Experiencing Bad Luck When Traveling

February 19, 2013 17 Comments »

A pair of sad-looking hiking boots were ‘offered’ to the hiking Gods on the Camino de Santiago Trail in Spain

Equipment check…

I had seen those people before – the ones with the duct-taped boots or better yet the people who left their torn-up destroyed boots on the trail as an offering to the hiking Gods. I always thought, “What idiots!“, I couldn’t understand how these people could be so horrible at planning. How could they stupidly bring a half-ass pair of boots on such a hike? Didn’t they check their equipment before they packed…sheesh!

Now who’s the one wearing the duct tape? Me.

My boots falling apart
Held together by duct tape – the miracle drug
broken boot
Not a good way to start the W Trek!

Does bad luck come in threes?

I should have known…they say bad luck comes in threes and I had started this Patagonia Adventure at the emergency room in El Calafate on a Sunday night trying to explain the term “bladder infection” to a doctor who only spoke Spanish. At the time I was close to tears of frustration, but looking back on it I can only laugh at how funny it was for me to explain my illness and pain in charades. Eventually, I did get an antibiotic prescription and took off for Torres del Paine Park for my planned 4-day Patagonia trekking adventure the next day.

We started off hiking on the first day of the ‘W trek’ in Torres del Paine. On our first day, we went from Ecocamp near the base of Los Torres to Los Cuernos Pass– a simple 11km hike. I stopped to take a picture of a daisy and that’s when I noticed it. The soles on my long-time hiking boots were separating from the boot. This was day 1 of 4 solid days of trekking the W – this was not starting off well I thought.

The traveler’s lifesaver

To top it off, upon the instructions of our guide, I hadn’t even packed another pair of shoes for the trek as I was trying to keep the weight for myself and our porter to a minimum. So much for trying to do the ‘right’ thing! I had no other solutions – I had to make this work. Luckily Brian, one of the men in our trekking group, had brought duct tape with him. Duct tape – the traveler’s lifesaver – the everlasting silver bond. The group stopped for a lunch break and I started the ongoing process of duct-taping my boots together in an effort to keep going. After all, I had waited too long to finally make it to Torres Del Paine to give up now. Duct tape would be my new best friend for the next 2 days until we could get back to Ecocamp and work on other solutions.

Nico taping up my boots
Nico, my guide, taping up my boots…the first time of many to come!

The next day the sole on my other shoe started to separate and I found that the best way to keep them together was to literally duct tape my foot into the shoe. This meant I had to have scissors handy to cut myself out of the shoe at the end of the day! With two shoes in need of constant repair, we quickly ran out of duct tape – however, my resourceful guide, Claudio, found me a whole roll at the next Refugio.

Claudio finds me a whole role of duct tape ensuring my boots will actually make it back to Ecocamp!

Emergency repairs

The boots somehow lasted through the French Valley and Grey Glacier portions of the trek and we then hopped on a ferry to come back to Ecocamp and do the last and most challenging leg of the W trek – Los Torres. When we returned to Ecocamp my shoes were barely held together but Claudio took them from me to see if he could get them fixed. The next morning my boots were delivered to me minus duct tape and the soles intact. Phillipe, one of the resourceful Ecocamp staff, had worked into the wee hours of the night to actually stitch my heels back onto my boots…yes …stitch them. Phillipe ran out of time to stitch the toes back on – so I duct-taped the toes up and we started out on our 8-hour trek up to Los Torres.

stitched sole
My repaired heel thanks to Phillipe

The boots made it and my bladder infection cleared up – maybe just maybe my bad travel luck was starting to turn around! And what about the “bad luck comes in threes” theory? Well – I lost one of my favorite travel scarves in the process of the W trek somewhere. I will consider that the bad luck trifecta – and with that the bad luck streak had ended. Woohoo – things were right again in my travel karma! However, I certainly did learn a few lessons from the situation. Check your equipment before you go. Bring an extra pair of shoes when hiking. Always, always, always have a roll of duct tape with you!

Duct tape is an essential part of my hiking packing list!

Do you travel with duct tape or some other ‘miracle’ product?


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