The most memorable trips are the ones where everything goes wrong.
These words, from a friend, have proved hilariously true over the years. It’s not that I don’t remember the good trips, the ones where everything went perfectly and fun was had by all. No, I like those trips and I want more of them. It’s just that there’s something about surviving the bad ones that bonds you with your travel partners and provides conversation fodder for years to come.
Prez and I had one of these recently. A quick hop across the border to pick up some boat trailers for our new boss, while enroute to Ukee, turned into a two-day cluster that ended with Prez and the boss making the trailer exchange in the middle of a torrential downpour.
So, in the spirit of celebrating life’s curve-balls, I present…
Princess’s Top 3 Trips That Went Wrong
1. The Plane It Never Come
For years, Prez and I avoided flights to our little beach house in Baja because of the expense and complex flight schedules. In 2001, when we heard Canada 3000 had started a charter flight from Vancouver to Loreto, we rejoiced. Sure, we’d be packed in like sardines for the five hour flight but it was cheap and easy. We could pop down for a few weeks, then pop back home. How wonderful!
Our inaugural run was a success. We landed in Loreto, cramped but happy, and were picked up by Mom II and HQ, who shuttled us off to Posada in style.
It’s important to note here that we were the only two passengers who were not on a package vacation with the all-inclusive resort in Loreto. Important because we were the only two passengers who would be completely cut off from the outside world for two weeks.
Two weeks later…
We arrived back in Loreto, said a tearful goodbye to Mom II and HQ, and walked into the tiny airport.
Which was empty.
Had we gotten the date wrong? Where were all the sunburned, hungover, resort dwellers? Never mind that, where were the airport staff?
Eventually, the fellow who ran the chip stand (the only food at the Loreto airport) noticed us at the pay phone, gaping, as we listened to the Canada 3000 answering machine message informing us that no one was available to take our call.
“You wait for the plane?” he asked.
“Yes!” we cried.
“Ah, the plane, it no come today,” he explained.
Just as we expected. Probably some kind of weird Baja screw up, like the time Aero California forgot it was Leap Year.
“Oh, when is it coming?” we asked.
“The plane, it never come,” the chip vendor said.
Unlike the rest of our flight mates, who had been close to a telephone during their stay, and had therefore been apprised of the situation well in advance, we learned of Canada 3000’s bankruptcy and mass passenger stranding via an airport snack food vendor, 48 hours before Prez was scheduled to be at work.
Thus began a frantic dash to get home. With the help of the chip vendor and some angels working in a nearby office, we got the last two seats from Loreto to La Paz on a small charter flight. Next, we sprinted to pick up a rental car (which was out of gas) in La Paz, came inches from hitting a cow as we floored it to Cabo San Lucas, got lost trying to return the rental car at the airport, missed our flight but caught the next one, and arrived in LA so late that we spent the night on the floor of the international terminal so we wouldn’t miss our 7am flight to Vancouver.
Interesting fact: The night time temperature in the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX is set to “discourage cheap tourists from sleeping on the floor by freezing them” degrees Fahrenheit. At least we didn’t have to worry about missing our flight, as the gas-powered floor buffer kindly woke us, (and everyone else in a two mile radius), at 4am.
A lot of stress, miles, and $3200 later, we eventually made it home. We have never flown on a charter flight since.
2. The Perfect Storm
In 2003, after our promised work permits failed to materialize, Prez and I decided to load up the Mako, leave our tiny key in the Bahamas, and return to Florida. Travel from Florida to the key had been long but mostly uneventful. Our biggest worry—crossing the Gulf Stream in a 25 foot fishing boat—had not been any kind of problem and so, for the return trip, our confidence was high.
Yes, it was September and hurricane season was brewing, but we double, triple, and quadruple checked the weather forecasts to be safe. We had PFD’s close at hand, with flares cable-tied on…just in case.
The morning of our departure, we couldn’t have asked for a better day. Blue skies and calm water bid us a friendly farewell. Even my cat, Emily, seemed less unhappy than usual, as she rode in her crate at the bow. With music blasting, we put our feet up and laughed about the stacks of clouds far, far behind us.
And then the wind picked up.
“OH NO! It’s getting rough!” we joked, as a teensy chop slapped playfully at the hull.
And then the wind picked up some more.
“Better shut off the music,” Prez said.
And then a big motherhumping storm cell dropped right on our heads.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, we were inside a vicious white squall. The screaming wind tore the tops off the waves and threw them into our boat. Emily and I huddled under the shelter of the bow’s canopy, while Prez battled to keep our bow from plowing under the water. Both Prez and I wore our PDF’s with the flares strapped on, seriously wondering if we would need them.
Emily was not amused.
I do not have photos of the experience but I think this is an accurate depiction of what we went through…
This went on for over an hour.
And then the sun came out.
We arrived in Grand Bahama, soaked and shivering. Emily and I dried off as Prez checked the weather for the last, and most worrisome, leg of our journey. Once again, despite my death grip on the seat and constant neck craning, the open water crossing was uneventful.
There would be more “events”, however. Our entry back into sheltered waters, through what we would learn was one of the most difficult cuts along the Florida coast, drenched us. So did the thunderstorm that arrived late that night, while we curled together in the bow, desperate for sleep.
Note: If you’ve never chased a terrified cat through a marina, in a thunderstorm, in your pajamas, I don’t recommend it.
The next day’s journey, to Key Largo, came with more drenching. When we finally arrived at our rental home, the lovely neighbour responsible for giving us the key was vacuuming and didn’t hear the phone ring. We could see her, just across the canal, in her house, vacuuming away, so close and yet so oblivious to the wet, bedraggled, and exhausted Canucks waiting outside.
Eventually, we settled in and dried out. Even with very diligent waterproof packing and stowing, every piece of electronic equipment we owned got fried in the salt water. Every item of clothing we had was soaked. And Emily did not speak to us for weeks.
Which, if you knew Emily, was not that unusual.
3. Welcome to Panama! (Almost).
In 2004, Steve and Judi, aka “The Fergs” joined us in Costa Rica to check out some resorts/land we were considering buying. When none of the Costa Rican leads panned out, we turned our eyes to Panama and, in particular, to 35 beachfront acres on the beautiful Caribbean.
The plan was to take a bus to the Costa Rica/Panama border, cross on foot, catch another bus to David, Panama, spend the night, take a flight to Bocas Del Toro in the morning, and arrange for a boat ride to our future island paradise shortly after that. This was going to be business, vacation, and adventure all in one!
It began not with a bang, but with a stamp. Every time we thought we were ready to cross, we’d return to the main border crossing, only to be told we needed to buy a stamp, or a return bus ticket, or some coloured slip of paper. This information was not given out all at once. No. That would be easy. Instead, we’d be given an elaborate confusing set of directions, which sometimes took us through back alleys or warehouses, to a desk, where, after waiting in a long line up, someone would sell us a needed item. We’d return to the main crossing and then be given another set of directions for the next item. It was like some weird Panamanian scavenger hunt.
When all the items on the list had been collected, we were allowed to cross. Whew! We got on a bus…which stopped one mile later to allow the nice Panamanian men with automatic weapons to check our documents. (What would they do if you were missing a stamp?)
Our hotel stay included a small earthquake. It was kind of a letdown after the 6.3 shaker Prez and I had lived through a few weeks earlier but enough to wake me up in a panic.
We made it to Bocas Del Toro the next day. It was cute. It was touristy. It was humid. There were no real beaches there but that was OK, we were on our way to 35 acres of beachy splendor!
OK, make that 35 acres of swamp with a small stretch of sand.
We went back to Bocas Del Toro. I moped. We wandered the tiny spit of land and discovered that right behind the cute touristy area was a big ol’ heap of poverty. We got a taxi to take us back to David.
Our taxi driver was unimpressed with the black licorice Fred gave him. Maybe that’s why he kept passing on all those uphill corners? Maybe there’s some Panamanian tradition about killing someone who makes you eat something you find repulsive?
Still, somehow, amid the bureaucracy, the humidity, the poverty, and the terrifying taxi ride, we and the Fergs found plenty to laugh about.
Last I heard, Panama was a hot spot for real estate development. But something tells me that 35 acres of beachfront swamp land is still unsold.
That’s my top 3. I’m sure you have some travel horror stories of your own. Feel free to share/vent.
And speaking of travel (nice segue, eh?)…
This week on the Warpworld Comms, you can meet global traveler extraordinaire, Leslie MacKeen, as our Women of Character series continues!
Until next time, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!
*I’ll leave you with a picture of Leslie (right) and Ironwoman Benson (left) making the worst cake in Costa Rica.