Namibia was the 7th country on our 4 month trip travelling across Africa and, so far, we had had the best time of our lives.
As we were coming close to the end of our overland trip, we decided to have a meal out with the tour group rather than cook food out of the truck for a change. It was after a day of skydiving so everyone’s adrenaline was pumping and we were all in high spirits as we headed off to a little Italian restaurant.
Needing some cash, Alex and I went off to find a cash point close by. Most of the cash machines in Africa are inside a small glass partition which means no one can lurk behind you in the dark. This doesn’t actually stop others from coming inside when you’re using it though; and this is what happened to us.
Just as I was about to put my card in the machine, a plump Namibian man came wandering into the glass booth. He casually came over, planted himself in between me and Alex and asked if we needed any help in the friendly African manner. We politely told him no thank you but he continued to try to “help” us out despite the cash machine being in English. After telling me several times to put my card into the machine (which I wasn’t going to do with him standing right next to me) he finally grabbed the card out of my hand so suddenly I didn’t even get a chance to hold onto it tighter or pull away. He then pretended, yes pretended, to put the card into the machine slot, but instead put his hand behind his back, still holding onto my card, and told me to enter my pin.
Now, I might be blonde, but I am definitely not stupid!
After a few seconds of standing there completely dumbfounded thinking is this guy for real, I suddenly came out of my trance and told him quite clearly to give me my card back. He obviously thought I wouldn’t catch on to what he was trying to do as he just kept repeating “card in machine, now you put in number”, all with a big smile on his face (still a friendly African even when he was trying to mug us!).
Not only was this guy trying to steal my debit card but he was also taking me for a complete idiot, thinking he could easily whisk away the card safe in the knowledge that he knew my pin number!
Well I’m sorry Mr, but you’re not getting it. I needed that money for the all the wine I was going to be drinking when we got to the South African winelands a few days later 😉
Although I could see Alex giving me a look over the guy’s shoulder as if to say don’t do anything, a switch must have clicked inside me because all of a sudden I pulled his arm round from behind his back and, oh well looky there…my card was in his hand and not, in fact, in the ATM where he said it was. What a surprise! I snatched it back from him, then quite pleasantly asked him if he thought I was stupid and proceeded to tell him where he could go, at which point Alex quickly came alive and jostled me out of the cash point just as two other local men came inside. Whether these others were with our attempted mugger or not, I don’t know, but Alex got us out of there as quickly as he could and we made our way back to the safety of our friends.
I might have been brave, I might have been stupid, I’m not sure. He was wearing a big jacket that could have been hiding anything underneath and I have no idea if the other two men were with him. I’m a tiny little lady who has never had a fight in my life, doesn’t know how to defend myself particularly well (I took one class of Krav Maga and ended up with bruises all over me), and Alex was stuck in the corner behind the guy so couldn’t even really see what was going on. But, when it came down to it, I just reacted without thinking and I’m quite proud of the reaction I did have. I wasn’t going to be treated like an idiot and I certainly wasn’t going to be mugged by the worst thief in Africa!
This is the only mishap we’ve had on our travels and it saddens me that it was in such a fantastic place as Africa. But this doesn’t mean the whole of Africa is unsafe. Yes, of course there are dangers but you just need to have a bit of common sense; we probably shouldn’t have gone to a cash point alone at night. Despite a lot of people telling us not to go to Africa for so long and to be extremely careful (my nan in particular bless her), we did not come across a single other problem, whether we were travelling in a group or on our own.
Anything can happen anywhere in the world, whether it’s in a completely different country like Namibia or my home in London. Yes, we almost got mugged but, apart from this one moment that lasted all of 2 minutes and only resulted in us being slightly shaken, the rest of our 4 months in Africa were the best of our lives and Namibia ended up being one of our favourite countries.
So now when we go away and my nan tells us to be careful, I always tell her not to worry, I’ll look after us and save us from any muggers! 😉