Tag Archives: character building

Travellin’ Tuesdays: Samoan buses are all kinds of crazy

I’ve left this post a little late as I was indulging in my latest obsession of watching The Daily Show’s Lewis Black segments. He rants, I get addicted.


Just your average Upolu bus...

But this week, I’m revisiting my character building experience on a bus in Samoa, in which my friend and I took the simple decision of taking a bus to the nearest town on the island on which we were staying. We consulted the staff our the fale (beach hut) resort, and waited patiently at the roadside for an hour in the midday sun. Finally, after a bus had already ignored our flailing hands, our salvation arrived and we boarded the brightly painted and WOODEN army-style truck, and took a seat on one of the childsize benches. We got some inquisitive looks from the other passengers, but in our eyes, we were being intrepid travellers getting to grips with the true culture. Our mistake. For after a short while, it became painfully apparent that we had chosen to be adventurous just as every single school on the island finished for the day, and the already cramped space began to fill up pretty quickly.

As the only non-islanders, we had been given our own bench, which was barely enough space for two adults as it is, but as more people boarded there seemed to be a trend beginning, in which four people sat on one bench – two people sitting on laps. Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the average Samoan body shape, but they are known for being rather Rubenesque, as well as statuesque. Put simply, it seemed physically impossible to fit four people of the larger persuasion onto one tiny bench, and yet it was happening in front of our very eyes. Eventually, it was made clear to us that we were expected to follow suit, so I took up my place on my friend’s lap (thankfully by the open window) and our journey continued.

After about 30 minutes of trying to ignore the tingling sensation in my legs, I made the mistake of trying to move them, trapped as they were between three other pairs of legs, and pain blossomed from my toes upwards. I tried, I really tried, to be content with gazing out of the window at the island paradise streaming by – the azure ocean, palm trees heaving with coconuts, and the idyllic fale homes – but I couldn’t pretend that I was comfortable any longer. It was at this point that my friend decided to tell me that she gets carsick. Fabulous. I was trapped on the lap of a nauseated person, encased by curious locals who seemed to enjoy our discomfort, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever walk again.

It turned out that, after another hour on a neverending but beautiful coastal road, we finally reached our destination – a town which housed the island’s only ATM – and we gratefully disembarked amidst the locals’ goodnatured staring. That’s when we discovered that, no, we would not be able to walk without each others’ assistance for quite some time, so completely dead were our legs. Bereft of life they rested in peace, if we hadn’t been attempting to walk they would’ve been pushing up the daisies. It was painful and humiliating, yet (as my friend loves to say) purely character building. Once we had looked around and used the ATM (the sole purpose for the visit, as we had neglected to factor the beguiling cocktails at the hotel bar and scuba excursions into our budget), we considered getting a bus back. And then, like a ‘Hallelujah’ moment, with shafts of light directing our vision, our eyes alighted upon our saviour – the taxi rank. The car may not have had door handles, the radio may have played Christian music for the entire journey, and the driver may have picked up one of his friends along the way, but the important thing is that we each got our seat and the use of our legs. And we arrived back at the hotel just as the bar was opening, crazy blue cocktails – complete with umbrellas- all round.

In looking for a suitable photograph to go with this post (the ones I took do not do the buses justice) I stumbled upon many other accounts of travellers in similar situations. And we all share the same sentiments – yes, the journey itself can be pretty hellish, but it’s all part of the experience of being a traveller who engages with culture rather than ignores it. Would I do it all over again? Sure, it was another interesting story to add to the others that you seem to collect when backpacking – it’s all part of the experience.

[Image via blog.travelpod.com]

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Travellin’ Tuesdays: How to Die on Fraser Island

Lake Mackenzie

This week I thought I’d share my experiences of Fraser Island, a sand island off the east coast of Australia. My friends and I spent 2 days there, managing to dodge the certain death that we thought was coming to us, courtesy of a 2 hour safety briefing prior to our departure.
In that space of time, we were told about the multitude of ways in which to die in two days of driving, camping and generally getting sand into crevices that we didn’t know existed.

For a start there was the sand itself, we were warned about washouts, hazards that occur on the beach when a section of the ground is swept away leaving a hidden mini-cliff that had rolled many 4x4s in the past. Subsequently our vehicle remained at a respectable speed for the duration, which meant that we became stuck in loose sand next to an ever-nearing tide, forcing us to wedge ourselves headfirst underneath the car to dig ourselves free before the saltwater violated our engine.

Next were the rip tides, just in case the many dangers of the island itself were enough to put you off, a seafaring escape was out of the question. And while we’re on the subject, sharks, crocodiles and every poisonous jellyfish imaginable also called the waters their home. It is fortuitous that the island boasts a number of stunning lakes complete with shores of white sand and crystal blue waters, so that you can have a relaxing day contemplating just how lucky you are to be alive.

Lastly, there is the island’s wildlife, a rather conspicuous aspect of our trip, in which we made sure to be dingo safe (crossing your arms over your chest is scientifically proven to stop wild dogs wanting to attack you, fact.) as one strolled past our campfire without a second look. While the snakes left us alone, the Australia-sized spiders seemingly enjoyed our girlish screams and thus made their presence felt at every opportunity. It was at an Aborigine-run campsite on the first night that I heard, and can still hear to this day, the clicking of pincers emanating from what I can only describe as two tarantulas, a short distance above my head. I try not to imagine what the pair was discussing, other than who was to eat me first. I was, therefore, determined to ignore the spiders in the camp toilets, whose range in size and colour would have excited even the most casual of zoologists, but I was glad to head off to a jellyfish covered beach the next morning.

The Champagne Pools

In our quest to stay alive, we swam in the shallows of a cool lake filled with curious turtles in search of toe-shaped morsels, explored a crusty shipwreck that made us think of our next tetanus shot, and floated nervously in The Champagne Pools alongside microscopic yet deadly jellyfish. It’s probably a good idea that I neglected to inform my mother of the above risks until after I had returned, but as we left the sandy paradise behind, there were only two words I could think of to sum up my experience: character building.

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