to Australia after getting tonsillitis. And people say travel is glamorous! What’s your worst travel misadventure?