Tag Archives: bugs

Hotel misadventures

OK, last week I got you with my imaginary worst hotel ever. I must admit I did get a bit convinced by this myself – it almost became real as I was writing it and yes I was inspired somewhat by Fawlty Towers. But the sad thing is that I was also inspired by real experiences and we all have memories of THAT hotel – especially when you are feeling a bit out of your depth in a foreign country, far from home and late at night. Our bedrooms are our safe places and perhaps something tries to convince us that we are the only people who have used this room. We know that doesn’t make any sense logically but I think this is why it freaks us out if we come across evidence of someone else’s stay.

You know what I mean. That stray hair in the shower, the chocolate wrapper under the bed, the lipstick mark on the coffee cup. Eewwww. You mean someone else has used this room in this mega hotel in the heart of downtown. I can’t sleep in a stranger’s bed.

That’s why the anonymity of a hotel room is so important. I once checked into a hotel for a conference. After a couple of flights to get there I wasn’t in any hurry to unpack so I arrived and immediately threw myself on the bed, switched on the tv, made a couple of phone calls. Eventually I thought I should at least unpack. Imagine my face when I opened the drawer and found it packed full of someone else’s undies! How the hell did someone leave behind their underwear. But … the other drawers were full of clothing as well. Then I went to the bathroom to check and yes – toothbrush, moisturizer – the works. I felt so uncomfortable. Called down to reception and found out that they had given me the wrong room by mistake and yes there was someone booked into that room.

So yes we have all had those nightmare hotels and thank you for sharing your experiences. Here are a few real nightmare hotel stays – some personal and some collected through the years from clients.

MIAMI – we were new to North America and did not know the hotel chains or areas. Ended up in a dodgy hotel in a dodgy area – what stuck out in my mind was that the remote control was CHAINED to the bedside table. That kinda gave me a clue that maybe this wasn’t the best choice.

LOS ANGELES – a family going down to Disneyland had a problem in their hotel room. It was an army of ants. There was a little hole along the skirting board and this was their free entry to swarm over anything that looked interesting – and you know when you travel with kids how they seem to scatter crumbs wherever they go – a bit like Hansel and Gretel. They did complain to reception who kept going up to the room and doing a clean but the ants kept coming back. The hotel was full so no chance of another room. They were quite proud when they told me that they had put paid to the ants’ excursions by plugging up the hole with toothpaste.

FIJI – now bugs can be something that freak you out – or not. And if they do freak you out then maybe tropical areas like Fiji should be avoided. I had a couple staying at a hotel in Fiji who said that they were being terrorised by bugs (not sure what type). Of course I contacted the hotel directly who told me that they had been in communication with the guest but that the bugs were just the natural bugs of the area such as lizards, beetles and mosquitoes. This was one query I picked up in Trip Advisor –

“Would anyone be willing to provide their thoughts on the bug/insect/reptile/etc. situation in Fiji, particularly in nicer resorts as mentioned above (if there is a difference). I don’t see a lot of discussion about this topic, but here and there I read reviews of people waking up with huge scary bugs in their room, or worse yet, on them. Is this the norm? A reality of life that might happen? A rarity? We are from NYC and don’t really know what to expect or how we’d react. We are both absolutely terrified of snakes. We don’t expect a pristine environment devoid of nature and life. But neither are we sure we are suited to deal with sharing our bure with bugs crawling around at night (or day).”

I totally understand the fear of insects – it’s a real thing. The hotel was very understanding too – but nature is nature.

UMNGAZI RIVER BUNGALOWS, SOUTH AFRICA – as a relative newcomer to South Africa I too was not used to the more exotic creepy crawlies. Coming from England I had no problem with spiders, frogs, slugs and snails (or even puppy dog tails – get it?). What I wasn’t prepared for were geckoes. These little lizard type creatures are very common in warmer climates like Natal in South Africa and they do a great job of cleaning up insects like mozzies and midges – but I was terrified of them and spent my first night lying in bed with the torch shining on them in case …. what? I don’t know. I just didn’t want them running all over me with their horrible little feet. Believe me – they didn’t want that either and stayed well away from me. But I understand the fear.

CAPE TOWN BED AND BREAKFAST – I am not a big bed and breakfast fan – probably because I just prefer being in a hotel and not feeling like somebody’s personal guest but I do understand how sometimes a B&B can be cute and original. And yes I have stayed in “cute and original” in a room with the toilet perched up on top of a flight of stairs. I kid you not. The room had a bathroom en suite but when you entered the bathroom you had the bath on one side and then a steep flight of stairs on top of which was perched the toilet. Gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “on the throne”.

This is a biting question!

Mosquitoes are strange creatures. It seems that there are different varieties all over the world with very different patterns of behaviour.

Now you would think that they would be worse in hot tropical locations – but that is not my experience.  I grew up in South Africa and of course mosquitoes are very common there.  But .. we were only bothered by them at night.  So all the houses in South Africa had mosquito netting on the windows and every night as the sun starting going down you prepared yourself for the evening.

My Dad used to call it Mozzy Time!  He would go around the house closing windows and making sure those pests couldn’t get inside.  Thing is he was just neurotic about anything that flew or crawled.  The mosquitoes were not a problem at all.  The drill was if you are sitting outside just spray some Peaceful Sleep Peaceful Sleepon your exposed arms and legs and you are done!  We entertained outside on the verandah with no problem at all.

We also did a lot of camping and again the same precautions would come into play.  Even the little ones would play outside well into the night with minimal problems.  Of course there were the odd mozzy bites which were a nuisance but for the most part it was no big deal.  

One camping weekend trip I realized that I had left the tent at home.  No problem – we used the jib from our sailing dinghy and erected a temporary shelter – slept on the grass under the stars.  With the help of the ever handy Peaceful Sleep we had an undisturbed night (except for when a huge monitor lizard scrabbled through the grass next to us on his nocturnal jaunt).

So when we decided to emigrate to Canada I thought well, I can deal with the snow and the cold and at least there won’t be any mosquitoes.

WHAT?  Was I ever wrong.

My goodness me.  Where do these creatures come from?  First of all they are massive compared to our little African fellows.  They are also slow.  Our African chaps zip around so quickly it would be hard to swat one and they are difficult to see in any event.  These Canadian mozzies seem to be in slow motion in comparison. They also have no decent sense of time.  Any self-respecting mosquito would realise that you don’t hang out during the day looking for a blood snack.  Rest up during the day and then come out when the sun goes down.  That’s the procedure.  Didn’t they read the manual?

It makes me chuckle when people talk to me about travelling to exotic locations and very often the first question is “What about bugs”.  Seriously?  Have you ever been out in the Canadian wilderness?  Just google Canadian bugs and you might not go out again.  Along with mosquitoes we have stink bugs, black flies and spiders galore.  I found this interesting article …

Even the web site of the Salisbury Morse Place School states:  “Winnipeg is [incorrectly] known the “Mosquito” capital of Canada.  The mosquito is jokingly considered Manitoba’s provincial bird!!!” In reality the capital designation rightly belong to Komarno, Manitoba, about 70 km north of Winnipeg.  In fact the name Komarno is Ukrainian for mosquito.  There is a 4.6 meter statue of a mosquito, built in 1984 in Komarno.  Apparently the town is now saving up for a big bug zapper.

Statue of Giant Mosquito in Komarno Canada

And how about Deer Flies – heard of them?  “Deer are nice and flies aren’t so bad, but deer flies are nasty — something you already know if you’ve ever been camping in Canada. These knife-jawed bloodsuckers will saw through your skin, drink your blood and leave you nothing but pain and a potential allergic reaction for your trouble. Nice.”

Mmm – let’s put the sleeping bags on Kijiji and sell them.  As a friend of mine once said “The closest I get to camping Darling, is staying at the Holiday Inn”

 

Would you like bugs with that?

bugBugs can be a deal-breaker. Just as you have that tropical package all sewn up and ready to go THAT question jumps up. “Er, do you think there will be bugs there?”. Well, it’s Costa Rica. Pretty good chance of there being bugs. Same thing in Belize, or Mexico or Africa. Bugs kinda like hanging out in hot tropical humid destinations.

What is it about bugs that most of us don’t like?  Is it because they are small or that they scuttle (shudder) or just that they look so strange?  Maybe it is because we don’t like the idea of them creeping up on us and looking for one of those warm humid places they like so much!  When you see them in the jungle that’s no so bad.  After all that is their natural habitat.  But when you see them in your natural habitat – well that’s just freaky.spider toilet

I once had people come back from Anaheim telling me how their vacation was totally ruined because the room was full of bugs.  Upon examination it turned out that the bugs were actually ants – and I agree that is annoying.  When I asked if they had advised the management they said they sorted it out themselves by plugging up the ant holes with toothpaste….. mmmm – novel approach.  I wonder if the mint in the toothpaste made the ants’ eyes water.

And I must admit having been guilty of bug-fear too (before I was cured that is).  I spent an entire two nights at Umgazi River Bungalows on the Transkei Coast in South Africa just petrified of falling asleep in case one of the geckos on the thatch ceiling fell on me.  I learnt very quickly that you can get used to anything in time.  It’s so tiring being scared all the time, really!

And ignorance is bliss – young children haven’t learnt to be scared yet but copy our reactions.  So when I found my young son sitting on the doorstep in Africa with the remains of a huge millipede scattered over his bib I just had to merrily say “Oh dear – what have you been up to?” while I got rid of the debris.

We call the millipede a Shongololo in South Africa

We call the millipede a Shongololo in South Africa

Double shudder.

 

 

Bloodsucking airlines

Well the bugs on the airline anyway – apparently Ryan Air had to fumigate one of their aircraft when ticks were discovered on board.  I am sure that all sorts of bugs are found on planes…. probably  hanging about for those half eaten sandwiches stuffed down the seat back magazine holder.  Ticks are particularly nasty however.  These were a big problem in Africa where I lived.  On one walk through the forest I mistakenly sat down for a rest on a fallen tree trunk.  After a few minutes I was alerted to the fact that the whole area was crawling in little red ticks – those are nasty little buggers let me tell you – they get into the worst places!  The only solution was to do what you do with sheep to get rid of the ticks so we went off to the local farmers’ supply store and bought a supply of sheep dip, filled up the bath and… well… dipped.  Yeuw!

Would you like window or aisle?

So yep ticks are nasty alright – but the last laugh goes to a disgruntled passenger who commented on the Reuters report about the fumigation – this says it all :

Is it any surprise that there are bloodsuckers on a Ryanair flight??? These are the vampires who charged a family $380 to print boarding passes at the airport and then called them ‘stupid’ when they complained. Boycott Ryanair!

Sep 08, 2012 1:23am EDT  —