Travel experiences: From bad to worse
Passports getting robbed, staying without electricity for 48 hours, missing a bus and more. 5 travellers tell us about their worst travel experiences.
My dad is a master mariner in the merchant navy. When I was 10 years old, mum and I joined him on a voyage from Colombo to Chittagong. On reaching we had to wait in anchorage on the Indian Ocean, until we could dock.
Meanwhile, daily supplies brought in small boats were being sold to big ships. One morning, dad bought the entire supplies of a small boat and asked me (and other crew members) to follow the loaders to the fridge room (stocking area) and instructed me to, “Yell, if they wander off the path”. But there was no raucous to scream about. Later that night, my father and I went to the bridge of the ship to call my grandparents, I saw a few garbage drums in the sea and asked dad about it. He thought some other ship had probably dumped it. But I was curious as I hadn’t seen any other ship all day. As I moved to the edge and peered forward, a halfnaked man was trying to get onto the ship’s railing from the waters. He was the vendor from the morning! At a little distance away, a small boat had a few other men; when I asked my dad who they were, he screamed, “Chor! Chor!” As I panicked and started howling, my mother took me into the cabin. After the commotion settled, I heard that we had just been attacked by pirates. It was my most terrifying experience, yet the most memorable.
–Anila Angeline Mathews
AN ANNIVESARY TO REMEMBER
As has been the practice, my husband and I packed our bags for a week-long getaway, for our anniversary. To make it different, we picked Conoor, and a beautiful homestay there–D Rock. The drive from Coimbatore airport to Conoor was accompanied by heavy rains. It was cold, isolated and scenic, but incessant rains made it look like a poor replica of the pictures we had seen online. At 7 pm, when we reached, there was no electricity. Charles, the homestay owner, assured us it would be restored soon. So here we were, plunged in complete darkness, with candles and the wind whistling by our window. We were told, the low pressure in the southern tip of the Indian ocean was causing this sudden change of weather and Saturday morning would be different. Shockingly, it was! The rains lashed like there was no tomorrow and spare a short walk, we couldn’t even step out. No electricity meant no geyser, no television and uncharged smart-phones to which calls from family and friends to wish us didn’t reach. Charles arranged a small chocolate cake to cheer us up. But with 36 hours of ceaseless rain and poor visibility, we were forced to have a candle-lit dinner with the rains playing music in background and the thunder adding some not-so-nice percussion. 48 hours later, we looked at each other with a certain urgency to run (despite the poor visibility), this was not how we wanted to spend the rest of our vacation. It was time to move closer to civilisation. While our quest for solace ended abruptly at D-Rock, it was welcomed at a wonderful suite of a five star property in Ooty.
During one of my vacations, my cousins and I planned a trip to Italy. Our train was at 6.30 am. Post a three-day stay in Venice, we looked forward to our first trip to Florence. After a late night, we dragged ourselves out of bed only to realise that the first boat to the station was at 7 am! We felt miserable that our incredibly expensive train tickets got wasted. We reached much before the next train, but by the time we figured out the details and booked tickets, it was ready to chug away. Seconds before it did, we were aboard.
–Tripti Bhatia Gandhi
THE COST OF A GOOD BARGAIN
Sometimes you really have to choose between saving money and having a good time, I learnt on my last day in Antwerp. Hearing of a good offer on megabus.com and comparing their Antwerp-to-Amsterdam bus fares with various rail fares, the decision was easy. The bus’ €12 fare, cost almost 50% less! The ticket confirmation specified, “Passengers should be at
departure point at least 30 minutes before departure time.” I reached at 6:05 pm (20 minutes prior). Looking at the isolated depot, my mind raced: Am I the only one? Did the bus leave early? I calmed down, but panic resurged when there was no sign of the bus or other passangers even at 6:45 pm. I told myself, buses get delayed. Soon my mind was convinced, THIS IS A SCAM!!! My phone battery had died so I had to request a passerby to call the company. No one answered.
After possibly the ninth call, we gave up. Hassled, angry, upset, I walked to my hostel (15 minutes away). There I tried calling again, when I finally got through, a lady said, “Your bus is just about to reach...” Crazy! I asked her to inform the driver that I’ll be on my way. “No ma’am, we can’t contact the driver when he’s driving,” her response annoyed me further. I reasoned and argued. Nothing worked. Then I requested to be allowed to take the next bus, using the same ticket, in case I miss this one. She said, “You left the bus depot, so I’m afraid I can’t help you.” I lost my cool, “You’re forgetting that I waited for over an hour before leaving!” I got the same reply and almost screamed, “Did you want me to stay there forever?” Finally I hung up, left the hostel and started running to the depot with my luggage. The bus left five minutes before I reached. I still wanted my rightful seat in the next bus and Antwerp has no payphones, so I walked to a nearby restaurant, explained about the fiasco and called Mega Bus again. Same response, no cooperation. The waiter consoled, “It’s not your fault, this happens with Mega Bus all the time.” I lugged my bags again, returned to the hostel, took the last train to Amsterdam for €30 and left the nightmare behind.
Travelling from Florida to Miami for my cousin’s graduation, we stopped en route for a bite. We weren’t gone for more than 10 minutes, but when we returned to the car, our suitcases had disappeared. And our passports with them! The cops couldn’t do much and informed us that the zone was prone to robberies. My father and cousin spent an hour searching all the dumpsters in the neighbourhood as cops told them that robbers sometimes toss stuff, useless to them, in the garbage.
The Indian consulate staff in Houston, was rude and couldn’t help either. And without papers we could not fly to Houston. My brother in Mumbai, found a copy of dad’s passport and faxed it to our hotel. My dad and cousin were set to leave for Houston the next day, but that very evening we met my cousin’s friend’s parents, who knew someone in consulate and so within a week we received our new passports. But it came at a cost, US $1,000 for each new passport and expenses of the extra week spent in the US.
Compiled by Avril-Ann Braganza