SEEKING A VACATION LOCATION? BEWARE OF JOHANNESBURG

When I was leaving Boston on Aug 21, 2014 en route to Johannesburg, I was very convinced that I would have wonderful stories to tell about my adventures both in both Joburg and Cape Town. Who gets three weeks off? Oh my God, it was my plan to rub it in, any chance I had, that I was having a straight 3-week vacation. And of course, when I arrived Friday night, the first thing that caught my attention was the steering wheels were in the right(ie South Africa drives on the left). I did not expect to see any differently than the driving system that I was used to and yes, I was going to make a Facebook roar out of it.

Oh well, it seemed like I was looking for exciting stuff to talk about. You know, cool stuff that people brag about when on vacation. However, the next day during my first outing, I already got a big story, beyond and nothing like what I wished for. Literarily the first time I left the apartment. Oh my horrible experience!

It all started when I asked my childhood friend and host, that I wanted to take a walk around to buy a few stuff. And immediately before leaving the house, he warned, “drop your wallet; take only what you absolutely need.” Well, I needed my debit cards so I took those along with me and of course my cell phone.

A few steps away, he warned that the outline of my phone was visible from my sweat pants and at this point, I was beginning to find it all ridiculous. I asked how bad the crime situation was and he said he had been mugged twice in 2 years. First in Cape Town by 5 teenagers, a story which I found really amusing and the second time, he was robbed by a guy in Johannesburg who he was trying to get directions from because he heard him talk in his native language.

Well, we walked to the mall, grabbed an early dinner, withdrew a little cash, went to a nearby pub and hung out a bit and left for home at about 9.00PM. Right before leaving, a text came into my phone from my mom asking how my first day was going but I was too scared to have my phone out for long enough to compose a reply, so I decided to hold off till I got home. Now this was in Melville area of town which is regarded to be pretty busy and safe.

As we were just a few blocks from home and it was only 9PM, we decided to walk back. Unfortunately, it happened so fast. Two men alighted from a parked car on a side street and started walking towards us. I quickly asked my host if there was any need to be concerned as I could tell that he too was troubled by the appearance of the 2 men. Well, before we could figure it all out, the hoodlums were upon us.   They pulled out their daggers and quickly started demanding that we gave them everything.  As for me, I had absolutely nothing since I had given my phone and ATM cards to my host for safe keeping in his jeans as opposed to my sweat pants’ pocket. The hoodlum who was working me found it unbelievable that I had nothing. He kept cursing, asking me to strip.

I was robbed of my Cazal eye-wear, probably the most expensive accessory I ever purchased. So sad but I happen to always travel with spare glasses just as a backup as I cannot function without my glasses. He also took my Leatherman jacket, cardigan and my workout shoes which I had brought on this trip with the intention of working out hard in order to lose some pounds. Obviously, they just gave my lazy ass additional excuse not to exercise.

From my friend, they took both our phones- My Samsung Galaxy s5 which I never really liked anyway but of course I mourn the dollar amount for which it was bought barely 3 months ago. They also got away with the little cash on us, our ATM cards and the keys to our apartment.

After walking jacketless and barefooted in South African post-winter cold, we found the closest hotel from where I was able to call my banks to block my debit cards. I also contacted my network provider asking them to render my smart phone useless. The IMEI number was deleted and I was promised that the hoodlums will not be able to use the phone, ever (Well, that is if they do not have their other crooked ways).

Finally, I got my family & friends particularly my mom who had just texted minutes before the unfortunate event and surprisingly she was calm about it. All she said was to hop on the next available flight back to the States if I felt unsafe and my dad just asked if I had read the book, “Cry, The Beloved Country” by Alan Paton. Apparently, he was mom’s professor in College and had written about the situation in SA even back in the early twentieth century.

What a shame! This is the eighth country I’ve been to but the first with a bad experience. It is just my fifth day here but I have become so petrified to go outdoors even in broad daylight as I do not know who to trust. Since I do not trust even the cab drivers on the streets, I have had to constantly call up the infinitesimally few friends I know in Joburg to give me ride whenever I need to do outdoor stuff.  Hahahaha. Seems like the life of a celebrity but if this is what celebrities have to go through, then their lives must suck real bad.

But you know what? I have decided to put all of this behind me and act like the grown-ass man that I am. I am open to seeing the wonderful side to South Africa. That beautiful country whose praise the whole world sings, the sites that attracted me here in the first place, my planned trip to Cape Town and all that there is to be enjoyed.

Above all, I am so thankful that we were not hurt and most thankful that I have been finally motivated to write my first blog.

I promise that my next blog will be about the South Africa, not its horrors but its beauties.

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15 thoughts on “SEEKING A VACATION LOCATION? BEWARE OF JOHANNESBURG

  1. Kat Goh

    Sorry to read about your encounter. Wherever your (religious) beliefs lie in, have faith you’re protected everyday and you’ll be. And think about the positive things u want, not the things u fear. That’s how I travel. 😉

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  2. Victoria.

    I can’t imagine such experience as somebody that love to travel myself, just be careful and enjoy your remaining stay, we’ll keep you in our prayer!!

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  3. Nzepapaz

    Hahaha…Sorry I found it amusing. Well when I visited last year, almost everybody I know there got one or two tip to drop since they expect you to be the chief Security officer of your own. I was petrified initially going out at night but for how long will I have to continue that way. I didn’t leave Nigeria all the way to SA to just be indoors. My one month vacation can’t be a waste but before the first week runs out I had to summon the courage to go out. I took all the necessary precautions afterall if I can survive Lagos which I believe is tougher I can survive anywherelse. But its easier said than done. Nothing happened my first night out and I was quick to dispel whatever notions I was inundated with. But before I left SA, in Pretoria precisely, I almost got robbed in one of my night outs but trust Naija guy like me. I no fit carry last. I had to bail myself with the help of my legs. Thank goodness I was fit and didn’t ignore all warnings from friends.

    You just have to be watchful at all times. Don’t get into the dark and lonely corners. Watch who’s coming behind you or before you. But nevermind. The good good sides of that beautiful city will soon erase this terrible experince of yours. You will always want to come back.

    Enjoy your stay!

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  4. La

    I’m sorry to hear about your encounter. Also sorry to point out the obvious; firstly: you choose to go to a dodge area to hang out, what do you expect? The fact that your friend d warns you before you leave the house was an indication that you were hanging out in the wrong parts of the hood. Your choice. Not so sure what you expected then?…. There are dodge residential areas everywhere in the world and trust me… When I go on holiday, I am not going to one of them. Go to Sandton/Melrose etc. hang out with dodge people. Dodge things will happen to you. Good for thought…huh !?

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  5. stephenind

    Ogo, so sorry for your experience. Should we go out and see if you can get your own back! Okay only kidding. Look forward to some more adventures in Johannesburg together. Not to scare you but I had to laugh at a friend, in the police reserve, who knew of a police helicopter pilot who had been shot down, do I exaggerate or was it 9 times! This same friend let the reserves because he was not sure which side the bullets were coming from!

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  6. Fumnanya Nwaolai

    Seriously! am sorry for what happened. Such is an experience one see in travelling and u become stronger. I remember reading from a site forum about pick-pocketing in one of the countries in Asia. The most important thing is you and our friend are alive and unharmed. We thank The Lord. Please jara enjoy SA. Good morning.

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  7. elenimichelle

    Living in Johannesburg, I couldn’t help but notice your post… and honestly, this is just another daily occurrence that our police force will unlikely even care about… I once went to a fun run, and got money stolen out of my bag… thankfully, they didn’t steal my iPhone 5S or my boyfriend’s Samsung Galaxy S5, but just two months later, my boyfriend’s phone got stolen right out of his locker while he was at gym… It’s the sad truth… South Africa is just like that 😦 I do however hope you will have a more pleasant time here. 🙂 And as bad as this will sound, just be thankful that they didn’t physically attack you or something… because that seems to be happening a tad more frequently these days.

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    1. Ogo Le Roi Post author

      Elenimichelle thanks. I am truly thankful I was not hurt. As far as local law enforcement, the local vigilante group showed up out of nowhere just about 2 minutes after we were robbed. How helpful. They then asked if we wanted to file a police report. To be honest, I asked if that would help me recover the stolen items and they said no. I therefore declined going to the cops to waste additional time. All I wanted to do at the time was to block my cards, telephone and of course get out of the cold.

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  8. Vincent

    Sorry Ogo for your bad experience. Joburg is like that. I had a similar experience when I first came to SA. But we thank God that you are okay to come and witness the beautiful city of Cape Town. It will surely replace all your bad memories of SA. Exotic beaches and the Table Mountain plus the rich history of Mandela are all waiting for you. See you soon.

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