It is great to have picture perfect weather on a trip and everything goes smoothly. Nevertheless, stories live from all the little and bigger things that do not go as planned. These are the situation we can grow with and learn from. Sometimes the unexpected things are even the once that are making the trip. Over the last 10+ years, I were in a couple of interesting situations. Let me share here a few of them.
It is not a secret that a European stomach is not made completely for Asian food. With that in mind, I had a couple mild and worse food poisonings in Asia during my travels. Usually the food in the restaurants are fine. In case you are careful with the spiciness of a dish. Too spicy food normally give you trouble for one or two days. My worst experience was in Bangladesh. It was not even from food, it was from unclean water on the street. I drank milk tea at a street stall. It gave me problems for 5 days, including fever. I was not able to drink or eat anything. Not the best start to start a backpacking trip through the country.
Mongolia is a huge country with not many paved roads. The main attractions of the country can be reached driving off-road. With that in mind the expectation would be that the majority of the people are driving a 4×4 wheel drive. Surprisingly this is not the case. The car we saw the most been a . This kind of car is not particularly made for terrain in Mongolia. For that reason we saw a lot of people stuck in river crossings or other hard to drive terrain with a none 4×4 drive. In the situation on the pictures below, we tried to help the guy for one hour to get out of the mud.
Car Troubles II – The car is dead (Chile)
The car on the picture we rented in Punta Arenas (Chile). For our 2015 Patagonia Adventure. This seems to be the one that could bring us everywhere, it even had tires with spikes. Nether the less we had some interesting problem with this car. In general, it worked fine. Took every off-road without any problem. The problem arrived when stopping the engine. Our first experience with that was at the border crossing to Argentina. There you need to stop the engine, go to the border offices, do the official immigration and paper work and driver further. The problem was, there was no going further. There was just no reaction of the complete electronic. It was not only that the motor was not starting, it was just like the battery was dead. We ask a couple behind is in the line with the same kind of car, in case they have any idea what to do. Sadly they did not. As it was a Sunday and the car rental hotline was purely Spanish, we dried to start the engine again after 20 minutes and it worked – like there was nothing before. The same happened nearly every time we stopped the car. At the end of your trip we got told that diesel cars have some kind of problem with the altitude and this is the result of it.
Cars and New Zealand this is a whole own story. I touched on that already in the following blog post. Let me put it this way, in case you are longer in NZ there are ways to save money on a car with going to rental offices like Jucy Rental. Car to rent are mainly older and used – a lot. For me it felt like what every can be hit with a car, was hit. We never rented a car that had so many scratches and dents. Even checking all of that after a 35 hours flight for torture. But this was not our main problem with the car at the end. It seemed to be a common theme, that nearly all cars in NZ had engine problems. We rarely met only other traveler telling us different wise. No matter if they rented or bought a car.
There are several things to be aware of when traveling individually in South America. First: use every gas station you see. Second: Have enough cash with you. In case of the region of the Lago General Carrera, this became a problem for us. We were in the area for 3 days, and we withdrew money in Coyhaique. Keep in mind it is limited to 100 Euros per Day per Credit Card. Problem been that in the town of Puerto Rio Tranquilo there was no ATM and no connectivity. Meaning satellite internet only, which is not guaranteeing payments with credit card all the time. As we spent nearly all our cash on refuel and the boat tour to the Marbel Caves we did not check completely about credit car payments in our lodge. We were just assuming that we can pay with card, but we couldn’t. At the end the owner of the lodge was chilled about it. They even wanted to send us to the next bank – 160 km away in Chile Chico – with a transaction for the bill. At the end it took two days to figure out the BIC number of the lodge and another 45 minute with satellite internet to make an online transaction. Just remember this are all really remote places, so come prepared.
We were forgotten – our dream of hiking on a glacier
In Chile, we wanted to fulfill a long last dream of hiking on a glacier. With that said we woke up at 5 am and drove to the Monte San Valentín National Park, see here full article. Long story short the tour was canceled and nobody told us about that. Silver lining was that we saw a great sunrise of the Lago Tranquilo and had the Exploradores Glacier for ourselves. Some dreams just have to wait.
This was our biggest fail of 10 + years of travel so far. See the whole article here. It was during our Patagonia Adventure in 2018 were we being caught in the General Strike in Argentina. No matter the natural beauty of this country, the economy is struggling for years. Resulting in a currency loss. One result of that was a General Strike that started in Buenes Aires and which spread over the whole county. This meant that all Gas Stations, Banks and other government owned facilities were closed at this day. Luckily it was only one day, and we could start the next morning at 5 am to El Chalten.
Oh, Cuba! When thinking back several things come back to mind: pictures perfect beaches, alcohol and “because it is planned”. Let me explain what this means. The Cuba tour I did with an agency for young travels. So it was a given tour, with some hiking, some beach time and other activities. In Cuba the interesting part – which also lead to some frustration – is, that if something is planned it will be done, no matter what. The picture below was taken at one hike. As you see my food wear was not particularly the best for hiking in the jungle. But to my defense it was said we will go for one kilometer to a waterfall. Yeah this was not how the day went. The hike at the end was six kilometers long, from which we walked two hours in heavy rain. We lost the group, went through a river were my camera fall into and got broken and I lost my sun glasses. The shoes by the way did not help with the mud either. On top of that one girl had a bad fall and got injured.
No reservation – Hotel trouble on Mallorca
Mallorca was never high on my travel list, but we wanted to give it a try. With that we planned a stationary hotel and a car rental to explore the island. The flight was fine, also the pickup from the airport to the hotel went smooth. Starting from there it went downwards. In the hotel they did not have our reservation. This lead to giving us a small room with a connection door for two nights. In which we could her every word of what our door neighbors were saying. This was really disappointing as we mainly book the hotel for the beach view. Which we also didn’t get. Silver lining of that experience was that we focus more towards smaller accommodations or camping.
Flight in a sandstorm – Abu Dhabi
This is a bit of a funny story, as I nearly overslept it. In 2011, we got a wedding invitation to Bangladesh. Our flight went over Abu Dhabi to Dhaka. As usually I sleep on the flight to Abu Dhabi. When I was waking up, half a sleep still, I was wondering about the Abu Dhabi airport. It was surrounded by a desert. I mean I been never there and I knew there would have been a desert, but something felt wrong. Yeah we were in a sandstorm for two hours and the pilot had to do an emergency landing on a military based airport in the middle of the desert. After the storm settle a bit we flew to Abu Dhabi, missed our flight to Bangladesh but got a night payed by the airline in Abu Dhabi.
In 2014, we hiked the Laugavegur Trail in the highland of Iceland. When thinking back to this trip, I remember stunning landscapes, unreal beautiful wide land and a lot of pain. This trip was the hiking preparation for the Great Hikes in New Zealand. I can honestly say that I will never become in my life a Thru-Hiker. It is just the weight of a backpack with camping gear, food, clothes and a 5 kg camera – this was just too much. I had knee problems and just muscle pain the whole trip. Needless to say that I was just no trained enough, but on top of that I learned that it is easier to travel with light baggage. Most of the stuff we surround ourselves in life is just comfort, we don’t need it to be happy or to survive. Doing a hiking trail like this, giving back perspective, how less is needed to have a fulfilled time.
In 2011, I joined a young travel tour through Nepal. The tour included a multiday tour of the Annapura Trail Route. Even that we were really lucky with cloud free views to the mountains, for me the days were just too hot for hiking. We had around 30 – 35 degrees every day. This was mainly as we only hiked the slower parts of the trail and never got higher than 3000 metes. For me this is not a weather for hiking. My comfortable temperature is 10 – 20 degrees for hiking. The rest is for relaxing at a pool or beach. Learning from this experience was, to check closer the season of a particular country. In order to evaluate if a certain activity is worth doing in that time.
The Amphitheater Hike is one of the most popular hikes in South Africa. The hike is located in the Royal Natal National Park and can be started at the Witsieshoek’s Sentinel car park. Beforehand I could not find much information about the hike itself. With that said, we didn’t know that the last 7 kilometer to the Witsieshoek’s Sentinel car park it is not recommenced to drive with a NONE 4×4 wheel car. There was no way our car could make it. In order not to driver back the whole way, we stopped at the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge and ask at the reception for a drive to the car park.
In St. Lucia we took a two hours boat trip to see the Hippos and Crocodiles. Sadly the boot was filled with a 30 people group of USA tourist, which needed to comment every move of any animal. There was not a minute of silence, in which it was possible just to enjoy the nature and animals. One woman even shared her whole life story and everything her psychiatrist is giving her as an input. Sometimes I am not even sure why people are going on tours like that, if they can not enjoy really any minute of it.
The La Chapelle Hike in Cilaos is one of the most beautiful onces in La Réunion. With that said we took the first chance we got to hike it for ourself. What can I say it was really beautiful. Hiking mostly through rain forest, crossing a few streams. Exactly the mixture we love. Due to a cyclone the road to Cilaos was already an adventure. We needed to drive through a dredged river bed, as a landslide blocked the road. Usually the hike to La Chapelle ends in a Chapelle including a waterfall. Sadly the water level of the river was so high that we could not even get to the entrance of the Chapelle. After nearly one hour of adventures rock climbing and hiking through waist-high water, we stopped at a big rock were the picture below was taken. Showing the entrance so near and just too far to reach it.
During our four times in Iceland we rented two times a 4×4 wheel drive, in order to explore the REAL Iceland. Which are the highlands of Iceland and everything that is located on an F road. Even that we already spend a lot of money on the car, there are still obstacles that can not be overcome. We had two particular cases to mention here. One was the drive from the Seljalandsfoss to Porsmork. Were we could only make it to the Stakkholtsgja Canyon, as the water level was so high that we would sink the car in it. And the second one was in the area of the Hekla. Where we were not able to drive to the parking slot of the Hekla mountain to start the hiking track. As the road was blocked by a half melted icefield.
That stunning natural beautiful places in remote areas of this world often comes with rough driving terrain, we learned once more in Chile. After visiting the Salar de Surire in the North of Chile we wanted to take a different road back to our hotel in Putre. The idea was great and the drive itself had much more great views and authentic Andes feeling but the streets were in bad conditions which made the drive endless. The route was planned like this: Polloquere to Umirpa to Tignamar to Putre. This took us alone 7 hours and the last 3 hours we drove in the dark, which is completely not recommendable. We were even stopped by the police, which wanted to know what we are doing out at night, who we are and where we are going. All in Spanish of course.
During our Mongolia trip we did a multi-day hiking adventure in Naiman Nuur. The area is known for its eight lakes and a piece of untouched nature. May not so often transparent, untouched nature often come with a lot of small flying animals. Mostly flies, mosquitoes and stab flies. All of them want to “eat you alive”. I could not even count my bites anymore after the days of hiking and camping.
Our time in La Réunion was mainly characterized by the cyclone that hit the island the day of our arrival. During our time the most of the road to the highlands were closed and our island hiking crossing was canceled. As there was no way to reach the highlands in the first place. The first two days on the island, we mainly only could stay in the hotel in Saint-Denis. The rain was so heavy that street from Saint-Denis to Saint-Gilles was closed for 4 days. The French word I learned was “Fermé“, which means closed. This was the sign we saw the most at our time on the island.
That camping can be sometimes rough we learned in our first and last week in New Zealand. We traveled in the off season to NZ starting at the beginning of November. That year, 2014, was freezing cold. On the North Island it snowed the first time in years, in that month and on the South Island we still had floor frost at our first days of camping. This was particularly hard as we had a 30 hours flight behind us. The second rough camping situation were the last days in NZ in the area of Auckland. The weather turned completely on us. The rain woke us up 5 am in the night with flooding our tent with water. With having our camping equipment soaking wet we needed to take a cabin on a camping site for the remaining days.