Adoration 4 Adventure’s collection of travelers’ scariest stories – “Close to death”.
This collection includes travelers’ most frightening experiences that occurred while traveling. Tales from Spain, India, Mongolia, Cambodia and the United Kingdom.
Rescued off a cliff face by emergency services
Until earlier this year I’d thought I was pretty educated about the dangers of hiking in the wilderness. Back in Australia, you often hear of people who wander off the track, get hopelessly lost and need to be rescued. However, this was the last thing in my mind when I decided to go on a hike in Mallorca, Spain.
My Couchsurfing host told me about a cave that had a hole in the roof called “Avenc de Son Pou”. He had been before and said it would be about an easy one hour hike each way. I invited another girl, Maggie, that I’d met through Couchsurfing to come along. She was visiting from Berlin and had never been hiking before.
We arrived at the entrance of the track, a little after 2:30 pm. We had come along with a small backpack with water, snacks, and our cameras (or camera phones). Everyone was in great spirits, chatting and laughing as we walked along the trail. In the first 15 minutes, we saw a beautiful waterfall that had us beaming with huge smiles.
After the waterfall, my host seemed a little confused about which path to take. He’d done the hike before but starting from a different entrance. Maggie and I were so relaxed and busy chatting to each other, that we let him make the decisions about which direction to go in. After all, he was the local and we were just visiting. We trusted his judgment.
Soon the path disappeared and we were climbing over rocks, heading towards a large mountainside. Maggie and I became a little concerned and made our thoughts known. My host responded that we should keep going in that direction, as the path was just over the hill and it would be quicker rather than go back the way we came. I remember joking “How do you know we aren’t going to come over the top of the hill and find ourselves on a cliff face?”.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. We scrambled our way along the side of the mountain and came over the ridge. It was very slippery and Maggie lost her footing a few times. It was starting to get a little scary but we kept trusting that our guide was leading us in the right direction. Once we came up over the top, the descent was very steep. There were many trees and bushes, so at first, it was hard to see exactly what was in front (or below) us. Our guide helped us climb down a small slope onto a ledge. The brush cleared and we could see that we were actually on the side of a cliff.
Did I mention that I am terrified of heights? I found myself sitting on a small ledge, looking down at a sharp drop. To go back up, would mean scrambling up a rocky ledge and putting ourselves in danger. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was also after 5:30 pm and already getting dark and cold. I could see that my host was really out of his depth but was trying to keep it together. At that point, Maggie announced that she could go no further and it was an emergency. I agreed with her.
The emergency service workers in Mallorca were incredible. They responded to our phone call immediately and told us not to move from our location. They continued to keep us updated via Whatsapp messages on the progress of the rescue workers. A team arrived by car and two experienced men climbed up to us and checked on condition first. Maggie had a few minor cuts and scrapes and was a little shook up. They gave us something sweet to eat to get sugar into our blood and made sure we had water.
The men used their flashlights to locate the best route down, which was back over the ridge. At this point, it was very dark and although we still were slipping over, it was far more safe than if we had of attempted to get down ourselves. Once we reached the path, we were greeted by the rest of the team including a police officer and firefighters. A few tears of relief and hugs were shared. The workers then pointed to an opening in the mountain and asked if we wanted to go in and see the cave that we had been searching for. Worn out and still in shock, I laughed and responded “proxima vez” (next time).
A forced dip in the frozen river during Chadar Trek in India
Chadar Trek is a frozen river trek on the river Zanskar in Ladakh, India. It is considered to be extremely difficult because one has to walk on the frozen river in winter when the temperature ranges between -15°C and -30°C. The ice on the river keeps forming and breaking and in such cases one has to take an alternate route through the snow-covered steep rocks. It can snow at any time and leave the trekker guessing if there is ice or water beneath the snow cover.
One of the days, I fell into this trap while I was walking on thin sheets of ice. My leg broke the thin layer of ice and made its way through to the water flowing beneath. The ice cold water numbed my leg and my brain together. I controlled the panic inside me and tried to lift up my leg only to realise that my other leg sunk in too. I was inside the flowing river chest-deep and my hands above the chadar. It was this moment when everything around me became blur and I sensed the rare possibility of my survival.
I somehow gathered my senses and waved my trekking pole and called for help. There were locals on the trek carrying food items and other necessary camping equipment on the sledges. They saw me and ran towards me. They pulled me out alive and took me away from that trail and made me rest on the sledges to let me catch my breath. They even helped me change into fresh clothes soon. My boots were filled with ice. Socks, double layer of pants, down jacket, gloves, camera, everything was frozen, rock hard. Luckily I had clothes waterproofed in my backpack. And the only way to warm myself again was to start hiking again. I remember how happy I was to have experienced this “FORCED DIP” in chadar and survived too!
Don’t Trust the Mongolian Horse Meat
My eyes opened slowly, the scene gently falling into focus. Where am I and what on earth is that music? Some barley-English rendition of Celine Dion’s “I Will Always Love You” was coming from beyond the headboard. I groaned and tried to roll over. Tubes. Needles. Monitors everywhere. So that wasn’t a dream? I mused. I glanced around the dark room, listening to the soft beep of the machines. I looked at the clock 2:30 am. I didn’t have the effort for much else, so I succumbed to the sounds of karaoke and passed out again.
Flashback to 8 hours earlier. The 4×4 was bouncing along through the gates of the city of Ulaan Bator. The sudden influx of cars, people, and pollution overcame me quickly after spending a week out in the remote steppe of Mongolia. My stomach started to churn, and I had a headache. My newfound road warrior buddies and I arrived back at the hostel.
“I’m going to lay down and get some rest, I’m not feeling well. Amy, would you mind taking my wallet and picking up some camel felt slippers for my brother while you guys are shopping?”
“Sure thing.” She replied. Without thinking I handed her my travel “wallet” which consisted of a bag with handful of cash, my credit card and passport.
“I’ll see you guys in a couple of hours.” Wrong. What ensued over the next several hours I can only describe as the most violent illness that has ever overcome me. I’ll spare you the details. But between vomit sessions and bathroom trips, I managed to get the attention of the hostel owner.
“I think you’ve been poisoned!” She exclaimed. Rather quickly my situation deteriorated and I could no longer stand. Before long I couldn’t feel my face, arms, legs, or even open my eyes. Things were getting pretty dire. A Peacecorps worker phoned the hospital and the embassy. It turns out Mongolia has only two western hospitals in the entire country – and they needed to open one for me.
“Western doctors take a long time to get ready. Do you mind if I use traditional medicine?” The owner asked. She could have told me that she was lopping off a limb with a rusty saw and I would have agreed. A few pin pricks to my knuckles later and the acupuncture was done. Suddenly, my stomach felt some relief as the indescribable pain subsided. But it was too late – I had lost too many fluids – I needed an IV and fast. Before I knew it the doctor was ready and I was holding on for dear life en route to the hospital.
That’s the story about my first real solo trip to Asia. Upon my arrival to the hospital, I was treated despite having no ID and no cash. My new found travel friends showed up a few hours later – wallet in tow. Both of them stayed late to take care of me in the coming days and make sure I made it home safely. It took me nearly 2 months to fully recover.
Fighting with dengue fever in Cambodia
I never thought I would ever be the one to catch a tropical disease; I had all my vaccines in check and besides, those things only happen to the other people, right? I was so convinced of this that when high fever struck me in Cambodia, I attributed it to the common flu or a food poisoning. I could not have been more wrong!
Along with serious pain and temperature at almost 40°C, I had to run (better say, crawl) to the bathroom every few minutes. Still, I wouldn’t go to the hospital – I did feel bad (I never felt so much pain in my life before or after) but for some reason, I believed a dengue would hurt more.
After three days of sweating and shaking in my hotel room, I finally gave up and decided to seek a doctor. I was barely able to walk – fortunately, my travel buddy helped me downstairs, loaded me into a tuk-tuk and dealt with all our luggage.
At the hospital, I found out that not only I did have dengue fever, but I also contracted a nasty kidney inflammation. My immune system wasn’t able to deal with it as it was struck with the virus and as the doctor informed me, would I have waited more, it could have caused me lifelong consequences.
While it is almost impossible to completely avoid dengue fever in hot and humid regions, recognizing the symptoms would have made me seek medical help a bit earlier. I spent three more days in the hospital bed and a week more sleeping day and night and barely walking, however, it took many months until a somewhat complete recovery.
Hopefully, you won´t have to deal with the same problem, however, knowing a little bit about the symptoms of local illnesses is always helpful – and so is traveling with an insurance.
Missed airplane landing
“10 minutes until landing!” the captain announced, while the big bird was descending slowly from 36000 feet. After 12 hours in the enclosed metallic tube, crossing the Atlantic, I was happy at the thought that I would be with my feet on the ground again, back in control. Even if I travel very often, I am an extremely nervous flyer and I go through a million emotions at every takeoff. Landing is usually very comforting.
As the plane approached, I could see Heathrow airport and the runaway underneath us. The flight data on my screen was showing an altitude of 25 feet. A few seconds and we would be on the ground. But all of a sudden I could hear the engines roaring and in a fraction of a second the angle of the plane changed and we were going back up. I was violently pushed into the chair by the force of gravity and all I could see was the airport getting smaller and smaller. A few seconds more and we were back into the thick grey clouds, at 6500 feet.
I freaked out. I grabbed the hand of the woman sitting next to me and squeezed it hard. My heart was going 2000 miles per hour, my eyes were watery, my entire body was trembling and all I could think about was that we are going to crash and I am going to die. The woman next to me was trying to comfort me but I felt like I was in my worst nightmare.
It was another 10 minutes until the pilot talked again. He said that we didn’t receive landing permission and that we will try the approach again. By now, I was terrified. No permission to land? Why where we 25 feet from the runway then? Why did we almost land? Was there another plane in front of us? Did the pilot go back up so rapidly to avoid a crash?
I guess I’ll never know….
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