They say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. That has certainly been true during some of my travels, either independently or with a group, but always traveling solo. I’ve had a number of unplanned adventures during my travels which certainly added to the experience. Some were a bit scary, but all added to my exploration, and tested my skills at knowing what to during an uncertain travel situation.
My late arrival after 11 pm in Phuket, Thailand certainly qualifies, after the plane from Bangkok was running late for hours. A taxi drove me to a tiny Marina area in a jungle forest with a lone pier. There I was, late at night and nobody else around, where I was supposed to meet staff from my timeshare on tiny private Coconut Island. My taxi driver was just going to drop me off in the dark; he informed me he had ot catch the next ride from the airport. I surveyed the surrounding area, and there wasn’t even a hotel or restaurant nearby. Just jungle, completely unlit, no place to call if necessary. So, when he dropped me off at the dark and lonely pier, imagine my surprise when I saw a person standing next to a small boat saying,” Are you Jann Segal?”
Johannesburg, South Africa has its own adventures. I had hired a Facebook friend to give me a private tour for two days prior to my joining a private safari with a local outfitter, then start a South Africa tour with Overseas Adventure Travel. He gave hunting tours, but he assured me he could give me tours of the area. It turned out he didn’t know Johannesburg that well, so we had two days of tours in Pretoria. In a car with a spark plug problem and only an emergency brake that worked. I was shocked, especially since we were driving like this in rainy weather. We made it through the first day seeing all that Pretoria had to offer. He promised he would bring the better car for the second day. Well, he didn’t. But driving with the emergency brake only wasn’t the worst of it! Unfortunately, my “friend” listened to my suggestion that we get off the freeway when he wanted ot make a comfort stop late at night on the way back. Where we ended up was one of the worst parts of downtown Johannesburg. Multiple families were living in dilapidated former office buildings, and many were walking around in a lively way, either having had too much to drink, or on drugs. That area is apparently known for this, and one where its safer to run a red light, even at night, then let one of the apparently inebriated locals try to approach. Run the red light we did! And the “comfort stop” made me gasp. It was completely dark, no lights, and only a small, shed toilet and filthy sink for one. So, when he used it, I was alone in the locked car (or was it?) not knowing who would approach me. And when I used the “facilities” all by myself in the dark? Well, I decided it was time to get back to my hotel. I was safer back at the hotel, but not necessarily in the broken-down vehicle that finally got me there.
On the OAT Untamed Iceland trip where none of these oddities occurred, we had great plans for a hike om a rainy day, passing by the glacier that is the ” center of the earth. ” and a famous blow hole. I cleaned up in the morning no longer wanting to look like an adventure traveler from hikes the previous day, and even sprayed my hair. Everything was in place, hiking stick at the ready. The rain started coming down so ferociously as were the wind gusts, that we saw a waterfall with the water running upward. As we progressed, we got word that the longer segment of our hike was cancelled due to heavy weather conditions. We were just going to hike the short half hour to the volcanic blow hole. So, I donned a thin poncho over my heavy coat and began the hike. I will never do that again.
The poncho had no snaps and there was no way to secure it I realized, as I basically walked into gale force winds and rain. My poncho had suddenly become the sails, and I was merely a vessel being carried along. I had zero control. I fell down once and everyone on the tour tried to help, but once up the wind kept sweeping me away. I literally floated past slow walkers and picture takers, didn’t care much about the blow hole to our left, and more about the fact that on one side of me was solid grass, the other side a steep cliff. I was not in the mood to go parasailing down a cliff. The bus had left to pick us all up, so I had to keep going even though I was feeling more and more like Nanook of the North, and maybe a bit like the flying nun. I laughed when I thought about my hair, since the wind and rain had totally trashed it. I literally was blown safely into the bus.
I’m all about lessons learned, but I’m not certain I could have done much differently in Phuket. I had spent five days in Bangkok, and this was supposed to be an early afternoon flight that had problems. In Johannesburg? Well, next time I would use a proper tour company, not some independent private guide. But there is nothing to keep mother nature in check in terms of a rainy hike in Iceland or anywhere else. But the thin poncho over the heavy coat showed me how vulnerable we really are in the face of nature and forces beyond our control.
To learn more about tours such as these in Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and more, check out Overseas Adventure Travel.