In seven years on the road -including many solo trips- some stuff had to happened. Sorry to disappoint you guys, but traveling is not all Instagram-perfect cocktails by the ocean and sunrises from the top of the mountains.
Things go wrong. It’s a fact of life -either you live in your hometown or you’re traveling around the world. Ok, maybe you’ve got less risk to get attacked by a Komodo dragon in your backyard than in Borneo. Yes, traveling is dangerous. And even with proper precautions, shit happens. That’s why we call it an adventure, right? Of course, over the past 7 years on the road, we’ve battled many classic travel inconveniences such as terrifying night bus rides, terrible indigestions -didn’t I tell you? traveling is sexy!-, creepy hotel rooms and many cockroaches or other insects’ surprises. But these were just routine. I’ve combined -for your pleasure- the best of our REAL worst travel moments.
The best of our worst travel moments
I remember thinking : why on Earth did I put myself in that situation? Why can’t I just be spending my Sunday afternoon brunching with my friends instead of almost-dying on a creepy hotel room? Why in hell did I chose this destination instead of a nice weekend on the beach? That’s what happens when you got bitten by the travel bug. Nothing can’t stop you -or, almost. Rather than calling them our worst travel moments, let’s call them adventurous…
1. when I almost died among the dead - #tanatoraja
Tana Toraja is situated on the island of Sulawesi, 2,5 hours flight + 8 hours bus drive from Jakarta, where I lived at that time. When I got to the bus station after my flight, I started to feel dizzy. A couple of hours later, I realised how bad it is. I will spare you the details -to make it short, I’ve visited all the restrooms in the region during the drive then during my trip in Toraja. I simply came knocking on any random house to ask to use the toilets. After 3 days, I had a hard time recognising myself in a mirror. I had clearly lost weight. The same night, eating my bowl of plain rice in my creepy 3$ hotel room, I thought in case it got really bad, I didn’t want my family to see me there, so I moved to a better hotel across the road. Walking up the 5 stairs to my “luxury” bedroom (or should I say less creepy) seemed to me as climbing the Everest. I was so weak, after 4 days I could barely walk. But it seemed like I was able to stay more than an hour without going to the restroom, so I took it as an opportunity to hop on a bus and get back to Jakarta. Straight to the hospital, where they kept me for a severe typhoid*. Minus 7kg. Badly dehydrated. On a solo trip, of course.
*I didn’t get the typhoid eating street food, but actually eating in a fancy restaurant in Jakarta the day before I left. So don’t be scared of street food… be scared of EVERYTHING. Just kidding.
2. when we slept with an immortal evil spider - #kangarooisland
We are in the middle of a wild island, East Australia. Whilst driving, our friend driving the camper van calmly said “Don’t panic… there’s a spider in the van… I’m gonna stop now.” and stopped right away. That’s when we saw that giant exotic evil spider inside the van on the windshield. It was only a few centimetres from his face! When the spider moved to the door frame, we tried to kill it slamming the door, but even when the spider was crushed, she’d pop right up and get back inside again. We tried to get rid of her, to later realise they were many of them*. Good news was: the van was our home… were we were sleeping at night! Or, you know, where we had insomnias until the day we gave the van back. *Never park your car under a tree in Australia. NEVER.
3. When I got trapped into a sulphur mine - #kawaijen
At night, the volcano Ijen has the particularity to spew blue fire, a phenomenon you can only see at night. So we got there at 2am, equipped with a medical paper mask to protect ourselves from the toxic sulphur. After two hours hiking, we’re down the crater lake. The smoke, the noise, the acid water boiling -I feel like we went down to hell. Suddenly the wind changes, and wraps us into a cloud of sulphur fumes. It all goes very quickly. I can’t see, I can’t breathe. Seconds feel like hours. I can hear our guide and G screaming my name. But I can’t see a thing and am afraid to fall into the acid lake. I am petrified. A couple of well equipped photographers -with proper gas masks- help me to move. I hear my name again. G pushes me on the trail. I’m walking up as fast as I can, struggling to breathe. Once on top of the crater, I realise I’m still alive and eat a cookie to pass the toxic taste of sulphur in my mouth. I am breathless -and not only because of the view.
4. When nails were hammered in my brain - #langtangvalley
4,000 metres. We made it. Tomorrow is the big day, we’ll climb up to Kyanjin Ri, 4,850m altitude. But suddenly, it takes me by surprise. Altitude sickness. I feel like somebody is hammering nails in my brain. My head is about to explode. Our guide takes us for a hike up then down, to create a relief -a strategy that obviously doesn’t work with me. After a few hours of unbearable pain, I start having delirium. I’m in complete panic. Freezing all night, anxious, asking G to call a helicopter otherwise I’ll die in the Himalayas, losing it completely, until finally falling asleep. The next day, not only I woke up alive but feeling much better, and ready to hit the trail all the way up to Kyanjin Ri! Amazing what an Ibuprofen can makes.
5. When I made friend with a con artist - #thatbitch
I met that girl Vahimeri in Jakarta, we became friends. She was working in the French Embassy. Or so she said. I discovered six months later she was a con artist -regularly changing names. She has the same process everywhere she goes in Indonesia. She makes friends, invites them to her place, discreetly steals their credit card numbers, put them back, then uses them to pay hotels and flight tickets. She stole a total of 1600 euros from us. And made us feel like a fool. She did much worse with other people. We’ve discovered we were a lot of victims, including one who committed suicide after she seduced him and stole all his money. She did some jail time in New Caledonia a while back. Now she’s still in Indonesia, screwing people.
6. when we spent Christmas in the airport - #hokkaido
That morning, snowboarding in Niseko, I remember saying “Is there such thing as too much powder?”. Well there is, when you want to take a flight. That 24th December was epic. Snow storm, every body stuck in Sapporo Chitose airport, all the restaurants sold out, no more drinks. We spent 17 hours waiting in the airport. Unless some other airlines, Hong Kong Airlines decided we had to stay and wait / sleep on the floor, instead of letting us go and sleep in a hotel while waiting for the situation to improve. The airport looked like a refugees camp. We made a lot of friends, shared phone chargers, snacks and drinks. We finally got back to Hong Kong two days later, via Tokyo -where we had to stay overnight as all flights were full. A Christmas nightmare. Our biggest mistake was to try to go back home when there was so much snow powder to ride! Our bad. Won’t happen again.
7. when we got stuck with a tropical cyclone - #hongkong
Typhoons used to be fun in Hong Kong. When you hear about it, you buy some frozen pizzas and ice cream before -yes, a T8+ is a perfect excuse to eat junk food and watch Netflix all day- and you enjoy it. But now with a baby and an old house, it’s much different. We spent five hours waiting for the house to get blown away. Doors and windows were shaking, our plants were flying over, and we even had our TV antenna and a piece of wall were snatched on the rooftop. Typhoon Mangkhut wasn’t the regular typhoon, it was a devastating T10. We’ve been very lucky compared to some others.
8. when we saw a dragon ON the beach - #BORNEO
Who said a weekend on the beach couldn’t be adventurous? Imagine yourself, barefoot on a white sand, on a gorgeous little island with a friend and your baby… That’s strange you say, everybody is packed, swimming on the same part of the beach, when there’s so much space beyond. So we go there. Then my friend, shaking, whispers “Marie… look, look, look… here”. Yes, right here. A three meters long Komodo dragon, right in front of us. Staring at us. My heart stopped for a minute. We ran fast, very fast. I think a tree hit me in my face. The next minute we were with all the people, on the other side of the beach. Trying to relax whilst checking on that dinosaure. We discovered later that, in Kota Kinabalu, there are dragons from the same family as the Komodos but they’re inoffensive. He didn’t look very friendly though…
9. When a bamboo snake surprised us - #sumbawa
Another day in Sumbawa, hanging out in a gazebo whilst watching the waves and drinking green coconuts. We’re chatting with our friends, until one started to scream like crazy. A bamboo snake had just let himself slowly fall from the top of the gazebo… right next to us! We don’t know much about snakes, but just enough to know that that green one is no good news -it’s actually highly venomous. A local came to us, took the snake calmly in his barefoot hands then put him back in the jungle… right behind the gazebo. Yep. Way to be relaxed, man!
10. when they put meat in my pain au chocolat - #bali
Not cool, when you’re dipping your birthday pain au chocolat in your coffee. Not cool. The worst. I know, compare to that, all the spiders, snakes and dragons are nothing!