On the road experiences—something that is inevitable if you choose to travel. These can include great experiences, awful times, funny occurrences that you’ll never forget and the just down right weird.
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Our adventure in Jamaica started with a wonderful mistake. My boyfriend and I had booked a hotel two hours away. Instead of paying $50US to sit with tourists on a charter, we paid $2US and traveled with the locals.
Four days later, we stood on the side of the road to catch another $2US public bus to Ocho Rios. Bumping into a local couple we befriended, they set us up with some of their friends that were going to pick us up and drive us around to find a new hotel. Rule #1 Always trust your gut.
Our new friends then drove us to find a hotel, to their favorite jerk chicken spot and to their homes. Two hours later, we cut our first reggae song! Rule #2 Chill with the locals.
My Cab Driver hunting an Iguana for dinner – Panama Experience!
Cab fares in Panama are determined in advance. There is no meter running, and for good reason. You never know what could happen. There are random stops, occasional detours, and the odd errand that you, as a passenger, should be happy to tolerate. This week, my cabbie stopped in the middle of the road when he spotted a large iguana on the shoulder. He began to chase after it as I sat in the front seat watching the drama unfold with my iPhone.
Losing the lizard in the dry leaves, I gave a whistle to the cabbie and pointed to the spot where the reptile sat motionless. The Panamanian lept down on the iguana like Spider-Man from above and returned to the truck, lizard in hand.
“Comida?” I asked. (Food in Spanish).
“Si…la cena! Ha ha ha ha.”
He tied the iguana up like a chicken and then put him in the cab with us, under his knees. I am sure it was dead by this time, and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t placed in the BACK of the little pickup truck. Cab rides will never be the same, and I am grateful for the Panamanian experience.
Varanasi, India: A Terror Attack in the City to Die – a True Travel Story
I cannot imagine myself in a more awful yet interesting place than Varanasi. It is one of the oldest cities in India and the holiest city of Hinduism. Varanasi is also considered as Shiva’s favorite city, which he never leaves. Above Varanasi hovers a mixed mist of smoke and fumes, so that at night no stars can be seen. The narrow streets are littered with garbage and feces, and cows, pigs, dogs and monkeys are roaming around. Drug dealers and pimps are standing near the Ghats, the stairs leading to the Ganges, looking out for tourists to scam.
Many religious people come here simply to die, to be cremated on the banks of the Ganges, before the ashes will be handed over to the river.
They say, this way it is possible to break out of the cycle of birth and rebirth. The city is full of sick people waiting for death.
One evening, we had gathered together to visit a so-called Puja on the Ganges. It is traditionally a Hindu ceremony in Varanasi. Suddenly in the midst of the ceremony a bomb exploded. One child died, many people were injured. According to the newspaper Hindustan Times, a terror organization called Indian Mudschaheddin confessed to this attack.
Get some energetic vibes in Bam – When an Earthquake hit Bam
“Bam is still here!”
Said Mr. Panjalizadeh, owner of the Akbar Guest House in Bam, Iran.
“We get energy from you people who visit us.”
In 2003 a 6.6 earthquake hit Bam, devastating the city. Most of my Iranian friends thought I was crazy to drive all the way to Bam. “There’s nothing there,” they said. Nothing could be further from the truth. True, the place had been wrecked, but – after visiting the stunning citadel – I joined Mr. Panjalizadeh for tea in the garden of his guesthouse, seriously damaged by the earthquake and which still resembles a construction site.
But, opening his torn visitor’s books salvaged from the wreckage, I read the treasured memories of his previous guests. I felt humbled by what I read, and energized by this old man’s optimism.
Walking solo in a GULAG of the Stalin Era – crimes of the past
In Siberia, you read a lot about GULAG and their unfortunate guests. So we had to go to Perm-36, a former soviet labor camp where “country enemies” were imprisoned.
In a forest 100 km northeast from Perm and closed for tick-borne encephalitis, as we discovered after 2 hours in a bouncy minivan, we managed to enter the camp thanks to a kind employee and walked through barbed wire fences and bare dorms with wooden beds.
It’s touching to see how people had to live for minor crimes like being late for work or reading censored books.
Waiting for Kumari, a goddess in Kathmandu
We were in Kathmandu waiting for Kumari to come out of the palace. She is a goddess and a very young girl, chosen among numerous Newari female candidates according to strict body figures and after frightful trials. She cannot lay her feet on the ground, so servants carry her on a sedan out of the palace. Furthermore, she’s not looking to anything in particular with her composed gaze, almost ignoring everyone.
It’s a bittersweet condition: her destiny is already written, she soon will be a woman and will lose her goddess status, as another Kumari shall be appointed.
Skydiving 15,000 feet over Queenstown, New Zealand
Absolutely petrified. That’s one way of describing my anxiety before jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet. But I had never done anything like this before, so that made it desirable. What makes traveling different is the unknown, the ability to experience new things without over thinking it. So that’s what I did; at 15,000 feet, of course. And I can honestly say that it was the best experience of my life. Complete silence as I free fell into nothingness. It was exhilarating.
Ticking of the bucket list: Cage-diving with Great Whites
So, this is a sneak preview of my old Bucket List:
– 14. Learn how to swim
– 15. Go cage diving with Great Whites
And then one day in November 2014 I said: “Sign me up for the cage diving with great white sharks, please”, ok, so I may have skipped a step with learning to swim, but really how essential was it to know how to swim when going cage diving with Great Whites?
After attending an amazing International Civil Society Week in Johannesburg, South Africa, I jumped at the chance of taking a two-day trip to Cape Town. If you need something you wake you up at 6am on a Wednesday, get into a cage with 8 Great Whites surrounding. The adrenaline junkie within will be truly pleased.
From Zero to Kilimanjaro, the Highest Peak of Africa
This was it. What was I thinking? “Stephanie, you have never climbed a mountain in your life, never mind starting with Kilimanjaro.” At that stage there was no going back, it was time to take on the challenge. After spending two months living with a Maasai Tribe, the decision came to tackle Kili with three friends.
This was an experience I will never forget. These overwhelming feelings of happiness, fear, tiredness, excitement and anxiety all at once.
Standing at the highest peak of Africa, I told myself, this was my time. It was time to challenge myself and do it while seeing the world.
Drinking Shots with Vietnamese War Veterans
It’s true that it’s the people who make the difference! I’m lucky to be traveling with my best friend Hannah, but don’t worry about doing it alone either because we have met the most incredible people….
Like stopping for a bike break in Hoi An and ending up doing shots of rice wine at the insistence of Vietnamese War Veterans, some of which were missing limbs but still had the biggest smiles and funniest stories.
This travel story from Vietnam was contributed by Heather, a friend of Hostelgeeks. Heather Jayne Wilkes is from Wales, UK. She’s a world traveler, exploring every single corner of the globe to find experiences, joy and stories to share.
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