One of the Bad Days…

18 Apr

 

I personally think that there are much more ups than downs that come with travel. But every once in a while, something might happen that you really aren’t prepared for.

A few “bad” things happened to me during my first time backpacking. I’ve gotten very lost a few times. I’ve been given fake money that I couldn’t use. My credit card got sucked into an ATM and I couldn’t get it back. Mind you, some of these mishaps could have been prevented.

Travelling solo, especially as a solo female, has its pitfalls. If you’re like me, these pitfalls may really get the best of you. I loved travelling solo. I would definitely do it again because the freedom is amazing. However, I panic in troublesome situations if I’m by myself and even more so when there’s a language barrier. Sometimes it’s so much easier when you’re with another person.

What was the scariest day of my life?

Well, I can definitely pinpoint the scariest few hours of my life.

I arrived in Lima, Peru. Alone. Though, I don’t believe I really, truly experienced solo travel until I left Huacachina. I had been travelling with someone I met on the first day of my trip, so I always had someone with me.

I was on a 4-hour bus from Huacachina to Lima that arrived at around 10.p.m. At 11 p.m. I was taking an overnight bus to Chimbote, Peru. I made arrangements with director of the archaeological dig. He was to meet in the bus station at 6 a.m. the next day which is when the bus was arriving.

I’ve heard that Chimbote is NOT a place a tourist should be at night. I really underestimated this statement. Chimbote is most definitely not a place for tourists.

Problem #1: I hear someone on the bus announce that we have arrived in Chimbote. It is 6 a.m., right on time. BUT, she then announces “Nuevo Chimbote! Nuevo Chimbote! Primera, primera,” meaning that ‘New Chimbote’ would be our first stop. She then says that ‘Old Chimbote’ would be the second stop. My stomach immediately starts turning in knots. I have no idea which stop I need to get off at. This is something I am not prepared for at all. So I have to make a quick decision. The stop in New Chimbote is approaching and I can see a banner for Transportes Linea which was the bus company I’m using. I get off at New Chimbote. It’s dark and there are no pay phones in sight. I get my bag, but then quickly realize that this is NOT a bus station. Local men are saying things to me in Spanish that I cannot understand and I am scared out of my mind because this place seems as if it’s in the middle of nowhere. I ask if I can get back on the bus and they let me. My heart is pounding harder than it ever has before. I am on the verge of a panic attack. Now here’s where it gets interesting…

Problem #2: As the bus approaches the second stop, a sense of relief washes over me. I can see a huge bus station. I was told that there would be someone waiting for me once I got off the bus. There is no one. I start panicking again. I am a solo woman in a place where there are literally NO tourists. Not a single one. I don’t speak Spanish. NONE of the payphones in the entire bus station are working. On top of that, it is freezing and dark as it was 6 in the morning and the bus station is pretty much outdoor. So I sit down. As embarrassing as it is, I start crying. Hysterically crying (Cry me a river right? Sorry, but I’m a very emotional person. I swear my tear ducts are so weak). Why is no one here to pick me up. I have no idea what to do. I have no way to contact anyone. There are no tourist hostels in Chimbote. I can’t take a taxi to my destination because a) I don’t know the address and b) It’s in the middle of nowhere.

Possible Solution? I was just about ready to buy a bus ticket back to Lima when… the nicest man tried to help me. He was actually the person sitting next to me on the bus. He spoke next to nothing of English, but he could tell that I was upset and offered his cell phone. I tried calling my contact, but I couldn’t figure out how the phone numbers worked in Peru. Note: This was something that could have been prevented. I really should have figured out how to use Peruvian phones BEFORE I went on the trip.

Waiting…

The nice man who helped me definitely calmed me down so I decided to wait it out for a little longer. I couldn’t help feeling a bit panicked though. After about a long while of waiting, a young twenty-something woman approached me and said, “Are you Holly?” No words could have sounded more beautiful to me in that moment because I knew from the email list for the archaeological dig that there was a girl named Holly that was going to be participating in the project! So I said, “NO! But I think I’m going to the same place that she is.” I was so relieved that I actually cried. I know it’s dramatic, but I was seriously scared, mostly because I wasn’t prepared for something like this.

The Verdict? It turns out that the person I made arrangements with had his days confused and thought I was arriving the NEXT day at 6 a.m. All I could think was, “Thank God there was someone else that was being picked up that morning.” Even though I had to wait for a few hours, if Holly and her friend Rob weren’t scheduled to be picked up that day then no one would have came for me! I would have been forced to take a 7-hour bus back to Lima. Seriously, what are the odds? Also, what if I had a “Latin American” skin tone? That girl would have never asked me if I were Holly. She would have thought I was just a local. It was a lot worse than I’m making it sound. I’m not trying to complain, but it really was a scary place to be and because it’s not a tourist area, it was impossible to find a person who spoke English.

Lessons Learned…

ALWAYS be prepared for anything that could be thrown your way.

EXPECT that things will not necessarily work according to plan.

TRY to have a PLAN B.

Don’t over-think and don’t over-plan, but definitely don’t be as stupid as I was.

In my case, make sure you reconfirm travel arrangements. If I had confirmed it a few days before, I wouldn’t have been in this situation.

 

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