World of pain: Your worst travel disasters

Travel readers share some of their worst experiences

On holiday, things don't always go as planned. Photo / 123RF
On holiday, things don't always go as planned. Photo / 123RF

Urubamba, Peru. I suspected a dodgy icecream. The next 12 hours were the longest of my life. My husband was woken by the whack of my head as I hit hard bathroom tiles when I eventually fainted off the loo.

Our very concerned guide bundled me on to the train and we were met at Aguas Calientes by the lovely English-speaking Dr Dan. We walked along the train track to the medical clinic where I was put on IV fluids due to severe dehydration. May Day celebrations were in full swing right outside with a very loud brass band and noisy fireworks - groan! Then it was $1000 later and strict instructions not to drink coffee. What? No coffee?

Helen Laird with husband Graeme at Machu Picchu, Peru.
Helen Laird with husband Graeme at Machu Picchu, Peru.

The next day we boarded the bus grinding up Hiram Bingham Highway to our destination of Machu Picchu. Photos show me standing in front of the green covered moun- tains and a very blue sky - but it's all a bit of a blur. I am looking pale and am wearing a very impressive black eye which caused many sideways glances at my husband as people passed by.

So be paranoid about what you eat as I remember magical Machu Picchu for all the wrong reasons.

Helen Laird

When my two boys were very small we booked a week in a holiday apartment in Cornwall in peak season. When we arrived, it was perfect. The apartment was in a magnificent converted stately home with wonderful park-like grounds, a pool and the biggest playground the kids had ever seen. It was only a couple of miles from the beach. There were other small kids playing and the whole place could not have been more ideal for a family holiday.

Steve Warne (centre) with sons Christopher (left) and Andrew (right).
Steve Warne (centre) with sons Christopher (left) and Andrew (right).

There was only one snag - when we checked in they couldn't find our booking and to my horror it dawned on me I had the date wrong, muddling our check-in and check-out dates and we had arriveda week early.

The place was booked solid so they had no room. The rental company we booked with could not find us anything else and we ended up having our week in a loft above a barn with rats below. Not the best week and easily my biggest stuff-up to date. I am now completely anal about checking bookings.

Steve Warne

I went to see the documentary by Michael Moore about health services in the US. As I walked out I thought: "I hope I don't get sick there!" as I was to go to a meeting at the University of Cinn- cinnati the following week.

Upon arrival in Cinncinnati I got a horrendous migraine. I took medication but to no effect. I asked the hotel porter for a doctor and he said he would take me to the nearest "free clinic".

After being dropped off I walked through a met- al detector and past a security man with a large gun. In too much pain to take much notice, I then walked into what looked like a Fellini film. In the waiting room were people with gunshot wounds, people overdosing, people screaming, fighting and children crying. I sat there for four hours, filling small buckets with vomit, while waiting for my turn.

When I finally went through I met a wonderful Irish doctor who was very fond of New Zealand. One injection later I was out of there. I didn't realise that there was another option as the hotel porter probably had no knowledge of services for people with health insurance.

Janet Peters

Any keen traveller that sports a crispy lid knows the headaches involved with finding a decent haircut in a foreign country. My first error was stepping into a "salon" that looked like a cheap motel. The second was not walking straight out when a 70-something year-old lady with a perm sat me in the chair.

Using extensive hand gestures with clear, concise dialogue, I felt that the briefing process appeared to go well. And despite no verbal confirmation in return, I still had faith in a good chop.

Reece Witters had a hair raising time. Photo / 123RF
Reece Witters had a hair raising time. Photo / 123RF

Following the first two hacks she made with her terrifyingly large scissors, it became abundantly clear I needed to abort. But it was too late. The Budapest Butcher had me trapped in her chair of shame. My body language screamed disgust, which I verbally relayed as she continued to mutilate what dignity remained.

Parting with cash for such a humiliating and disgraceful experience was a crushing blow. Fair to say I wore a hat for a month.

I've since learned that searching #barber and #InsertCityHere in Instagram, and heading straight to the barber who has the most tattoos, is easily the safest option to avoid a lid massacre.

Reece Witters

We had a Mexican experience that featured an all-can-go-wrong package including parasites, diarrhoea and bus journeys from hell. We had a lot of crazy bad incidents, including one when all the laundromats were closed and we'd spent an hour walking around town trying to find one.

Sarah Beale in Mexico.
Sarah Beale in Mexico.

A sweet girl at the boarding house we were staying in kindly offered to wash our clothes in her personal washing machine but accidentally poured bleach on our clothes instead of laundry liquid. We stopped her turning the machine on just in the nick of time when we got a whiff of that bleach smell and care- fully extracted our clothes from the bleachy mess.
Many of our clothes were now tie-dyed. I was ready to throttle someone.

We had the added bonus of losing our luggage en route from Mexico to Las Vegas, spending hours on the phone chasing it (plus our medicine inside the luggage!) and all of several flights were cancelled by a Mexican airline computer problem, including our flight from Los Angeles back home to New Zealand. Good times! It was a relief to get home, we had many laughs
about it.

It was, however, a good six months before I could look at a burrito again.

Sarah Beale

Share your story

Have you a travel nightmare of your own you'd like to share? You can turn your bad luck into good luck, as we'll be running your best stories in coming weeks and, thanks to Cigna, the reader who submits the ultimate Hard Luck story will receive a $1000 travel voucher.

To be in to win, email your entry to travelcompetitions@nzherald.co.nz with "Hard
Luck Stories" in the subject line, by midday, Wednesday, October 12. Look out for your story soon in Travel.

- NZ Herald

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