They say it’s the journey that counts. But that’s not really true when it comes to travelling. If the flight is better than the beachside sunbathing then we’re either going on terrible holidays or just got upgraded to first class.
With that said, getting from A to B isn’t always mundane. Out of the hundreds of journeys that I’ve taken across the planet, yes, many have seen me stuck in economy for 8 hours wishing the passenger behind me would stop putting their feet on my arm rest, but, a handful have actually been rather enjoyable. So here I present a selection of short stories, each featuring one my most memorable journeys… some wonderful, some terrible, but all unforgettable.
The at-one-with-nature one
There’s only one way to reach the depths of the Okavango Delta. The swampy grassland is rich with African wildlife and there was no way that I was going to miss out on bush camping in their terrain, even if it meant risking damp belongings.
Arriving at the wetlands, our group tour was greeted by local Batswana (the term used for the citizens of Botswana). Lining the banks were rows of hand carved canoes, known as mokoros, which swiftly became filled with tents, supplies and our backpacks.
“This is how you’ll reach the campsite” our guide stated.
“Oh, cool. How long will it take?”
Suddenly I wasn’t so up for this traditional transportation. 3 hours squished into an uncomfortable canoe?! Oh bloody hell.
When I reflect on this journey, and the one back to the mainland, I must have blocked out any negative moments of ‘holy shit are we nearly there yet” because all I remember is the sheer relaxation of gliding down the shallow water vessels, unsuccessfully looking out for crocodiles.
The mokoros come hand in hand with an experienced boat-man, or woman in our case. About halfway through I felt slightly awkward as she huffed and puffed, using the ‘ngashi’ pole to push us out of sand banks and thick swamps, occasionally gesturing for us to get our hands dirty and help push.
Unfortunately for us, we saw nothing more than a few dragonflies, however a mokoro ride is known for being an excellent way to spot wildlife due to its quiet, discreet movement.
You can read another of my Okavango Delta stories here.
The overwhelmingly beautiful one
I’ll almost always vote to take the scenic route. If you’re going to spend hours getting to your next destination, it might as well be beautiful. Flying over the Italian Alps, trains through the English Countryside and driving through British Columbia have all caused my face to be glued to the window, but the one particular journey I think of when it comes to memorably beautiful was a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway.
California’s claim to one of the most scenic roads in the world doesn’t let you down. From San Francisco to Santa Barbara, we passed miles of ragged cliffs, beaches and national parks, including hundreds of elephant seals along Point Piedras Blancas. This stop off also makes the cut as one of the 10 places around the world that took me by surprise.
The bizarre one
There are a number of things you don’t expect to be in your taxi; another passenger (unless you accidentally choose Uber Pool), the driver’s boxes of belongings, and a chicken. Well on this one particularly journey in Chiang Mai, all of these things accompanied my two friends and I at some point on a tuk tuk taxi ride down from the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple.
We’d waited for about half an hour at the top of the hill, even considered the long hike down until the grey clouds that had blocked the temple’s viewpoint suddenly broke, emptying their gallons of water onto underdressed tourists. Drenched and miserable, an open back taxi finally swerved around, the driver gesturing for us to get in.
We were relieved to be out of the rain, happy to be escorted the hill back to the town on the what we thought would be a short journey. A third of the way down we pulled in to a row of huts. The driver ran out and shouted at one of the doors until a local woman appeared who jumped in the back with us. We fell silent, sharing a polite nod as the car joined the road and we continued on.
Only a few minutes later, our fellow passenger was dropped off, replaced with a few boxes and crates. It wasn’t until the engine started again that we suddenly heard a sudden “cluckaaaawwwkk!” coming from the back. “What the f is a chicken doing here!” we whispered in hilarity. The bird seemed as surprised as us.
We became rather close to Sheila the chicken on our journey, keeping her company until we finally reached the bottom of the hill. “Bye Sheila!” we waved, fingers crossed that she was on route to a happy egg-laying life.
The out of a movie one
I was in Florence, in the sixth vintage shop I’d come across, and I’d finally found something. An Italian made, pastel tea dress, for a mere €20.
Skip forward past two train journeys where we got a fine for not stamping our tickets and where we passed a nun with a shiny gold suitcase, and my friend and I finally arrived in Lake Garda.
This journey was by bike. Along the lake’s edge, dressed in my newly bought vintage attire feeling like Audrey Hepburn with the wind in my hair.
We cycled for hours, past children splashing in the water, past Italian families enjoying a late lunch, onto the hills opposite our campsite. We stopped for photos and a prosecco break until we turned around back to the town of Peschiara where we picked up €4 bottles of wine and pasta to take home.
The luxurious yet long one
The only time I’ve ever ‘really’ travelled in style was on an 11 hour British Airways Business class flight from London to Costa Rica. The outbound journey was true luxury; 3 course fine dining, never-ending entertainment and obviously, the ability to lie down. I secretly cackled to myself with joy as I sat with my feet up eating fillet steak watching How To Be Single. Unfortunately the 4 hour coach ride after being awake for almost 24 hours caused the most jetlag I’ve ever had but a few nights in the Four Seasons made up for it 😉
The flight home was somewhat less than perfection. After a 6 hour delay in the Club Lounge due to an exotic storm (woe is me), I experienced hours of terrifying turbulence in a freezing cold cabin, so bumpy I would have fallen out of my bed had it not been for my belt. I could only sympathise with the poor peasants in economy…
The claustrophobic one
If you’ve read my tale of ‘The Day I Spent 7 Hours with a 6 Foot Avocado’ then bare with me as I repeat such a story, it couldn’t not make the list.
During a recent long weekend in the French Riviera, my friends and I couldn’t help but join the basic bitches who pose with inflatables… with a hint of sarcasm. A giraffe, penguin and flip flop made it into the boot and passenger seat, whilst I clambered in with my semi-inflated avocado in the back seat. I spent 2 hours uncomfortably squished up to cheap plastic as I tried not to vom or scream to escape on route to the Gorge du Verdon. You can read more about this humorous journey (which naturally included sheer drops and a drunk French man) here.
The not as bad as you’d think overnight one
On my travels through Thailand I think I took every possible mode of transport; a plane, far too many boats where I lay hungover on the floor, tuk tuk rides with chickens, freezing cold buses and the dreaded overnight train. It’s seen as a backpacker must-do but not for sightseeing experiences.
The (supposedly) 14 hour journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was the longest I’ve spent in one confined place, limited to a futon chair that was turned into a smaller-than-single size bed at nightfall.
Apart from the creepy Brazilian guys opposite who leered at us until we closed our curtains, my friends and I almost - dare I say it - enjoyed the ride. It’s the only time I’ve actually fallen asleep laughing due to the uncontrollable shaking I experienced from the extremely unsmooth tracks. Come morning I’d replaced laughter for “oh my god I need a cup of tea/vodka” but after the stories we’d heard, it wasn’t anything as bad as we’d imagined.
What is the most memorable journey you've had to date? This month we're sharing our travel journeys; figuratively, metaphysical, down the road... you name it! Get involved by sharing your journey related blog in the link up widget below, hosted by myself, Emma, Polly and Angie before the 7th November!