Halloween Special: My 5 scariest encounters

Ironically, some could be avoided with a good plan in place.

These were moments when I look back and ask myself, “What was I thinking?” or “Did I really do it?” But these risk-taking experiences were also the ones that gave me some of my most unforgettable lessons.

1. Overnight drive to Kathmandu on heavily-fogged highways.

I was too worried and scared I forced myself to sleep through the trip. When our local flight got canceled late in Birat Nagar airport, we decided to go for the 10-hour drive at night to catch our flight back to Manila. It was winter time. The highway was fogged and the road was hardly visible. Only the lights from incoming vehicles can be seen in a blur. Imagine 10 hours of this! Our our driver deserve a salute for arriving in Kathmandu in time for our flight. If we missed it, we would have spent our Christmas in Nepal away from our families.

I resolved never to schedule anything close to important holidays unless it is responding to disasters.

Here’s more on the experience: The story I lived to tell

2. Hair-raising rollercoaster ride.

The ride I thought to be a simple one at Europa Park in Freiburg, Germany turned out to be a speeding rollercoaster in the dark galaxy. Have you experienced being spun in pitch black darkness? That was it! I never even had the time to check the stars as I was busy wondering if I will get out alive. It was the last of the seven rides I did (yes, 7!), from Silver Star to Blue Fire, and by far the scariest. I now check the ride’s description carefully now before I take it. But on most times, I don’t.

A bit of risk taking won’t hurt especially if you are adventure-junkie. Just make sure the park has no history issues on safety and accidents. No adventure is worth your life. Really.

3. 12-hour walk covering a disaster.

After finding out we cannot bring our car to the flooded municipality of Real, Quezon province in the Philippines in 2003, we decided to walk. I took my laptop and camera. A colleague at least brought a loaf of bread that we shared for dinner. The 3 of us climbed huge logs, broken bridges and boulders brought down by mudslides up to our knees. After resting at the remains of a hut at midnight, we took the boat that sailed in the open sea to get to town where the response team was based. For straight 3 weeks I worked on a 24-hour shift reporting about the disaster and the needs of the survivors.

It was a risk I am glad I took. It was also my first biggest disaster work within the country. I just noted we should have brought extra food for the walk and drawn our emergency plan.

More on this experience: Covering disasters: In the midst of human suffering

4. Dangerous selfie with a cheetah.

My guide was horrified but told me after the act. I did a close-up souvenir photo with a cheetah in Lion Park, Johannesburg, South Africa. What was I thinking? I wasn’t, truth to tell. The cheetah looked friendly but I realized long after we left that one wrong move and I would be in tatters. I was told it can sense fear and I strangely wasn’t at that time. It probably was my life-saver: enjoying the cheetah’s company.

That was too much of a risk and I felt really stupid to do it. But hey, I survived swearing never to do it again!

5. I thought we will be mugged!

Arriving at around 2am after an overnight bus trip from Lusaka to Livingstone in Zambia, an Australian friend and I took a taxi to our backpacker’s hotel. We were earlier told it is just a 5-minute walk from the terminal. Pitch-dark, we thought better to get a cab. Then we got puzzled it was almost 30 minutes and we’re still driving through a forest. A forest! Both of us were deathly quiet and terrified, “OMG, we will be held-up in the middle of nowhere!”. We mustered to ask the driver why the distance. To our relief, he said he thought we were going to the backpacker’s forest camp. We told him to go back. That was a close call!

When I travel at night, I now plan for potential risks and make sure someone was informed and monitoring the trip. If it’s too dangerous, I call if off. Traveling at day time is always the best option.

Well, it wasn’t all that bad actually: Backpacking Livingstone and Victoria Falls

What was your most daring experience? Do you think it was worth the risk?

Please visit my blog istoryya.com for more inspiring stories.

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