I wouldn’t exactly call myself clumsy and I would like to think I’ve got pretty good judgment when it comes to unknown territory, but during a six month backpacking trip with my partner Tim, I began wondering if I’d been cursed with some kind of ‘travel blunder’ syndrome.
We were about a third of the way through the trip and I’d already endured my fair share of humiliation. In fact, at this point I had already fallen off the back of a moped due to the weight of my own rucksack, driven a moped straight into the side of a parked truck, fallen down a set of stairs in a bar, in my bikini, and forgotten to lock a door in a hole-in-the-ground style toilet. I’m not sure who was more humiliated this time mind you.
Of course I knew that going to a new country for the first time would no doubt result in a few choice moments of hilarity, what with the language barrier and the difference in customs. I just didn't realise that 99 times out of 100 these moments of hilarity would be at my own expense.
One particularly humiliating incident involved a thunderstorm and a rowboat…
We arrived in Pokhara, Nepal after a gruelling and somewhat terrifying twenty plus hour journey. This had involved a three-hour wait at Varanasi train station where we were very nearly trampled to death by an irritated cow, an overnight train where it is impossible to sleep due to the tea sellers insistent cry of “Chai, chai, garam chai” coming down the aisles every 30 minutes and a three-hour taxi ride to the India/Nepal border in which the driver insisted on playing very loud Indian pop music for the entire journey. It was a relief to finally be bundled onto a rickshaw, which then deposited us at immigration. Immigration turned out to be two men sitting in a shed by the side of a road.
After crossing the border I relaxed a little. We’d arranged for a car to take us all the way to Pokhara and after enjoying a cold coke for breakfast, something that was becoming more and more frequent, our driver called to say he’d arrived.
A few pleasantries later and we were on our way to Pokhara. I fished out a jumper from my rucksack, positioned it in a good spot behind my head and looked forward to a few blissful hours of sleep.
Two minutes later I awoke to a jolt and a bump. The road surface was unfinished and we were snaking around mountains on which one side was a perilous looking drop. For five hours this continued. It’s not particularly easy to sleep when you’re being thrown from side to side in the back of a car, especially when at every turn deafening beeps sounded as the driver coming around the other side of the mountain warned us with their horn. Both vehicles then have to do the obligatory 'who goes first' dance to get past each other. It was definitely preferable to be on the inside next to mountain than to be on the outside next to the edge. After we’d passed our third crash of the day, I decided sleep would have to wait.