I really hate a dramatic headline but this one really kind of sums up a post where I don’t sugar coat anything.
Despite the fact it kind of implies that I’ve had a lot of terrible travel experiences this truly isn’t the case. In fact, I really had to scratch my noggin to come up with five experiences.
Truthfully, I’m at that point where, two months after finishing up some serious traveling (five months backpacking), I’m in that romantic honeymoon stage where I remember my travels fondly. I’ve almost forgotten about the language barriers, the extreme cold, the extreme heat, blisters, dodgy food. I think fondly about sitting on white sand beaches and remember my language skills as being much better then they actually were. In reality though, sometimes your experiences are crap. Just crap. Like these ones…
Food poisoning in Bilbao
I’ve blogged about this before but it deserves another mention. I got food poisoning from a piece of fish I ate at a nice restaurant in the Guggenheim museum. I’ve never vomited so much in my life. To the point where I had to be admitted to the local hospital at about 1am because I was severely dehydrated. Unfortunately my troubles didn’t end there. I wasn’t admitted until late morning and in the meantime I wasn’t given any fluids, pain relief or even a bed. When they did admit me I wasn’t fed, even after I’d stopped vomiting, and I wasn’t allowed to leave my bed to go to the toilet. Because I was hooked up to a drip I didn’t have much choice about either of those two things and subsequently felt like I was in a prison. To top things off I missed my flight back to London because I was too sick and had to fork out about 200 euros for another flight. Good times.
Food poisoning in Arequipa
Sadly for me, this was on the same backpacking trip. I’m sure I came home 5 kilos lighter. This time I had a bacterial infection, probably built up from water and dodgy food. Unfortunately it struck on an overnight bus ride from Cusco to Arequipa, a good 12 hour long trip. I developed a fever and my body ached so bad, akin to having a flu. The constant jolting from the bus did nothing to improve my comfort levels. The screaming baby on board didn’t help with sleep either. In the middle of the night when I felt at my worst I woke my poor brother and demanded he take one of my t shirts to the disgusting bathroom on board and soak it in water under the tap. Pressing the cold t shirt to my forehead helped a little. But not a lot. By the time we arrived I was dizzy and sweaty and I’m pretty sure I took it out on the poor receptionist at the hostel who told me we couldn’t check in until noon (it was about 8am). She managed to find me a bed though and later she called a doctor too who was much more productive then the so-called medical professionals in Bilbao. He gave me fluids and medication right away and within 2-3 days I was right as rain again. Although my fear of food increased by about 200 percent to the point where all I ate for the remainder of my trip was rice.
Hypothermia in Russia
This is a a bit of an exaggeration but almost true. Kate and I went to St Petersberg in February 2012 which is when Russia is in the grips of winter. It was minus twenty degrees. Hilarious right? Our taxi driver charged us the equivalent of $200 for a twenty minute cab ride and dropped us off at a random, seemingly abandoned lot surrounded by old warehouses. It was about midnight. We spent about thirty minutes or so searching for our hostel with one pair of gloves shared between the pair of us. Kate’s hands got so cold she was practically in tears so I left her in a dark bar we found amongst the warehouses while I proceeded to skate around the mysterious buildings looking for our accommodation. Seriously, skate. The snow had frozen into ice. Eventually I found the place. It was signposted with a piece of cardboard scrawled with crayon. The rest of the holiday was unproductive due to our lack of Russian language skills. We wanted to see the ballet, but failed. We tried a couple of restaurants for lunch but were treated with such disdain that we ended up visiting McDonalds every day instead. Invariably we ended up in bed by about 7pm every night because it was so cold and we were sick of roaming the streets while the Russians stared at us, two wee blondes in our bright purple coats . We were obviously an anomaly. It was a difficult trip, to say the least.
A stalker in Ibiza
Melissa might kill me for telling this story but nonetheless I shell tell it, for it may serve as a warning for some of you. We went out for drinks one night and Mel made friends with a French guy living on the Spanish island. She didn’t speak Spanish or French and he didn’t speak much English so I’m not entirely sure how the friendship was forged, needless to say that once Mel had befriended this young man, he was her friend for life. For the rest of our five day trip he would pop up everywhere we went, despite the fact Mel had politely told him, more than once, that she was not interested in being his girlfriend. (One night he even introduced her to some of his friends as his fiance.) As polite and good humored we tried to be about his constant presence on our vacation, the final straw came when he showed up at our hostel banging on our bedroom door, shouting Mel’s name. From then on we attempted to hide from him wherever we went. Our second to last night at Ibiza we were on our way to a nightclub when he appeared on the street and demanded to go with us to the club. He didn’t have any money for a ticket and suggested that we ought to pay for him. Things didn’t go down well when we declined to spot him the cash and we quickly walked away while he abused us down the street. We thought he might have finally got the picture and had a good laugh over a few drinks at the club but sadly, he showed up there too, claiming, “My mama gave me the money!” So attractive. On the way home that night Mel saw her chance to break free while his back was turned and ran to hide behind a car, hoping he would forget about her and go home. Needless to say she was rather embarrassed when he found her hiding behind the car. This time the message got through though and his final parting words to her were, “You’re fucking crazy.” Touche. My advice for anybody who finds themselves in this situation? Just be harsh. Tell them you’re not interested right at the start. And for the love of god, never let them find out where you’re staying!
Mountain sickness in Bolivia
I had read about mountain sickness, or altitude sickness prior to arriving in Bolivia. I knew the symptoms (dizziness, fatigue, trouble sleeping and slow, laboured breathing), and how to treat them. I felt like I was fully prepared for the possibility of feeling a bit ill when we got to La Paz, the highest capital city in the world at nearly 4,000 meters above sea level. Unfortunately I did feel the burn of being up so high, but the symptoms didn’t abate at all, in fact I had altitude sickness the entire time we were in Bolivia (about two and a half weeks). I drank coca tea, cut out coffee and alcohol, slept loads, took my time walking around but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that there were ten bricks on my chest. Needless to say, I felt like I was dying most of the time. We ended up cutting our time in Bolivia short because I couldn’t face any more time at that height. Instead of visiting Sucre we headed straight up to Lake Titicaca where my brother proceeded to get sick from an infected cut which kept him confined to his bed for several days while his antibiotics kicked in. We were a sorry pair. Fortunately accommodation in Bolivia is so cheap we managed to “splurge” on a nice private room, complete with fireplace and overlooking the lake while we recuperated (read: watched movies and ate Snickers in bed all day). It was unfortunate because Bolivia was fascinating and I would have quite happily spent more time there had I possessed optimum energy levels. All I could think about at the time though was getting back down to sea level.