I usually have a great time when I travel, but not everything can be a winner and sometimes I just don’t have a great experience. There have been plenty of times I’ve regretted doing something almost immediately. That’s not to say theses experiences aren’t worthwhile, just that I didn’t care for them. With that in mind, here are some that I will never forget, unfortunately.
1. SNUBA – I love Hawaii, I love Lanai and I love water-based activities so I was excited when I showed up at the beach for my first experience with SNUBA. SNUBA is a combination of two words: snorkel and SCUBA and when I first heard of it I couldn’t help but think of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or The Snorks. I love snorkeling but have never been diving so I thought this would be the perfect in-between activity for me. What I soon realized is that in reality it’s a form of water-boarding or organized group drowning. No matter how hard I tried, I could not resolve the idea that it was ok to breathe underwater. I immediately started hyperventilating and had to head back to the surface. Around me young children and octogenarians were giddily enjoying their experience while I, in the supposed prime of my life languished atop the water. I tried repeatedly but just couldn’t get the hang of it. After thirty minutes or so I gave up and retreated to shore. SNUBA was a disaster for me, but luckily I’ll always have snorkeling as my fallback activity which has the added bonus of not being a form of torture banned by international convention.
2. Kings Canyon Hike – After reading this post you may think that I don’t like hikes and walks, but that’s not true. I love them and have had some great hiking experiences around the world but Kings Canyon in the Australian Outback was not one of them. We were driving from Alice Springs to Uluru and spent the night in the mid-desert oasis of Kings Canyon resort. It was a great place and I was excited to see the famous canyon firsthand through a guided walk. What I failed to remember was the great Australian quality of understatement. I was told to expect light exertion, which seemed laughable from the very start of the hike at Heart Attack Hill. The massive, vertical walk up to the rim of the canyon challenges even those in the best of shape, which I am most certainly not. It was an inauspicious start but the real crime of the tour was our guide who had an obsession with botany. For hours he led us through the canyon describing every last shrub, flower and tree. A few mentions would have been fine, but after hour two I wanted the hike to end just so I wouldn’t have to listen to him yammer on anymore about a rare gorse. It’s a shame because the hike could have been so much better had local history been included or more about the original inhabitants of the area. Sadly that never happened and towards the end I found myself running to the finish line eager to leave. An infinitely better hike happened just a few days later at Uluru where I joined an Anangu tour of the massive rock and I finally got my fill of cultural history.
3. Cape Town Jazz Safari – Maybe it’s because I was tired or maybe it’s because I kind of hate jazz, but the popular Jazz Safari in Cape Town just didn’t do it for me. In fairness though I didn’t give it a fair try either. The evening began at the home of a local jazz musician whose wife made for us a delicious Cape Malay meal that was in fact the best part of the evening. After dinner though everything started to go downhill. For hours we sat in this man’s living room as he told us stories of his life and played a variety of non-traditional instruments including at one point a stool. Then, just when I thought we could escape to complete the rest of the tour he popped in a DVD that included footage of him from when he was younger. The DVD was an hour long. Even our guide fell asleep and at the end everyone was quickly making up excuses to leave, flee really. I was so dejected that I didn’t have the energy to complete the tour and visit a jazz bar in town, which without a doubt would have been the much more interesting part of the experience. But I couldn’t do it. I was tired and my ability to fake interest and courtesy had been reduced to zero and so it was with relief that I retreated back to the comfort of our rental house. There are though many great tours in Cape Town that allow you to learn more about local culture and meet new people, including a Cape Malay walk and cooking lesson that was one of the highlights of my stay.
4. Ride an elephant in Thailand – I don’t know what I was thinking, looking back on it I can only blame my youth and inexperience as the reasons for why I participated in an elephant experience on the Thai island of Koh Samui. I love animals and am an ardent supporter of wildlife conservation and sustainable tourism which is what attracted me to the activity in the first place. Advertised as a way to interact with elephants I was excited when the van dropped us off in the middle of the jungle but that excitement quickly vanished. Before I knew what was happening I was on top of an elephant who proceeded to walk around a track in the middle of the forest, something he had probably done a thousand times before. I looked into his eyes, he looked sad and my heart broke. I couldn’t believe that they had an animal as intelligent as the elephant doing something so mundane and even worse, I was contributing to it. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, I made the company drive me back to my hotel where I burst into tears. It makes me so sad and angry that I can do so little to help stop the abuse of animals around the world but when I had the chance to at least NOT contribute to their misery I failed. Now all I can do is to try to educate as many people as possible about the inherent cruelty involved with these animals activities and to urge everyone to avoid them at all costs.
5. Climb a Volcano in St Kitts – It sounded exotic even exciting, hiking to the top of a volcano to eat lunch. I mean who does that, really? Well pretty quickly I found out why many people don’t do that as I struggled up Mount Liamuiga on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. The problem wasn’t going up the volcano really, it was a long hike and difficult at times but not awful. I have done and will do much worse. No, it got really bad as we got to the top of the volcano and my erratic fear of heights came into play. I’m not scared of all heights, but when that fear kicks in it’s intense. It’s strange, I can go to the top of the tallest building in the world and I can zip line over massive gorges, but when I don’t feel a certain level of protection I freak out. Yeah, that’s what happened on St. Kitts. If the embarrassment of not being able to scale the final three feet of the volcano wasn’t bad enough, the hike down was intense. By that time my legs were jelly and I was exhausted but I still had hours of downhill hiking to go before I could relax in the comforting confines of my hotel room. The trail was muddy and slippery and I fell more than once, including onto a boulder that destroyed my camera. By the end of the hike I was physically spent and pissed off. The experience actually made me angry, not at any one person or thing in particular, just in general. That’s not usually the hallmark of a great activity.
These are some of my travel experiences that weren’t unicorns and rainbows and which I really didn’t enjoy. What are some things you’ve done traveling that you didn’t care for?