Travelling long term is always going to have have a few hiccups along the way. Lucky for us we never had any major dramas, illness or any dangerous situations during our years travel but of course there were a few little mishaps and misfortunes along the way. Each with their own little story. We almost couldn’t believe it when we landed at Heathrow, we had survived!
In Malawi one evening our group were having a few drinks at a bar located on Lake Malawi, the sun had set and it was dark. Myself and my friend Kristina began to walk back towards to campsite bar (albeit a little tipsy) and next thing I look down and I’m standing on something that resembles a stick. I carry on and within a second get a little pain in my toe, I look down again and see the “stick” wriggling its way in to the nearest bush. That stick was a little black snake that had just attempted to stick its flags in to me. My first reaction was “brilliant it’s a black mambo and I’m going to die in 10 minutes”. I had this thought because only a few weeks before we had been at a place where we learnt all about the different types of snakes, what they can do to you and of course how quickly you’d die if you got bit.
Lucky for me it didn’t pierce the skin, it just stung a lot. We had a vet on our trip from Australia and she assured me that I’d be OK and of course I was. I don’t know what kind of snake it was but I know I dodged a bullet there because we later found out there is no anti venom in Malawi and hospital was hours away so if it had been fatal or really bad I would’t have made it anywhere quick enough anyway.
I’ve not ridden a horse in my adult life and I was a little apprehensive getting on a horse in Lesotho in Africa. But I did it and the experience wasn’t great due to the fact that all the horses seemed to not like each other very much. The actual ride was through beautiful mountains in Lesotho and the scenery really was breathtaking but my poor little horse kept getting picked on by the others and during one particular jostle one of the other horses went to bite my horse but he moved swiftly and instead my leg got in the way and I ended up with a real life horse bite (which was no where near as funny as someone’s hand on your thigh). It bruised up instantly and that bruise stuck around for another 3 weeks! It was super painful and I decided there and then I think my horse riding days were probably over.
This is straight after the horse bite, it got much bigger and much darker as the days went on.
My DLSR camera lens broke…twice
I’ve had my trust Nikon D60 camera for almost a decade so it didn’t surprise me when it took a little tumble that it broke as it has happened before. Unfortunately for me it happened in Zambia just a few days before we headed off to do some great safaris at Chobe National Park and Etosha National Park in Botswana and Namibia. No amount of duct tape or bunny chord seemed to work (like previous times) and I was getting super frustrated by it. I did manage to get it working sometimes and got some incredible photos of lions and rhinos in Etosha which was amazing. I then got it fixed for a rather hefty fee in New Zealand only for it to break again in Bolivia.
When it came to insurance for this, my useless insurance company Insure and Go took forever to process it, then insisted on sending me my money via cheque to an address I didn’t live at because you know I was travelling for a year on their annual backpacker policy. It took weeks, many phone calls, several emails to their complaints department and I finally got paid into my back account much long after the incident.
The second time it happened was through no fault of my own, well kinda. The camera was on the overhead shelf of a bus and while the bus went onto a boat for a river crossing the bus went over a big bump and knocked the camera off the shelf and straight onto the floor and smashed the lens again. This time I took it to a guy in Cusco who fixed it for a quarter of the price in New Zealand on the same day as I stressed I was on a plane to the Amazon the next day. A total legend!
Wisdom tooth extraction
Just before we left on our big trip Dan’s wisdom teeth began to give him a bit of grief, they were painful and kept getting infected but of course good old NHS dentist said there was no need for an extraction and sent him on his way. Three months later by the time we got to New Zealand the tooth was seriously infected and needed to be taken out ASAP! The healthcare system in New Zealand is expensive unless you have insurance, unfortunately for us our travel insurance policy only offered £250 for emergency dental.
The care he received was amazing though as he went private to get it done as quickly as possible, the oral surgeon even took two teeth out for the price of one as he sympathised with us poor travellers (and I think Dan sweet talked the ladies at reception with his lovely British accent).
The whole process cost us around £1000 (which was a big chunk of our frugal travel budget) all up for appointments, surgery and medication but it did mean that he could carry on to the next leg of the trip pain free.
I got to experience my very first earthquake this year in Chile, it was such a weird situation to be in. I was in the coastal town of Valparaiso just north of Santiago when I kept feeling what I can only describe as the ground bubbling underneath me. Ever so slightly it just felt like it was moving, over the course of a couple of days I could just feel it literally bubbling. On day three whilst sitting on the toilet (unbelievable timing) a big earthquake happened, everything started to rumble and it was quite loud. Upon advice from our airbnb host after the small tremors we ran outside and just waited. It was pretty frightening because our airbnb house was precariously perched on top of a hill surrounding by other houses that could be described as shacks made out of corrogated iron.
After the initial shock we turned the news on and there were a few reports here and there but nothing major so we assumed that it must happen quite often. After trawling twitter and finding out the stats I later found it was 5.9 on the scale and 37km from Valparaiso town.
Then the next day the big one happened, mere seconds after I hung up on a FaceTime call with my family the big earthquake hit. This one properly shook the house and really frightened me, the noise boomed through the town, the ground below me rumbled and we ran outside again along with our neighbours. The sirens went off all over town due to a tsunami warning and all the residents of the town began to walk up the many steps to higher ground which just so happened to be where our house was.
Upon some research I found that this earthquake was 7.1 on the scale and just 10km off shore so much closer than before. We sat in all night just waiting for something to happen, there were many aftershocks but nothing as big thank goodness. We left Valparaiso two days later and we were definitely happy to see the back of the place. Nothing happened to us or our accommodation so I can’t even imagine what a full blown earthquake must be like.
After 5 glorious days trekking in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile at 6am on a freezing cold and dark morning after brushing my teeth I feel over….really badly. I missed a step outside the bathroom block and fell into a ditch and in the process rolled over on my ankle. I’ve got a really high tolerance for pain but this was excruciating! I did a bit of cry/wimpering until someone found me in a heap on the floor gasping for breath and clutching my ankle which had blown up like a balloon. I took all the drugs available to me and went into a nice codeine and tramadol coma on the bus and slept the pain off for the first few hours.
At the next town I went to the hospital and found out it wasn’t broken (yay) but I was still in a lot of pain and couldn’t do much for the next few weeks. I missed out on some great hikes in Patagonia and for subsequent weeks found it really hard to walk for long periods of time. My ankle is still not 100% now 7 months later but it’s getting there. Two days after I fell and hurt my ankle we were visiting the Perito Moreno glacier which is one of the biggest in the world, I couldn’t walk at the time but I couldn’t miss it. Thankfully they supplied wheel chairs so Dan was able to wheel me around the observation deck so I didn’t miss it. I felt like an idiot but it was worth it to see the glacier.
Bogota attempted mugging
One evening in Bogota, myself, Dan and our friends Chelsea and Sean were walking through La Candaleria which is supposed to be the ‘safe’ part of Bogota. We’d heard stories, we had been warned and we knew the dangers but all seemed ok and there were police officers on every corner of the area so we felt kinda safe. After a dodgy taxi ride and a couple of other dodgy encounters we were definitely alert. A guy came up to us and asked for money, I was oblivious as to what was happening I just thought he was asking for money but then he pulled out a knife and demanded money from Sean. This guy was never going to get anything from us, there was 4 of us and 1 of him! Sean repeated no and we all walked a bit quicker and then yelled Police! He scarpered and we found a policeman on the next block and told him in our broken Spanish what had happened.
In Bogota’s La Candaleria there are police men and military on each corner with huge Rottweiler dogs so we knew if anything did go down help wouldn’t be far away.
Lost baggage from Bogota
We were warned that travelling between Colombia and Mexico by a fellow traveller that our bags would be searched and most probably something will go wrong and of course after a whole year of travel and not one lost bag it happened on the second to last flight. That awkward moment when you’re standing at the carousel and it’s empty and then it stops completely you know that your bag didn’t make it.
At the lost baggage counter the staff literally rolled her eyes when we said we had come from Bogota and said that it always happens. Two days later Dan’s bag did arrive at our hostel, it had been completely ransacked, the people searching had tried to stuff things back in and in turn the bag ripped and was a mess by the time it got to us but at least it made it! Dan just had to spend two days in Mexico City in the same clothes.
Burglary at our hostel in Mexico City
On our second to last day of our entire trip we got back to our hostel in Mexico City and noticed that our big ruck sack bag was open, my husband is super OCD and noticed as soon as we walked in the room. We had the dorm room to ourselves so we knew someone had been in the room. We had a look and sure enough everything was messed up. We of course had locked all of our valuables in our locker and just kept clothes in a bag by our bed but we knew something was up.
I went down to reception to explain that someone had been through our stuff and I could tell the staff member was like mmmmm yeah ok I’ll check the cameras. An hour later she came up to the room super apologetic and said 6 thieves had been through all of the rooms and peoples passports and money had been stolen in the room next to ours. A team of thieves had somehow got into the hostel, gone through the rooms quickly and then come back for more later. Lucky for us nothing got taken but it was a lesson to make sure you always lock up your valuables! Imagine if everything had been taken on the last day of our trip!
So there are our mishaps and misfortunes on a year of travel, we avoided illness, serious injury, all technology items remained working and not damaged and we didn’t loose any money or passports.
What’s the worst thing that has happened to you during travelling?