Travel horror stories- 3 nightmare experiences
Sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to Qatar for the weekend, bag full of plastic spiders, rubber pumpkins and all other manner of Halloween party paraphernalia, I realise that this occasion is the perfect opportunity to explore the darker side of travel. I’m not talking about trips to Transylvania or tours of graveyards and dungeons – forget the ghouls and gremlins, they have nothing on some of these travel horror stories!
1. Killer insects and giant bugs
Ok so maybe they’re not killers, but some of the insects I have encountered at close quarters while travelling, could I’m sure have carried both me and my bags home without breaking a sweat! The worst bug encounters I have ever had have to be in Borneo – this magnificent place was not all cute and cuddly orangutans and monkeys, with big blood-sucking leeches seeking us out in the jungle and huge creepy crawlies lurking in jungle caves. Even when we were tucked away on a desert island for some diving, we couldn’t escape, here one of my nightmares came true – I woke up in the middle of the night, disturbed by what I thought was my hair ticking my hand on the pillow, opened my eyes and saw the biggest cockroach I’ve even seen right in front of my nose – literally!! Not sure I’ve ever moved so fast, and it was certainly a bit of challenge to get back to sleep again!!
2. The creepy hotel room
You could write book after book about nightmare hotel stays, and I’ve certainly experienced my fair few, from the dank hotel with moist, mouldy bed sheets in Oman, to the hotel in Delhi continually circled by a vicious pack of howling stray dogs, and the guesthouse in Bali where insects crawled out of the walls in droves at night. There have been two occasions however which were just downright spooky places that would have made fantastic sets for horror films. The first was Ras al Jinz, Oman – the Scientific and Visitor Centre was apparently in its opening phase when we checked in, yet we were shown to our room, trailing our bags through big abandoned rooms, still unfinished, with pipes and construction materials lying around which we could barely make out in the dark (the electricity wasn’t connected in a lot of the hotel). There were no staff around and we had arrived late and went straight out to see the turtles coming in to lay their eggs. We were the only guests in the entire hotel so were hearing noises all night, and at dawn when we got up to see the turtles hatch, there was no staff and no chef for breakfast – it could easily have been the scene of a zombie movie! The second experience was in Kerala, India – before heading out on a houseboat for a cruise of the Alleppey backwaters, we were convinced by the tour operator to spend a night in a farm stay. It was a lovely peaceful place, on the banks of the river, in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do for miles. We only had one day and spent the time on the porch reading books and watching river life, but that night I woke to see a shadow at the window, I had just been dreaming that somebody was in the room, taking my ring from the dresser and unbelievably the shadow was by the dresser window. Sure that I was imagining things, I woke my friend and we lay for a while watching and both completely convinced it was a person on the outside of the window (and we are not people who are usually spooked). I turned on my torch and the shadow remained there, but after ten or fifteen minutes (it felt like hours) the big house across the water turned on its outside lights which illuminate the whole river and the shadow was gone. I would love to say it was just our imagination but I am absolutely convinced it was more than that, guess we’ll never know…
3. The psychopath driver/tour guide
Again, I have had plenty of experience with psychos (but let’s leave my dating history out of this!) Whilst travelling you seem to be especially prone to them, especially if you’re travelling solo and appear vulnerable. I’ve often found though that when you are confident, talk firmly and behave sensibly (check out my tips for solo female travellers here) you can generally shake them off, it only becomes more difficult if you are actually bound to them in some way as part of your trip (literally not figuratively I hope!) I’ve met some characters in my time who would be perfectly at home in any thriller movie – when I stayed on the tiny island of Gili Air in Lombok, the owner of the guesthouse I was staying at took a shine to me and harassed me at every opportunity (he liked to try to stroke my freckles, despite my protest and insistence that you can’t feel freckles!) Then there was my driver when I was travelling Jordan, this was easily the most uncomfortable experience as I was on my own with him for the entire trip, he kept asking about my love life and offered to meet me for dinner every evening – it got to the point where I faked feeling ill and would not leave the hotel in case he was waiting outside (he wasn’t staying in the same hotel as me thankfully). He told any other tour guides we met in Arabic that I was his girlfriend, and it came to a head the night we were staying in a desert camp in Wadi Rum – I went off to sit in the dunes, watch the sunset and read a book and he kept following me to try to convince me to go back into the city for a rave, when I got annoyed he got angry, and I got a tirade of abuse about how I was boring and this was why I was travelling alone because I could find no one who wanted to be with me! He stomped off and took the car then I later heard him whispering to me when I was sleeping in my tent (not at all freaky!) I ignored him, and in the morning he was no one to be found and left me marooned in the desert on my own in the heat until late morning. Luckily it was the last day, and apart from a final attempt to get me to go to his house and meet his mother on the way to the airport, I finally got a little peace!!
I’m pretty sure there are other experiences much more frightening than these – I alone have plenty more where these came from, including transport breakdowns, freakish weather, and more disturbing encounters with people (there are some strange people out there – don’t event ask about the flasher on the push bike down the dark alley in Syria, or the nude artist on the beach in Australia!) but I have to turn my thoughts back to pumpkins, witches, ghosts and ghouls for the occasion in hand – Happy Halloween everyone!