We have done so many bone head moves traveling and have had so many close calls in potentially dangerous situations, that I had to add a part two to our list. So here are some more ridiculous situations that could have gone bad, but luckily didn’t and now we can laugh about them.
5; Having semi automatics (maybe they were fully automatic, I don’t know my guns, but they were huge!) pointed at us as we cycled through the Sudan. Sure these guys were there to guard, us but when a truck full of militia pulls up in front of you with a high powered gun mounted in the box, it can be a little nerve racking. They got a kick out of these crazy cyclist riding in the desert and they would drive in front of us forever with their guns aimed. The good news is they had big smiles and were always waving. We just prayed that their finger didn’t slip.
4; Running out of gas on the autobahn. We rented a fabulous little car called a Twingo, it went forever on a tank of gas and we had no problem pushing it to the limit. Gas is expensive in Europe and we made sure to use my sister’s military coupons to give us a nice discount. She now works for NATO (sorry- just had to put that in, it’s a cool job.) Unfortunately we could only use our coupons in Germany and Belgium. We are notoriously cheap, and really thought we could make it last. So after driving from Germany to Vimy Ridge, Calais, Paris and back we were running extremely low on gas. We had been on empty for several kms and now the highway had gone down to one lane in rush hour. We couldn’t see and exit in sight and we were sweating bullets. I am not exaggerating when I say that we went at least another 30km (my memory tells me 60, but it has probably gotten inflated over the years in my mind) on empty and still didn’t run out of gas! We were sure that we were going to stall in this construction zone. Concrete barricades were on either side of us and we wondered how a tow truck would even get to us. Stupid Canadian tourists that we were. I seriously have to tell you that we had a severe panic attack, but we eventually made it to a cut off and luckily a gas station was not far down the road.
3; Almost being left behind in the sand dunes of Mui Ne in Vietnam because I had the nerve to complain about the service of our tour. We were in the middle of nowhere, the sun was going down and I complained that we weren’t going sand boarding when that was the part of the trip that our guide had sold us on. I learned the hard way not to ever make a Vietnamese man lose face in public. Luckily an NGO was in our group that lived in Vietnam and spoke the language. He smoothed things over after several heated discussions and threats. I had to apologize in a grand gesture in front of everybody and he finally agreed to take me back to the bungalow. Thank God, it was late and he was going to leave me behind in the desert. Wow, I had never seen such anger in a man’s face before in my life. The NGO said offhandedly that I was lucky we were in Vietnam and not Cambodia. He said that they just would have shot me in Cambodia. Luckily they have severe penalties in Vietnam, Woah, thank God I couldn’t understand what they were saying. He must have been infuriated with me. I was pretty uncomfortable staying there the next few days, since he was the manager of my guest house.
2; Being eaten by fire ants in Honduras. Dave was being a good Samaritan helping to take everyone’s back packs off our local bus in Honduras. He put his down and continued to heave luggage handed to him out the window. It was getting dark and once he had finished, he threw on his pack. It all happened so fast, I didn’t know what had happened. All I saw was Dave dancing around like a maniac slapping at his body. Suddenly his white shirt turned black as thousands of Ants swarmed. Luckily a quick thinking fellow traveler grabbed some medical gloves from out of nowhere and started brushing off the bugs. I was busy looking for the bug spray in my back pack (right as if that would have done any good) and was no help whatsoever. As the local people laughed, our well prepared friend swiped all of them away with little damage to himself. Where he pulled those medical gloves out of, I’ll never know. But I am sure glad that he was there. Dave didn’t have a reaction to the ant bites luckily, but he has certainly developed a phobia of Ants.
1; Motorcycle accident in Thailand. It was our first trip to Thailand and we were newbie adventure travelers. We had just got off the ferry in Ko Samui and during our tuk tuk ride, we noticed that several people had bandages on their faces, legs and arms. We thought that there must be a coral break that people were surfing on or something and never thought anything of it. The next day we rented a motorbike to tour the island and had a fantastic day. That is until we turned a corner and lost it on some loose gravel. We wiped out and both suffered 2nd degree burns on our calf and thigh. Dave on the muffler and I on the back tire. Dave’s was far worse than mine and both our legs eventually became infected since we didn’t go to the hospital right away. We made our way to the hospital after many nice people tried to help us by giving us aloe and putting iodine on them, but they only got worse in the heat and humidity. We thought that we would go and get some nice pain killers and be all better at the hospital, but instead and they proceeded to clean Dave’s wound with a razor blade as he bit on a towel. To add insult to injury, they poured pure iodine on the wound after the fact. I had it a little easier, mine wasn’t quite as bad, so they just peeled away the skin with a big cotton swab. It was bad, it might as well have been a razor blad. That cotton swab on a fresh burn felt like fire. We had to keep going back for 3 days to have them change the bandages. And each time was very painful because every day our skin would get stuck in the dressings. We hobbled back and forth from our hotel to the hospital in bandages like the rest of the tourists on the island. And locals laughed at us yelling, Motorcycle? Motorcycle? When we got back to Canada we went to the doctors and he said that they did an amazing job cleaning the wounds. It is 10 years later and neither of us have scars. So, if you ever burn yourself, just grab a straight razor and scrape away at the burnt flesh until nice new bright red skin is showing. Just make sure that you have a towel to bite on.
Oh. PS Being typical Dave and Deb we were more worried about what we would have to pay for the damages to the bike rather than worrying about our legs. Luckily we crashed close to a repair shop and they hammered out the pedal for us and straightened out a couple of other things. We had a few scrapes in the paint, but they didn’t notice when we returned it, thank God. Can you believe, here we are with burns as big as my entire calf and daves entire inner thigh and instead we are busy at the shop fixing the bike. Ridiculous.
3; Knee infection in Africa. Many have read and heard about my knee infection, I have written about it in detail in Tanzania, but it really was one of the scariest travel experiences we have had. My small cut in Tanzania, turned into a serious case of cellulitus. Infection spread from my ankle to my hip and it was impossible to walk or even move. The pain was unbearable and antibiotics refused to work. I went to 2 different hospitals, my leg swelled up so much that the doctor thought that I broke my tibia, and I was worried I was going to have to go home, that is if I could get a ride somewhere to civilization. The most excruciating pain of my life, but 10 days it cleared up enough to let me continue riding down the continent. Now I can’t even remember the pain.
2; Climbing in Thailand. We were standing on the beach waiting for our next climb, when out of the blue; a body falls right beside us. He jumps up and shakes it off, but seriously, he could have died. Apparantly they ran out of rope and the end wasn’t tied off, so it just slipped through the gri gri leaving the climber in a free fall. These guides had our lives in their hands, so we were a little nervous. We then proceeded to do our first multipitch climb with a figure 8 descender instead of a gri gri which I am used to. Needless to say, I was white knuckled the entire climb.
1; Driving in a van from Vientianne to Vang Vieng in Laos . Armed bandits tried to wave us down as we passed. It is known to be a dangerous highway and when we were there anyway, it was not uncommon for tourists to be shot. Luckily our driver didn’t stop.