Mugged Again


This blog entry about the events of Thursday, March 25, 2004 was originally posted on March 27, 2004.

DAY 159:  When I started the day, I felt confident that everything would go according to plan and I’d be on my way out of South Africa already.  Little did I know at the time that I’d be mugged again and stuck in Cape Town yet another day.

The plan was to get to DHL and pick up my replacement bank card at 7:30, be back at the hostel at 8:30, pay my bill, change my Sunday bus to that morning and hop on that bus bound to Windhoek, Namibia by 10 a.m.  I was up by 7:00 and in a taxi by 7:15 with Marnie at the wheel, one of the cabbie friends of The Backpack.  He drove me on the highway to the nearby suburbs where the DHL station was.  We got there at 7:35, but the office was closed.  I recalled Ingmar telling me that everything ran on “South Africa Time,” which was always later than stated.

I waited for a while until a security guard told me there was an office in the back.  When I got there, I was already expected and the guy there gave me a yellow envelope like I had just finished a task on The Amazing Race.  I ripped open the tab like they do on the show and lo and behold, my replacement bank card was inside.  While the letter inside informed me about PIN numbers, I read, “Get to the pit stop in Windhoek, Namibia.  The last team to arrive will be eliminated from the race.”

As much as my adrenaline was pumping to rush on from that point, we hit heavy Friday morning rush hour traffic on the way back to Cape Town.

AFTER A STOP AT A CASH MACHINE (“You have 1000 rand for this leg of the race”), I was back in the backpackers by 8:40 a.m. with less than an hour before I was to be at the bus station.  Mary was at the tour desk waiting for my arrival and called the bus company right away to get me on that bus.  I settled my bill with Ingmar and was about to hand over the cash when I heard Mary say to the person on the other line, “Oh, is that right?  Okay then.”  I knew the bad news was coming:  the bus was booked full and I had no choice but to take the Sunday one.  The Amazing Race was over, at least for the day.

WITH YET ANOTHER TWO DAYS STUCK IN CAPE TOWN, I had time to finish sorting out my flights out of Namibia to Malawi; everything had been pushed back a week due to the mugging and I had to reschedule my flights accordingly.  Glenn, my travel agent at in San Francisco set up the journey the cheapest way, in three flights, one day after another:  Windhoek, Namibia to Johannesburg, South Africa (on British Airways); Johannesburg to Harare, Zimbabwe (also British Airways); and Harare to Lilongwe, Malawi (on Air Zimbabwe).  An e-mail from Glenn said that I’d have to call British Airways directly to change the first two flights.  When I called them, they changed it in the computer and said I had to validate the ticket in person at their office.  The only Cape Town office was at the airport.  Luckily, Lisa (from Leeds, U.K.) had to do a flight change as well and split the taxi cost with me, when we finally got a taxi after finding out there were no cheap shuttles or buses on a Friday.

The problem with connecting flights is that they have to jive with each other if one of them is changed.  British Airways switched my first two flights one week after with no problem; I only had to get the third Air Zimbabwe flight to fall into place.  Unfortunately, there was no Air Zimbabwe office in Cape Town — the closest was in Johannesburg on the other side of the country.  In the meantime, I could call them with the change so it could be entered in the computer.  I spoke to Lynn at Air Zimbabwe over the phone back at The Backpack.  She couldn’t find a flight that jived with my British Airways change, but said she’d call me back after investigating all the options.  I felt optimistic.

WITH MY PLANS TO GET IN AND OUT OF NAMIBIA on the back burner, I still had to figure out what to do while I was there on such a limited time.  The easiest thing to do to see and experience as much as possible was to just go one of the several camping tours available.  When figuring out my options with Mary at the tour desk, I found out that with specific days of departure, I had only three options.  Two were booked solid, leaving me with one:  a week-long tour of Southern Namibia, which I booked straight away before I had no options. 

Lynn from Air Zimbabwe called back and told me that there were no flights that I could reschedule to.  My only option was to cancel the second British Airways flight, try and get a refund for it, and book a new flight with her:  Johannesburg to Lilongwe direct.  A call to British Airways informed me that I could only get a refund from my original agent at AirTreks.  I sent off another e-mail to San Francisco.

WHILE WAITING AROUND, I sat out poolside with Pilvi, the Finnish girl in my dorm room.  She was totally hungover from the night before and was still recuperating at sunset.  While I was busy trying to get my life organized with all the paperwork and telephone calls after a mugging, she was trying to figure a way to break up with her boyfriend when she got back to London in a couple of weeks.  We went out for dinner at the bar and Pilvi passed right out soon after.  I went off to work again. 

It was late enough to call Glenn at AirTreks in San Francisco, and he told me over the phone that the tickets were set up in a way that I wouldn’t be able to get a refund unless I canceled both British Airways flights, meaning in the end, I’d have to cancel all three flights with a total penalty of $185 (USD).  Bummed, I sat at a table in the dining room with John to work out the math.

“You’re never going to leave here,” he joked.

After working out my options, spending even more money on internet to do more research, I ultimately came to the conclusion that I should have never locked myself into any flights mid-way through Africa, and should have just gotten them on the way if needed.  Why I decided not to totally overland Africa like I did in South America I don’t know.  I was faced with two options from the airlines:  lose $360 or lose $185.  It was a lose-lose situation literally.  Irish Sean suggested that I might get coverage for trip delays from my insurance, but that turned out to be another thing embedded in the fine print that I wasn’t covered for, at least not without a family-member death certificate.  Between the airlines and my insurance, I was a victim yet again.

“I’m being mugged again,” I told Sean and John. 

In the end, I made the conscious decision to just take the smaller loss and start over with a clean slate.  The original flights were a day apart from each other with hostel stayovers in between and instead, I could just go from Namibia to Malawa via overnight buses or car shares through Botswana and Zambia for cheaper and reduce my losses even more — with this new plan, I was out another $40 in tax refunds for tourists (for my new camera) which, with all the rules, I couldn’t do until I arrived until Johannesburg (a city that I was forsaking now to make up for lost time).

The corporate bureaucratic mugging was long and painful and tiring on my brain.  I almost preferred the mugging at knifepoint on Park Road (picture above); at least it was quick and to the point.

Next entry: The Biggest Let Down in Cape Town

Previous entry: A Day At The Office

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Mugged Again”

  • Your title had me worried!  At least you got your bank card - that sounded like a disaster.  Sucks about the flights.

    BLOG READERS - if you haven’t already donated get your butt over to PayPal and send Erik some extra cash!  You spend $10 (at least!) to go to the movies, and you probably get way more than 1.5 hours of entertainment from this Blog - so fork it over.  Doesn’t matter how big your donation is, every little bit counts.  Come on, help the guy out.

    Posted by Liz  on  03/27  at  05:06 AM

  • that stinks:(

    too bad you can’t do an amazing race fast fwd ....straight to the namibia check point w/out all this hassle!

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/27  at  01:30 PM

  • nice title…dick….hahaah

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/27  at  02:51 PM

  • Erik,

    What instantly comes to mind is a line from “Lethal Weapon 2” stated by Leo-“They F*&K you at the drive thru!”  South Africa, the shafting by the airlines, I felt it was fitting.  Hope you have a much better go of it.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/27  at  07:44 PM

  • hm.. echoing sentiments by Markyt - but not close enough to the family to actually laugh atcha, but definitely crying with ya!

    Hope everyone takes notes on what to avoid when making their own trips..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/27  at  09:29 PM

  • Bad luck, Brother…

    Perhaps you should just wing it through the rest of the trip through Africa in the true backpacker style, instead of having a pre-planned intinerary. But hey, what the heck, you live and learn, no?

    You’re title had me worried as well. I was gonna say that if this was the second time you were mugged, you might want to consider a trip back to South America…


    Tally Ho,


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/27  at  11:47 PM

  • PATRICK:  If only I could declare “DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY” the next time I was held up.  (Say that in a South African accent.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/28  at  06:01 AM

  • LIZ:  Thanks for your pledge drive efforts!  “Operators are standing by…”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/28  at  06:16 AM

  • I’m frustrated after reading this entry! I think I need a 2-3 hour lunch…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/28  at  02:02 PM

  • sorry to hear your nightmare in Africa man! come back to NYC safe, ok? and God sake:get a 9mm and start doing something with that punks! alex (the peace maker)

    Posted by alexNYC  on  03/28  at  06:09 PM

  • I’m with Liz - the title had me all concerned - I had to breeze through it to make sure nothing had happened before I REALLY read it.
    Good luck with the next portion of your journey. If I wasn’t so recently unemployed, I’d donate - I will do it soon, after a few paychecks - PROMISE!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/30  at  03:42 AM

  • et….
    phone home!

    Posted by henricus  on  04/04  at  03:59 PM

  • HENRICUS:  Holy shit man… there you are!  How’s married life?  Hope you’re still in Jakarta by the time I get there…

    “You’re so dead man…”

    I’ll try and find a sticky dog to bring along with me… and then I can say, “Let me introduce you to my little friend…”

    DUNLAVEY:  I think you’ll have to link the Mucho Malo cartoons in the next NIZ so people will get it!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/07  at  06:48 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
The Biggest Let Down in Cape Town

Previous entry:
A Day At The Office


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