This post is part of a L’appel Du Vide feature, Misadventure Mondays. In each segment, I’ll ask one of my favorite travel bloggers to share one of their Travel Misadventures. This Monday, John from Travel Rinse Repeat shares with us his story of a breakdown in Argentina.
Tell me a little about yourself:
I’m a perpetual traveler, constantly on the road for both business and leisure travel. Currently, I’m working in in the American South with frequent visits to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Hampton Roads, but this will all change in the next couple months. For personal travel, my upcoming destinations include Santa Barbara, Phoenix, Moab, and Greece.
Describe your travel style:
My travel style varies based on the nature of the trip. For business, it’s on the company bill which means elite hotel status, first class upgrades, car services, and taking clients to nice dinners. When I travel for leisure, my budget is much more restricted and I don’t shy away from hostels, public transportation, and street food. There are pros and cons to each style and I don’t believe one is inherently better than the other. But no matter how I travel, I always try to make the most out of every travel opportunity, regardless of the destination. For me, this means making sure I’m not wasting my nights in the hotel or hostel and getting out to experience as much as I can.
What’s been your best/worst travel misadventure?
My most memorable travel misadventure occurred in Argentina when our tour guide’s car broke down on the way back from visiting the penguin colony at Punta Tombo. The route back was a bumpy, dusty dirt road that had clearly seen better days and our driver was taking it at a speed that seemed more suited for the Autobahn. The passengers in the car included myself and two Danish girls who I met in my hostel. We slid around corners, kicking up clouds of dust behind us.
Normally, I don’t get too worried about riding with aggressive drivers in foreign countries. I understand that they have driven like this their entire lives and certainly know the roads much better than I do. While there is no way I would drive that fast on that road, I had complete trust that our driver knew what we has doing. That was, until he we hit a large bump that provided a brief moment of airtime before the car came crashing back down to the road and subsequently grinding to a halt. Upon landing, something important had come off the car, rendering it unable to continue.
We were 30 minutes into our three hour drive back to Puerto Madryn (where we were staying for the night) and had a car that no longer worked. After our visibly frustrated driver made a few phone calls, he explained to us that a tour van would be along shortly and we’d be able to get a ride from them. I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard this and knew it wouldn’t be long before we were resting comfortably in the van as it took us back to our hostel.
Within a few minutes, the van arrived and I started collecting my stuff to board when our driver stopped me and motioned for me to get back in the car. I was confused at first, but understood what was happening once I saw the drivers of the tour van bringing out a tow rope. We were getting a ride from the tour van, but not in the manner I envisioned. Instead, we’d be riding in our broken car as we were towed behind the tour van.
Normally, this wouldn’t concern me too much, but in this instance the tow rope we were using only left about four feet of space (and very little allowance for reaction time) between our small car and the much larger tour van in front of us. The tour van driver took a very similar aggressive approach to driving this road even with our car being towed so close behind. Our driver had to remain especially vigilant as we were pulled behind, swinging from side to side along the road as we were dragged along.
As we went down hills, our car’s front bumper drifted dangerously close to the back of the tour van. If an animal had ran out in front of the van and the driver had to slam on the brakes, there was no doubt in my mind that our car would have smashed right into the back of the van.
This white knuckle ride lasted for over an hour until we reached the next town where some of the tour vans guests were unloaded, clearing just enough space for myself and the two Danish girls on the van. At this point, they also dropped the car off at a mechanic to be repaired. I breathed a sigh of relief stepping out of the car knowing I had made it through and wasn’t going to find my face pressed up against the back of the tour van.
What were the positive outcomes of your misadventure?
The most positive outcome of the misadventure was the friendship I developed with the two girls from my hostel. We had been friendly and cordial to one another throughout the tour, but it wasn’t until we all saw our lives flashing before our eyes that we really bonded with one another. Though I only spent the day with them, they were some of the best friends I made on my trip to Argentina and I still correspond with them regularly. Situations such as this seem to have a way of pulling people together.
What did you learn from this misadventure that you can share with other travelers?
Trust your guides, but also don’t be afraid to speak up when you feel in danger. We asked the driver if being towed like this was safe and he ensured us that he had plenty of experience driving in similar situations. While I don’t think we were still completely safe, the driver was definitely paying more attention to the van in front of us once he knew our concerns.
What’s the one other lesson you’ve learned on a trip that you wish you had known before you left?
For me, it’s that there is always something interesting and redeeming to be found in any place I visit. I don’t always get to choose the destinations I visit (work tends to have a say in those kinds of decisions), but I always treat the cities I visit the same, seeking out unique, interesting, and fun sites and activities. A good example of this is when I traveled to Cleveland. Instead of allowing the stereotypes of the city to keep me in the hotel, I got out and explored, finding unique sites like the amazing Cleveland West Side Market.
Thanks John for sharing!
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