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March 7, 2012

"My safety whistle: Worth its weight in gold" — Jodi Ettenberg


Wrote the intrepid traveler on LegalNomads.com:

In Australia, I settled upon a Tatonka backpack that came with a... bonus safety whistle on the chest strap. While not a factor in my purchase, that whistle proved invaluable in the coming months. Here's how:

Middle of the Ayeyarwady, Burma

When our boat died in the middle of the Ayeyarwady River, sputtering its last, diesel-fueled breath somewhere between Sinbo and Bhamo, we were (so to speak) up a creek without a paddle.

For hours, we drifted in inky silence without a clue about what to do next, the captain sitting and glaring at the motor in disgust. I heard the motor of a boat in the distance and warned everyone to cover their ears. Inhaling deeply, I sounded the whistle like there was no tomorrow.

It worked — the boat came toward us; the two captains conversed, we were towed to shore. Another boat picked us up and took us to Bhamo itself, where we checked into the one hotel licensed to house foreigners and fell into a deep sleep.

Climbing Mount Zwegabin, Burma's Mon State

In my post about climbing Mount Zwegabin, I mentioned that I was chased by a pack of wild monkeys. After a wrestling match over my rolled up blanket... I frantically ran up... stairs before realizing that resistance was futile. A short person with short legs cannot outrun a pack of monkeys up innumerable crumbling stairs on a Burmese mountain.

Gasping for breath and watching several of the bolder monkeys creep toward me, teeth bared, my eye caught the bright orange whistle of my safety whistle. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I inhaled deeply and pushed out the air as hard as I could, scaring those monkeys with a sound they’d likely never heard before. I kept moving as quickly as possible, looking behind me in a bit of a panic. But the monkeys had all disappeared.

Train to Chiang Mai, Thailand

I opted to take a night train to Chiang Mai, thinking it would be a new experience from my customary overnight bus ride. What I didn't think was that I would get stuck in the bathroom in the middle of the night, with nothing but my daypack to keep me company. After a good amount of time dedicated to tugging on the door, banging on the door, and sitting and staring at the door, I realized that my safety whistle could make far more of a ruckus. Sure enough, it did. Within no time, someone came to open the door, already unlocked but completely wedged on the wrong sliding track.

Summing up

What's the lesson in all this? You can agonize about what to pack and what gear to bring, but don't forget to add one tiny but powerful whistle to your list. Worth its weight in gold.

March 7, 2012 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


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I have one on me right now. Mine is orange. I might try another Fox 40 model someday ... one that claims to require less effort.

Posted by: Bubbub | Mar 8, 2012 1:24:31 PM

I can attest to the great power of this little whistle. Although I've only used it to get the immediate attention of my progeny at distance, it is loud and everyone in the general vicinity will notice.

Posted by: tm | Mar 8, 2012 1:15:07 AM

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