As I mentioned before, I’m not a person who makes a standard sum-up of the year in journeys. I like making lists, but just those that are a little bit out of the box. Today, the last day of the year, I’m sharing my five scariest travel moments of 2015 with you. Generally I’m not scared very easily, although each year there are moments that make me wonder something like “hmmm, that could have gone horribly wrong…” Luckily I’m still around and I can still tell you this year’s stories with a smile on my face!
Solo hiking between the bears of Alaska
“You know what to do, right, when you run into a bear? You’re going to be just fine, don’t worry about it too much!” Those were Martijn’s last words during our phone conversation the evening before I was about to step onto the Harding Icefield Trail in Alaska. He was right, after our close bear encounter in Yellowstone National Park, I had read every single article I could find about bear safety and hiking in bear country. What we did over there when a bear nearly walked into us was the one thing you should never do when you see a bear, which is run away. Afterwards we were laughing at it, but in reality it was not funny but just plain stupid. When planning my trip to Alaska, I knew I’d hike the Harding Icefield Trail again. Doing it all by myself was just a minor detail that I wasn’t too bothered about, until the actual day came close. I borrowed some bear-spray from my Alaskan colleague and attached it to the strap on my chest as I stepped into the Alaskan wilderness. OK, it’s a trail that many people hike, but I didn’t see anyone in the first two hours, so it was not that crowded after all. Harding Icefield Trail is a hike that is notorious for the presence of bears and last time I was there, I actually saw a couple of them. However, back then I was in a group of 12… After 30 minutes on the trail, when I was still walking through the woods, I got the scare of a lifetime when I heard a loud rustle in the bush next to me. BEAR! was my first thought. RUN! was my second. NO! MAKE NOISE! was my third thought. So I grabbed the sports horn that my colleague borrowed me and pointed it at the place where I thought the bear was. The sound was horrible but at least I’d made myself know as being present on the trail. If it was actually a bear or just a squirrel I will never know, which is fine by me… The whole story about my hiking adventures in bear country Alaska can be found here.
Flying to La Palma
I’m not a fan of flying. I never was but it got worse ever since I started watching tv shows such as Air Crash Investigation. Luckily I’m not one of those lying awake nights before my next trip just by the thought of having to fly again, yet I’m not entirely relaxed either when flying. The flight to La Palma in Spain back in May was a memorable one. Everything was just fine and during the descend I noticed that there was a fierce wind. I’m always relieved when I’m back on the ground with both my feet so once the plane was above the runway, I was about to sit back in my seat and relax. Right until the moment the pilot made some kind of strange manoeuvre, pulled up the nose and speeded up. The plane was swinging in the air and before I knew it, we were taking off again. It took me a while to realize we had just experienced an aborted landing, also known as a go-around. I started to freak out because it took a while before the pilot told us what had happened. Why couldn’t we land? What was going on?!? After a while, the pilot told us that he got a warning that due to windshear it wasn’t possible to land the plane safely. He’d do another approach in about 15 minutes. My heart started racing. What if it wouldn’t work this time either? How many tries would he need? How much fuel was left? What would be the alternative? Tenerife maybe? But then what? Another fifteen minutes later, possibly the longest fifteen minutes of my life, we were above the runway again. This time the landing was one right from the book. For the first time in my life, I joined the round of applause that went around in the cabin. The pilot was my hero on the day! First thing I did was check online how often a go-around happens because it’s not something I ever want to experience again… Want to read more about my fear of flying? Check Confessions of a Travel Blogger about my irrational fear of flying.
A bowl of oatmeal in Nepal
OK, it was not actually the bowl of oatmeal giving me scares in Nepal but the whole situation behind it. I hated eating it and it made my stomach pretty wobbly. I had been sick for nearly four days while hiking the Everest Base Camp trek and our guide thought it was about time for me to start eating again. Without food in my stomach there would be no energy and without energy I would not reach EBC. He didn’t really say it like that, but that was the thought behind his words when giving me a bowl of oatmeal. I hate oatmeal, more than any other food in the world. OK, that is not entirely true, but I really dislike it. It makes me gag. However, since it’s lightweight, I usually carry it on multi-day treks but I also throw a shitload of M&M’s and raisins into it to make it edible. There were no nuts and/or M&M’s available at 4.000 meters above sealevel, so there I was, stuck with a bowl of oatmeal on my lap, while enjoying the sunshine in the Himalayas. My first mission was to actually eat it, but that wouldn’t be much of a problem, however keeping it inside would be bigger challenge. My stomach had been upset for three days and everything I ate, found its way out within minutes again. The doctor at the medical post, told me that if I wouldn’t start feeling better quickly, I’d need to return to Kathmandu to see a doctor there. After finishing half of my oatmeal I started waiting. I decided to join the acclimatisation hike as I didn’t feel like staying around but after just thirty minutes, I had to squat behind a rock again. Stupid oatmeal! Luckily, I somehow got better in the evening and I was allowed to continue my trek to Everest Base Camp. That night I dreamt about busloads of oatmeal being shoved into my mouth and eventually coming out of my ears. That was my last oatmeal … ever! How I eventually reached Everest Base Camp? Check this blog!
Swimming in Lake Åsnen
Although hiking in bear country scares me, I love bears. They are the most beautiful animals I’ve ever seen, however from a bus, an RV or from the other side of the valley. Animals that scare me more than anything are snakes. It started when my sister and me were running through a cornfield in Austria when we were young and all of a sudden she started screaming “SNAKE!” and we ran away like we never had before. Ever since, I’ve developed a true anxiety of snakes. I tried getting over it by putting a snake in my neck (the best way to get over your fears is facing it is what they told me, well, they lied!) and watching lots of documentaries but it only got worse. Last summer we were on an outdoor trip in Sweden and each day, after kayaking on Lake Åsnen, we’d take a plunge in the lake to cool down. Just when I wanted to swim back to shore, Martijn screamed at me: “what’s that behind you” – something came up above the surface, it looked like some kind of fish. However, just as I stepped out of the water, it turned out it was a snake that swam right behind me. Needless to say I didn’t step into the water again that weekend and that it kept me awake that night …
Ice climbing inside Root Glacier
When thinking about ice climbing, you probably see someone making their way up an icewall on a glacier or a frozen waterfall. However, this time I’m talking about climbing inside a glacier. I’d seen pics of people being lowered into a crevasse and then climbing out of it again, but I’d never imagined doing that myself. After climbing just a regular wall first, our guide thought it would be cool to lower us into a moulin (a hole in the ice where water flows through) so that we could climb out of it again. Although I’m not really a wimp, I do have issues letting go of the controls. So when a stranger lowers you into a glacier only fixed with a rope, it’s the moment when I’m thinking “holy crap, what if he makes a mistake and I tumble down into the glacier?” The answer was easy, then I’d have been dead. Luckily none of that happened and I climbed out of the glacier again. I didn’t go too low because of my bruised ankle, however I really wanted to have a picture of me inside a glacier and that’s what I got … This was typically one of those moments where I was like “get me the f! out of here” and then afterwards am like “oh man, I did such a cool thing you know…”
Those were my most terrifying moments travel-wise in 2015. For 2016 I have no idea what is going to happen. We’re heading to Tasmania for a month where poisonous snakes are crawling all over (yikes) but I’ve got no idea what else is going to be around the corner, I’m sure there will be another load of stuff that gets the adrenaline flowing. Maybe we should go skydiving again or so…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Thank you for sharing!