Travel Series Part 5: Wild & Woeful Tales

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Well, here is is, the post you guys seemed most excited about… a list of some of the craziest shi*t that happened to us in 2 years backpacking…. I’ve ordered the stories from when we left to the day we arrived home to help give you a sense of the stories.

Needless to say I can’t add AAAALL the wild tales to the list as documenting them somewhere as permanent as the internet simply isn’t a business savvy move, HOWEVER, I have tried my best to go outside of my go-to crazy tales & reminisce on some of the mad happenings we encountered which would’ve been likely forgotten about without my incriminating diary. Hope you guys enjoy!


Before we even left Ireland the crazy tales had already started with me researching an purchasing the cheapest flights I could find to South America… thinking I’d found a great deal on 4 one-way flights to Colombia I somewhat smugly set off to work a night shift soon afterwards.

One unlikely glance at the print outs left me wondering what ‘SC’ next to the destination meant… I’d booked to Columbia, South Carolina… not Colombia, South America!

A frantic phone call was made where I was told there would be no refund (… on my Mom’s credit card to add to my woes!) but eventually through sheer pleading they agreed to give the money for our completely useless flights back. I honestly couldn’t tell you the amount of times I googled ‘is there only 1 Beijing in the world!??’ when booking our flights to China!


With around 2 million people per day attending the Rio carnival you wouldn’t expect to just run into someone, right?

We met an ‘eccentric’ Brazilian man named Gabbi at our first night at carnival. The following morning Eilish & I left out Airbnb to venture for food while the boys slept on only to return to Gabbi sitting in.our.apartment.

He’d asked around the area for where ‘the white people’ were staying which seemed to be enough for him to track us down. Some strange conversations where he laughed so hard his denture flew out later & he was off. Odd enough without adding the fact that we ran into him in the Rio crowds that night again!



In Bolivia we stayed in an 18-bed dorm for a few nights in a party hostel. They’re big into witchcraft in Bolivia with the witch’s markets being quite the backpacker attraction.

One of the boys staying in our room ventured there, purchased a Lama fetus and proceeded to loose it in the complete chaos of our room. Ensue a level of stink that even 18 backpackers combined couldn’t create… lovely.


Our first Paddy’s day travelling we were in Bolivia & got wind of an Irish bar… I’d normally run a mile from those places but for the night that was in it we decided to check it out. Coincidentally we were the only Irish people in the bar so quickly developed quite a celebrity status which we thought we’d play up to by kicking off a 3-man Ceili as Sean watched, mortified from the side lines.

At this point of the story its important to note than none of us had any Irish dancing experience whatsoever & were pretty much just throwing ourselves around the floor while every second tourist videoed this ‘genuine experience’. The dancing swiftly came to an end when Caughal ran into a high jump & split the arse of his trousers wide open.


While wandering the streets of Bolivia one day we found a shop that sold piercings. I decided there & then that I wanted my nose pierced & convinced the shop lady to do it for me despite her proclaims that she simply sold piercings & didn’t actually DO them…

I insisted so she sat me on a stool between the rails of clothes & shoved a ring through my nostril. Not the wisest of decisions in hindsight but I was obviously just really in the mood to get a piercing!


We’d been out all night partying before we went to catch a bus to the Amazon basin where we were due to stay for a few days… we’d naively anticipated a journey where we’d sleep the length of it, awakening safe & sound at our destination. Not so.

Firstly the bus was delayed for several hours before we boarded & the entire middle of the bus was stacked with boxes of very noisy chickens. Half way through the journey the bus got stuck in mud in the middle of nowhere with the driver making the men get off & aggressively push the bus from side to side while the women stayed on & jumped up & down and chanting in unison.

The moment when you’re sleep deprived, wrestling through boxes of chickens to jump around a bus with a load of old Bolivian ladies is when you seriously start to question where your life is going.


One of our goals while in Peru was to visit Machu Picchu but with a few weeks backpacking behind us, a small budget & a thirst for adventure we decided to travel from Cusco solo & get there without a guide or joining a tour. This would’ve been simple enough if Cusco’s tourist office’s advice had gone to plan

we were due to get a bus from the city then a taxi & then go the rest of the way by foot reaching the nearest town to Machu Picchu that night before going up to see it the next day.

With the initial bus being delayed it was already dark before we got to the point where it was supposed to be ‘easy’ to get a taxi… the mini bus taxi we found wouldn’t leave without being full which is fairly standard but, soon after we eventually set off we met a landslide meaning we had to get out & walk hours back from where we’d anticipated.

We walked into a jungle as the last of day light left the sky, the 4 of us & 1 other tourist who’d been in our taxi. We were miles from Agua Caliente (the town near Machu Picchu) with no provisions outside of a small overnight bag.

Thankfully the guy we met had a torch which we needed when we hit a white water river that could only be crossed by jumping sleeper-to-sleeper on a disused rotting railway line that crossed above it. The moment we saw lights in the distance was a massive relief to all of us & we walked towards it hoping we were on the right path. We were and, we survived but we didn’t hesitate when it came to getting a train back to the city!



When we were travelling India we took the opportunity to travel into the desert by camel & stay overnight which seemed straightforward enough until we got there & were told that predatory animals were attacking at night.

The more demure group who had joined us on this mini-adventure insisted on sleeping on the roof of a nearby hut while we braved the elements on the ground… we survived but, it wasn’t the most relaxing night’s sleep.


When we arrived in Australia after 4 months working in party bars in South east Asia we’d seriously lost touch with day-to-day expenditures. Our payment was our keep in those bars, not carrying or needing cash for months so, landed in Australia with what was left of our travelling budget… about €150 each.

Needless to say we were totally screwed so reached out to the couch surfing community where we met Tom who was generous enough to offer us a place to stay. We slept on the band’s practice floor in that house for a month where several other students lived & other couch surfers often stayed over…. not the most glamorous start to our Australian life but a great experience.

With Christmas time looming we desperately tried to get on our feet as soon as possible knowing that we’d have to be out of the couchsurfing place by the time they all went  home for the holidays, we frantically looked for work & a place to stay eating in ‘pay as you can’ cafes & eventually getting a rental on the morning of Christmas eve.

We met the realtor in the closed office that day where she’d taken time out of her shopping to give us the keys… we arrived with handfuls of coins to barely scrape the deposit. Eilish & I moved into the house that night while the boys prepared Christmas dinner in a friend of a friend’s apartment.

We spent that evening scrubbing our new home sleeping without a scrap of furniture or electrics yet, it was one of the happiest nights of my life.


Getting that Melbourne rental was only half the battle once we realised that it needed to be furnished & we had no form of transport & no money to make this happen. We came up with some pretty innovative ways to kit the place out with one experience being pushing thrifted couches up the highway on skateboards… classy!


We offered a pet sitting service on Gumtree to get cash when we first got our rental which overall worked out amazingly (meant we could have dogs in the house while we were settled AND it covered all our bills) but, we had the very first dog all of 5 minutes before he darted out the door & towards a highway behind our house…

The more I sprinted after him, the more he thought it was a joke & when I eventually frantically screamed at a confused lady to grab him & got him back home I was nearly too terrified to take him out of the house for the 3 weeks we had him. I had visions of having to ring his owner on holiday to tell her he died on my watch… traumatizing!

Turns out that couch surfers we had ran into the same problem with him & lost him for a few hours after following him desperately to a lake… hardly worth the stress of $1o a day but the rest of the dogs we got were a breeze!


We’d only settled in Melbourne for 6 months before the itchy feet started again. With Eilish gone home & Alex (our friend who met us in Oz) gone to the mines Sean & I decided to do a road trip.

Rather then buy a purpose-built van we thought it’d be a great experience to buy a van & build a home inside it from scratch. It was winter in Melbourne at this stage & I was working double shifts to try & get the cash together so have many memories of standing at a freezing kitchen counter at 2am hemming curtains when I was due to be back up at 6.

Sean had basic woodwork experience but no tools & I had zero experience in my given role; making all the custom furnishings… I cursed our decision to build it ourselves at the time but was so proud of it when we made it happen.

We built that home inside a yellow 1985 called Dorothy & drove her the length of Australia having the time of our lives.


When we’d first got to the Philippines we traveled from Manila to Boracay arriving in the middle of the night with Sean suffering severe food poising. We met a girl who offered us accommodation for the night, taking it on the assumption that we’d be staying on the floor of a hut at best…

it turned out to be the most insanely beautiful place we’d ever stayed, carved into the mountains with no windows where you could jump straight from your room into the crystal blue water.

I awoke the next day & walked up the beach & onto the road to get a mototaxi to the pharmacy for Sean… I found one, got what I needed & walked out to hail a mototabxi back. So far, so good except I had absolutely NO idea what the name of the place we’d spent the night in was.

I asked the guy to drive around hoping my memory of the journey would jog but nothing… I was completely lost. I had the equivalent of less than €3 on me, no phone (we didn’t use phones travelling) & no way of contacting Sean. Eventually from asking around & describing the name of the place as ‘monkey something’ a local lady directed us back to Spider House Resort… it looked even more amazing seeing it for the second time!


By the time we arrived in the Philippines we were over 2 years backpacking so considered ourselves ruthless & well experienced. We never took no for an answer so when we were told buses didn’t go to an area we wanted to visit we though we were being clever by hitching rides on the back of local’s motorbikes in return for payment…

turns out there’s a reason buses don’t go on that road!

Que a mental mountain climb over about 5 hours sitting on the back of a bike where my backpack (still on my back) was hanging over the edge of the bike dragging me backwards along with the incline. This journey was already excruciating enough before the driver crashed pinning my leg under his bike & against his lava-hot exhaust pipe.

It was over a minute before I could pull myself out leaving me with a blister the size of a tennis ball & a decent scar to this day.


Indonesia was the last country we visited, landing in Bali with a plan to keep a low profile (& even lower budget!) until our flight home at the end of the month. We hooked up with a local who was a friend of an Ozzie guy we’d worked with in Laos…

We initially met him for a drink to be friendly but he was REALLY insistent that we go out with him, have dinner with his family, the whole works!

This guy was obviously quite a big shot in the community because we spent the night skipping ques & heading straight to the VIP areas of these Bali superclubs. Another ‘where is my life going’ moment happened when a club staff member was pouring premium whiskey into my mouth in this sectioned area over the dance floor while another man stood by who’s job it was to dab your face afterwards.

At this point we honestly wouldn’t have been able to even afford a drink in this club so being treated as prestigious when we were utterly broke was a pretty funny situation to find ourselves in!


One of the biggest problems with avoiding booking all of our flights before we left was that many countries insisted on you having an exit flight if you didn’t have a visa… fair enough but we weren’t usually sure what country we wanted to go to & when so pre-booking even a month in advance seemed like too much planning to us at the time.

To get through this loophole I figured out that with Expedia you could go right to the payment part of flight booking & then click to view your itinerary… this mock itinerary would look identical to a booked flight so I’d print that off & use it as ‘proof’ to get into the country… worked every time.


Well, there you have it guys… some of our wilder stories from the day-to-day madness that backpacking entails… hope you enjoyed reading it!

Recent Comments
  • Eric Valdez says:

    Dear Sarah,

    I read your blog regarding your travel series Part 1 and Part 2.It’s interesting.Hoping for your reply!

  • I can’t even choose what my favourite story is, absolutely brilliant!!

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