For the best part of a decade I have been travelling around the world, and I’ve definitely made some mistakes along the way. I’m not saying I regret decisions I’ve made, I wouldn’t change a thing! However, there are a few situations that I’ve got myself into that I thought I’d shed some light on for all you travellers out there. You can learn from my mistakes!
So here it is, my top three silly mistakes I have made. I’ve narrowed it down to three but believe me there have been plenty more and I’m sure more to come…
Mistake #1: Snake charming in Queensland
I’d lived in Western Australia for about 2 years when I decided on a whim to pack up everything I owned (which wasn’t much) into my old Ford Fairlane and road trip across the country. One of the best decisions of my life might I add (read more on that here)!
I road tripped for four months and made it all the way to the Sunshine Coast. It was here where I moved into a treehouse style accommodation, built in the forest, a house with a camp-style kitchen, hammocks for beds and no doors or windows. Just open to the forest, a waterfall cascading down the side which during the rainy season was so loud one could barely hear the other talking. It was an incredible set up (except for the mozzies!), I felt like I was living in the jungle.
Get to the point! Ok so I came back to the Tree-House one evening after work (I’d managed to find myself a bar job), to find three of the people I lived with, on the wooden deck which overlooked the forest, holding a long stick poking at something on the floor. I wandered over to see that what they were investigating was in fact a brown snake (another hazard with living in a rainforest tree-house)!
I should probably mention at this point that I had a few knock-off drinks after work and so was slightly inebriated. It must have been the alcohol that made me think that because I’d seen other people master it, I too could be a snake charmer. With this thought in mind I announced to the group: “It’s fine I know how to pick up snakes, I’ll grab it!” Of course there was a brief argument where they all desperately tried to convince me that NO, I absolutely did not know how to handle a snake, especially one of the world’s most poisonous.
I paid no attention and marched straight over to that brown snake and grabbed it behind its head between my thumb and index-finger and gripped on tight. There was utter silence, no one (including me) could do anything but stare at this snake in my hand. After a few seconds of being totally frozen to the spot, I realised that the snake had started to wrap itself around my arm and was squeezing pretty hard.
It was round about now that I started to sober up pretty fast! In a panic, I let go of the snake as I threw my arm sideways and flung it into the forest. Challenge complete. That was the start and end of my career as a snake charmer. Never again.
Mistake #2: Opting for a hard-seat train ticket
Travelling through China is made so convenient by that fact that their rail network is absolutely brilliant. So efficient and organised. Organising tickets can be a pain and somewhat confusing at times due to the language barrier (more on that here!) but once you tackle that obstacle you’re sorted. Any major city or town, you can get there via hundreds of trains all of different speeds and classes.
What’s not great is when you decide to be cheap and save the most minimal amount of money and as a result have the most uncomfortable journey of your life. Do not fear, I’ve made that mistake for you, so just don’t follow in my footsteps!
It was for a 20 hour train journey from Guangzhou to Chongqing I decided that I’d save a few Yuan by purchasing a ‘hard-sleep’ ticket, rather than a ‘soft-sleep’. Unfortunately for me, the lady behind the counter could not understand my poor Mandarin and so handed me a ticket for a hard-SEAT. Of course I did not understand the ticket (which consists only of numbers and Chinese symbols) and I happily walked away thinking: “Wow what a bargain!” (I think I saved maximum $20 and it really wasn’t worth it).
It was only once I boarded the train and found my carriage that I realised that I would be spending the next 20 hours sitting on a wooden bench, tightly packed between hundreds of locals trying to fight for space to sit. There was nowhere for luggage to go, so my backpack sat on my lap, or on the floor under my feet. Going to the toilet at the end of the carriage (a hole in the floor from which you could see the railway tracks rushing past underneath as you squatted) is a risk as it is likely that upon returning to your seat you will have found it occupied by someone. Subsequently you then have to stand until the next seat becomes available, which could be hours.
Sleep was out of the question. It was only around an hour into the trip that I realised how sore my back was and how hungry and tired I was feeling. The only slight relief was when a kind old man (who I named ‘Smokey-Joe’ due to his relentless smoking throughout the journey) allowed me to rest my head on his bag, meaning I had two hours of sleep whilst he stood in the aisle happily smoking away.
A terrible mistake. Learn how to buy/read your train tickets in China because you might not have a ‘Smokey-Joe’ there to save you!
Mistake #3: Taking a 1983 Ford Fairlane off-roading
As I mentioned in mistake #1, I went on a road trip around Australia in my old Ford Fairlane. In fact it was a 1983 Fairlane, and the coolest car I’ve ever owned! However, I don’t know if you know what this car is like, but it wasn’t build for driving around in outback Australia. It was built for luxury, cruising around cities in style. This car sits low, guzzles petrol like you wouldn’t believe and is basically more like a limousine than anything.
So I drove it into the desert! Through canyons and forests, along beaches and into national parks, everywhere. I basically destroyed that beautiful car. I’d only made it as far as Broome (2,000 odd kms into the trip) before I had to replace three of the tyres.
At Uluru National Park in the Northern Territory, I opted to drive along 90kms of corrugated road to save driving an extra four hours on the main road. This was actually a great decision because it was along this road that we pulled in to camp for the night and saw along the horizon five wild camels walk through the desert! However it was also along this road that part the dashboard fell off at my feet, pros and cons!
The final straw for the poor old Fairlane was when we got up to Northern Queensland, to the very northern point of Cape Tribulation from where no vehicle can continue unless four-wheel drive. But we REALLY wanted to see more! So of course we tried to cross this river, ridiculous idea in hindsight and of course we got bogged in the river and had to be towed out.
So there you have it, three of many! If you want to hear more please subscribe or comment below!
Until then I’ll try to stay out of trouble!
PS: The feature photo of this post is just after I jumped off a cliff into waist deep ice-cold water, cut my knee open and nearly froze to death. Mistake #4.