Travel is all about the experiences. It is a chance to challenge the life beyond the comfort zone of a routine cubicle. When we push ourself beyond the comfort zone, we find our moments of joy, happiness, sorrow, horror and triumph. Most of the time, we try to learn from these travel experiences to keep moving for another journey. Travelling on the road has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, its pros and cons. It is not about the good memories always, it is a mixed bag of different feelings and diverse experiences.
This post is about some of the funny, scary and unforgettable misadventures that I had on the road during the course of my backpacking. Let me share some of the misadventures from my journey:
1. Ran Away From The Home:
Location: Home sweet home at Kerakat, District Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, India (Feb.,1998)
Details: Okay, the first one in this list actually doesn’t belong to my backpacking lifestyle , but the whole story started with that misadventure only. So, it is worth to mention that here. In 1998, when I was studying in class 10th, I ran away from the home. No, there was no pressure of the board exams, but it was because of some differences with my parents. After leaving my home, I wondered in Varanasi for few hours, boarded a train to Allahabad, enjoyed the mass human gathering at Magh Mela on the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, boarded another train to Lucknow and then, finally returned back to the home after three days.
That was my first solo trip beyond my hometown. The first lesson of backpacking, I learnt there, because I left home with 35 Indian Rupees and returned back with 25 Indian Rupees. I travelled without any ticket, got food on the alms centres (since its religious gathering in Allahabad), slept in the common shelters made for the devotees. I did not beg anywhere, but I managed it anyhow. The first lesson of couch surfing, hitchhiking and money saving was there in that 3 days short trip.
Lesson Learnt: Home is always a sweet home.
2. Had A Major Bike Accident In Rajasthan:
Location: NH-8 between Beawar and Ajmer in Rajasthan, India (March, 2011)
Details: It was the second last day of my 12-days long solo motorcycle journey to the Eastern Rajasthan. I was returning back from Udaipur towards Jaipur. I started early in the morning from Udaipur and visited Eklingji Temple, Haldighati, Kumbhalgarh Fort and Ranakpur Jain Temple during the day. Before reaching Kumbhalgarh Fort, my bike got punctured in a remote village, but somehow I dragged it for 2 kms to find a mechanic, who fixed it nicely. However, the whole event consumed almost 2 hours of the daytime.
I was supposed to stop somewhere near Nathdwara for the night halt, but in the evening, I changed my mind and continued towards Ajmer after the sunset. The NH 8 was very smooth and I reached Beawar without any problem. Thereafter, there were massive construction projects at many stretches of the highway. At one such stretch, the road again appeared very smooth and in the hurry, I throttled my bike at very high speed. Suddenly, from nowhere, a huge speed breaker appeared on the road and I lost my controls. I dragged for almost 20-30 meters on the loose pebbles before stopping. Luckily, I had only a small fracture in the collarbone of the left shoulder.
In the severe pain, I spent whole night at a nearby dhaba. In the morning, I somehow, managed to reach Jaipur with the motorcycle. A friend went to Jaipur from Delhi and brought me back to Delhi along with the motorcycle.
Lesson Learnt: I stopped riding my motorcycle during the dark hours in any unknown territory. Now, I never go beyond the speed of 60-70 kmph. In July 2014, I completed another 12-days solo motorcycle trip to the Western Rajasthan without any significant problem.
3. A Colleague Plunged into The Half-frozen Indus River in Leh:
Location: Sangam (Confluence of the River Indus and the River Zanskar) in Leh District, Jammu and Kashmir, India (Jan, 2015)
Details: While moving towards the Lamayaru Monastery, we stopped at Sangam for a short break. Sangam is the confluence of Indus River and Zanskar River. Both the rivers were completely frozen near the shores, but strong current was there in the middle of the Indus river. One of my colleague was walking on the frozen sheet of ice (chadar). Suddenly, he decided to touch the running water of Indus, so he went a bit away from the shore. Unfortunately, the ice sheet broke down and he plunged into the river. The water was very cold. He started screaming as well as struggling. His hands and the face was wounded by sharp corners of the ice cubes. With the help of two tourist cab drivers, we were able to pulled him up within 2-3 minutes after a lot of struggle. In that freezing cold water, the survival was a matter of few more minutes only. (Read Here: Mystery at The Magnetic Hill and A Lesson at Sangam)
Lesson Learnt: Be vigilant and careful. Don’t try hard for the misadventures.
4. Fell Down From The Second Floor to The First Floor At a Hotel in Bangkok:
Location: A Hotel at Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand (March, 2012)
Details: After a delicious dinner at Khao San Road, I was returning to my hotel room, that was on the second floor. I saw nice light decoration near the rear part of the hotel. In curiosity, I went towards the back side to click few pictures. My full attention was there on the light, so I did not notice a hole in the balcony, where they put a ladder from the first floor to the second floor. I plunged in that hole and dragged on the ladder to the first floor. All happened within the few seconds and nobody watched it. I had some scratches in the both legs and both hands, but no major injury. I was shivering in the utter shock. Somehow, I found my broken watch and returned to the room to treat my scratches with the first-aid.
5. Had Blisters in The Both Feet During Mount Rinjani Trekking:
Location: Trail of Mount Rinjani Summit, Lombok Island, Indonesia (July, 2016)
Details: During the recently concluded Mount Rinjani Summit on Lombok Island in Indonesia, I ignored the burning pain in my feet. I thought that the pain was there due to the bad shoes and also because of the difficult trekking trail. After returning to the base camp, when I removed my shocks, I found small blisters in both the feet. The only good thing was that the summit was completed successfully.
6. Unable to Reach The Shore After a Scuba Dive Because of The High Tide:
Location: USS Liberty Wreck Dive, Tulamben Beach, Bali Island, Indonesia (July, 2016)
Details: After completing our 40 minutes wreck dive at USS Liberty in Bali Island, we were returning towards the shore. I am not a strong swimmer, so there was no chance to overcome the strong currents of high tide. My instructor thought that being an Advanced Certified Scuba Diver, I was good enough to reach the shore despite of high tide. So, he left me alone and went ahead after resurfacing on the ocean floor. I was continuously struggling to reach on the shore, but strong waves always pulled me back or forced me to fell down with the cylinder on the back. After watching my constant struggle, the instructor came back in the sea and pulled me to the shore safely.
7. Trekked For Almost 8-9 Hours Without a Single Drop of Water:
Location: Mountain Trail between Kaza and Kakti Village, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India (June 2012)
Details: I was trekking to Komik Village from Kaza Town with my wife. After 3 kms, we realised that there was no water bottle with us. We had the choice to go back, but we were under assumption that the next village was only 2-3 hours away to have the water and the breakfast. Apparently, we found ourselves on a wrong trekking trail and continued trekking for almost 9 hours without a single drop of water. The level of our tiredness can be understand by this image. (Read Here: Our Unsuccessful Trek to Komik Village)
8. Fell Down Badly to Get The Severe Pain in Back for 2 Weeks
Location: Kokernag Garden, Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir, India (March, 2015)
Details: While walking in the beautiful Kokernag Garden with my daughter, I observed the stunning sky view during the sunset. Mesmerised by the view, I didn’t notice the slippery slope and fell down on the ground. Since I fell down on one of the camera lens, my back was hurt badly. The pain was so severe that we cancelled our trips and returned to Delhi on the next day. Luckily, there was no damage, but muscle tissues were contracted due to the impact. It took almost two weeks to recover from the pain.
9. Travelled Across The Country in Riot-Affected Egypt:
Location: i) In a train from Alexandria to Cairo (March, 2013)
Details: While returning to Cairo from Alexandria, my train stopped at the railway station of a small town, approx 45 kms before Cairo. After 30 minutes of unscheduled stoppage, I guessed that there was some problems. I asked to the fellow co-passenger. She was not able to speak in English, but she said “Don’t worry. Everything is alright. “ One more hour passed in the guessing game. Then a English speaking lady told me that protestors stopped the train after burning some materials on the railway track.
Suddenly a young boy appeared in the train and started shouting some slogans in the Arabic Language. All the ladies in the train started crying. Since Cairo was only 45 kms away, most of them called their family members and left the train one by one. I had no clue on what was going on. The young boy came 3-4 times to shout the slogans. At the last, few people thrashed him badly. There was chaos all around at the station. After 4 hours of drama, the train again moved towards Cairo. By that time, only 10-12 male passengers were there inside the train. All the ladies had already left out the place. The rest of the journey went smooth. While stepping into my hostel, a fellow backpacker informed me that a big clash between the police and the protestors broke out at the Tahrir Square, only 2 kms away from our hostel in Cairo.
Location: ii) Before the Entrance of Valley of The Kings (March, 2013)
Details: I was riding a bicycle on the West Bank in Luxor City and planned to reach the Valley of The Kings. Just before the valley entrance, many people blocked the road by the stones and the motorcycles. Very few protestors were there, but tension was already increasing in the area. One of them advised me to return from that place. Without any choice, I returned and went towards the Valley of The Queens. Same scene was there also.
However, the Tomb of the Nobles was open for the visitors. I silently sneaked to the top of the area to get the beautiful views of the Valley of The Kings, that was otherwise not possible. A person noticed my presence in that area and angrily asked me to descend down. Photography was strictly prohibited in that area, so I changed the memory card in the camera while descending to the appropriate level. Nothing happened to me. However, It was a bad tensed day on the West Bank.
10. The Police Officer at Macau Airport:
Location: Macau Airport (Feb, 2012)
Details: When I landed at Macau Airport, there was no problem with the immigration clearance. They stamped my passport with 30 days visa-free entry and I was happily moving towards the terminal exit. A police officer appeared from nowhere and asked me to follow him in a small room. They suspected me as a case of human-trafficking or drug-trafficking and questioned me for next one hour. They scanned my backpack thoroughly and even forced me to turn on my laptop to check anything suspicious. It was the worst experience that I could get on my first international trip. Finally, they scanned my complete body under an X-Ray scanner and allowed me to walk out freely. It was such a relief. (Read Here: Welcome to Macau Sir ! Enjoy Your Stay Here)
11. Almost Missed My Flight in Moscow
Location: Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport (May, 2015)
Details: I was suppose to fly from Moscow to Vladivostok by an Aeroflot flight to pursue my Trans-Siberian Railway Journey dream. I left my hostel well in time to reach Sheremetyevo Airport. While travelling by Moscow Subway Trains, I was completely mesmerized by the sheer grandness of the subway stations. I kept clicking from one station to another and forgot about my departure time from the airport. By the time, I realised my mistake, it was too late. Somehow, I managed to reach at the check-in counter 20 minutes before the departure time. The counter guy informed that I missed that flight. My whole Trans-Siberian Dream was collapsing. When I pleaded badly, he asked me to follow him and we ran towards the boarding gates. His senior asked him not to do so, but he ignored her and took me through all the airport clearances expeditiously. Finally, I was able to board the aircraft minutes before its gates were suppose to close. My Trans-Siberian dream was still alive.
Apart from these events, there were many other smaller incidents occurred on the road, that drove me crazy. After 4 kms walk in the hot weather using Google Maps in Alexandria, I realised that it was completely in the opposite direction to the desired destination. It was actually a shop name on the Google Maps, while my intention was to visit a tourist site. I decided to visit Banteay Srei in Angkor Archaeological Park with a bicycle and finally ended my day with 100+ kms of bicycling from Seam Reap in a hot humid weather. It was not a good decision indeed. My shoes were badly torn while climbing to Ghangharia Village during the Valley of Flowers trek, but with the help of shoemakers at Ghangharia Village, I somehow managed the trek. At the pyramids of Giza, I almost lost my camera to a con, who tried to cheat me for few bucks. After a lot of heated arguments, he returned the camera. In the busy streets of Luxor, a thief tried to open the camera bag to pull out the camera. He was convincing me to buy a scarf, while simultaneously attempted to open the zip of the camera bag. I noticed that very soon and he flew away from the spot. He was able to open half of the bag.
Some adventures make us alive with a sense of glory, but then, some misadventures force us to feel like an idiot. However, The only way to grow as a person is to try doing some new things, to take the chances. Doesn’t matter how hard we keep trying, we can not avoid the misadventures. They are bound to happen always and in fact, there is no fun without them. But the misadventures teach us some valuable lessons in the life. The important thing is to learn from all the experiences and keep moving. The best thing about the travel is that whether we have our ups or downs, nobody is there to judge us on the road. The world always moves on. Whether good or bad, every journey is an opportunity to grow. Keep exploring, keep enjoying.