My Top 10 Holidays in Hell

Lockdown Again. Sometimes, staying home is the better choice. This article was published in 2007 in the Herald Sun and The Advertiser (SA)

We all have an air-brushed image of what a Perfect Holiday should look like. Maybe you see yourself, Copacabana cocktail in hand, lazily watching the waves gently lapping in the tropical sunset as the children happily build sandcastles in the pristine sand. Reality, however, might deliver squadrons of death-dive mosquitos, prickly sunburnt flesh, whinging, niggly kids, gale force winds sandblasting legs, and cabin neighbours of the doof-doof booming rave party kind. Here’s my reality, my Top Ten Holidays in Hell.

  1. Sailing the Whitsunday Passage. Location is important. We head out in the hire yacht come fiberglass bathtub when the cyclone hits. The waves kick up. We don storm gear and harnesses and my beloved struggles to drop the mainsail. He drops it and the boom — there’s no topping lift apparently – on my head. We limp wounded and weary into the rocky bossom of Nara Inlet. Every rock face is graffitied by yachties. We spend five days in a pointy-ended double bed reading Jesus Saves and Windcatcher II on paint-splattered rocks and go home. 
  2. Darwin. Timing is everything. I’m in Darwin the weekend of the year 12 end-of-year socials. They book out every other room in the hotel. It’s like being trapped with the Austrian Screaming Choir and Door-Slammers Convention. At 4am all is quiet, briefly. Then they start throwing up.
  3. Haverford West, Wales. Safety is an issue. With boarded-up shops and hotel, we feel uneasy. Alas, the town is not so much protected as deserted. Haverford West reached its peak in 1625. The highlight of the town is a pillar with a plaque stating that William Nichol was burnt at the stake ‘on this spot’ in 1558. The last good night out in Haverford West. 
  4. Drunen, Holland. Local customs lead to misunderstandings. It’s Tres Konika when the old Christmas Trees are burnt a few days after Christmas. We head out on bicycles to watch the bonfires and fireworks, but the fireworks are homemade. Skyrockets spiral out of control and hit neighbours windows. Crackers go ‘boom’ not’ bang’. It was like being caught in a mini-war on bicycles. I cycled for my life.
  5. The White Cliffs of Dover. Unrealistic expectations mean trouble. This is the big family trip. This will be educational for the kids I assume. In Hong Kong, we buy Game Boys. Travelling through Europe by car, train, and boat all I can hear is ‘Ping. Ping. Ping’ beside me. I make them look at important landmarks. They pause their Game Boys look up, nod, and return to the game. Approaching England by ferry one kid is seasick the other is glued to the Game Boy. There were Mario Brothers over the White Cliffs of Dover. Educational content nil. Game Boy scores excellent.
  6. Italy. It pays to consult a reputable Travel Book except in Italy. Establishments close in Italy on a random basis. We managed to visit Italy the week it was shut. Florence. Lucca. Pisa. Shut. Even restaurants. We were so desperate we ate at a Castrol Service Station café. But God Bless the Italians. Even at a service station, the food was superb.
  7. Warner World, Queensland. Convivial travel companions are a must so why do we travel with the family? Convivial they ain’t. We arrive at the gates of Warner Brothers and the 6-year-old refuses to go in. I can hardly get her in a headlock and drag her in. Two hours of terrorist negotiation in the car park reaches a one-ride-only compromise. I walk in the gate and tell Batman to ‘Get lost’. Never again. She says ‘It was great.’ 
  8. Greece. Food hygiene awareness is vital when travelling. In the land of my cousin will do it, I get two bouts of food poisoning. Too many health inspectors have cousins in the restaurant business, I guess. With one bunged up a knee from netball, I’m wobbling along with a walking stick. Delphi is the first stop of this Salmonella Tour. Know Thyself is inscribed here. Know Thy plumbing is more relevant and to add to this agony I have to hop.
  9. Germany. Terrorist threats can impede travel especially if authorities think you are a terrorist. It’s the seventies. I’m travelling with my svelte beloved who has long hair, beard, and denim shirt. He’s suspected of belonging to the Bader Meinhoff cell. We’re stopped by a police blockade with machine guns pointing at us. It’s scary. The police are wearing ill-fitting green uniforms and scraggly long hair poking out of battered caps. It’s like being arrested by Melbourne Tram conductors. They want proof of identity. Not the passport. Not travel documents. Not credit cards. They go through every bit of our luggage and spread it out on the side of the road. An old battered, folded blue sheet of paper saves us. It’s titled Victorian Drivers License. 
  10. Disneyland, USA. Weather counts. The first trip it’s a sunny holiday weekend in LA. Disneyland is packed. It’s a 4-hour wait for some rides. Half an hour wait for the toilet. You could join a queue without knowing exactly where it led. We see Mickey Mouse at a distance. It’s the first time I’ve seen a mouse overrun by a plague of people. Disneyland rates my top hell-hole holiday billing because we didn’t learn from the first trip. We went back ten years later. This time El Nino had hit the coast of California. There is torrential rain and mudslides. Disneyland is awash. Main St is under 10cm of water. The Matterhorn bobsleds fill with water. It sloshes over your front on the way up the mountain and over your back on the way down. But there are no people. We walk into the Pirates of the Caribbean ride feeling like wet, bedraggled pirate hands. A few lashes of the cat o’ninetails would have only added to the experience. 

Sometimes staying home is the best option.

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