I love walking places, it is the best way to see a city or a country, and with that I love hiking and just wandering off the beaten path. Because of this I have many funny hiking stories, weird experiences and interesting adventures. Sometimes I’ve done some truly stupid things, like deciding to climb a mountain while drunk at a music festival (the hangover hit just before I reached the peak and made a miserable hike down…).
For a visual illustration, this meme describes me exactly:
Along with the weird, wonderful and funny hiking stories, I have found some truly beautiful parts of the world. Here’s some of my experiences to hopefully inspire your own unusual adventures!
The Great Glen Way, a Creepy Adventure
When I finished studying I went on a solo backpacking adventure through Europe and the UK. I was busking to pay my way and if that’s your thing you can read about my experiences and tips busking. I happened to be in Scotland in the summer and the weather was gorgeous and I wanted to get out and explore the Scottish highlands.
I found a tiny hiking trail booklet in a tourist shop in Glasgow which gave a very basic map and a brief description of all the main walks and hikes around Inverness. I had always wanted to visit Loch Ness so the Great Glen Way stood out, connecting Inverness with Fort William. It is classed as one of Scotland’s Great Trails by Scottish National Heritage and it is a truly stunning experience of the Highlands. You can find more detailed overview of the hike here.
I decided to head out from Inverness. Once I was there I found a day walk that would take me closer to Loch Ness and, in my little hiking guide book, appeared to connect with the Great Glen Way. So it was settled, I would hike along Loch Ness and then head up into the surrounding mountains to meet the Great Glen Way.
Little did I know that the 2 paths did not connect. Not even close. I left my hostel early in the morning taking what I reckoned would be enough food for 78 miles (it definitely wasn’t), what I thought would be enough kit (It wasn’t, I nearly froze) and my bagpipes.
The hike couldn’t have started off better. The day walk was pretty flat, starting in Inverness and reaching Loch Ness quickly. It was beautiful and I was happy. My troubles only began when I reached the point on the day trail where I should have been able to connect to the Great Glen Way. I was standing on the rocky shore of Loch Ness and where I needed to be was through a forest, up the side of a mountain. I didn’t feel like turning around so I decided to press on, maybe the scale was just wrong!
At first things weren’t too bad. The shore was wide, if rocky and difficult to walk on, and the sun was shining merrily. Things took a turn for the worse when the foliage had started growing out into the water and I had to wade out to get around. Did I think this was a sign to turn around? Hell no!
The creepiest part of the hike was when I was fighting through some bush and stumbled on a dead sheep. Lying right there, quite clearly dead. There was no wind and the only sound was the faint roar of a motorboat. I believed that this was where I was going to die, sacrificed in some ancient Celtic ritual.
No sacrifices happened but the ‘path’ got truly bad at this point. At one point an Australian couple kayaked past me scaling around the edge of a cliff and asked if they needed to call some emergency services for me. I foolishly waved off this offer. I fought through forests, water, mudslides and stinging nettles all day. And the funny story is that I loved every second. Even being scared of an imaginary death cult added to the excitement. I’d never do it again but it is safely stored away in my epic adventure stories!
That evening I had reached outskirts of Drumnadrochit and was on the shores of Ness just opposite Urquhart Castle. I set up my tent in a little forest clearing (and more stinging nettles) and watched the sun set over the castle ruins. The next day I managed to connect to the Great Glen Way in Drumnadrochit. I eventually had to turn back to Inverness due to bad weather but what an amazing experience!
Seonginbong, A Winter Story
Another crazy hiking story comes from a much more recent adventure. Just behind our home base on Ulleungdo in South Korea we have what remains of the volcano that formed the island. It is the highest peak on the island and I climbed it several times in the summer. Coming from South Africa snow has never been a huge part of my life but I absolutely love it, so when we had our first snowfall of winter I wanted to see what the mountain looked like in the snow.
I set out fairly early and I had the trail completely to myself. The snow was untouched and I felt like I was crunching through the snow of my dreams. I’ve never hiked in snow before so I had no idea what to expect. Firstly, I was very overdressed and had to remove half of my clothes. I possibly then got too cold but I didn’t notice until was home.
The moment when I was the most stupid was when I had taken off my gloves to get a photo at a rest stop. I knocked a glove into the snow and in my laziness to try to pick it up, I knocked it several metres down a sheer drop with my hiking stick. Funny story, my disregard for safety didn’t end there. I probably should have just left the glove and carried on, keeping my hands in my pockets. But no, I reasoned that the trees and the rocks could offer sufficient handholds to get down there.
With no gloves I started down, making sure to hold on tightly. I reached the glove and somehow managed to knock it even further down. So onward I went. I eventually managed to grab the glove but by now I couldn’t feel my hands. I had disturbed the snow on the way down so getting back was even harder. I was wrapping my whole arm around tree trunks to make sure I wouldn’t lose my grip.
I made it to the top in one piece and very quickly returned my hands to their gloves and then into my armpits. In the name of all that is holy, they hurt. There were moments I thought they might fall off but the fact that they were hurting so much seemed to mean I had blood back!
The plan was to hike right across the island and meet Monique in the Caldera on the other side. We’d find some lunch and then catch a bus back to our side of the island. This is the second funny story of the hike. The caldera had been closed off due to bad weather. So after hiking over a snowy mountain I still had to hike another 4km to get myself out of the caldera, but this time down steep, icy roads…
Hands down one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve done but I broke myself. That night Monique had to deal with a very miserable husband!
Hallasan, a Musical Challenge
I have an obsession with playing my bagpipes in unusual places just to say that I’ve done it. I’ve played my bagpipes over looking Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, I played in the Swiss Alps, I graced Loch Ness with several tunes, I’ve carried my pipes up Seonginbong and taken them on many other musical adventures.
When We decided to visit Jeju Island and I found out that Hallasan was South Korea’s highest mountain, I knew I just had to play my pipes at the top. I managed a whole week long holiday with 2 sets of clothes just so I would have space to bring my bagpipes along!
Hallasan is not the most difficult hike in the world but it is still very tough. I am not an unfit person but in the last few years I have definitely lost the edge. Add 8kgs of a musical instrument attached to my back in a bag that is not in anyway designed for hiking, and suffice to say, I nearly died.
Somehow I managed to reach the top and played my bagpipes for an audience of about a hundred intrepid hikers. I had tried to find a spot to myself but anybody who has any experience with bagpipes knows that there is no spot by yourself within several hundred metres!
Korea has an obsession with fitting any hiking trail with staircases. Which means someone has to build them up the side of a mountain. What makes this a funny story for me is that I was struggling with the weight of my bagpipes, but on the way down we hiked passed construction workers hiking up the trail carrying steel beams!
Stockhorn, a Mist-ical Hike
While on my Euro-trip I ended up getting invited on a hike up Stockhorn. I had been up several other mountains so I didn’t want to pass up on the opportunity to have another hike through the picturesque postcard that is Switzerland.
The hike started well, I made some new Swiss friends and the view was everything I hoped it would be. But then the mist came. I have never hiked through such thick mist. It seemed to suck out most of the enthusiasm of our hiking group and for nearly 2 hours we hiked in the stifling silence of the mist.
Funny side note, if you ever hike in Switzerland you’re going to hear cow bells. Now you might be thinking it’s atmospheric, maybe even a little romantic, but those things are loud. If you’re hiking near a cow herd it gets really really noisy!
But back to my non-starter adventure. The mist never cleared and the only indication I had of a view was a board telling me what mountain peaks I should be seeing. Not all adventures are super exciting and sometimes you get let down, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop looking!
The Otter Trail, a Seaside Adventure
I am a little biased in this opinion, but South Africa has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. There are numerous hikes all around the country and if you want to explore some amazing locations then make sure to do some of South Africa’s multi-day hikes.
The Otter Trail is one of South Africa’s most famous and beautiful hikes, taking 5 days to hike along the Garden Route Coastline. It is normally very difficult to get a booking but when I was at university I got the opportunity to go on this hike as a good friend of mine had someone bail on his hiking group and he asked if I’d like to join.
The hike itself is not long at 44km over 5 days but there is very little flat hiking, it is almost all up and down along the ocean cliffs. Every evening you are walking into the sunset and it is just magnificent. I would go again in a heartbeat!
I have three funny hiking stories from the Otter Trail. The first was our food. In previous hikes my parents had freeze-dried food for lightweight but delicious meals. While I was preparing for the hike I found some freeze-dried soy meals and offered to buy enough for everyone. I should have tested them first. Even after a whole day of hiking and a large portion of salt, the meals were pretty inedible. We didn’t have anything else with us so we just had to fight through it!
The next funny hiking story relates to the toilet facilities. Most multi-day hikes you do are going to have fairly basic amenities because it would be took difficult to get luxury equipment out to the stops. But the Otter trail has a special surprise. The toilets are built to face out over the ocean and some clever person (this is not sarcastic) thought to make one wall from clear perspex so you can watch the ocean as you sit on that porcelain throne. I won’t lie, watching the sunset over the ocean while on your evening constitutional should be on everyone’s bucket list!
The final funny hiking story is not really that funny but the kind of story that you giggle nervously at afterwards. On day four of the hike you have to cross the Bloukrans river. It is too deep to walk across and you need to swim across during low-tide. Waiting for low-tide can take some time so most of the day you can relax next to the river. Not willing to pass up on the opportunity to cool off we spent most of the high-tide swimming in the mouth of the river. Unbeknownst to us it is not uncommon for sharks to swim a little way in during high-tide. Luckily we didn’t have any encounters but we may have been a little more observant had we known!
Funny Hiking Stories
Life is made up of funny little stories and big crazy adventures. Every time we tell those stories we get a chance to relive the excitement that came with them in the first place. I hope over the years I will continue to make funny hiking stories, scary travel stories, fun adventure stories and every other kind of story I can think of. I hope these tales of mine inspire you to also create your own stories.
Sometimes walking is the best way to find those stories!
Happy travels and blue skies!
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