Our Backpacker Deaths
Today I thought we would get a little ghoulish and imagine the ways we might meet our ultimate end.
Sitting in the dark at 3am typing by candlelight during yet another power cut it is easy to imagine I’m going to suffer at the hands of an axe murderer, but with no companions around to suggest we split up I can’t be in a scary movie and am probably safe.
Instead, the end might come on the road; possibly literally. A late braking minibus driver could send our heads smashing through the windscreen where, alive but stunned, our prone bodies are squished by an oncoming truck.
Or perhaps our fate is entwined with chronic fluid loss via the bowels caused by a dodgy kebab or a septicaemic reaction to patting just one too many scabby cats.
If you are trying to persuade parents to put some money towards your gap year perhaps today is not the day to call them over and tell them you’ve found this great website with lots of ideas for taking a year out. Pictures of bus crashes and little girls being stomped on are not conducive to encouraging parents to open their wallets and declare: “here’s a grand: put it towards getting wasted in Thailand for six months.”
If concerned loved ones do happen to look over your shoulder be ready to reel off the following stats:
Last year, more people were killed in grocery shopping accidents than from all of the world’s terrorist incidents combined.
The odds of dying in a plane crash are one in ten million while dying from a heart attack is one in five.
More people are killed by rat borne diseases in Britain than in Cambodia.
In 2006 more people died in America watching TV than deaths caused by all traffic accidents in India, Thailand and Bolivia combined.
2011 was a record year for deaths related to sitting quietly in the corner minding your own business.
Bedroom tidying is more dangerous than a shark.*
Even going to a perceived dangerous place doesn’t mean you’ll die. According to a top ten list we found the most dangerous countries in the world, from one to ten, are: Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Zimbabwe and the Palestinian Territories.
We wouldn’t have missed visiting Lebanon and felt no danger travelling in Iraq. And while I would not have risked an overland route to Baghdad, up to date information provided by bloggers like Anil Polat and Earl Baron helped persuade Deirdre that the Kurdish north wasn’t such an absurd place to holiday. Wandering Earl has also journeyed in Pakistan and Afghanistan while Nerdy Nomad’s Kirsty Henderson volunteered in Haiti and Marcello Arrambide made it back from Somalia with the same four limbs he left home with.
Just for fun, here are a few suggestions for ways we might end up as dead-travellers:
Killed by an enraged mother after standing on her baby
Mothers can be very protective of their offspring. The fact that this Peruvian mother had placed her baby in the aisle at the front of the bus for every clod hopping backpacker to step on in the dark suggested this wasn’t one of those mothers. Luckily for the sprog, Deirdre is small and light. Though the baby’s mother got quite irate and agitated Deirdre made it to her seat at the back of the bus unscathed.
Plummeting down an Andean Mountainside
A journey through the Andes offered truly spectacular views as our bus climbed its way up and around snow topped mountains and passed through fork lightning illuminated valleys. Unfortunately what goes up can also go down and the same window seat also afforded a terrific view of the thousand foot drop only metres from the front wheel.
Influenced by the knowledge that every now and again one of the narcotic fuelled drivers struggling to stay awake through his fourteen hour shift at the wheel does send his bus over the edge I curtained off the view. I just couldn’t take it anymore.
One particularly dangerous stretch of Andean highway is the Yungas Road in Bolivia. Dropping over 3000 metres in a short distance, between 200 to 300 people die here each year. Nicknamed the Death Road a small tourism industry has sprung up to encourage mountain bikers to hurtle themselves down and around possible big-truck-lurking blind corners. The heavily limping and cut backpacker that tried to persuade me to give it a go didn’t really inspire confidence.
Run over by a train while shopping
In some towns market traders set up stalls against the train tracks, giving their produce the exact amount of space required to clear the train wheels. The locomotives go quite slowly so until we get deaf and doddery we should be safe.
Stabbed for haggling too hard
The one occasion I felt I was genuinely going to feel a knife blade in my back was after crossing the Nile from one bank to another. Though I could accept that foreigners pay more than locals I wasn’t going to pay more than the official foreigner’s rate. I knew that price. It was printed ten feet in front of my face, in big letters. In English.
Despite that, I had to argue the rate down and lost my temper doing so. The argument ended in laughs for everyone except one guy who kept making throat cutting gestures. Sat a couple of feet across the other side of the boat I endured this for the short journey across the river. Heading up the steps after embarkation I thought ‘this is it’ when someone rushed up behind me. Thankfully it was only another passenger in a hurry.
Shot in an armed robbery
Travelling to Cambodia I left our laptop behind in a Bangkok locker. Visiting a country with too many guns and too little street lighting I did not want to hesitate for even a split second if forcefully asked to part with our possessions.
Getting left behind on a snorkelling trip
This actually did happen to Ian Cole who thankfully lived to tell the tale.
* only one of these stats is true
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This piece was first published in an older version of our blog which included the following comments:
said: “So very true. There are countless ways to die, but for some reason people always assume you are more likely to do so/more unsafe while traveling. Those market stalls right up against the train tracks are comical.”
– we replied: “The sleeping dog doesn’t seem too perturbed but then, in South America (and Turkey), you can drive right up to them before they grudgingly move out of the way of traffic.”