Tag Archives: creative nonfiction

My Super Strange Slovakian Night

my super strange slovakian night

What do I know about Slovakia? Not a damn thing.

For someone as geographically oriented as me (at least compared to everyone I know), I couldn’t tell you where Slovakia was on a map. Somewhere in Eastern Europe, surely. Apparently, it borders Hungary to the north; sort of on the way to Lviv, Ukraine, my next target destination. Google Maps indicated the best way to get to Lviv from Budapest would be via Flixbus to Košice, Slovakia, then another bus to Uzhhorod, Ukraine and finally a train to Lviv in the north. A 24 hour+ journey that I didn’t mentally prepare myself for.

I said my goodbyes to my hostel mates in Budapest and taxi’d it to the bus station. I took a taxi over the cheaper public transportation because I had plenty of Hungarian Forints left to splurge a bit. The Flixbus arrived at 5pm, right on the dot. This was by far the most comfortable bus I have ever been on; brand new, clean, wi-fi enabled, and only three passengers on the entire thing! I was able to sprawl and stretch my legs to my hearts content! About four hours later, we arrived at the Košice Bus Terminal.

Now, this is the part where my one overly cautious mistake led to a very strange night.

Google Maps suggested I prebook the 11:15pm bus to the Ukraine but I instead opted to prebook the 5am next-day departure. Why? Because I didn’t want to risk missing the 11:15pm bus if my initial bus from Budapest was late for some reason. (I still had Nepali time on my mind where everything was always hours late). I figured I can just chill and maybe sleep in the bus station. It couldn’t possibly be any worse than that one time I spent the night in that ridiculously awful bus station in Dallas, Texas.

Well I was wrong. Just like the Dallas Greyhound Bus Station (which I highly advise no one to ever take…trust me), the weirdos were roaming around, but this time they didn’t speak any English.

my super strange slovakian night adventure born

It was raining outside and I had to pee. For some reason, the restrooms in the bus station were locked and there was no one around to unlock them. Where do they expect people to use the toilet? No problem. Fortunately for us dudes, we have the privilege of finding a tree or bush outside to use. Only I had to take my giant stuffed bags with me because there was no way I was trusting anyone here with my belongings. As soon as I stepped foot outside, two ragtag adolescent boys ran up to me holding out their hands and saying something I couldn’t understand, in Slovakian presumedly.

“I’m sorry.” I said, with the sternest of faces.

They realized I spoke English and wasn’t from these parts.

“Me. Money.” said one of the scraggly boys.

I shook my head and and walked right back inside the bus terminal. Those boys looked about eleven or twelve and had splotches of dirt on their faces. I noticed they were only two of a larger group of boys with an older “ring leader” lurking about just outside the bus terminal.

There was an alternate rear exit that I took instead but another boy ran up to me and begged me money. I went back inside.

Damn, I really gotta pee but I keep getting ambushed by these little hoodlums!
I usually feel relatively safe while traveling in unknown parts and I’m confident I can handle my own if necessary, but I always feel the most vulnerable when I am walking around with my two heavy bags. My 85 liter bag on my back and a standard backpack on my front, both stuffed to the max. They’re so hefty that someone could push me and I would easily topple down, completely helpless.

I noticed there was a train station about 200 feet behind the bus station. It was filled with more people. There has to be a toilet there. But I waited it out, for the street kids to wander off. After a few minutes, I made my way to the train station, in the pouring rain. Inside, I found a toilet but learned that you needed to pay Euro coins to use it. One, I don’t have any Euros on me and two, I despise having to pay to use a toilet. With that, plan of action was to find somewhere secluded outside. On the way, I was pestered by a homeless man, asking for money in Slovakian. I played the “I don’t understand” card and went off. I found a little shack where I was able to pee, freakin’ finally! I went back to the bus station to find a spot where I could chill until 5am. I couldn’t believe the amount of drunks/bums/sketchy mofos creeping about.

Around 11:30pm, I looked up from playing on my phone and saw that the whole terminal was empty; just me and a drunk sitting on the other side of the room, who was struggling to keep his head up when dozing off.

The lights shut off and the security guard inside motioned that we had to leave. Alright, not a big deal. I’ll just go sit at the train station.

There wasn’t really anywhere I found that was comfortable to chill in the train station. Most of the seats were occupied by homeless people. I did sit next to them for a while, but they were speaking to themselves, yelling at each other, and staring me down. I got up and just stood around far away from them. There was this one guy, who appeared to be “normal” and looked around my age who was walking around the station doing laps. I paid him no attention.

I went downstairs and saw that the final train left, and the building was empty; except for all the homeless people roaming around aimlessly as if they were zombies. I made sure not to make any eye contact. I sat on a set of stairs trying to figure out what to do. It’s only midnight. My bus leaves at 5am. It’s raining bullets outside. That “normal” guy who was doing laps earlier came to the stairs and sat behind me. Still, I paid him no attention.

Security came to us, pointed at his watch, and pointed towards the door. He was locking up the station and all of us, including the zombies drunk bums had to leave the building. Shit, where do I go now?

I sat outside on small ledge, away from all of the drunks, underneath a small awning as shelter from the rain, but I knew it was only a matter of time until they would make their way over. I gotta think of something quick! The “normal” guy who seemed to be casually following me for the past 20 minutes sat down right next to me. This time I felt like I had to say something.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello,” he relayed and then said something to me in Slovakian that I couldn’t understand.

“I’m sorry. Do you speak English?”

He did in fact and what a relief. It turns out, he missed his scheduled train and he too had to wait until 5am for the next one to come. We were in the same predicament. Sitting outside in the shivery, rainy dark.

“My name is Peter,” he said as he shook my hand.

I introduced myself and as I did, three scruffy drunk scraggly men, who reeked of cigarette smoke came up to us. My spidey sense was tingling. This was not good.

They started speaking in Slovakian and Peter responded in the calmest, yet friendliest demeanor. They said something to me but Peter informed them that I don’t understand and that I am from America.

Their eyes widened when they heard that I was American. Not good. Not good. It’s a stereotype that being American equates with being filthy rich which is so far from the truth, at least in my case.

They weren’t aggressive but they weren’t exactly exuding any warmth either. They would speak to me semi-slurred in their native tongue and Peter would translate, as I sat there going over the series of events that put me in this situation. I was supposed to be in Tajikistan right now, not Slovakia.

“He wants to know if you’re from Kenya, because you look like a runner,” said Peter, who seemed embarrassed to even tell me that.

I laughed. “No, I’m from the USA.” I thought we already established that?

“He wants to know if you can run fast?” said Peter.

“Yes, I can run very fast.” Which was a stone cold lie. I only said that just in case they did try to mug me and run off, I wanted them to think I could easily chase them down.

I was playing off of Peter’s body language. He didn’t want them there as much as I did.

“They are asking if you have any money.” he said.

I shook my head. “No.”

The man asking all of these questions, his name was Roman. He seemed like the leader of the drunks and constantly scolded or bickered at the others, who listened like his puppets. He was shaved to a buzz cut, tall, and smelt like an abandoned basement filled with dust and old junk no has touched for years. Yes, he was that close enough to me that I could smell his stench.

A wrinkly, elderly woman who reeked of tobacco then sat next to me and tried to give me a cigarette. I politely declined, much to her persistence that I must have one. I sat there looking out into the rain, surrounded by all of these creeps. I have four hours until my bus arrives.

I’m not sitting out here with these guys any longer.

I suddenly stood up and told Peter that I was going to find a hotel for a couple hours. He wasn’t comfortable around all of the increasing number of drunks around us either and decided to join me. We walked off into the rain, while periodically checking if anyone of them was following us. None of them were. Thank God. If there is one thing that always makes me nervous, it’s drunk strangers.

Peter and I checked several different hotels. Only one of them had a room available, but it was expensive. A whopping 115 euros for four hours worth of sleep. So then Peter suggested that we go to a pizza place he knew of nearby that stayed open until 4am. We could eat pizza and relax there. Sounds like a plan!

my super strange slovakian night adventure born

 

As we walked to the pizza place, Peter apologized regarding my first impression of his country. I told him no need to apologize. I’m sure Slovakia is a great country regardless of this. I ordered a chicken pizza and finished the entire thing. We still had a couple hours to kill so we sat there and played with cards that I had in my bag. Next thing you know, Roman pops in, along with his band of bums. He sees us and sits down at our table. The others sit at the table directly behind us. How in the world did they find us?

He says something to me and Peter translates. “He wants to know if you can buy him a small beer.” If a beer will keep him from trying anything funny then sure. I said yes and he gave me a dirty handshake. He ordered a beer from the waitress and she proceeded to bring out a tall draft. I swore he said a small one. I went to pay for it with a few Euros I got from the ATM just before. She gave me just a few Euros in change back. I sat down back at the table and I handed Roman the spare change. He shook my hand again, barely let go, and said some more stuff in Slovakian.

“He said this is a very good day for him” said Peter. “He never expected to meet an American from Kenya and he thanks you for your kindness.” I’m not from Kenya but whatever.

I expected Roman to pocket the change and save it for later but instead he went to the front counter and came back with a box of Marlboro Gold’s. I never usually give money to homeless people on the street. I always feel guilty about it, but this was just a reminder as to why I won’t give money to beggars. They buy really unnecessary things with it.

If someone told me that I would be drinking beer in a pizza bar at 3:30am with a bunch of Slovakian street bums and also a good-natured college student, I would actually believe them. How it came to be though, would be baffling.

my super strange slovakian night adventure born

In spite of that, it seemed things were under control. Peter and I would just have to wait it out, keep the drunks level, and then make our way to our 5am transportation. I’ve been fighting the urge to sleep since 1am. That in itself was a struggle.

my super strange slovakian night

After another hour of painfully trying to keep Roman and his gang in good spirits, 4am hit and I thought the train and bus stations had to be open by now, so Peter and I left the drunks to the bar as we quickly, yet stealthily made our way back out into the wet, empty streets of Košice. Just like I assumed, both stations were open and it was safe to wait inside again. I said my goodbyes and also my thank you’s to Peter. Without him, I’m not sure how I would have managed on my own. Could have been a completely different ending to this story. If you’re reading this, thanks for your company, Peter!

The little street kids were still there and bombarded me! I expected them to be long gone by now but no, here they were, as if they were waiting for me to come back. This time, I rushed through them and straight to my bus terminal marker, where other passengers were waiting. Those kids disappeared into the Slovakian streets. Why do bus stations always have to be in the sketchiest places?

I boarded my bus that arrived promptly at 5am, along with dozens of other passengers. I sat in the middle of the bus, without realizing we were assigned seats. The non English speaking bus driver motioned for me to sit in the back. Fine. I can finally relax and sleep.

But.

As it turns out though, my super strange night in Slovakia was just the appetizer—a small taste of what Ukraine was about to lay on me.

It would be about five hours until we crossed that border…

…five hours until one of my most stressful and surreal travel experiences ever!

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Road Trippin' New Zealand's North Island…In The Winter?


My trip to New Zealand will be different compared to my usual gallivants across the countries. For one, I’m driving all over the country on the wrong left side of the road for two weeks. Two, it’s the middle of freakin’ winter. And third, but most importantly, I’m traveling with three friends from home who are relative newbies to the whole traveling thing.

Enter Chelsey, Ryan, and Mike–three of my American friends who were brave enough to join me on one of my trips to wherever in the world. This is the furthest away and longest they have ever been from the States, so the trust they have in me to guide us on a trip of this size is truly endearing but I’m confident things will go well. I also usually don’t plan my solo trips much, but when traveling with people you know from home, planning is crucial so everyone remains on the same page. Our plan as a group is to road trip through the North Island of New Zealand. It won’t be as cold as the South Island and two weeks is too short to visit both islands, so we decided to stick to the north. I’ll have to come back to the south island another time, during the warmer months.

New Zealand is split into two islands: the North and the South
New Zealand is split into two islands: the North and the South
We decided that two weeks should be adequate enough to only explore the north island as opposed to both.
We decided that two weeks should be adequate enough to only explore the north island as opposed to both.
Since I am in Hawaii, the flight to Auckland won’t be nearly as long as the others. They’re flying from Michigan, which is way on the eastern side of the mainland U.S. They will arrive a day before me, prior to my flight arriving later in the evening.

Enter New Zealand

Some call it the adventure capital of the world and I’ll have the opportunity to judge that for myself, though I have no doubts. New Zealand is known across the world for its breathtaking beauty every which way you turn. The inspiration behind The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, New Zealand envokes a magic unlike any other country I have been to thus far. The people there have the distinction of being referred to as a ‘kiwi’ based on the flightless, long-beaked kiwi bird native to the two islands. The majority of the nations population live in the capital of Auckland in the north, our start and end point for this two-week long road fest.

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events was indeed extraordinary in every sense of the word, but I was ready to begin the next phase of my quest. My flight from Honolulu to Sydney and finally to Auckland was simple. I landed during the dark hours and darted immediately to pick up the rental car I reserved months ago. Driving on the left side of the road was something I always wanted to try but was apprehensive to do so. It’s completely opposite of everything I’ve learned from driving in the States and I would for sure hit another car or forget that I’m not supposed to be on the right side of the road whenever I make a turn. But so I drove, but made sure to get full coverage insurance on it prior, you know for the inevitable. And yes, driving on the left side is uncomfortably strange at first and will take some getting used to. 

I cautiously drove to Borders Beyond, a backpackers hostel in the middle of Auckland to join my friends. When I arrived, they were already dead asleep in our six-person dorm. They have to be super jet-lagged! I didn’t want to disturb them, so I chatted a bit with the backpackers who were still awake in the lounging area before I eventually went to bed.

The four of us reacquainted the next morning with no plan as to where we would go first. Chelsey suggested we start in the north in a place called The Bay of Islands that she’s been researching and to start from there. Just the name alone, The Bay of Islands, sounded great and so we went! Specifically to a sound place called Paihia.

I’ve heard about the scenery in New Zealand being amazing but to actually experience it first hand is a whole other entity. Everywhere we drove was like driving through a dream world you only see in the movies. Some of the greenest pastures and linear hills of land I ever did see existed here. Cows and sheep galore passed by the hundreds and the sun shone majestically through the scapes of leveling earth. The roads were so smooth it felt like our car was gliding at times. Our drive to Pahia was as viewtiful as could be, but a ridiculously constricted, topsy-turvy hell to maneuever in.


Poor Mike and Chelsey were getting car sick as I would have been if I too were just a passenger. Part of it was my inexperience driving on twisty and narrow roads like these, not to mention driving on the left side of the road. But eventually, after just a few hours we made it to Paihia and the Bay of Islands.


The Bay of Islands

We settled into Saltwater Lodge, an empty backpacker joint we found for cheap. Empty because it was winter and no one was around which also meant costs were cheaper compared to the busier summer seasons. But although it was winter, the weather wasn’t the winter I’m used to. There was no snow in sight and the sky was of a summer blue. It actually felt more like a mid autumn or early spring. Perfectly doable for our road trip through the North.

Now that we were in Paihia, we had to figure out what we would do next. The lodges office had dozens upon dozens of brochures of different activities to partake in, but the one that caught our eye the most was the deep sea scuba diving adventure that took place in the bay. Not only a deep sea dive but a dive through a shipwreck…

I could not pass this up!

Road Trippin’ New Zealand’s North Island…In The Winter?


My trip to New Zealand will be different compared to my usual gallivants across the countries. For one, I’m driving all over the country on the wrong left side of the road for two weeks. Two, it’s the middle of freakin’ winter. And third, but most importantly, I’m traveling with three friends from home who are relative newbies to the whole traveling thing.

Enter Chelsey, Ryan, and Mike–three of my American friends who were brave enough to join me on one of my trips to wherever in the world. This is the furthest away and longest they have ever been from the States, so the trust they have in me to guide us on a trip of this size is truly endearing but I’m confident things will go well. I also usually don’t plan my solo trips much, but when traveling with people you know from home, planning is crucial so everyone remains on the same page. Our plan as a group is to road trip through the North Island of New Zealand. It won’t be as cold as the South Island and two weeks is too short to visit both islands, so we decided to stick to the north. I’ll have to come back to the south island another time, during the warmer months.

New Zealand is split into two islands: the North and the South
New Zealand is split into two islands: the North and the South
We decided that two weeks should be adequate enough to only explore the north island as opposed to both.
We decided that two weeks should be adequate enough to only explore the north island as opposed to both.
Since I am in Hawaii, the flight to Auckland won’t be nearly as long as the others. They’re flying from Michigan, which is way on the eastern side of the mainland U.S. They will arrive a day before me, prior to my flight arriving later in the evening.

Enter New Zealand

Some call it the adventure capital of the world and I’ll have the opportunity to judge that for myself, though I have no doubts. New Zealand is known across the world for its breathtaking beauty every which way you turn. The inspiration behind The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, New Zealand envokes a magic unlike any other country I have been to thus far. The people there have the distinction of being referred to as a ‘kiwi’ based on the flightless, long-beaked kiwi bird native to the two islands. The majority of the nations population live in the capital of Auckland in the north, our start and end point for this two-week long road fest.

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events was indeed extraordinary in every sense of the word, but I was ready to begin the next phase of my quest. My flight from Honolulu to Sydney and finally to Auckland was simple. I landed during the dark hours and darted immediately to pick up the rental car I reserved months ago. Driving on the left side of the road was something I always wanted to try but was apprehensive to do so. It’s completely opposite of everything I’ve learned from driving in the States and I would for sure hit another car or forget that I’m not supposed to be on the right side of the road whenever I make a turn. But so I drove, but made sure to get full coverage insurance on it prior, you know for the inevitable. And yes, driving on the left side is uncomfortably strange at first and will take some getting used to. 

I cautiously drove to Borders Beyond, a backpackers hostel in the middle of Auckland to join my friends. When I arrived, they were already dead asleep in our six-person dorm. They have to be super jet-lagged! I didn’t want to disturb them, so I chatted a bit with the backpackers who were still awake in the lounging area before I eventually went to bed.

The four of us reacquainted the next morning with no plan as to where we would go first. Chelsey suggested we start in the north in a place called The Bay of Islands that she’s been researching and to start from there. Just the name alone, The Bay of Islands, sounded great and so we went! Specifically to a sound place called Paihia.

I’ve heard about the scenery in New Zealand being amazing but to actually experience it first hand is a whole other entity. Everywhere we drove was like driving through a dream world you only see in the movies. Some of the greenest pastures and linear hills of land I ever did see existed here. Cows and sheep galore passed by the hundreds and the sun shone majestically through the scapes of leveling earth. The roads were so smooth it felt like our car was gliding at times. Our drive to Pahia was as viewtiful as could be, but a ridiculously constricted, topsy-turvy hell to maneuever in.


Poor Mike and Chelsey were getting car sick as I would have been if I too were just a passenger. Part of it was my inexperience driving on twisty and narrow roads like these, not to mention driving on the left side of the road. But eventually, after just a few hours we made it to Paihia and the Bay of Islands.


The Bay of Islands

We settled into Saltwater Lodge, an empty backpacker joint we found for cheap. Empty because it was winter and no one was around which also meant costs were cheaper compared to the busier summer seasons. But although it was winter, the weather wasn’t the winter I’m used to. There was no snow in sight and the sky was of a summer blue. It actually felt more like a mid autumn or early spring. Perfectly doable for our road trip through the North.

Now that we were in Paihia, we had to figure out what we would do next. The lodges office had dozens upon dozens of brochures of different activities to partake in, but the one that caught our eye the most was the deep sea scuba diving adventure that took place in the bay. Not only a deep sea dive but a dive through a shipwreck…

I could not pass this up!

The Crouching Lion, Hidden Hike

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

There aren’t any sign posts that point towards it.

You wouldn’t even know the name for it unless you looked it up. The unofficial start of the trail was hidden somewhere near a “Do Not Pass” road post on the eastern coast of Oahu. I’ve read about it and I’ve seen some amazing pictures from the top and I wanted to see it for myself. Crouching Lion is its name and it was my mission to find it.

We have just completed Event #6 (which I’ll talk about in moment) and now we have a full unplanned day to do whatever we wanted in Oahu. I mentioned to the others that there was a special hike I wanted to find that we all should consider doing. They were all down. It’s called Crouching Lion and it earned that name for the “crouching lion” shape the mountain resembles. I didn’t see it. There aren’t any road marks or sign posts for this hike, you just have to find it. But thanks to other bloggers who have found the trail and left a comprehensive guide for others to follow suit, most of the hard work was already done for us. We just had to find a place to park and luckily there was access to a small parking structure on the side of the road to where we needed to be.

Twelve years ago, I came to Oahu. We parked our minivan on the side of the road for a jungle trek and came back a couple hours later to find our van’s windows busted and several of our valuables stolen. I’ve been cautious ever since. This time, I had full coverage on our SUV and no valuables inside, just in case bandits were to try again. At the least, none of our valuables would be taken. We kept them in our day bag for the trek up Crouching Lion, which began just after the “Do Not Pass” sign, just as I have read about prior.

Crouching Lion Oahu
The trail begins just after the “Do Not Pass” sign on the east side of the road.

After finding the sign and entering the trail, we immediately came to a few battered trees to our left which we had to climb over and under to continue.

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

The ascent up itself was steep, but not difficult. It also wasn’t very long. Probably took about 30-40 minutes to get to the trail that lined the top of the mountain. Even so, we were already rewarded with a spectacular view of a large lake that barely reaches the east shore.

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

Once on the mountain top trail, the path splits into a fork: left or right. We chose left as it was the easiest. I’ve read that the other trail leads to some dangerous ventures that I wasn’t ready to risk with a few friends who rarely hike at my side. But the left path still took us to another apex where we could see a part of residential Oahu meet the Pacific.

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

Processed with Snapseed.

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

If you’re keen on doing a hike that only lasts a few hours round trip, but not looking for anything too strenuous, I highly recommend Crouching Lion. Relatively easy to find, requires a low level of physical assertion, and is super rewarding. And if you have any questions about how to find the trail exactly and where to park, just shoot me a message!

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Now let’s backtrack a bit into Event #6…

Now the reason I began talking about Crouching Lion instead of Event #6, which happened the night before Crouching Lion, is purely personal reasoning. Basically, I’m not a fan of leading a post about drinking and drunken antics unless it’s something like a wine tour in a new country, Oktoberfest, or something purely unavoidable that I MUST blog about like a completely unexpected Sunday Funday pool crawl in Nicaragua. I don’t personally like opening a post about a semi-sloppy drunken mess, case in point, like what Event #6 turned into…

Event #6 of 8 – Honolulu Peddle Bar

I typically have control over the turnouts of each of the events, but not this one. It comes with the territory though. Getting hammered on a giant cart powered by 12 bike peddlers comes with just rewards and drunken consequences if one isn’t careful. Regardless of the fact, we all had a great time!

This event was catered specifically for Veronica. After torturing her with physical outdoorsy events, I thought she’d appreciate something a little more up her alley. Thus, a peddle bike bar crawl though Honolulu was born!

Honolulu peddle bike oahu

The idea was intriguing. About twelve ready-to-get-their-drink-on strangers get together and power peddle a large cart to three bars in Honolulu, guided by a man who steered as we all gladly slaved away. We weren’t allowed to have any actual drinks on the cart but were prompted to drink up at each of the bars we stopped at, which came very easy to all five of us.

By the end of the third bar, we were all feeling it. We had a pretty good group on our cart and wanted to keep the action going, so we decided (or actually one of the ladies in our group suggested) we all go to a bar about a kilometer away called Duck Butt. We graciously straggled our way there and suddenly entered Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Duck Butt was a Vietnamese karaoke bar! The staff, the atmosphere, the k-pop music videos on the tv screens, the waitresses who pretended to understand what we were trying to order; I felt like I was back in Ho Chi Minh again!

IMG_2842

We all squeezed into a small room with a couch that wrapped along the walls. We all made cozy, ordered drinks, and sang some songs. Well I didn’t. I was busy wondering what the heck was happening. Veronica became Vanessa who couldn’t read Chinese. Drinks were spilled all over the table, we thought we were eating chicken but it turned out to be goose or something, and lots of talk of the difference between queefs and fanny farts among the Americans and the Australians in our group. Before anyone forgot, I paid for the tab before the waitress told me that someone from our group ordered another round!

“Who the heck ordered more beer??” I thought. We certainly didn’t need anymore, but hey… we were at a place called Duck Butt!

We took a couple of ubers back to our house later that evening and on the way I mentally decided that if I were to ever do another League of Eight Extraordinary Events (which I definitely plan on doing), I won’t make any of the events based on getting drunk, unless it’s something iconic like an Oktoberfest for example. Bottom line, we all enjoyed ourselves and that’s what mattered the most.

On to Event# 7! My favorite event thus far!

Blazing Through The Last Frontier: Denali National Park of Alaska

“We have two events tomorrow,” I began to tell the others. “The first event takes place in the morning.”

Then the questions hit me hard.

“What is it?” “What do we wear?” “Are you gonna prep us?”  “Just give us a hint!”

I was pretty tight-lipped as to what the mysterious eight events were and planned on not revealing any of them until the moment we arrived at the given event.

Veronica and Katelin wondering...What the heck is happening?
Veronica and Katelin wondering…What the heck is happening?

“Just follow my lead,” I would say to them. “I’ll let you know how to dress and what you should bring.” I wouldn’t let any of them go in unprepared. It’s the least I could do. However, for the first event only, I told them what we were doing to curb their anxious minds.

“We’re going white water rafting, bright and early in the morning!” I revealed to them. I wanted to lie and pretend we were doing something else completely different to throw them off, but decided that I’ve been lying to them enough lately already.

Event #1 of 8 – White Water Rafting in Denali National Park Alaska

Alaska has been blowing my mind with its mesmerizing landscape in every direction I looked. The spruce woods and mountainous ranges extend as far as the eye could see. Anything we chose to do here would be complemented with the background scenery. This place is a photographers dream zone. Our white water rafting through the rapids of the Nenana River, from the births of Mount McKinley, was about to be awesome!

We went to a shop just outside of Denali where we were suited up in an outfit to keep us dry in Nenana’s freezing cold waters.

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events

Our guides for this hike were three dudes by the name of Chicago, Peacock, and Derek. All three were non-locals and were up here in Alaska for the summer. As a matter of fact, most of the people who worked in these shops weren’t locals and were only here for summer work. Why? The winters here are the worst thing to ever exist and it was understandably so. Even during the peak summer season, although it didn’t snow, it sure did rain a lot. Actually, more of a drizzle that created an everlasting haze, but it added to the mind-soothing eeriness of it all. It drizzled the morning of our event, but none of us seemed to mind. Especially since the suits we were wearing kept our bodies snug and dry.

The League of Eight Extraordinary Events
Katelin, Veronica, and Chris ready for the first event.

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I’ve been white water rafting several times on previous trips. My first time was in Peru which was amazing. Then again in Thailand and Nepal. Nepal takes the prize as the best water rafting I have ever done, mainly because of the consistency of the high class rapids and the number of times our raft flipped. In order to have the perfect rafting experience, the raft has to flip and throw us off! I planned on asking our guide to make sure our boat f*%ing flips. Go crazy! I had high hopes…until I saw the other people in our raft. They were of the elderly type…the safety first, peaceful, ‘Heavens to Betsy’ elderly type. Still, I remained optimistic.

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The Nenana River flowed a muddy gray through the basin as our raft propelled neatly on top of the motions. We were given brief instruction about proper paddle commands and procedures before we took off. This was going to be about 11 miles of rafting, so my hopes of hitting some major swirls were high!

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Just like most white water rafting trips, the rapids eased us into itself before hitting us with the good stuff. We did get splashed in the face quite a bit, but only our hands and heads got wet. The dry suit we had on worked wonders and thankfully too because the water was really, really cold. Refreshing, but cold.

We hit a few rapids that ferociously rocked our raft. Not fierce enough for anyone to fall out, but enough to get decked with onslaughts of water blasts. I began to think we wouldn’t flip when I noticed our cautious guide avoiding all the higher class rapids, much to the delight of the elderly woman behind me. I had my water camera on me and whenever I stopped paddling to capture the thrills, she would indirectly make it known to me how everyone should be paddling. “Keep paddling! Everyone needs to be paddling!” She would say this everytime I plopped up my camera. She also did this when Katelin tried to do the same thing. “Everyone needs to be paddling!” Talk about a wet blanket.

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We paddled for a couple of hours before our guide decided to let Chris and I jump into the water.


It was crazy how dry I was and the cold didn’t penetrate one bit! I grabbed onto a rope to make sure I didn’t get swept away before being hoisted back into the raft. From there, it was smooth sailing as we approached a bank to get back on foot and the end of event #1.

White water rafting is always fun no matter the conditions. Even though it wasn’t as extreme as I had hoped, it was still mighty enjoyable and a great way to kick off this League of Eight Extraordinary Events!

Event #2 of 8 – Ace ATV through the Alaskan Wilderness

The second event took place on the same day but hours later, at 9:30pm (21:30). One would think it would be dark at this time but not here in Alaska. This time of year in Denali it doesn’t get completely dark until well after 2am (02:00). What better way to explore the wilderness late in the evening than on single rider Ace ATV’s?


Veronica, Chris, and Katelin didn’t know what they were doing until we walked up to the ATV Denali shop when it became obvious. We’re going for a ride!

The best thing about this tour was that it was just the four of us and two guides, no one else! So no waiting on slowpoke tourists or sitting through dumb tourist questions. We had this tour to ourselves. The guides preffered the smaller group too.

We each had our own Ace ATV to explore the Alaskan wilderness as we followed our guides through some pristine spots with excellent views and a story or two. The ride was excellent and way more fun than I anticipated.



It was well past 10pm(22:00) and still light as day outside which was really weird. We could see the sun attempting to set but it was taking forever to do so. Such a beautiful tease.

The second event ended the day on a thrillingly high note. Two extraordinary events down, six more to go!

My clueless friends are unware that things are about to get intense.