The time I was almost mugged in Namibia

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.

Spending the money on some delicious wine in the beautiful South African winelands

Spending the money on some delicious wine in the beautiful South African winelands

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!

Africans are some of the most friendly people I've ever met

Despite this one person, Africans are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met

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.

Watching the sun rise over the Namibian sand dunes

Watching the sun rise over the Namibian sand dunes

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! 😉

15 thoughts on “The time I was almost mugged in Namibia

  1. Travelling Book Junkie says:

    Thankfully nothing more severe happened! These things happen the world over and I like you I think that I am just as likely to have this happen to me in London as I am anywhere else. Although having said that I was mugged in Madrid last year and two little girls (yes, they were about 10!) ran off with my mobile. 🙂

    • Ayla says:

      Yes exactly, anything can happen anywhere and London is far from the safest city in the world. I think people are just more comfortable in their home than they are elsewhere. I think I’d have just been in shock if little girls that age had tried to mug me! At least they couldn’t exactly do you any harm though!

      • Travelling Book Junkie says:

        This is true! I was embarrassed when giving the description to the police so that I could get mt crime number for the insurance. He was quite nonchalant about the whole thing and said that I wasn’t the first person to report similar sounding girls and won’t be the last. Apparently there is a known ring of them in Madrid!

  2. Sophie says:

    What a surreal experience – a man attempting to mug you in such a friendly way. It’s hard to picture! Good for you for putting your foot down!! I’m glad it ended well.
    A woman in Barcelona tried to steal about 100 euros out of my wallet in plain daylight. It was one of my first times travelling without parental supervision and she was hounding me to give her a ‘coin from my country’ in exchange for a rose. I didn’t want a rose but she would NOT LEAVE ME ALONE and was blocking my way so I very stupidly pulled out my wallet and started digging for small change. As I was doing this, she very slowly grabbed all of my bills with two fingers and pulled them out of my wallet. I sort of stared at her in disbelief before slowly grabbing the money back. And she had the nerve to be angry!!
    Lesson learned!!

    • Ayla says:

      Yup, even when they’re trying to mug you, Africans are still friendly apparently!

      I’ve heard a few stories about the woman who sell flowers trying to steal money. Can’t believe she actually tried to take the money right out of your purse! Did she think you wouldn’t notice or that you’d just let her walk away with all your money?! Stupid!

  3. aroundtheworldin80pairsofshoes says:

    Namibia is where I felt safest while travelling through Africa so it saddens me to read this. I know a rugby player that had someone “help him” at the cash point machine in South Africa and then proceeded to run off with his card – they managed to take about £400 out of his account by the time he got back to his hotel room to cancel the card. You definitely need your wits about you when travelling through Africa! xx

    • Ayla says:

      I guess me and your rugby friend have to count ourselves lucky that nothing worse happened! You need your wits about you wherever you travel, even at home. It could have happened anywhere and we still loved Namibia regardless of this 🙂

  4. lovetotrav says:

    I am happy he was unsuccessful but it still is disconcerting in that he tried. I love Africa but just like anywhere, on guard is always necessary. These things are random and can happen anywhere. I was robbed in Colombia after almost 9 months of bus travel and thought I couldn’t be conned any longer. Still was! You just never know.

    • Ayla says:

      These things can happen anywhere – even at home in London – and I hate that places like Africa and South America get a bad reputation because of the few bad things that have happened. They’re still incredibly awesome places 🙂

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