Travel: Your Holiday Disaster

Paul Burton finds he still can't laugh when somebody mentions mosquitoes
Click to follow
The Independent Travel
A few years ago I spent a couple of months travelling around the southern states of America on a motorbike. I was on the way to New Orleans with Craig, another biker I'd met a couple of days before in Florida and we were on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama.

We had passed through several small towns, it was Sunday evening, beginning to go dark and everything was closed. I was extremely low on petrol and after about the fourth town, ran out. We were on a small country road and managed, with the help of a torchlight and one of Craig's old socks, to soak and squeeze enough petrol from the depths of his tank to at least move us on our way. It was an uncomfortably warm, sticky evening and worse, the torch light attracted what seemed like millions of mosquitoes. They attacked me (and for some reason not Craig ) with relish.

It was soon dark and after a couple of miles we came to a crossroads. On the forecourt of a closed petrol station there was a police car; we pulled over and asked where we could pitch our tent for the night. The larger of the two occupants got out, adjusted his belt and spat a disgusting brown stream at our feet. He winked at his colleague and told us that at the end of one of the roads from the junction there was a small patch of land that we could camp on. After a mile I again ran out of petrol and pushed my bike the rest of the way.

Sure enough the promised clearing appeared in the glare of Craig's headlights. The sea sounded very close now but I didn't give it too much thought as I unbundled my tent and put it up on the dark, barren patch. We swept as many of the mosquitoes as possible from our belongings and dived into the tent, zipping it up quickly. Craig lay out his sleeping bag and was soon sleeping peacefully, the mosquitoes still not bothering him at all. They were killing me and it was unbearably hot. I thought I was going to cry.

After about an hour of swatting myself and trying unsuccessfully to get any kind of sleep I was vaguely aware that the ground was getting cooler. Panic followed quickly as I realised that the bottom of the tent was beginning to float. We were obviously closer to the sea than we thought. In the limited torch light we bundled everything, including the sopping tent, onto the back of the bikes. By now the water was ankle deep. Panic turned to horror as I realised I couldn't find my keys and my bike's steering lock was on. We dragged the bike with wheel locked to slightly higher ground and waded around in the water looking for the keys in the beam of Craig's headlight and the torch. Miraculously, Craig found the keys in the ever deepening water and we decided to walk to a distant oil refinery. An hour later we were sat in a cool security office. I slept the night on a chair, scratching and too sore to lie down, but this was real luxury compared to the previous few hours.

The next day Craig said, looking back, it was all quite funny. It's years later and I would still disagree.

Comments