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2016 Travel Hall of Infamy Awards

Illustrations by Lisa Xu for the Globe and Mail

Dim-witted travellers apparently just can't stay off the road – as our 32nd-annual Travel Hall of Infamy Awards prove. From spoiled hitchhikers to crocodile body-slammers, John Lee anoints this year's badly behaved globetrotters with their just rewards

The Boom Box Bust-up Award

… goes to the two women on a Spirit Airlines flight to Los Angeles who selflessly shared their deep love of music with fellow travellers by maxing the volume on their speakers for all to enjoy. Responding to murmurs of dissent by swinging their old-school stereo over their heads, our reportedly inebriated musos continued the show until touchdown, when three fellow female passengers came over for a little chat. It's not known if Can't Fight This Feeling was playing as punches and slurred profanities were hurled around in what police later told the Washington Post was a "mutual combat situation."

The Entitled Hitchhiker Award

… goes to the 27-year-old French visitor to New Zealand who, after exhausting the charms of Punakaiki village (population: 70), tried thumbing a lift southwards. After four fruitless days on the side of the road, the frustrated non-hitcher began abusing passing motorists, throwing road signs around and stoning the nearby Welcome to Punakaiki sign. "It was an absolute hissy fit," local Neil Mouat told the Guardian. "He was lying on the road screaming that New Zealanders were assholes and he couldn't wait to get back to Europe." That hoped-for homeward departure was slightly delayed, though, by police charges and a temporary passport confiscation.

The What's That in Your Pants Award

… goes to Koufiah Jihad Zaki who was trying to board a flight in Jakarta when security screeners noticed some untoward movement around his suspiciously bulging legs. According to a report in the Malaysian Star, an eagle-eyed officer had spotted some "wriggling" in Zaki's pants department, prompting him to be pulled over to explain the situation. The ensuing chat revealed the presence of 10 live baby snakes held in cloth bags around Zaki's calves. The plane later departed – without its serpent-smuggling frequent flier – and passengers were left blissfully unaware of what could have been quite the inflight-entertainment program.

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The Tasty Backpacker Award

… goes to Danish traveller Johnny Bonde who lost his footing on the banks above a Western Australia lake while snapping photos of a large crocodile below. Careening through the mud at full tilt, the out-of-control nature nut zipped toward the croc's slowly opening mouth, before tripping and landing right on top of it. Not used to being treated like a chaise longue, the multitoothed critter sank his choppers into Bonde's appetizing arm. While later being treated in hospital for deep cuts, Bonde told the region's Sunday Times: "I pretty much body-slammed him. If somebody body-slammed me at night, I would be angry too."

The Xenophobe of the Year Award

… goes to the conductor on an airport-bound Japanese train who apologized to local travellers for the crowded service, blaming it on the fact there were "too many foreign passengers on board today." After complaints and a reprimand from bosses, the foot-in-mouth-favouring guard said he was just mirroring what another passenger had said about "nuisance" foreigners. Reported in the Guardian, the paper also noted that a restaurant in Osaka had recently been accused of slathering a sushi order for Korean visitors with eye-watering amounts of wasabi, adding to increasing online tales around the country of "wasabi terrorism" against foreign tourists.

The 'No, It's Just Really Cold' Award

… goes to the Manchester, England, visitor who sleepwalked from his hotel room, left the building and then wandered around the chilly streets in the middle of the night – while completely naked. After he drowsily tried to hail a taxi, police officers gingerly approached the starkers stroller and quickly determined he was a genuine somnambulist rather than an exhibitionist with a clever alibi. After constables offered their jackets to preserve his temperature-diminished dignity, the now-wide-awake man laughed off the incident and requested a photo with his rescuers.

The Self-free Selfie Award

… goes to Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod who proudly posted photos showing them to be the first Indian couple to ascend Everest. Or at least they would have been if the images were real. Red flags were raised when an actual Everest conqueror noticed the pics were uncannily similar to his own hard-won shots, complete with clumsy digital alterations. Nepalese tourism bigwig Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal later told Agence France-Presse, "We have imposed a 10-year ban against them from climbing any mountain in Nepal." The Rathods refused to comment on their jolly jape – but keep your eyes peeled for images of them on the moon, the deck of the Titanic and alongside Donald Trump at his swearing-in.

The Perks of the Job Award

… goes to entrepreneurial U.S. flight attendant Rachel Trevor who allegedly decided to supplement her meagre Endeavor Air salary with an unofficial sideline: selling mini-bottles of booze online. The reported source of her sauce? The carts she wheeled along the aisles during her regular day job. Caught red-handed after undercover agents bought some bargain booze from her on Craigslist, Trevor's indictment alleged that the naughty tipple-peddler had swiped more than 1,500 bottles from the airline. The hangover? A potential $10,000 (U.S.) fine and up to five years in prison.

The Culturally Insensitive Strip-off Award

… goes to the three bikini-clad tourists who decided to cool off in summertime Rome by sliding into the monumental 400-year-old Fontana dell'Acqua Paola fountain. Hungry for a storm of retweets, social-media magazine Trastevere thundered that local monuments "deserve more respect" – while also posting several near-naked images of the frolicking threesome. In an equally photo-forward Daily Mail story, locals were quoted speculating that the women were likely "rude" Brits or Germans while another supported them for "giving meaning to ancient remains that are generally ignored."

The City Slicker of the Year Award

… goes to the clueless Yellowstone National Park visitor who may have watched one too many Yogi Bear cartoons as a kid. Evidently believing she was in cute-and-cuddly Jellystone, the misguided nature lover was filmed standing alongside a sitting bison, petting its huge head as if it were her new BFF. The patient ungulate abruptly raised its hulking noggin a couple of times as the brain-free petter whispered sweet nothings in its ear, evidently unaware of the park's handy website primer on bison behaviour: They can run three times faster than humans, sometimes gore those they don't like and have been known to kill visitors in the past.

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The Bulging Crotch Award

… goes to the passenger flying into Madrid from Costa Rica who raised the eyebrows of airport-security staff with his large, lumpy-looking loinal area. Rather than simply being excited about visiting Spain, a delicate examination of the evidence revealed – under two pairs of shorts – a plastic container firmly affixed to the long-haul flier's long-suffering genitals. Filled with half-a-kilo of cocaine, Spanish police couldn't resist tweeting a photo of Mr. Big's unusual excess baggage, alongside the inevitable message, "A suspicious package between his legs."

The Just Say Sausages Award

… goes to Manchester Airport's sniffer dogs who are evidently much smarter than humans when it comes to choosing their vices. A six-month performance study revealed the nose-forward mutts had failed to identify any passengers smuggling class-A drugs – although one of the greedy tail-waggers was particularly adept at zeroing in on cheese and sausages. The drooling dogs also sniffed out 181 kilograms of illegal meat – along with 46,000 cigarettes, suggesting that canine peccadillos are evolving far beyond standard edible treats. Planning to slip a side of bacon into your undies on your next trip? This is clearly the airport to avoid.

The Mr. Tact Award

… goes to Korean Air chairman and CEO Cho Yang-ho, who decided to share his observations on flying jetliners via his very public Facebook page. "Flying is done by autopilot, which is easier than driving a car. Only in case of an emergency do we need pilots," he asserted. Rather than "liking" the colourful post, the airline's pilot union reacted with a lawsuit alleging defamation. There's more to this matter than simple slurs, though: According to the Daily Telegraph story on the incident, the airline had previously sued the union after pilots allegedly affixed stickers to their bags asserting, "Company is in red. Only chairman is in black."

The 'It's All About Me' Award

… goes to Instagramming graffiti artist Casey Nocket who really loved visiting U.S. national parks – but only if she could leave her mark for posterity. Applying her graceless daubings on ancient rocks and cliff faces around the country, she drew the online ire of true wilderness fans by noting in one of her posts that she'd used acrylic paint, a notoriously difficult substance to remove. As more images of her vandalizing "artworks" emerged, a social-media backlash unfurled and National Park Service investigators stepped in. The result? Two-hundred hours of community service and a lifetime ban from every single national park in the United States.

The 'Why Is It So Hot?' Award

… goes to the hundreds of tourists in Indonesia's Mount Rinjani National Park who reacted to the volcanic eruption of Mount Barujari – and an urgent evacuation order from the country's Disaster Mitigation Agency – by sticking around to snap as many of those all-important photos as possible. Despite the imposition of a three-kilometre exclusion zone, the half-baked visitors obviously knew better. "Some tourists did not want to leave," local official Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told Agence France-Presse. "They wanted to record the eruption and in some cases they hid from officials." A modern-day Pompeii – complete with ash-frozen camera-clutchers – was averted when the evacuation was finally completed, several hours later than expected.

The Pie (Not) in the Sky Award

… goes to esurient Brit Norman Pearson who packed a pork-pie snack from a local pub into his carry-on bag before heading off to the airport to catch a plane to Spain. All hell broke loose when he tried to pass through security, though: The generously proportioned juice levels inside the meaty pastry showed up as an excess of liquid on airport scanners. Eventually diffusing the serious pie-based security scare, Pearson's savoury snack was cleared for takeoff. His brother Roy told the Guardian, "It must have been a very juicy pie [but] I'm not sure if it lasted until he got on the flight. Norman has always been fond of pies."

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The Not All That Glitters Award

… goes to the 15-year-old teenager who was apparently so excited about ziplining over the heads of everyone strolling along Fremont Street in Sin City that he lost control of his bladder – "drenching" the people below in pee, according to the local Fox News affiliate station. "[It was] just showering [us] from head to toe – our back and top of the head dripping down," a tourist told the station. No word on whether this impressively prodigious precipitation was a misguided prank or if local venues are now booking a new act: Mr. Waterfall – the Weeing Wunderkind.

The Everything to Declare Award

… goes to the stand-up guy who was attempting to pass through security at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. According to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, the unnamed male was arrested after a loaded handgun was found in his carry-on bag. But that was just a diversion, since X-ray perusal of his second carry-on revealed he was also packing a small (live) dog without any attempt to declare it. Keeping schtum was obviously the man's modus operandi since a search of his pockets also led investigators to a knife. A stash of money secreted about his person might also have been handy: Officials said the wannabe flier faced a possible $12,000 (U.S.) fine.

The Smashing Selfie Award

… goes to the 24-year-old Lisbon visitor who aimed to best all those other brainless look-at-me images cluttering social media by snapping a shot with a statue of an old dude: namely, the figure of Portuguese ruler Dom Sebastiao that had graced the exterior of the city's Rossio train station for 126 years. Alas, the only snapping heard as our intrepid photographer climbed up and steadied himself against the statue was the sound it made as it toppled to the ground and shattered. No word on whether the figure was pushed or whether it simply jumped to avoid appearing in yet another vapid Instagram post.

The Plane Stupid Award

… goes to the panicking Ryanair passenger at Madrid's main airport who, running late for his flight, reacted the way anyone would: He broke through a fire exit, jumped from an air bridge and galloped across the tarmac toward what he thought was his about-to-depart plane. Stopped by startled ground staff and informed he was chasing the wrong airliner, he was told to wait for police but instead legged it, managing to board the Gran Canaria-bound plane he had been aiming for all along. The determined vacationer made it to the island – only to be met by waiting police officers who wanted a word or three.

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