I’m pretty sure the average person does a good job of not falling in holes when they’re at home. So you’d think then that this wouldn’t be a legitimate problem for the average traveler. Unfortunately, depending on where you are, it can be. To show you what I mean, here are two cautionary tales about friends of mine who have quite literally taken the plunge, which I sincerely hope will help you avoid falling to the same fate. Both stories come from friends visiting Africa for the first time, although I’m sure their lessons are widely applicable elsewhere.

Uganda: “If you can’t see it, don’t trust it:

We hadn’t even been in Kampala 12 hours when my friend Adam managed to fall waist deep in a hole. I’m pretty sure that’s a record. It was his first time in Africa and our accommodation was outside the city. After dumping our bags, we recruited a local to take us around town. First stop: a good restaurant for dinner. By this time it was already quite dark out and our tour guide took us to an open air spot on one of the main streets. He parked the car on the side of the road, we got out and went in. At some point before we got our meals, Adam decided he wanted his jacket from the car, so our driver gave him the keys and he left. Now, here’s the thing about Kampala: a main street does not necessarily mean a well lit street. Sometimes in place of a sidewalk or stretch of road there are deep, intermittently covered sewerage ditches. Ten minutes later Adam came back limping with sewage up to his knee, in significant pain, and exclaimed:

“Guys, I just fell in a f***ing hole. I went for the door, and scissored the ditch up to my hip. I didn’t see it at all. It seriously hurts.”

Our driver had pulled up right beside a ditch, which in the dark was virtually invisible. Of course, between our fits of laughter at Adam’s misfortune, we probably should have been more appreciative about how lucky we were that we didn’t all get out of the car and immediately fall.

Nigeria: “Even if you can see it, don’t trust it”:

Jill, on the other hand, had had quite a significant amount of experience traveling through the developing world before she fell in a hole in Lagos, Nigeria. If you’ve never been, there are a lot of people in Nigeria. A lot!  And when you’re there it feels like everyone lives in Lagos. That means that pretty much everything, and I mean everything, happens slowly. Even something as simple as walking down the street can be excruciatingly laborious when you’re crammed on the sidewalk with hundreds of other people. It requires a certain patience that only comes from accepting that things are the way they are.

Of course, not one to get stuck behind slow walkers, Jill decided to leap across a ditch to perfectly good walking space that no one was using. Except that it wasn’t. Perhaps the fact that none of the locals had chosen to walk this particular path should have been her first clue, but never one to follow the herd, Jill decided to forge her own path. Unfortunately, that path turned out to be a hole filled with garbage and sewage so thick it looked solid. Other than a bruised ego and the loss of a good pair of Birkenstocks (oh, and being covered in sewage), the fall didn’t cost her much. The complete shock of the ENTIRE crowd of locals witnessing a white girl jump with full conviction into garbage on the other hand, was priceless.

While I’d like to have shared these cautionary stories to provide some form of lesson, perhaps about the state of sanitation and waste disposal in parts of the developing world, in the end, it just seemed worthwhile cementing these tales in our collective online memory. It’s also fun to have an opportunity to remind Adam and Jill that their stories are not easily forgotten. That said, I sincerely hope that in having read this, you will all be able to avoid a similar, embarrassing, fate.

Photo Courtesy of Elma Els Botha and TIA MYSOA