I debated for a while about writing this post. My goal has always been to inspire others to travel, to show how incredibly diverse and interesting the world is outside of our front doors. But while I’m here to share my best travel stories and my most inspiring adventures, I’m also here to tell you the truth. And the truth is that travel isn’t always a joyful ride full of awe-inspiring moments.
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“Travel is only glamorous in retrospect” – Paul Theroux
Sometimes travel really sucks! It beats you up and brings you down, making you want to hop on the next flight home, climb into your own bed and never go on another adventure again. Bad travel moments happen to all of us, and I’m no exception. So here is a recap of my worst travel moments of 2014, the truth about some of my trips that I have never shared with you before.
Freezing and in Pain After the Hike to Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka
Technically, our trip to Sri Lanka took place in 2013, just on the brink of 2014, but since Drink Tea and Travel didn’t exist in 2013, this bad travel moment has earned a spot on the 2014 list.
Climbing Adam’s Peak (a.k.a. Siripada) in Sri Lanka was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Sri Lanka. The pilgrimage hike comprised of 5,500 steps to the top of the most sacred mountain in Sri Lanka was a challenge for the body and the mind. It was wet, cold and at times I felt truly miserable. But the second we got to the top, the feeling of excitement and accomplishment completely took over!
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What followed after was a day I wish didn’t have to exist. After descending Adam’s Peak shortly after sunrise, we grabbed some breakfast, took a short nap and continued on with our itinerary. We made our way from the tiny village of Dalhousie to the beautiful hill clad town of Ella, on the popular scenic train ride through the hill country.
Ella was the town I was most looking forward to on that trip. There were numerous hiking trails to explore and beautiful scenery to admire. But when we arrived in Ella my excitement quickly diminished. I was in excruciating pain from the Adam’s Peak hike. My legs hurt so much I struggled to walk. But it wasn’t just my legs, my whole body seemed to be giving up on me. And the chilly hill country setting wasn’t helping. I quickly realised that I didn’t pack well for the weather.
It was mid-day in the middle of December (when the weather in Sri Lanka is meant to be at it’s best) but the thermometer was barely reaching 15°C. After a short walk around Ella town, I returned to my guest house and curled up in bed. I was freezing, I was in pain, and I felt at my worst. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. So I laid there for the rest of our time in Ella, getting out only for a short trip to a tea factory (I couldn’t possibly skip that).
We ended up leaving Ella the next morning, as our tight itinerary didn’t allow for an extra day to recover after the hike. I was in pain for another 3 days following the hike, but skipping hikes and scenic walks in Ella was the thing I regretted the most!
Overrated Town of Pondicherry in India
After spending New Years in Goa, we travelled south to explore Kochi and the Kerala Backwaters region and later flew to the other side of the country to check out the highly recommended town of Pondicherry, located just a few hours south of Chennai. The guide books painted a beautiful picture of Pondicherry. “A stunning former French colony with beautiful architecture, great seafood and a Goa-like vibe” – they promised. I loved Goa, so my expectations for Pondicherry were high!
Pondicherry was the last stop on our trip and it ended up being a huge disappointment. The town was dirty, the buildings looked abandoned and one of the best restaurant in town (as rated by TripAdvisor) served stale sandwiches. We spent hours walking around the colonial city centre, hoping to find the charm that the guide books raved about. There was nothing. Nothing to even grab onto. I was crushed! I wanted nothing more than to end our trip on a high note and Pondicherry just didn’t deliver.
After hours moping around the city, we finally made the call to cut our losses and get the hell out. And we did. Maybe I didn’t see the charm and the beauty of the town, after all they do say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Pondicherry was definitely the worst place I visited in 2014.
Getting Soaked in Lamington National Park
As I mentioned in my last post, one of the best travel experiences for me this year was discovering my love for the outdoors. But being on a mission to enjoy the great outdoors comes with a certain level of risk. When you are out there with nature, you are never the one in control. And our trip to Lamington National Park was proof of that.
It was meant to be a beautiful May weekend, with great weather and perfect hiking temperature. Max and I had been looking forward to our trip to Lamington National Park for weeks. We arrived on Friday afternoon, with just enough time left to set up camp before nightfall. We made an amazing meal and enjoyed a great evening watching the stars and enjoying smores on the fire. We climbed into our tent that evening excited to set off early in the morning and explore one of Queensland’s best National Parks.
I awoke in the middle of the night from the terrifying eruption of thunder. It was right above us, loud, grand, unexpected. The rain was pounding on our tent. I was freezing. Within seconds I realised that something had gone wrong. My pillow, our mattress and half of my sleeping bag were completely drenched. Water was running down all 4 sides of our tent. I grabbed my phone and looked at the time. It was 2am.
“Max, wake up! Everything is soaked!” – I shook him in panic. “Our tent is leaking and it sounds like the world is coming to an end outside”
“There is nothing we can do”, he said after a quick investigation. “We must’ve messed up the tent set up and the storm picked it up off the ground, allowing the water straight in”
I stuck my head under the semi-dry part of the sleeping bag, protecting my face from the water that was leaking into our tent. I knew we were in for a long and miserable night. I considered packing up and leaving in the middle of the night, but I knew driving down the cliff mountain road in the middle of the night was not a good idea. I laid awake for the next 3 hours, trying to cuddle up to Max and steal whatever heat was still coming off his body. I was miserable.
The sun came up shortly before 6am, but the sky was still dark. We tried to wait out the storm, hiding under a make shift tarp cover under a tree… A few hours later, we packed up and called it a day. When we got home, I climbed into a hot bath and soaked in it for an hour. That day I hated camping.
Missing Our Flight En Route to Brazil
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ve already heard the story of how we missed our flight to Brazil. It was a combination of poor planning, (i.e. leaving only 2 hours in for our onward connection), a case of really bad luck (i.e. our first flight was an hour late) and a terrible decision to say “no” to travel insurance that left me crying at the LAN Airlines office in Sydney Airport on June 28, 2014.
I couldn’t believe it at first.
“There has to be something you can do. We can’t afford to spend $4000 each to buy 2 more flights to Brazil. We would have to cancel our whole trip” – I begged the LAN Airlines staff, while sobbing uncontrollably.
“I’m sorry”, she said, but you didn’t book your full itinerary with us and we are not responsible for your missed connection. “The ticket is simply lost”
Sitting in that office was one of the worst and most stressful 2 hours of my life. I truly believed we weren’t going to make it to Brazil… But as you already know, we did…
Related Post: How a Pair of Long Pants Helped Us Get To Brazil
Getting Sick in Paraty, Brazil
I tent to always get a bug when I travel. Be it a stomach bug or a bit of a cold, it no longer even surprises me. But a good night sleep and a few pills normally solve the problem, allowing me to go on with my trip. My sickness in Paraty was not that kind. It caught me by complete surprise.
When we arrived in Paraty I was perfectly fine. I was excited to explore this little off the beaten path charming town and spend a few days relaxing on the beach, checking out Paraty’s famous chaçaca distillery and venturing out into the wilderness for some great hikes.
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That evening I started to feel unwell, so I went to bed early, hoping to give my immune system a reboot with a good long rest. I woke up the next morning with high fever, alternating between shivering, despite the heat outside, and sweating, as my body exerted heat under a thin blanket. I knew my day would be spent in bed. I knew I would miss out on a great day in Paraty. But what made it even worse, was that it was Max’s birthday. Even though we were traveling with another friend, he refused to leave me in bed and go on with the day as planned and ended up spending his birthday running around town in search of medication for me. I felt horrible… grateful, but horrible!
I later found out that Max was planning to propose to me that day and my sickness not only ruined his birthday plans but also our much anticipated engagement.
Related Post: I’m Engaged. The Sunset and the Ring in Byron Bay
I’ve been lucky, I suppose. None of my worst travel experiences from this year were really all that terrible. Sure, at the times, they sucked. I felt miserable and really upset. And at times, I really did question whether experiences like these would put a dent in my desire to continue to travel the world every chance that I get.
And you know what? They don’t. Instead, they teach me lessons, they keep me humble and grounded in reality. The more I travel, the more I experience, the more I learn to expect the occasional hiccups and crappy moments. Shit happens.
It happens to everyone from first time travelers to seasoned pros. But I’ve learned to say that the bad moments are just as important as the good ones. After all, if it wasn’t for the “downs”, how would you ever recognize the “ups”?
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What are some of your worst travel moments from 2014?