Something I love about travel is the weird and random situations I end up in. Memories fade over time so in an attempt to preserve a few I went into the memory bank to tell you about three lolwtf experiences (whatever that means?)
If you want to hear about more stuff like this, send me a message.
1. When I was Called A Terrorist By The Police In Turkey
It was a Friday night in Antalya and I was on the way to a Couchsurfing event. Approaching one of the main intersections with lots of people around there was a couple of motorbike cops talking to a guy (didn’t seem like a dangerous sitation), pretty standard stuff. I didn’t think of anything as I waited for the red light man to turn green.
No more than 10 seconds later someone grabbed my shoulder from behind. I get frights really easy (please don’t sneak up on me), and wasn’t sure who it could be, I’d only been in the city for a couple of days. It was one of the policemen who hadn’t taken a liking to my presence and was now shouting, “Terrorist, terrorist!”
Hmmm, is that a question or a statement? It’s not ideal either way.
With strong language barriers in places, I’m holding up my hands in the air, laughing in a hestitating laugh as I try to show them I’m just a harmless Kiwi. It’s not helping.
Of course, the next word I understand is “Passport Passport!”
Shit. I don’t have my passport on me, nor a copy on my phone either (rookie traveller). My theory of travelling with no sim card is now haunting me as I can’t find my hostel confirmation or even tell him the name of the place. I try to say I can take him to where I’m staying (5 minutes away) but it’s no use. Pesky language barriers.
He eventually let’s go and motions for me to wait while he talks to his colleague who hadn’t said anything. On a ‘fuck this is the worst’ scale of 1 to 10 (10 is the highest), I’m about a 6 as I wasn’t in cuffs and it’s not like I had anything to hide.
But I start to think of possible scenarios. If he kicks me out of the country, do I get to choose the country I’m deported too? Iran would be ideal but you can’t cross overland from Turkey to Iran so I’ll choose Georgia. I’m always thinking about how to solve problems asap, sometimes it’s a good thing…but not everyone will agree with that.
I then do something silly and start filming him on Snapchat (I’ve seen them do this on TV in America!). This provokes him and he gets fired up saying a whole bunch of Turkish I can’t understand (video is below). He demands to see the video and have me delete it. There’s no video in the photos app, but that’s because I’ve saved I’ve posted it to Snapchat and closed the app before I showed him (sneaky, sneaky).
I think the video helped overall as it was a couple of minutes later I was allowed to leave (no charges, phew). He clearly isn’t happy though so I go back to my hostel and take a photo of my passport. It’s illegal to not have ID on you in Turkey so I was lucky he didn’t take me to the station or something. Over the next couple of months in Turkey, I was asked to produce my passport four or five times and was okay with showing the photo on my phone each time.
I guess this was just another case of #BeardProblems. People are usually only joking when they call me Osama.
2. Seeing Someone Get Arrested For Drugs In Indonesia
When you’re walking around Tuk Tuk on Lake Toba, there are magic mushroom signs on lots of shop fronts (and throughout Indonesia). I find that bizarre in itself as Indonesia is a place notorious for punishing those caught with drugs. But hey, let’s sell magic mushrooms out in the open. Technically illegal, the police turn a blind eye to them. In Lake Toba, apparently, this stretches to other drugs as well.
After 12 days in Lake Toba my friend and I were getting ready to head back to Medan the next morning. We’d met a bunch of good people at our guest house, though there was one weird character (let’s call him Grant). Anyway, Grant was enjoying his shrooms, and other ‘bits and pieces’ while we were there. It was harmless, that was until he declared to my friend one day ‘Guess what! I’m a drug dealer in Indonesia.’
It’s fair to say I kept my distance from him after that (fwiw I don’t touch drugs).
On the last evening, a few of us were playing table tennis when a couple of fancy SUV’s rocked up to the guesthouse. It was kind of out of the norm, but when Grant left with it didn’t ring alarm bells as he came and went all the time, often using a jet ski as a taxi to get him to different parts of the island.
Later in the evening, we found out it was the police in the SUV’s and they had arrested Grant for possession (that was the gossip at least). Uh oh, that’s not something you want to be accused of in the third month of your OE. Details were sketchy, but we did learn they had taken him to the prison on the other side of the island.
We left the next morning but had various bits of gossip forwarded to us over the next few days. He was being charged for a couple of things (I don’t want to share details because of privacy etc) and we were told he was facing 1-12 years in jail.
Why was he targetted? We figured he was too out there with everything, he was walking down the street high as a kite, had drugs out in the open, smoking joints walking down the road and talking openly about everything at the restaurants.
I stalked his social media profiles a few months later and his Mum had set up one of these Go Fund Me type pages to help get him out of jail etc. It didn’t receive much funding, but about a year later, he posted on FB saying he was back home (no mention of the incident). I’m glad he didn’t get stuck there for 12 years, but it’s not exactly the OE he was hoping for!
3. Reaching 240km/h On The Highway While Hitchhiking To Latvia
Over the last three years, I’ve taken ~70 hitchhiking rides in various countries. There’s a bunch of hitchhiking stories I could say alone, but this one sticks out as it was one of my first goes at it.
I was trying to get from Tallinn to Riga, and after a couple uneventful rides, a black car pulled over. It was a fancy black and shiney car, not the usual type of car that picks up hitchhikers.
Inside was a Russian lad who wasn’t going to Riga, but pretty close, perfect. His English wasn’t great, but we managed to figure out a few things about each other. The Baltic highways aren’t quite like the autobahn but that didn’t deter him. They are single lane roads with no barriers between the traffic.
Before I know it we are going 240 km/h, switching into the oncoming lane to overtake cars. I’m shitting myself. Some of the things I’d learned about him in this time.
- He lived in Saint Petersburg
- He had started driving from Saint Petersburg that day. He would have been close to having driven 500km by this stage so maybe a bit tired?
- He was going to Vilinius to get the car registered. That’s a long way to get your car registered?
- He was the owner of a sea freight company. For some reason this seemed dodgy.
I wasn’t confident in myself at this stage of my hitchhiking career to ask him to slow down. He did seem a little shady!
My white knuckles regained their colour when we hit some traffic, and I started to breathe normally again. All ended well, and I definitely made it to Riga in good time. But shit, that got the nerves going.
I definitely don’t encourage people to hitchhike, but I love it. Sometimes. Half the time. When it’s not raining and you get picked up fast. And you’re not in the same car as someone who’s drinking rum and cokes.
Yay for random adventures.