It takes a special person to be a back packer... Travelling around the world with the absolute bare minimum of belongings and even less money. Being alone in countries where they don't speak the language and trying to ask for directions. Sharing a dorm room with a dozen other people and then having to share 1 bathroom with 20 more. Having to wash the 3 sets of clothes they have in said bathroom with communal soap and struggling to get them dry.
I have a strange sense of envy when I see them but it is mixed with feelings of pity and compassion. Sure, they may look like a filthy back packer but I bet they have 101 brilliant stories they could share with you. If only they looked more approachable and less, well, homeless.
Today, I was the filthy back packer...
My friend is visiting from Australia at the moment and we decided (well I told him) to do a hike up Montserrat. In the past, I have a history of turning adventures like this into what others classify as an 'ordeal' through lack of planning and preparation so he was somewhat hesitant and even sent a 'goodbye' message to his wife before we left.
Despite my preference to do things on a wing and a prayer, I decided in order to redeem myself, that I should be a bit more ready. I made sandwiches and packed a lunch. I even put a couple of cold beers in so that we could enjoy them at the top amidst the wonderful views. I checked the weather (for where I was at the time and not Montserrat) and it said cloudy. The previous days had been spectacular so I was sure it would be ideal.
When we began the walk, it was hot. Crazy hot. I was dreading the next 4km of hiking. After about 1.5km, I felt a few rain drops on my face and pointed out that some ominous clouds were moving in. My friend disagreed and we continued on.
After 2km, it started to rain. It was the kind of rain that feels like it could turn to hail at any moment. Huge, fat droplets that are freezing cold. I suggested that we turn back but having come this far, we were determined to get to the top.
The trail turned into a river of brown flowing water and we were shivering like drowned rats but we pressed on through the mud and slippery rocks. As we neared the top, the sun seemed to come out again and we finished the walk in relative comfort. Then the rain drops did turn to hail.
Just as we reached the top, the skies opened up and dumped down hail, rain, thunder and lightning for what seemed an eternity. We were freezing and had nothing but t-shirts and shorts on so we did what any filthy back packer would do. We went into a room of vending machines and tried to get warm by the heat from the refrigerator motors. My friend even resorted to hugging the coke machine.
Water flooded down the mountain so the trails were not an option for our return to the car on the other side of the mountain. Our preferred option was to take the cable car down the mountain and then walk the 6km road back up to the car. Then the power went out.
This meant that now our only other option was to catch the train down the other side of the mountain and walk the 9km back up to the car. We had no choice.
We made a run for the train along with everyone else as soon as the rain stopped. As we got close to the bottom of the mountain, as if karma wanted to kick us in the groin, the heavy rain started again and we began our walk back to the car even more wet and cold than before.
Soaked to the bone, shivering cold and walking along a main road, we decided to try to hitch hike our way back. One car stopped and after awkwardly conveying our predicament, the driver told us we couldn't fit because of the passenger and 4 dogs he had in the car with him. I think he just didn't want to pick up a couple of filthy hitch hikers.
The rain finally stopped and we made it to the car. I have never been more relieved to feel the hot air coming out of the air vents. Strangely, I still have the reputation of having adventures turn into ordeals.