The theme of this month’s issue, in case you hadn’t noticed, is ‘Wanderlust.’ Ever the glass-half empty type, the first topic that struck upon me to write about wasn’t the joys of jet-setting or the magic of exploration. No, the first thing I thought of was, ‘I want to know about people who’ve had absolute shockers in far-flung corners of the globe. Thinking I’d search high and low for people with suitably exciting tales of peril and woe, I actually lucked upon the lovely ladies of St Helier vintage clothing boutique Pretty Vacant, who had more stories than we could even print. Proprietors Louise Evans and Andrea Jones had tales involving tequila, rabies, hitmen, and lots more, but these three were the best to make the cut. Read it, weep, and think twice before booking your holidays.
ANDREA: SHOCK THERAPY IN THE SHOWER, BRAZIL
Where and when did your holiday nightmare take place?
It was May 2005 in the cheapest, nastiest guesthouse in Puerto Seguro, Brazil, with my ex-boyfriend Adam and two of his mates from Ireland. I’d spent a year in Australia, flown to Brazil, had week in Rio before travelling up the coast to Puerto Seguro.
So, on to the nightmare. What happened?
I was in the shower and Adam was brushing his teeth at the sink. There was no shower curtain and I was lathering myself up with shower gel. I went to squeeze the soap out of my sponge so held it up to the showerhead. As I did so I sensed Adam turn quickly and look at me and look up. At the same time a bolt of electricity jumped from a bare wire hanging out of the wall above the showerhead straight onto my hand. A massive electric shock flew down my arm and, bear in mind I was soaking wet, blew me out of the shower onto the floor. Adam picked me up and threw me on the bed. It really hurt and my hand was clenched in a claw position for about four hours and my arm hurt for AGES!
Was an ambulance called?
No. We told the lady from the guesthouse and she just laughed and said ‘very good, yes’. We refused to pay, pointing out the bare wires above the shower head and the fact I had nearly just been killed, and she just smiled and nodded and said ‘very good yes’. I’m sure she spoke English when we arrived.
LOUISE: CLIFFHANGING WITH A BURSTING BLADDER, COSTA RICA
Take us briefly through your holiday up until your travelling NIGHTMARE…
I was in Costa Rica in 1988, with a man called Alan, from Skeggie. I met someone in a cafe who was planning a trip through Central America to a refugee camp in Costa Rica run by Amnesty International. He asked me if I would accompany him on his journey. We started off in Florida and arrived at the refugee camp in Costa Rica inhabited by over 3,000 El Salvadorian refugees. I helped with building roads and planting coffee and one day was sent on an errand with Hovino, a refugee, Julia who worked for Amnesty International and Alan.
So, on to the nightmare. What happened?
As there were only four of us travelling on our eight-hour journey we were able to squish in the cab of the pickup. However, having recruited an English guy named John in San Jose, John and I decided to ride in the back of the pickup for our return journey. Ten minutes into the journey we were pulled over by a traffic officer who explained to us that it was in fact illegal in Costa Rica to ride in the back of a pickup truck. We drove around the corner and proceeded to use a big piece of tarpaulin to hide John and I in the back. We were in conversation when suddenly I came over all hot and bothered. As we had been driving for about an hour I assumed that we were out of the city and therefore I could take off a layer of clothing. I pulled back the tarpaulin and sat up; to my horror we were on a roundabout still in the city center with an Army truck full of soldiers directly behind us. I immediately ducked back under the tarp knowing full well that the soldiers had seen me. However we continued for another half an hour thinking that somehow they hadn’t noticed. Suddenly the pickup came to an abrupt halt, John and I looked at each other bemused, not knowing what to do. Then I felt something stabbing me in the leg. I put my hand down only to feel a shaft of metal protruding into my thigh. I looked and realised with horror that it was in fact the barrel of a gun. John and I discussed what to do and decided to stand up. To our surprise, the vehicle was surrounded by soldiers pointing guns and shouting unidentifiable orders. I said ‘hello!’ and followed the angriest looking man into a hut at the side of the road where Hovino was in deep discussion with an army officer who looked very cross.
After an hour of deliberation the officer ordered us to catch the next bus to our destination, which was leaving in two minutes from across the road. At this point I realised that I was dying to go to the loo but was too terrified to turn back so got on the bus. The bus was hot and crammed with people and I was desperate for a wee. I waited in agony for about twenty minutes until we were high up in the mountains and then told John I was actually going to pee myself unless I got off the bus. He gallantly approached the bus driver and told him I was pregnant – I wasn’t. The bus driver very courteously stopped the bus and I was allowed to get off. It was pitch black and I tried to find the nearest bush to go and squat behind. As I did so I lost my footing, swung around and ended up grasping the bush with my legs dangling off a 500-metre cliff face. I let out a very timid scream whilst attempting to pull myself up but the cliff was muddy and I couldn’t get a grip. It was one of these moments when your life actually flashes before your eyes. Somehow I managed to give one final effort and before I knew it I was back on level ground next to the bus. At this point I just pulled down my shorts and went for a pee in front of the entire busload of passengers. I got back on the bus and immediately noticed the whole of the front of my body was covered in mud. I walked up to John who asked where the bloody hell I had been to which I replied, “You won’t believe what just happened to me!”
ANDREA: NUTTER IN THE DARK, AUSTRALIA
Where and when did your holiday nightmare take place?
September 2004, Staff Quarters, The Mermaid Hotel, Dampier (population 1,000 and about 1,000 miners working nearby), Western Australia aka Actually The Middle of Nowhere
My roommate Gemma and I had finished our shift in the bar at about 2am and were back in our room. All the staff slept in cabins and trailers at the back of the hotel. Our cabin had a small bedroom, bathroom and lounge/kitchen. I woke up at about 4am and could hear someone moving around in the kitchen, knocking things over. I’d hear it for a few seconds and then it would go quiet for a while. After 15 minutes I whispered to Gemma ‘are you awake?’ and she replied ‘Of course I’m awake! Who the f*** is that?!’ We then heard some noise in the bathroom next to our room so we tried saying, ‘Hello? Who’s that?’ No reply. We were starting to get quite scared now so we barricaded the door with Gemma’s bed, as it had no lock. I said ‘Phone one of the chefs to come round’ but we couldn’t get a signal on the phone. The noises in the bathroom were becoming scarier, and we were standing on my bed holding our phones up, desperately trying to get a signal. We didn’t want to scream to get attention because we thought maybe the person didn’t know we were there and we’d be attracting their attention. We had nothing in our room to use as a weapon and were just sitting on my bed in the dark holding onto each other. It went quiet for a bit and just as I was thinking the person must have gone there was a massive crash at the bedroom window outside and someone was shaking the hurricane grill that was screwed onto the outside of the window, like they were trying to rip it off. We screamed our heads off and I remember reaching down to put my trainers on because I thought we were going to have to make a run for it out the door and through the bush; my hands were shaking so much I couldn’t put them on. We heard some of the chefs shouting outside and then they were knocking at the door to see if we were okay. One of them said as he came out of this trailer he saw a man running off into the bush. We went up to the hotel to get the manager and the bar had been broken into and trashed. When we came down to our room about an hour later there were fresh muddy footprints outside our bedroom.
Were the police called?
Yes, they searched our rooms and saw knives had been taken out the drawers in our kitchen. All the locks were changed and refitted in our rooms and we had the caretaker sleeping in our lounge and a guard dog tied up outside the door who was so vicious we could barely make into our room alive ourselves.
What travel tips would you offer people setting around the globe?
Andrea: I think I always broke all the safety rules, always walking home on my own drunk, hitch-hiking, swimming drunk at night, trusting people based on the fact they made me laugh, not telling anyone where I was going. Attracting nutters has always been a forte of mine but I wouldn’t advise anyone to even look a stranger in the eye. They may kill you. Enjoy your travels!