3 mins

Funny in hindsight: 7 epic fails by Wanderlust staff on assignment

On Wanderlust assignments, things don’t always go exactly to plan. Here, contributors share some of the most memorable times when it all went wrong...

Gorilla (Shutterstock)

Albanian dog attacks...

On my first assignment for Wanderlust, in Albania, I was determined to go the extra mile – and quite literally did when my group didn’t want to walk to the old outpost at the top of the mountain col. The guide sent me off on my own and I nearly got attacked by a bear-guarding shepherd dog – rescued only by a six-year-old boy holding him back and speaking to me in Albanian. I thought I would never live to tell the tale…

– Phoebe Smith 

Missing the gorillas...

My very first assignment for Wanderlust was to Lopé National Park in Gabon, where I hoped to impress with eloquent descriptions of my lowland gorilla encounters. Things didn’t go well from the start. It rained solidly for a week, and I had so many cuts from razor grass that it looked like I was self-harming. I didn’t see a single gorilla, and returned home only to be hospitalised with malaria for four days. The magazine’s headline, ‘Gorillas that I missed’, said everything.

– Mark Stratton



Food poisoning... in lots of places! 

I still remember fondly the time I had food poisoning on a train across Azerbaijan, as well as the time I had food poisoning after a tepid buffet in Kaliningrad, and the time I had food poisoning on the boat out of Siem Reap. These days, I mainly go camping in Devon – though that’s just because kids and airports are a terrible combination – and I read Wanderlust with envy… and relief. Twenty-five years and still new places to discover, and new places to avoid salad.

– Matt Rudd

Getting banned from Azerbaijan...

It wasn’t just the wildlife trips that backfired. An assignment to Armenia for Wanderlust back in 2011 led to me being banned from a country for the first time in my life. But it wasn’t Armenia who banned me. I’d written a very evenhanded story about a disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh. Sadly, the Azeris took exception to the story and I was duly labelled an ‘undesirable element’. I still hope to make it to Azerbaijan one day!

– Mark Stratton 

Lyn's epic fails...


Editor-in-chief Lyn Hughes lists her greatest mishaps during 25 years at the helm...



Kyrgyzstan clothing calamity

I had no time to pack for my trip to Kyrgyzstan but saw online that Bishkek was swelteringly hot, so bought a bunch of T-shirts at the airport. Heading above the snowline, I realised this to be a mistake, and also that I’d lost my only long-sleeved shirt. The solution? Urgently grab the guide’s fleece and do lots of star-jumps.

Safari setback

On a visit to Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, I jumped out of the 4WD to photograph an elephant. The only problem was that the vehicle hadn’t stopped. Result: torn rotator.


Sausage su­ffering

Wandering around with a wild boar sausage in my pocket in Macedonia (don’t ask!), I attracted a large dog that bit my hand. Cue a saga of infected wounds and rabies treatments.

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