Tag Archives: South Africa

Our Worst Travel Moments — Caught in a Dangerous Area

We’ve had so many fantastic moments traveling the world continuously for the past five years. In spite of all the “regular” living, there have been challenging moments when things have gone wrong. To be fair, things go wrong even if you live in one place for five years.

We’re just thankful that it hasn’t been one of us waking up and asking the other “Who are you?” And we won’t write about the tsunami alert in Indonesia that turned out to be a huge wave of … wait for it … 2½ inches.

This is the thrd of a series of accounts of our worst moments. In spite of these few misadventures, we are still loving the life of continuous travel!

Caught in a Dangerous Area

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

How did it happen?
Leaving New Zealand’s natural settings.

We generally travel slowly overland or by water trying not to take many flights. While we were in New Zealand, we had our eye on a 30-day cruise up the coast of Africa. The Ebola crisis was still very much in the news and I smugly predicted that many cruisers would cancel, believing they might somehow contract Ebola while visiting one of the ports. My guess was right. Indeed, there were enough cancellations (thank you Fox News) to make the cruise line offer cabins for less than $50 per person per day. We were stoked to get on board. The opportunity to spend 2 months in Cape Town and attend AfrikaBurn was an added bonus!

We used air miles to book a flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Cape Town, South Africa, the starting point of the cruise. For our hard earned air miles, United Airlines concocted a sadistic itinerary of more than 24 hours, changing planes in Bangkok, Thailand, then Ethiopia and again in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Cape Verde off the coast of Africa.

We departed Auckland for what became the journey from hell. Our layover in Bangkok stretched to more than 14 hours waiting for a plane that maybe had mechanical troubles. Bleary-eyed and exhausted, we arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia having missed our third leg of the journey by a long shot. They announced that they were putting us up overnight in town for a flight the next day. Good. We badly needed to sleep at this point.

We were escorted to a fine hotel in the city, and by “fine” we mean the room had a bed and a bathroom. We were told emphatically not to leave the barbed-wire enclosed compound as it was just too dangerous outside. Cab drivers couldn’t be trusted and there was no place to go that was safe anyway.

At least the hotel had a bar. And, absolutely brilliant Ethiopian coffee.

The next day, the hotel jitney delivered us directly back to the airport for our uneventful flight to Johannesburg. And they already rescheduled our final leg of the journey to Cape Town.

Resolution

We can’t really complain. We didn’t pay a cent to fly half-way around the world, not even baggage fees. Surprisingly, our bags made it to Cape Town the same time as us — three and half days later! We and our things made it safely to our next destination and that’s all that really matters.

Lesson Learned

We met nice fellow travelers and drank excellent coffee in Addis Ababa. It’s not a place we want to visit, but it confirms what G.K. Chesterton said, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”

Met on the road in Cape Verde, off the coast of Africa.
Other Stories in “Our Worst Travel Moments” Series:

 

Our Worst Travel Moments — Robbed by a Gang at an ATM

We’ve had so many fantastic moments traveling the world continuously for the past five years. In spite of all the “regular” living, there have been challenging moments when things have gone wrong. To be fair, things go wrong even if you live in one place for five years.

We’re just thankful that it hasn’t been one of us waking up and asking the other “Who are you?” And we won’t write about the tsunami alert in Indonesia that turned out to be a huge wave of … wait for it … 2½ inches.

This is one of a series of accounts of our worst moments. In spite of these few misadventures, we are still loving the life of continuous travel!

Robbed by a Gang at an ATM

Cape Town, South Africa

How did it happen?

We like to think of ourselves as savvy travelers when it comes to making cash withdrawals at ATM’s around the world, but damn, we were outnumbered by slick thieves and there really was no recourse. We used an ATM in a sort of empty mall on a Sunday, which was our first mistake; and it’s the last time we’ll do that!

Cape Town panorama from our front balcony.

After we made our withdrawal, received our money and began to leave the area, the problem began. Someone called out to us that he was unable to use the machine because we had not completed the transaction and signed out correctly. He adamantly argued that whenever a foreigner uses the machine, there is always a problem afterward. He loudly beckoned us to return and while we hesitated, the queue of customers grew. They were all dressed like prosperous businessmen. Each of them complained that the machine would not allow them to use it now. Against our better judgement, we reluctantly returned and put our card back in.

The penguins of Boulders Beach near Cape Town

As soon as Ivan put the card back in, he had a sinking feeling. He knew this was wrong, but not quite sure why. Meanwhile, I let him know that there were many now queued and complaining about us ‘breaking the machine’. This prompted Ivan to take a cursive glance behind to see the mob of guys. That’s when the guy in front must have grabbed the card from the slot but neither of us noticed anything. While Ivan was trying to find his card, everyone quietly and suddenly disappeared. We now realized for sure that they probably had our card and the PIN.

We were getting money to buy a SIM card for our phone. So not having a working phone, we had to run back to our place to call the bank. By the time we could check our bank account, they had already taken out $400.

Resolution

Our stolen money was replaced by the bank after explaining the circumstances.

Lesson Learned
Cape Town, standing on Table Mountain

We are even more vigilant near ATM’s and use only the ones situated inside banks with security officers during daytime hours. Even so, we inspect the card reader to make sure a skimmer hasn’t been installed. You can read about this scam by searching for “ATM skimmer scams.”

In spite of our best precautions, we still became the subject of credit card number theft in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It happened twice and we never figured out how because the card never left our sight. Our bank caught it each time, blocked our card and sent us an email. After talking to us, they had to overnight a new card.

Other stories in “Our Worst Travel Moments”: