Have visions of travel bloggers sitting in first class, sipping champagne and eating cheese and crackers whilst our own personal pilot jets us off to our secret island? Yeah right. Some luxury travel bloggers might be getting that A Star treatment but for Teacake and friends, we’re the ones that are usually sitting next to a goat, in a metal can bus, praying the cowboy driver in front gets us to our next destination alive and in one piece. We secretly love it because with all the Journeys from Hell, eventually come the Journeys from Heaven. Sit back, grab a cuppa and have a right old laugh (at our expense) about all the crazy journeys we’ve dragged ourselves through to fuel our travel addiction!
Journeys from Hell and Heaven
You don’t know someone till you travel with them: Journeys from Hell in India
Nagging. Endless nagging. How could a twenty-two year old girl with a body to die for and a face carved by angels be so god-damn irritating? My beloved, for that is what she was at the time, was upset. The journey was long, she was cold, she was tired, the bus smelled funny, she was hungry, no, not for real food, for vegan food, her feet hurt, the driver was looking at her funny, we should never have come to India anyway and it was all my fault – apparently.
It had been a long day. The legendary bus from Manali to Leh is supposed to take 18 hours. Just two hours outside of Manali, as we juddered our way up into the mountains, a landslide, yes, a freaking landslide, had narrowly missed our bus and wiped out a large chunk of the road. It had taken 12 hours for a bunch of less-than-enthused Indian chaps with pickaxes to attempt to move the debris. They had hacked away unhappily for perhaps half an hour before giving up. Our bus driver, swearing in Hindi and English and every other language he knew, had gunned the engine and, to the surprise of everyone, charged at the mountain of rubble blocking the road. Somehow, he mounted this huge pile of scree, sending several rocks the size of my skull tumbling into the valley below, as we inched our way along the cliff-face, a dizzying drop on one side.
We had made it! We were across, only another 16 hours of driving awaited us! I attempted to roll a smoke with my frozen hands: a celebration was in order. My darling girlfriend said something about cancer. I went back to looking out the window as we slowly crept across the Himalayan plains. Finally, after hours of putting up with endless bullshit from her, I gave up. I opened the window and to everybody’s dismay, began to climb. Soon, I was away from it all. Away from the smoking exhaust, away from the irritating passengers and away from the helpful advice of my one true love (we broke up a week later, I think it was largely because of this bus journey).
I looked around me. Endless mountains spilling away into the sunset, snow-capped peaks tinted orange and gold. Me, just me, alone and with the best view for miles. It was worth it.
When you can see a slice of heaven but…You’re in Thailand boat journeys from hell
You imagine it and trust me, it can happen. You have a ferry boat full of people and vehicles. The ferry boat is open on the sides. You see an inevitable and ominous storm coming in your direction. Do you: A) Go anyway or B) Wait out the storm? Most sensible individuals would choose to wait it out. However, the current captain of the fine vessel I was on, chose to chance it. Guess what? We were a mere quarter of a mile away from the pier when the storm hit us. Koh Chang, the island in front of me and my final destination was engulfed in an enormous cloud so I could hardly see it. The ferry’s passengers, including my friends and I, were now being pelted with huge rain drops in rough winds which felt like needles. We were drenched within seconds and freezing. During the storm, our captain decided to shut off the engine of the boat while the storm manhandled us, which resulted in our ferry being beached! I could literally swim to the pier but after waiting about an hour, another smaller ferry came. The staff thought two pieces of rope tied to each ferry would pull us out of the sand; a ferry boat which had nothing less than 100 passengers and about 20 vehicles. They didn’t even take into consideration the slack of the two pieces of rope. Surprise surprise, the rope snapped. While we waited totally drenched, some of the staff remembered that there were wind and rain flaps on the sides of the boat and put them down. There was no more rain, we were now in a humid hot box. Seriously?! Finally, about three or so hours later, the geniuses brought over another ferry capable of loading everyone on to it to make the journey to our little paradise island. We finally made it …about five hours later. The rest of our time on Koh Chang was magical thankfully, except for the almost dying part…
Don’t get stuck for accommodation when you reach your destination! Book ahead
Testing Yourself On The Trans-Siberian: journeys from hell in Russia
In June 2014 we left our lives and jobs in London to eat our way around Asia, entering via the Trans Siberian railway. Don’t get us wrong, the Trans Siberian was always a dream of ours, but doing it in platz class (3rd class) does take its toll after the third day. The third class carriages on the Russian trains are basically like one large dorm fitting around 60 people, divided into groups of 3 bunk beds, two facing each other and one stand alone by the window. Putting aside the inevitable loud snoring of fellow passengers, after the third day of being in the peak Siberian summer (Russia gets seriously hot around this time), in a train with no air con and stubborn unwashed Russians refusing to open the window for fresh air, it started to get quite smelly. Poo whiff! But it was an unforgettable journey we’ll never let slip our mind, particularly the views of the last leg of the trip in Siberia approaching Lake Baikal!
Don’t miss these two! You can find Sebastian and Stefan over at their lovely blog Nomadic Boys!
More vodka aftershocks! journeys from Hell (and eventual Heaven) on the train in Russia
After hiking in Siberia’s Stolby National Park me and my Kiwi friends headed straight to the train station to start our longest journey yet: 67 hours from Krasnoyarsk to Moscow! We went through our usual prep, including a baby wipe shower as a real shower was a few days away yet! Settling into our third class bunks most of our fellow passengers were Russian lads returning home from their one year army service. You can imagine what that was like!..and yes, maybe you’re imagining vodka to be flowing 24/7 but the train guards weren’t happy about it at all! Instead we drank tea. Lots of tea. You also have some semblance of a sleeping schedule as you cross time zones. Getting off the train whenever there’s a stop longer than 20 minutes is crucial to staying sane. It’s a break from the smell of people temporarily living on a train, some up to seven days, with no showers.
It wasn’t until the final night when we got stuck into some vodka. We drank a couple of bottles while playing some crazy Russian card game I never fully understood. One of our new friends insisted we could get more vodka at the restaurant cart. After talking to the staff they brought out water bottles…full of vodka. There is a way! You should take the Trans-Siberian journey once. All of the hell makes for a heavenly ride!
Lapping up clouds: journeys from Heaven in Sri Lanka
Our Journey from Heaven was through the clouds by train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is a city at the heart of Sri Lanka’s popular tea industry and beautifully lush and green with the various tea plantations rooted there. The train powers through Sri Lanka’s southern hill country, through the tea plantations, into the clouds and then weaves in and out of the many mountain tunnels as it descends to reach Ella town. The low-lying clouds add to the beautiful scenery.
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Letting it all out: journeys from Hell in China
Through uncomfortable journeys in foreign public transportation, I always console myself with the assumption no one around me is in paradise either. My worst trip I suffered alone in a taxi cab in China, with no one to commiserate with or help me. It was a long journey from the Fragrant Hills outside Beijing into the city where I’d told the driver I wanted to be let out at a certain mall. Halfway through the ride I became overwhelmed with nausea (probably food poisoning). The driver had chosen the fourth lane to the inside in six lanes of creeping traffic. I kept telling him I needed to get out of the taxi “now!” He kept paternally informing me we had not yet reached the mall. Even though I was literally curled up in a ball, surely looking green, with my head against the window, I couldn’t make him understand the situation.
“Please let me out here” I pleaded. “But we’re not there yet” he replied. “I know, that’s fine, I want to get out early” I begged. “But we’re not there yet” he repeated. I didn’t know how to say “sick” in Mandarin so I pointed to my tummy, tried to charade barfing. No response. Funnily enough, the driver was listening to a cassette tape of an English language learning course. I tried talking to him in English. No response. I was desperate; I knew with absolute certainty my stomach was very soon going to eject its contents in a most unseemly way. Traffic was moving so slowly I seriously contemplated just opening the door and hopping out. Mercifully, we reached the mall just in the nick of time for me to sprint to the nearest topiary bush along the sidewalk and release my lunch. What’s weird is that no one walking by even raised an eyebrow.
Nature at it’s best! Journeys from heaven boat tripping in Patagonia Chile
Patagonia is one of those special destinations. The word alone conjures up images of a vast wilderness full of snow-capped peaks, massive glaciers and colourful lakes. It’s the cold, lonely and unbelievably beautiful end of the world, and seeing it slowly slide by while cruising the narrow channels between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales is a journey I’ll never forget. This was no ordinary cruise. For a start it was cheap; we paid $300 each for 3 nights including meals, a steal for this part of the world. My girlfriend and I had a small cabin where we relaxed, ate all the snacks we had bought for our upcoming trek in Torres del Paine National Park and watched lots of movies. Every now and then we’d venture out to the front deck in the howling winds to watch the amazing scenery unfold. We kept our eyes peeled for whales and dolphins (but it wasn’t the right season) and listened as the ship’s passionate naturalist described all of the wonders this area has to offer. This journey through Patagonia was probably the most relaxing few days during our time in South America – we arrived in Puerto Natales ready to tackle the famous W Trek (which was the hardest/most rewarding experience I’ve had in a long time).
Finding Fame en route to Yosemite: journeys from heaven
During our US road trip in summer 2014, my boyfriend and I took our 1986 Land Cruiser into Yosemite National Park, California. Ascending Tioga Pass with its elevation of 9943ft, we had to pull over every few hundred metres to cool the car’s engine. During these 10 minute breaks with the car’s hood up, my boyfriend would play guitar outside whilst I wrote in my journal. With the relaxing music rolling in through my window and my mind whirling with words, I didn’t notice the cars that passed us on the steep pilgrimage into the park. During one stop as I sat daydreaming, my boyfriend rushed to my window, telling me to watch what was happening outside. I stepped out of the car to see a small group of Chinese tourists pouring out of their van with huge cameras, wanting to take photos of him playing before the beautiful backdrop. I watched, mouth hanging open, as they bent down on their knees like a gang of paparazzi, mesmerised by what they were seeing and squeaking amongst each other like excitable children. My boyfriend looked just as bewildered as me as he found himself being papped like a popstar. Soon I was noticed with my blonde hair, which only sparked more excitement. They motioned for me to get in the photo, directing through scatty arm motions and poor English how we should pose. This went on for five minutes. This was one of the most bizarre moments of human interaction I had ever experienced, but one of the most memorable and uplifting too. For the rest of the day, we would erupt in random outbursts of laughter whenever we thought about this unexpected moment of fame.
Surfing the waves unlike a pro: boat journeys from hell in the Philippines
Journeys from hell are hard to forget even though I’ve tried. We were in Bohol Island in the Philippines and booked a trip to Oslob on Cebu Island to do swimming with whale sharks. It was supposed to be a very smooth two hour journey that turned out to be my personal nightmare and hell in one. The boat was quite small with twelve people on it. The ride started ok, however about twenty minutes later when we were already pretty far from the island, the waters started to get pretty rough. The current was very strong and intense, slowing us down and swaying us from one side to another, for five and a half hours. I personally am very scared of open water so to me this was the scariest thing in the world – both islands too far to swim to, deep and rough waters and my crazy imagination. I was sick to my stomach, super dizzy from the waves and I needed to pee like crazy.
The minute we got to Oslob I knew there was no way I was going back to that boat. Luckily there were six of us who felt this way so we decided to hire a local guy with a car to take us to Cebu port, and from there we took the ferry back to Bohol. My boyfriend and I didn’t have enough money but we traveled with this awesome Swedish couple who lent us some cash (they lived in a hotel near us) so we could make it back! And we also became great friends with the other two travelers, whom we had over at our place in Beijing. So it goes to show you there are always ups and downs, and through all that hell, you can meet some great people along the way!
Island Hopping around Komodo National Park: Journeys from heaven in Indonesia
Pristine turquoise waters. World class diving and snorkelling options. For the endless stunning landscapes and the unique species you can get to see here (Komodo dragon anyone?), I recommend Komodo to everyone looking for a far away place out of this world. It’s affordable and very easy to wander around and here is what made it so amazing! 1) The perfect timing. We departed right after sunrise and returned under the stars. 2) The flawless weather (not strong winds and just a few clouds when we needed them at midday). 3) The boat and the crew (they were really nice!) 4) The itinerary that took us to 4 different islands: Rinca Island, Loh Liang, Pink Beach and Pulau Padar. 5) All the activities we had along the way: hiking, snorkelling, chilling and feasting!
A far from simple journey: The inevitable journeys from hell on a bus from Laos to Vietnam
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Don’t get stuck for accommodation when you reach your destination! Book ahead
A blissful sleep: Road Tripping journeys from heaven in Hawaii
Driving the road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii, is delightful, but it becomes positively heavenly when you plan ahead to spend the night in Hana. Most people do the congested drive on this famously curvy road and then turn right back around to drive out again the same day. That is hell. Taking the time to spend the night at the end in a rented hale and enjoying the amazing silence—save the sound of the surf—is heaven. It is no surprise that the town is referred to as Heavenly Hana.
Getting to know you, getting to know all about you: journeys from hell in India
We had been seeing each other for 13 wonderful days but aboard an overnight train from Varanasi to New Jalpaiguri, my young love for India changed. We were travelling during an Indian holiday and the sleeper car meant for six passengers was packed to the walls with fifteen.
Pressed between elbows, I consoled myself in reading books and drinking beer for the first few hours. When the time came, I stood for the bathroom but found the aisles at an impasse with grannies much too old to be lying on the floor. I returned to me seat, grateful to at least have one and leaned out the window to enjoy the fresh air and rain. After another hour, I switched seats with my friend and recognized the light drizzle of rain that had been hitting my arm was in fact saliva colored red with betel nut juice, spit by a passenger in the car ahead. Recalling the treacherous route to the bathroom, I simply tried to deal with it where I was.
As the hours passed, our passenger count only increased. The beds folded out from the walls and passengers selected one and coiled into fetal positions around their luggage. I found myself on a bunk with four others, one of which was a very unhappy baby and my confidence that they’d be getting off soon diminished. Discomfort turned to resentment. Resentment became anger. Anger switched to exhaustion. And then there were tears.
After a short rationalizing slumber, my mood turned when I realized maybe they had to pee too. Maybe they were desperate for shower too, maybe they were hungry too. We were comrades, not adversaries in our misery. And so I swallowed my entitlement along with a second tiny pink sleeping pill. 12 hours later we pulled up to the final train station, and I ran to the concrete like the seasick might. With a full bladder, arm speckled in betel nut, I was forced to accept that India was going to do its thing, and I could deal with it, or go home.
Hitchhiking in Patagonia: A Heavenly Experience all round
Our best journey from heaven was our two week hitch hike down the Careterra Austral in Chilean Patagonia. 1000 km of magnificent mountains, turquoise blue glacial lakes and rivers and the best part of all, the people. As we hitched our way south in the back of pick-up trucks, flat bed lorries, wagons, plus hiking when we couldn’t get a ride, we met adventure cyclists, walkers, enduro motobikers and even a 50 year-old German traveler whose bike had broken: He was dragging his 30 kilo trailer behind him by hand, determined to complete his amazing journey!
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