Mongolia Bridge (just after the fall)

Travel Stories: Funny FAILs!

Contents: Funny Fails!

Everywhere: Banging my bald head on every possible surface that hangs below 1.90m!

Madagascar: Brutal head-bang at bathroom door frame
Madagascar: Brutal head-bang at bathroom door frame

[the last 20 years] As you may have noticed from my pics, I have no hair. This feature is not compatible with my tendency to bang my head (by mistake of course 🙂 ) on everything that hangs below 1.90m.

Favourite targets

  • Door Frames: The obvious suspects have been door frames of course. Door frames of bathrooms tend to be lower than other doors and have therefore been my favourite targets! Other favourite door frames have been inside boats.
  • Lamps: of course 🙂 Sound more dangerous than the door frames, but hurt a lot less!

Memorable incidents

  • Vanuatu: diving at 45m depth!! inside SS Coolidge a famous US WWII wreck, I “found” the frame of one door between chambers!
  • Japan: I stayed at the guesthouse of a buddhist temple. The door frames were low and while in a hurry to attend the morning prayers, I banged my forehead so hard that I fell flat on the floor on my back!
  • Madagascar: banged my head at a tree in the jungle, whose low-hanging branch turned out to be more dangerous than the wild Boa Constrictor we ran into later on.

If there is such an honor as a Guinness Record for the “Most Countries where someone has banged his head”, then I am definitely the world record holder!

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Mongolia: the time I fell from a bridge with my bike!

[2015] One of my top all-time favourite travel experiences was my solo bike trip around Mongolia. The special experiences of the trip however, included the
slap on the face incident in Ulan Bator and the following FAIL!

In the second part of my bike trip I headed from the Gobi desert towards the North, where it was cold and it regularly snowed. I had already had a few dramatic adventures on the road, when one morning I took off early and about an hour later I reached a small river.

Mongolia Bridge (just after the fall!)
Mongolia Bridge (just after the fall!)
There was a low narrow wooden bridge that looked sturdy enough for the task of crossing. The edge of the bridge was like a small step that had to be climbed, so I approached slowly, put the first gear, and hit the gas with enough intensity to climb the step. However, this gave a lot of acceleration to the bike after I was on the bridge, and as my hands and legs (and brain?) were still numb from the cold, I was slow to react and properly control the bike. In a way that would have put a spectator laughing on his knees, the bike did a couple of meters on the bridge and then fell from the side, half in the water and half outside it.

I took a few minutes to check the bike and my scratches, and then crossed the bridge without further excitement.

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Senegal: the time I fell with my bike in front of the bike rental shop!

[2016] When I was in Dakar, I rent a 1200cc BMW motorbike from a rental place our hotel host had recommended.

All paperwork ready, we put on our helmets, myself sitting in front with my backpack on my chest and my travel companion behind me, with her backpack on her back. The road in front of the rental shop was an uneven dirt road with a 20 degrees downwards inclination. The guy stood looking at us and waved goodbye. I put the first gear and released slowly the clutch while applying very little gas. However I felt a bit strange with the bike and released the gas. To my surprise, the bike kept accelerating and I instinctively pressed the break. As we were overloaded and there was rumble on the dirt road, the bike skidded and we fell on the side. I had some scratches on the leg, while my friend was as good as new, just a bit shocked.

Senegal: scratches after bike fall
Senegal: scratches after bike fall
I stood up and turned to look at the bike owner who was looking at me with disbelief about 30 meters away! I felt at the same time embarrassed and also confused as to what had happened. To add insult to injury (literally 🙂 ), the guy approached and asked me “do you know how to drive?” He then suggested I take it for a quick ride by myself, without luggage and passengers. I did it and realised that the reason I had been surprised earlier, was that the bike had been regulated so that there was gas release even when the driver did not apply any pressure on the gas handle at all.

The following days I really enjoyed driving the BMW as the road was better than my expectations and there were no more incidents.

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India: when I broke a glass door at the airport!

[2013] After the mess up with my Indian visa, I changed my flights so as to do only a transit via Mumbai and not get out of the airport. In Mumbai I would get a connecting flight with Malaysian towards Kuala Lumpur and then New Zealand.

When I arrived at Heathrow to check-in, British Airways said they could not issue a boarding pass for me and that the Mumbai airport staff would arrange it for me when I get there. In Mumbai I found the relevant person who took my passport and paper with the flight details, and went off to check me in. He said he would be back in 20 minutes. 2 hours later, the guy was not back so I went to British Airways Lounge to ask them to contact Malaysian Airways and find out what was going on. My flight departure time was getting closer.

The BA employees got into the “computer says no” mode of non-cooperation and finally I decided to leave the lounge and try my luck elsewhere. I got out of the Lounge and in a controlled but relatively forceful (yes, angry) way, closed the glass door while still holding the handle. At that point, the entire glass door collapsed with a huge BAAANG into a big pile of very small pieces. For a few moments I just stood there still holding the metal door handle! Somehow, I did not even have a scratch!

The bang had caused a couple of people to scream and shortly afterwards the airport security, the tough guys with the sunglasses, arrived at the crime scene. The BA staff also got out blaming me for what happened. Then the guy with my passport also arrived, as well as the Malaysian staff and I had to deal with all of them at the same time:
_ explain the airport security that it was just an accident,
_ write a letter to BA (their staff asked for it) explaining that I had not broken the door intentionally and that their staff had been completely unhelpful,
_ convince the Malaysian staff that I was calm enough to board a plane and also ask them to hold the flight from taking off without me and my luggage.

Finally, I was taken outdoors to identify my luggage and managed to get to the plane, which had been waiting for me for 15 minutes.

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Ivory Coast: when I travelled three rough days only to end up at the wrong national park!

[2017] Getting to Tai National Park in Ivory Coast was not going to be easy, as there was not much information online, and no local seemed to know anything about it. But it is the last remaining place in Western Africa to see Chimpanzees.

To get there, I took the “southern” road suggested by Lonely Planet. After a day’s travel I reached a city where I was told the “southern” road was in bad condition and practically un-usable, so I had to take the northern road. It took me one more day to finally reach the Tai village which was supposed to be near the entrance of the Tai park. The guy at my accommodation told me he knew the “French guy” who was managing the park and all foreigners had to check with him in order to officially visit. Next morning I met the French guy who explained the two day trip to me. He mentioned that we would see colonies of a few types of monkeys, but no Chimpanzees, as these lived in the park, but had not been habituated yet.

Ivory Coast: Tai park accommodation in the jungle
Ivory Coast: Tai park accommodation in the jungle
It was only when we were departing that I realised, from what one ranger said, that the habituated Chimpanzees were at another part of the Tai National Park just 11km away from where I was! At that point I did not have the time to change, so I continued to what were two amazing days, but without Chimpanzees, the main reason I had come to that park in the first place.

The journey back to Abidjan had some epic parts (like hitch-hiking a truck carrying 400 sucks of cocoa beans and then driving for hours with a moto-taxi in the night on a bad dirt-road) and took one and a half tough days. All this to visit the wrong part of the Tai National Park! 🙂

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Towards India and Myanmar: the two times I went to the airport to check-in just to realise I had forgotten to get a visa for my destination!

[2013] India: I used to visit India many times per year and normally got a 2-year business visa, but that last time, they had given me a 1-year one. I totally forgot about and appeared at Heathrow airport to check in, only to be turned away and finally modify my flights to the week after. This lead to the broken door FAIL at Mumbai airport.

[2015] Myanmar: As I only needed an eVisa for Myanmar, I was too relaxed about it and kept postponing getting it, to the point of completely forgetting about it. So, I arrived at the airport in Hong Kong, realised the mistake and booked a flight for Northern Thailand (on the same day) instead. This cut short my time in Myanmar, but Northern Thailand was also very interesting.

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