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This is a question The Worst Journey in the World

Aspley Cherry Garrard was the youngest member of the Scott Polar Expedition when he and two others lost their tent to the winds of a night-time snowstorm. They spent hours in temperatures below -70°F stumbling about the ice floes hoping they'd bump into it as it was their only hope of survival.

OK, so that was bad, but we reckon you've had worse. We know how hard you lot are.

(, Thu 7 Sep 2006, 12:40)
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Dorchester to Toulouse
This is not very spectacular, but easily the worst journey I've ever had, mostly due to my blasé lack of forward planning and ability to attract weirdos.

It's the summer of 1993 and I've just finished 6 weeks of archaeological dig in deepest Dorset. I have to get from the tiny one-goat village I'm camping in to the tiny one-goat village in the south of France where my parents have helpfully moved to.

After 6 weeks' camping I am filthy and suffering from prolonged camping food symptoms. It's hot and I am dressed like Carl McCoy from Fields of the Nephilim (yes, I know). I decide the best way 'home' is to get the bus to Bournemouth, pick up my stuff, then get the bus to Southampton, ferry to Cherbourg, then train to Toulouse. Easy.

Tiny one-goat bus arrives and I get on it with my stinking bag of unwashed clothes. Change (bus) at Dorchester, get bus to Bournemouth. It's hot and sweaty all the way. 2 hours later, arrive Bournemouth. Walk 3 miles back to my student house to pick up stuff. Decide to take enormous stereo and (separate) CD player, and whatever clean clothes I can find (half a sock). Heavy, but manageable on rickety plastic trolley. Walk back to bus station. I am the only person in Bournemouth wearing a long coat and scarecrow hat.

Bus arrives in Southampton in the early evening. I have to get the ferry but I have no idea where Southampton docks are. Someone tells me it's an hour's walk. I start walking. 20 minutes later, wheel falls off trolley. Arsebiscuits. Stuff too heavy to carry for longer than 3 minutes at a time. I panic. Find phone box, ring my mum. She rings my uncle who lives in Southampton. I haven't seen him for 15 years, due to him being a nutcase and/or Hitler. He turns up, says 'Get in' and drives me to the docks without a word. I get out with my stuff and he drives off before I can close the door. I lug my stuff onto the ferry and collapse in a stinky corner. I am copiously sick for most of the crossing due to stress and the heat. Still got my hat on, though.

Ferry arrives at Cherbourg, by which time I have patched up trolley wheel. Ferry terminal is miles from train station. I walk. I just make the train, but not before putting a dent in my stereo in the rush. Train to Toulouse goes via Paris, so I have to change. Change stations. Arses. After some disorientation I get on the Metro to the Gare Austerlitz. I look and smell like a corpse, especially as I notice there is sick on my hat. People start to avoid me - except for one half-dressed freak who starts to hassle me for money. He doesn't have any teeth. The carriage is packed so I tell him to piss off. He just stares at me. The carriage starts to empty over a series of stops. The guy is still staring at me with his hand out. I get worried - it's two stops till I have to get off. He gives up, and gets off with one stop to go. I'm so relieved I take my hat off.

I get to Gare Austerlitz and I've missed the Toulouse train. ARSES. It's 5 hours till the next one. I collapse in a corner. The gendarmes eye me suspiciously. Also eyeing me suspiciously is a very well-dressed man. He comes over and asks me if I'm ok - I tell him I'm just tired. He twigs I'm British and gives me a funny look, then he asks me to go for a coffee. I (stupidly) accept. It turns out he's an automatic door salesman from Versailles. He wants me to go and live with him. I tell him I'm going home but he won't have it. He becomes faintly aggressive and goes on about how lonely he is. He keeps staring oddly at my luggage, and tells me I 'must go' with him. I stand up to get away; he stands up too. I tell him I have to go to the toilet (with my luggage). His face lights up. I shit myself.

I get to the toilet as quickly as I can without running. Shit - he's following me. I get through the door, lock myself inside a cubicle and brace the door with my feet and luggage. I stay there for 3 hours. Periodically, someone pushes silently against the door. I get worried that I'll miss the train, so I have to come out. He's gone. I get the train.

I get out at Toulouse. While I'm waiting, I see my parents go past, slowly, in the car. They see me but it doesn't register. I look like an exhumed Edward Scissorhands with a hat on. They come past again - I see my mum mouth "is that him?" through the car window. I've been travelling for 28 hours and I can only just manage to say hello.

On the way back to Britain, I get the plane. At no point do I shit myself.

length etc.
(, Tue 12 Sep 2006, 10:12, Reply)

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