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Bad Trips: A sometimes terrifying, sometimes hilarious collection of writing on the perils of the road by Keath Fraser.

Bad Trips: The Perils Of The Road Revisited

The eclectic collection of travel writing, Bad Trips, edited by Keath Fraser, chronicles a smattering of reportage, fiction and poetry accrued from the experiences of 50 esteemed writers. For those that find themselves most alive when tracing the veins of a map across country or curled cozily under the safety of one's own roof, Bad Trips leads its reader by the wrist through a barrage of some of the worst (and sometimes silliest) traveling snafus.

This compilation of travelogues and essays colors those awful journeys that any seasoned traveler might sympathize with in a sometimes heavy and other times light and breezy shade. With snippets from recognized names such as John Updike, David Mamet, Anita Desai, and Martin Amiz, Bad Trips covers that rocky road that many travelers don't care to cross personally again any time soon.

Martha Gellhorn from What Bores Whom?

They had no cliques or sets. Even if they thought someone heavy or otherwise a nuisance, they never shut anyone out. Children learn and adults perfect the social tricks for making a fellow being feel unwelcome.

They did not practice this sort of unkindness. They were generous; whoever had anything spread it around. These are the good manners of the heart and altogether praiseworthy. I couldn't tell whether a diet of hash explained a general lack of intelligence.

The girls surprised and amused me by confirming that the secret of success with boys is the same for hippy chicks as for debutantes, has always been the same for all girls: appreciative listening, tender care of male vanity, keeping your place in the background.

How to be popular in a water tank. Poor little girls. Physically less resistant than the boys, they were often wrapped in a lonely blanket, coughing their heads off, shivering with fever, weak from diarrhoea. If attached to one man, they seemed like Arab women, permanently bringing up the rear. If unattached, they still did the cooking and washed the pots and plates under a distant spigot.

Like birds, they had all winged their way south to the slum they created at the tip of Israel, remarking that it was a pretty good place in the winter, as warm as you'd find. They knew nothing about Israel and didn't approve of it; the fuzz was heavy. At least they knew something of the cops wherever they'd been, which is one way to learn about a country. At the end of a week, they began to make me nervous; I was afraid I might grow up to be like them.

Thinking of those kids at Eilath has given me a new slant on horror journeys. They are entirely subjective. Well of course. If I had spent any time analysing travel, instead of just moving about the world with the vigour of a Mexican jumping bean, I'd have seen that long ago. You define your own horror journey, according to your taste.


My definition of what makes a journey wholly or partially horrible is boredom. Add discomfort, fatigue, strain in large amounts to get the purest quality horror, but the kernel is the boredom. I offer that as a universal test of travel; boredom, called by any other name, is why you yearn for the first available transport out. But what bored whom?

Timothy Findley from An Unforgettable Journey to Russia:

When, at last, they paraded us out of the hangar and onto the tarmac, all we could see by way of aircraft were two or three DC-10's, a cargo plane the Americans had used in the war. Large numbers of these had been sold to the Russians for the same purpose. Now, they had the appearance of old tin traps, long past their youth and long past salvaging.

“Thank heavens we don't have to fly in those!” we all thought. But then, with a dreadful determination, our shepherds turned on the tarmac and started to lead us directly toward the DC-10's and—all hearts sinking—we realized these derelict crates were to be our transport to Moscow.

Our scenery and stage crew had preceded us. Now, the actors and the costumes were boarded and the engines were started. Everything shook and the propellers screamed. Inside the plane, we were seated in rows down either side of the fuselage—one row on the left, two rows on the right: death rows, we were certain.

Taxiing down the snowy ancient runway we were given such a ride that I realized for the first time what it was like to see the world through the eyes of Carmen Miranda: one-and-two-and-three. . . LURCH! One-and-two-and-three. . . Bang!”

Et cetera, et cetera, until we took off.

It was a flying nightmare.

John Metcalf from Adult Entertainment:

“I was robbed right at the airport,” said Nelson.

“It must have been a national industry,” said George.

“They had a baby in a shawl and I was just standing there with Mother and they pushed this baby against my chest and well, naturally, you . . .”

“I don't believe this!” said Norm. “This I do not believe!”

“And while I was holding it, the other two women were shouting at me in Italian and they had a magazine they were showing me . . .”

“What did they steal?”

“Airplane ticket. Passport. Traveller's cheques. But I had some American bills in the top pocket of my blazer so they didn't get that.”

“Did you feel it?” said Joanne.

He shook his head.

“No. They just took the baby and walked away and I only realized when I was going to change a traveller's cheque at the cambio office because we were going to get on the bus, weren't we, Mother?”

“A baby!” said June.

“But a few minutes later,”said Nelson, “one of the women came up to me on her own with the ticket and my passport.”

“Why would she give them back?” said Helen. “Don't they sell them to spies or something?”

“I paid her for them,” said Nelson.

“Paid her?” said June.

“Paid her!” said Norm.

“PAID!” said Chuck.

“Ten dollars,” said Nelson.

“They must have seen you coming!” said George.

“They must have seen all of you coming,” said Chuck.

Nelson poured himself another murky tumbler of Frascati.

“It wasn't much,” he said. “Ten dollars. She got what she wanted. I got what I wanted.”

He shrugged. Raising the glass, he said, “A short life but a merry one!”

We stared at him.

“I got what I wanted, didn't I, Mother? And then we went on the green-and-red bus, didn't we? Do you remember? On the green-and-red bus?”

The old woman started making loud squeak noises in her throat. It was the first sound we'd heard her make. She sounded like a guinea pig.

“It's time for tinkles!” said Nelson. “It's tinkle time.”

And raising her up and half carrying her to the door of the women's malodorous toilet, he turned with her, almost as if waltzing, and backed his way in.

Mary Morris from Nothing to Declare:

Nobody goes to Palenque in mid-August, and what we were doing there then remains a mystery to me. Perhaps it was just a case of bad planning. But there we were, and we experienced it in its full force.

The minute we stepped outside in the morning the heat struck us, bowled us over like a blast furnace. Our jeans, which we'd washed out the night before, were stiff as boards, dry as clay in the morning sun.

But my hair never felt dry the entire time I was in Palenque; it was always soaked with sweat. As we walked to the ruins, the people swung in their hammocks, expressionless, barely moving,k dead-looking, brains boiled.

The jungle of Palenque was not like that of the highlands. Here there were no hills, no vistas, no gentle rolling of the land. In Palenque you were at the bottom of a pit of the lowlands, enclosed in a jungle prison.

No breeze blew through this hollow. If felt ominous, treacherous, omnivorous, and indifferent, as if it would swallow you with a single gulp. If you stood still for just a moment, vines would engulf you, snakes would poison you, small crawling things would devour you, the air would be stolen from you.

And you would be forgotten.

Peregrine Hodson from Under A Sickle Moon:

It was still dark when Mustapha Khan woke us and for the next few hours we climbed without a break, except for pauses when jets or spotter planes passed over. By mid-morning we had crossed the minefield and reached the edge of the plateau where we had camped previously.

We stopped for a rest and shared our meat and bread with Mustapha Khan who in turn produced generous supplies of dried mulberries and qu'rut and told us of his exploits as a hunter. One of his closest companions, a skilful hunter like himself, lived in the village over the mountains. On arrival we should ask for a man whose name sounded like “Muddy Sore” who would surely help us.

We reached the top of the pass by mid-afternoon: Mustapha Khan pointed down into the neighbouring valley several thousand feet below at some dark specks at the foot of a grey mountain.
He was eager to return before nightfall so we paid him at once and thanked him for his help. Then we shook hands and he kissed us farewell.

The way down led across a scree of jagged black boulders. It was one of the most uncomfortable and desolate stretches of country I have encountered. Scott's description of the Antarctic— “God this is an awful place!” —fitted it perfectly and when the first flecks of sleet began to sting through the air, my misery was complete.

Peter Matthiessen from The Snow Leopard:

Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen

Down in the shelter of a gully, a yak caravan is preparing to set out; two men strap last loads on the balky animals. Before long, there appears another caravan, this one bound north; having discharged its salt and wool, it is headed home with a cargo of grain, lumber, and variegated goods, its yaks rewarded for their toil with big red tassels on their packs and small orange ones decking out their ears.

The dark shaped of the nomads glint with beads and earrings, amulets, and silver daggers; here are the Ch'and Tartars of two thousand years ago. With their harsh cries and piercing whistles, naked beneath filthy skins of animals, these wild men bawling at rough beasts are fit inhabitants of such dark gorges; one can scarcely imagine them anywhere else.

The Redfaced Devils are inquisitive, and look me over before speaking out in the converse of the pilgrim.

Where do you come from?

Shey Gompa.

Ah. Where are you going?

To the Bheri.

Ah. And so the wary dogs skirt past, we nod, grimace, and resume our paths to separate destinies and graves.

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