Student travel competition: the results

THE ROUGH GUIDE

It was a challenge to read through all the entries for the student travel writing competition this year: quantity far exceeded expectation. Entrants were asked to write a 500-word article on their travels this summer, based on the subject a "misunderstanding". Even this topic, however, couldn't prevent the odd rash or bowel description. Mistaken destinations, misread maps, the inevitable left-hand faux pas and (rather too many) train timetable misunderstandings were popular topics. Entries even included one from Moscow: Nicholas Ilyin's "Tragical Misunderstanding" is a haunting story which ends in a suicide bombing of a police post in Grozny from which Nicholas was lucky to escape with his life.

Choosing a winner proved difficult. However, two clear favourites emerged: Tom Morgan (whose atmospheric tale is published here) wins first prize of two round-trip tickets to Sydney, provided by specialists in youth and student travel, Campus Travel. He will be well equipped for his trip with the new second edition of the Rough Guide to Australia. Chris Docherty is the winner of the second prize: two Young Europe Special airpasses on the Lufthansa network within Europe also provided by Campus Travel, and a copy of the Rough Guide to Prague.

Consolation prizes of the Rough Guide to Venice have been awarded to Ade Barber, Jess Bower, M Davey, Giles Fletcher, Joseph Harvey, Nicolette Loizou, Andrew Moscrop, Danny Williams, Elen Williams and Alice Woodwark.

Gesturing to the sky, the farmers laughed as we continued in the opposite direction to them. We headed away from their village, where the women washed children and clothes alike in the shallow river. The men carried ancient flint-lock rifles, but it is hard to be frightened by a man who finds you amusing and grins hugely to show it. We walked on.

A little further down the parched track, a slight breeze stirred the dust. Yes, they were right: it was grey overhead, but rain would be welcome in this heat. On either side, jagged formations of limestone loomed out of the withered vegetation, the dull greens an impermanent legacy of the end of the hot season. Despite this the landscape was beautiful, but also distinctly unreal - imagine someone bad at drawing trying to design fairy- tale scenery of sabre-toothed rock faces and round Plasticine hills. Rural Laos looked impressively surreal.

The passing minutes saw a visible darkening above. Soon vast timpani rolls of thunder announced our mistake. We had, not for the first time, misunderstood. The farmers had not been warning us of a little rain, but of an almighty tropical rainstorm. The skies boomed with a cacophony worthy of the apocalypse, forked lightning ripped through the rapidly accelerating clouds, and we stopped in our tracks.

The realisation that we would have to move, and fast, came a little late, roughly at the moment that the rains began. Not just rain, the sort of rain I had known before, but a real-life deluge. Instantly soaked, we did our best to execute a stumbling reverse but we could barely see more than white sheets of wind-thrashed water. The onslaught actually hurt. We battled on, too stunned by the scale and force of what we had been suddenly caught up in to think too much about direction or distance.

After several equally intense minutes, we were surprised when an old truck drove up alongside us, its engine barely audible over the wind and rain. The Lao men in the doorless cab were amused by our attempts to protect our faces. In turn we started to grin - the inside of the truck was so open and riddled with leaks that they were as wet as us. Invited to clamber into the back, we huddled close to the cab for the little protection it could afford. The rear window had been smashed out, and they laughed while we gestured despair.

Eventually we reached the river and discovered a raging torrent in place of the ankle-deep calm we had waded through earlier. There was, of course, no bridge (Laos is virtually devoid of infrastructure outside the few main towns) so we drove on into the rapidly rising water - and got stuck in the middle. Again we had misunderstood. The truck was not just to be used as an impromptu bus, but as a mobile diving platform. Nothing for it but packs off, try desperately to stop laughing and one, two, three...

The author is 19 years old and a full-time student at the University of Liverpool

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing