Oct 6, 2014

Backpacking Mishaps

When researching for a recent travel insurance paper, I stumbled across some fascinating backpacker stories. From a bear attack, a broken back, to a Laotian bus being attacked by vigilantes. These harrowing accounts demonstrate the need for careful and considered travel, underpinned by quality travel insurance. The article was published on the travel.ninemsn.com.au site and aptly named, Your Horror Holiday Stories and was too interesting not to share.

Broken Back 

Laura Davies left the UK on her gap year to backpack around New Zealand and Australia. Keen on getting a taste of the adrenaline activities on offer in Kiwi-land, Laura booked herself on an extreme white water rafting trip during her first week on the road. “During a particularly harrowing jump in the raft,” says Laura, “I bounced out of the boat, banged into the side of a cliff and landed flat on my back in the middle of the rapids. I was pulled out and taken to hospital, where x-rays were taken. I was surprised to be given a clean bill of health; the nurses told me I was a bit bruised and battered but otherwise unscathed. I continued travelling, but my back pain was incessant and after a week I had to basically crawl from my hostel to the nearest emergency clinic. The doctor looked at my original x-ray and said ‘You have a fractured vertebrae, and should’ve been flat on your back in hospital for the last week!’ I was strapped up and put on the next flight to the UK. But due to my condition, which required me to stay horizontal, I had to fly first class. It was a rather memorable $10,000 flight home one week into my year out.”

Deadly Bus Attack

Kelly Irving was on a rickety old bus driving through the Laotian hinterland when the vexed vehicle sputtered to a stand-still. Ten disgruntled backpackers and a throng of locals, accompanied by squawking chickens and a few stray dogs gathered around the shirtless, shoeless driver and watched as he started banging the engine block with a hammer haphazardly. “Jesus,” said an Aussie next to her, “if only we hadn’t missed the bloody 12 o’clock bus”. Realising they were in for a long delay, the locals gathered their belongings and disappeared into the undergrowth. “It was only later that night, when we eventually rolled into the next town, that we understood,” says Kelly. “We happened upon a crowd of people outside the hospital. And then the unmistakable bloody shell of the midday bus, which had been shot to pieces by bandits, killing several of the passengers.”

Bear Attack

Sandy Henderson was camping in Yosemite National Park in California, when he awoke to the screams of his travelling companion. Groggy from sleep, he looked out of his tent and saw his friend desperately trying to get out of his sleeping bag, with a giant black bear and three bear cubs rearing up behind him. “Quite possibly the quickest I’ve ever got out of bed, I scrambled up and we both sprinted in no particular direction — away from the bear was the key. We panted to a halt a few hundred metres away from the campsite and this was when my mate calmly asked if I’d mind taking a look at the wound in his neck, the one he could fit four fingers into … Oh, and did I remember what to do if he went into shock?”   “Not that we had much opportunity to dwell on this, as just then the bear reappeared and we were off running again. By pure chance, we’d passed a toilet cabin a little way back on the trail and we made a dash for that, jumped inside and bolted the door. Seconds later, the bear was scraping at the door as we cowered inside waiting for the whole thing to come flying off its hinges. For want of anything else, we crammed the neck wound full of toilet paper — by some genius instinct, he’d held a scarf to it almost immediately after the bear struck, which had stemmed the bleeding.”

“After quite a long time the bears lost interest and we were able to leave the shelter and return to our campsite. Once there I patched my friend’s neck up as best I could with my tiny travel first aid kit, and we made a very weary trek down the mountain so as to get him to the park paramedics, who told us the bear’s claw had missed his jugular by less than a centimetre.”

Travel Insurance Can Save You Thousands

Travel Insurance with medical assistance and repatriation would have covered the cost Kelly’s treatment and return airfares, saving her $10,000.  Travel Insurance would have also covered emergency care for the Yosemite bear attack.

Travel Insurance Plus Recommendation

An additional recommendation from the Travel Insurance Plus team is to remain constantly updated with latest travel alerts. A great source of information is the Australian Government Smartraveller.gov.au website. This site contains travel advice for every country in the world – which suits the wandering backpacker. Also, Travel Insurance Plus constantly updates policyholders with travel alerts, these are available on our website or you can simply follow/like us for regular updates on Facebook.

Travel Insurance Plus offers quality travel insurance for less than you might expect. 100% Australian owned, our customer service and claims centre is based in Australia, so you can be sure to be understood whether you’re fair dinkum up the creek without a paddle, or not within a cooee of help.

Safe travels and remember some research can greatly improve  your backpacking experience.

For an instant, quality travel insurance quote click here.

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