As much fun as it is throwing out expressions like ‘bit jealous’ and ‘While you were working’ this travel gig is not always plain sailing. It could be absolute train smashes or it could be just restoring the balance; either way, here’s our top ten list of what went wrong, didn’t compare to expectations or was just a plain farce. So pack away the voodoo dolls of us two, grab a big bowl of schadenfreude and tuck in because you’re about to see the not so fun parts of this excellent adventure.
10 – Pedal taxi in Havana:
Oh how green we were, a little funny one to start. Although dealing with Cuba made us bully proof for the rest of the trip there was one guy that got one over us. Pedal taxi to the bus terminal, sounds like great fun; wrong. Broke my bag, ran late and when he got to a hill he dropped us off saying the bus station was just at the next corner and the hill was too steep. The bus stop wasn’t at the corner. Much swearing and a taxi later, lesson learned.
9 – Sierra Norte:
Tough call this one, Sierra Norte near Oaxaca in Mexico remains undoubtedly an amazing and beautiful place; for other people who visit. Initially it was just the weather, clouds came in to limit our limitless view to about a ten metre limit, delightful. Add to the mix a bit of ‘wash your hands please’ food poisoning and I was on my knees on the side of the trail vomiting before a days hike only to get harassed by ladies at the next stop that insisted on rubbing me all over with alcohol and crushed tomatoes. Expectations missed.
8 – Chinese ‘culture’:
Don’t start me on China. Oddly enough with the cycling troupe of the G8 we had a sensational time so this is not so much a travel fail at all but an observational one. What is a fail is the train-smash that has been left of a historically immense culture, largely at the hands of the one and only Mao. Yes, the cliches of mainland China are sadly true, enough said.
7 – Argentinian Coffee:
Described by our mate Barnaby as ‘dirty water from a mans armpit’ Argentina takes the gong for butchering coffee, or indeed anything ingestible; allegedly. Possibly the most skilful destruction of a great drink imaginable, it’s genuinely difficult to understand the gastronomic intelligence it requires to make coffee become whatever that drink should now be called. To the contrary we found one amazing cafe in Buenos Aires, LatteTe, to stand out from the universally comical disaster that is Argentinian ‘coffee’.
6 – Bogota:
Some people have a great time in Bogota, those people aren’t us. Horrid food, comical transport and a pretty lacklustre old town that didn’t live up to the ‘great latin city’ hype at all. The most exclusive suburb in latin america felt like a shopping mall, the ‘must see’ park is basically one city block of pretty standard flower beds. But the bonus is that there’s heaps of graffiti, it’s really dangerous and drug induced disasters line the footpaths liberally. Total winner.
5 – Bus trip to San Christobal:
All pretty lightweight I hear you say, well up to now, yes. The night bus from Oaxaca to San Christobal in Mexico was a genuine travel nightmare. On yet another one of the Mexican stomach bug weight loss vomit-a-thons I thought I was in the clear. About 11pm called for a dash to the bus toilet for a vomit, delightful at any time. Fishing around in the dark it’s hands all over the toilet surface to find it and let fly. Vomit done it occurs to me that the light wasn’t on because the toilet was out of order; no water, no flushing, kneeling on a rocking urine drenched bus floor with 12 hours still to go. Round two vomit at 1am was not fun either; what I would have given to be at work.
4 – Chobe National Park:
One of the big three for this trip was Chobe national park. Memories of Charlie’s childhood mixed with safari road trip and camping in the wild, what could possibly go wrong? Rain, rain and more rain; roads like oceans and getting bogged four times looking for animals that were scattered far and wide on account of the abundant water. Driving through the park ended up being nothing short of a test of the marriage that we only barely survived. Chobe is no doubt a wonderful frontier but years of hype came tumbling down like an out of season African downpour.
3 – Jo’burg train trip:
What could possibly make an old school overnight train ride in a sleeper carriage anything other than good fun? Sharing that overnight in the sleeper carriage with a vile racist Afrikaner man, that’s what. We were quite looking forward to the train ride too, setting up in the old train to see the countryside sounded like such fun and a great alternative to an overnight bus. For the sheer sense of off the rails failure, the Jo’burg train trip smashes into a white supremacist smash of the highest order.
2 – Thurong La Pass:
Another of the big three big things for this trip to make the shame list, the Annapurna circuit and the Himalayas in general hold an esteemed place in our hearts, and fairly enough still do. Little did we know that nearly all of our ten day hike was shared by a road bringing industry, hydro electric plants and worst of all, day trippers to our ideals of a wild escape. Oh, and then there was an earthquake that sent us five days back down that road for my second hiking vomit day without even seeing Thurong la pass. We still love the Himalayas and Nepal in general but this ranks pretty highly in terms of not going to plan.
1 – Huanchaco Taxi Ride:
Up till now it’s all disasters with a little ‘d’; yes I’m calling our Nepal earthquake experience a little disaster, not the disaster itself which is massive, just a little ‘d’ in terms of our travel fails. Any reader of this blog now knows what happened on November 27th 2014, the most terrifying experience we are ever likely to have. We’re able to joke now that being kidnapped in Peru is simply the quintessential latin travel experience but it’s no joking matter. The only time we ever thought of cancelling the trip to come home is an unquestioned number one. Add to this that the police and general public seem to know about it and don’t seem to care much at all; Peru, we don’t like you.