What happened with me and the cockroach was at a small hotel of Fez, in Marruecos. I must clarify that these insects, and maybe the big sewer rats, are the only ones from the animal kingdom I can’t stand to be close to. I don’t know why they disgust me, maybe their color, the speed at which they crawl, the environments in which they live…
That famous night, I was sleeping alone in a small room with the lights off when I felt little feet on my face, I was shaking in between my dreams, I jumped out of my sleeping state so fast to see what I felt and there it was, on the pillow… and extra big. I stayed a while staring at it, paralyzed.
Then I said to myself, it happened… but you survived. I scared it away, and it fled towards the wall and I went back to sleep with the lights on. The next day, I went somewhere else.
There were other instances where I had some kind of fright during my travels, but everything ended well. I’m more a relaxed type of person. Sometimes we would hitchhike at night in the north of Argentina and I was the one who fell asleep on the backpacks, while my girlfriends were stressed out about the people passing by, the police asking what we were doing and the long wait. I was just simply sleeping.
Let’s see… in a chronological order, the four times I had frightening moments were the following.
Once, we were with three other girl friends at the Iguazú National Park. We were camping on the banks of the river, swimming in the water and using it too. One night, we went in the water and swam away from the banks. What we didn’t realize what that there were dams that had been opened upstream and the current was therefore very strong.
We had a really hard time getting out. We grabbed aquatic plants and helped each other until we finally reached the shore. The problem was that if the river had carried us further, we would have fallen from the Iguazú falls!
In Costa Rica, in the Santa Rosa National Park of Guanacaste, I got really scared going down a 30-meter cliff (98 feet approximately), hanging from a rope, putting my feet on rocks that were eventually falling down. Luckily, a very experienced guy told me what to do, in a descent that had seemed to last an eternity. My legs were so tensed that my muscles were sore for days!
I was coming back from Venice and going towards Cassano de Adda, not too far from Milan, where my cousin lived. I mixed the train schedules and waited for hours; then ended up arrived in the middle of the night at a desert train station.
In the middle of the railways, there was a young man standing there without moving a muscle… he looked like a ghost. I had to go to the other side; and he still wasn’t moving. I’ve never walked so fast!
In South Africa, I spent six weeks traveling alone, everything went really well and everyone helped me a lot. But the owners of one hostel where I stayed scared me when they said that it was too dangerous. I tried to avoid going out alone at night and was as much cautious as can be.
Almost at the end of my trip, when I was returning to the last city, Johannesburg, something frightening happened. Many people had told me not to arrive at night in that big city, and that it was one of the most dangerous on the planet. That morning, I waited 6 hours for a bus that was bringing us there to be full.
It was a strategy that they used there, no ticket agencies or reservations! The journey was long: I was near the Mozambican border. That 6-hour delay caused me to arrive at 11 p.m. at the bus station. It seemed bustling with people, full of litter, disorganized and very dark. I opened the door of the minibus and several men approached me, each offering transportation.
I closed the door and told the driver to help me find a safe taxi that would drive me to my hostel. He asked me if I wasn’t scared… for one of the few times in my life, I answered “Yes”. The taxi driver that drove me was very friendly and I arrived safely, very happy to be safe and sound.
When it comes to accidents, the only time I was hit by a car was two blocks away from my house, during winter and I didn’t see him double me.
I managed to jump to the sidewalk but the car hit me in the knees, and they hurt for weeks.
So it’s certain that stressful things can occur anywhere, but what’s most important is not to let our fear paralyze us, pay great attention to our surroundings and talk to local people for advice.
There were many other times when I got lost, got hurt, got chased after by angry monkeys, or talked with people. But never have I experienced anything very serious… I always had a solution.
But those stories are those I remember the most, since my safety was on the line.
Considering I traveled for 20 years, it’s not too bad, don’t you think?
Author: Helena Aroyo