I’m pretty sure everyone knows by now that travelling is nowhere near as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be. Yes, ok there’s some beautiful sunsets, stunning scenery and seriously impressive wildlife around the world…
but what many people don’t dwell on is the many 5am starts, 24 hour plus journeys and some simply horrendous travel moments.
Sometimes the problem with travelling is that you actually have to travel.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last few months and had some crazy journeys along the way – here are our worst so far. Avoid at all costs if you can!
1: Puerto Maldonado to Cusco Night Bus
Our first night bus with fully reclining seats – we couldn’t wait! Journeying from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado to see the Amazon Rainforest is a simple 1 hour hop by plane, or if you’re on a budget like us a not quite so simple 17 hour bus journey. We figured that having done a few night buses without too much hassle this would be a piece of cake – allowing us to get some much needed rest and save plenty of cash.
Oh how wrong we were. Turns out that seats reclining 180 degrees don’t matter so much when the driver of your double decker bus descends from 3500 metres altitude to just a couple of metres above sea level at speeds I haven’t witnessed even in my old boss’s Porsche. Add into the mix that we had handily been given seats right at the front and not only had a first class view of every
near death experience corner, but also took the brunt of every impact and it wasn’t exactly the best night’s sleep we’ve ever had.
If you’re ever in the same position we are, spend the money, take the flight. We arrived for our Amazon trip exhausted and feeling pretty terrible to say the least.
2: Plane from Guayaquil > Venezuela > Miami
When I let our travel agent in the U.K know that the cheapest flights from Ecuador seemed to be to Miami airport I had expected that perhaps we might end up on one of the many direct flights I’d spotted. Not so. Turns out our flight was headed via Barcelona. Yeah I was confused too but it turns out there’s a Barcelona airport in Venezuela of all places.
I’m sure Venezuela is a lovely country but some recent articles that popped up upon further googling when we researched whether it was worth a trip out of the airport included the following:
Not to mention…
Deciding to stay in the airport was probably an equally bad decision as leaving would have been. Having experienced dreadful turbulence all the way there on our first flight, as well as noticing the cockpit door remained steadfastly open for the whole journey, a 2 hour delay in an airport hotter than hades was just what we needed. Oh yes, and the first flight was also delayed for 2 hours after we started to board only to be informed that they’d discovered a last minute problem with the tyres. Thank goodness they discovered it I suppose.
Boarding flight number 2 after a few hours dying in the heat with a tropical storm outside and no idea what was happening with no information boards or signs whatsoever it was a pleasant relief to see familiar stains on the walls of the plane and look forward to spending the flight praying the wheels would come down intact with the rest of the landing gear. Luckily for this leg of the journey the cockpit door was closed shortly after take off.
Finally, 15 hours later we arrived in Miami, and spent a great couple of hours in a stationary queue at passport control. Happy days.
3: Night 1 of our Galapagos Cruise
After spending our life savings on a whim buying an unplanned cruise in the Galápagos Islands, we couldn’t wait to set sail. It was a little choppy when we got on board. Perhaps, we thought, it was a particularly rough area to be docked, as we were just inside the main port.
Our dinner slid across the table as we tried to eat, whilst drinks were split and people stumbled down the stairs. After spending some time in the bathroom before dinner, I tried to eat some potatoes and veggies to settle my stomach ready for a night at sea. Big mistake. Huge. I pretty much spent the night in a cabin bathroom the size of half an aeroplane toilet cubicle. After passing out for a few hours I was woken by Rob gently suggesting I might want to return to the bathroom as I’d ‘missed a bit’ in my efforts to tidy up…
Luckily for our relationship this was a one night thing and my seasickness didn’t reoccur ??
4: Bus from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama
After a few heavy nights with our G Adventures crew, the thought of relaxing on 10 hour bus journey from Salta, Argentina to the Chilean desert didn’t fill us with the horror it probably should have done. It started with Rob coming down with the world’s worst cold, which got gradually worse with each metre we climbed. About 4000 of them in the end, as we descended to the highest altitude we’d experienced so far – this time the experience being the opposite of our downwards journey in point number one above, but somehow equally traumatic. Rob describes the feeling in stunning detail in his post.
We’d also bagged great seats we thought – all together at the bottom of the bus in a separate compartment. A compartment with no windows, no airflow, no air conditioning and gradually increasing temperatures to match the gradually increasing altitude. It’s supposed to grow colder as you ascend but that wasn’t our experience that day. At least the bus had a toilet. Or at least it did until our lovely Dutch friend forgot that it was designed for urination only.
Arriving at the border crossing we practically leapt out of the bus for air, only to discover that we could hardly breathe due to the severe shortage of oxygen at 4,600 odd metres high. As we staggered through a less than rapid border control process we were actually looking forward to getting back on the bus. Luckily it was only a couple of hours from San Pedro and we eventually made it there in one piece.
5: Cancun to Ilha Grande – 2 Planes, Several Buses and a Boat
When we found out our flight from Mexico to Brazil landed us in Rio smack bang in the middle of the Olympics where we couldn’t afford a hostel, let alone any games tickets, a few days on the beautiful island of Ilha Grande sounded like a dream solution.
We left Cancun in a 30 degree heatwave at 2pm on Friday afternoon and arrived in Ilha Grande in a tropical rain storm at 5pm the following evening. I won’t dwell on the details but 2 flights, several hours in Bogota airport, a couple of hours in a bus to a different airport in Rio, a few hours waiting for a transfer that was a little delayed, another couple of hours in a bone shaking mini bus and finally, a very rainy hour on a speedboat on somewhat stormy seas and we were delighted to arrive on a tropical paradise island.
Only for the storm to promptly blow out all power on the island for the duration of our stay. Yay!
6: Las Vegas to LA – Our Very First Night Bus
This was fun, although not so much about the journey as the destination so it only just made the shortlist. Our first night bus was a Greyhound Bus from Las Vegas to Los Angeles ready to catch our onward flight – and was chosen simply as a way to save money on a night’s accommodation. Taking a nightbus after 12 hours solid drinking and gambling on the strip was probably our second mistake.
What I hadn’t realised was that the Greyhound bus station in LA is located just a short hop from Skid Row – one of the largest ‘stable’ populations of homeless people in the US, more here. We arrived at around 5am and started to investigate whether we could find a bus to the main station where we could catch a transfer directly to LAX. A taxi driver approached us and said he’d take us to the airport for a price we couldn’t afford, and a price we’d scarcely budgeted for to the bus station we actually needed. As it happened, there were no buses and we had to swallow our pride and go back to the angry taxi driver to see if he’d take us to the station after all.
The drive was pretty ropey… shadowy figures stumbled through the roads, with whole streets dominated by people in tents, smashed bottles, boarded up shop fronts and who knows what else. If I had to draw a parallel it would probably be to a scene of The Walking Dead and I have never been so relieved to get out of a taxi in my life. The second bus station we experienced that morning (still before 6am), was a marginal improvement with only a handful of drunken homeless people shouting abuse as we quickly located and jumped onto the first bus to the airport. Word to the wise – if you’re thinking of getting a bus into LA, for the love of God avoid it at all costs if you can – especially at night, and if you can’t, try to head straight to Union Station.
Yeah okay so I don’t hate backpacking really, but at least now you know we’re not having too much fun – despite what our Instagram might lead you to believe ?
What have your worst journeys been? Let us know in the comments below, we love a good story.