Travelling is such an exciting gig, it’s the ultimate adventure – unpredictable. Despite all the planning, you never quite know if you’ll be drinking cocktails over the ocean at sunset, or pulling a botfly maggot out of your leg in a back alley (see above). I love the spontaneity of travel, the colourful life it entails, but of course it has its moments. Here’s my top travel misadventures I’ve experienced on the road.
1. Losing my passport in Bolivia (and getting it back)
From my hostel in Coroico, Bolivia, I went on a white-water rafting trip in the Amazon Basin. It was a fun day until I returned, realising I’d left my passport behind. So the next morning I hitched a ride back into a jungle village, several hours away, and asked around in broken Spanish about my wallet and passport. I retrieved my passport, minus the cash. Phew I thought, although it was now getting late and I had to get back.
I managed to jump on the back of a truck, which took me along narrow forest ridges that jutted over a steep drop, miles from where I was supposed to go. I only discovered this after we were forced to stop, as a truck had overturned in the middle of the road. I got out, it was now dark and a man pointed over the mountains, way into the distance and said “it’s over there”! Guessing my way back, I began walking home along a dirt road, surrounded by dark, dense jungle for about five hours before I reached my hostel. I arrived home very early in the morning, but I had my passport.
2. Catching a third-class train from Bodh Gaya to Calcutta, India
Having little to no money in Bodh Gaya, India, I was forced to buy a third-class train ticket to reach Calcutta. Walking down the platform, I peered into the carriages, which looked like this.
Thinking it had to get better further down, I kept walking with my huge pack. Suddenly, the train started to pull out. Realising this was as good as it was going to get, I dived, desperately, into a sea of Indians and hung my pack above the bustling battalion of heads.
I managed to wedge myself into a minute gap, behind the toilet door, and every time someone went to the toilet I had to shift. I felt like I was squashed under a sandwich press for the next ten hours. During this time, people made their way through oodles of bodies, selling eggs and spices by some nimble trick of magic. Here I was lodged deep in the pulse of proletariat India, and I’d never felt so alive. I was the only white man out of hundreds. One affluent looking Indian looked at me, bemused and asked, “what are you doing!?”
3. Wandering in Stuart’s Well, in the Northern Territory
I was visiting my mate Luke Campbell in Stuart’s Well, who was working at Noel Fullerton’s Camel Farm, about 80 kilometres south of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. After drinking one too many Cooper’s yellow (a strong Aussie stout beer) next door in Jim’s Place (which I’ve written about here), myself, my friend Adrian and Luke decided to go for a wander down the highway.
After walking south, in the dark, for roughly five kilometres, we came to a bridge. Shortly after, a herd of bulls came towards us. Here we got separated. I walked into the bush while Luke and my friend Adrian hid beneath the bridge. It was at this point that I came up with this ‘clever’ idea: I was going to walk through the bush, parallel to the highway, just 50 metres from my mates and follow them home. Little did I know, however, that as I began walking, I was travelling further and further from the highway.
Before I knew it, a couple of hours had passed and I found myself wandering up and down rather sizeable, barren hills in the middle of nowhere.
The situation was now serious. I stopped and thought, ‘use your head Andy’. I looked at the moon and reckoned it was rising in the direction of the highway, roughly in the east, so I followed it for several hours. Sure enough, as the first light began to filter across this remote, beautiful part of the world, I spotted the highway. In jubilation I ran forth, straight into a barbed wire fence, cutting my face (not deeply).
Gathering my senses, I reached the road, realising I had overshot the camel farm by a good five kilometres. I walked slowly back along the road, reaching the farm in the wee hours of the morning and promptly fell into bed. However, about 30 minutes later, Luke’s boss knocked on my door. I had to get up and cook breakfast for bus loads of tourists to pay for my keep. I stumbled into the bathroom and looked at my blood-strewn face, gave myself a wash, entered the kitchen and started cooking breakfast for tourists.
By 11am, the orders were coming in thick and fast and I was flat out. At 12pm, I finished my shift and chatted to Luke and Adrian. Luke just laughed and said “I thought you’d find your way home Tope”. I took this as a complement. Then he said “I’ll take you to a sacred Aboriginal cave about 10 kilometres up the road”. And with this, Adrian and Luke jumped on a motorbike, while Luke gave me a kid’s pushbike, perfectly designed for a suburban 10-year-old.
Luke knew I would be up for it. He laughed at me and rode off, while I followed, watching them disappear into the distance. Meanwhile, my enormous legs bounced up and down, peddling for 10 kilometres along a stretch of highway in the blazing, midday sun. The odd car beeped as it passed. I eventually made it to this cave, which had wonderful Aboriginal paintings/markings which very few know about.
Getting home at about 5pm, Luke threw me a cold VB, laughed and said “you’ve earned it”. However the day hadn’t yet ended, as later that night, I had possibly the worst meal of my entire life. You can read about that here.
Of course this was a few years ago, when I had boundless energy. Things have slowed down today, quite a lot. Although I now see this same energy in my three-year-old.