9 Dec

“We going to kill you mother**ker! You heard about the tourists that been killed in Dar Es Salam, that’s what we do, we kill tourist mother**kers like you. Now don’t try anything stupid”

I try to have a WWJD moment. “What would James Bond do?” I ask myself, my mind fails me and just keeps flashing up the same thought like a Las Vegas neon sign, you’ve cocked up this time Hap.

I draw on my last 9 years of travel experience and weigh up my situation. I’m in a locked car with tinted windows in the middle of an African ghetto with three gangsters. The one in the back seat with me is shouting they are going to kill me. To make matters worse I have with me basically everything of value that I own, including my passport and last remaining credit card. I come to the conclusion that my mind is right, you’ve cocked up this time Hap.

Ahhhh, and my time in Dar Es Salam had started so well.

After climbing Mt Kilimanjaro the world’s highest free standing mountain and celebrating my 30th birthday on the 11/11/11 I had made my way to Tanzania’s capital. Having spent the past months cycling through southern Africa it was the first time I had been on the eastern coast of Africa. I wanted to have a sun set beer by the Indian Ocean and celebrate. I wanted to reflect on having achieved my working the world goal.

Since I had no map or guide book I had found myself wandering aimlessly through the hustle and bustle of the Arabic influenced streets of Dar Es Salam in search of the water that I knew was close. I approached a young guy walking up to an ATM

“Hi mate, where’s the ocean?”

“I’ll take you there, just let me go to the ATM” he replies as he runs to the bank.

As per usual in Africa, there was a power cut and the ATM wasn’t working. He comes back and tells me to jump on the back of his motorbike as the beach is out of town. It goes through my mind that this is probably a bad idea since I’ve only known this guy for 10 seconds, but my travel mantra goes through my mind “you lose much by fearing to attempt”. Although this was the same mantra that found me in a Korean brothel when I was looking for a bath house and had seen me sitting in a dug out canoe with Africa’s most dangerous animal the Hippo coming towards me, I jumped on anyway.

His motorbike I noticed was not the usual Chinese produced motorbike that resembled a two wheel motorised Christmas tree with the imitation chrome bars and lights that seem to serve on other purpose except making it look like a Christmas tree. I knew he must have had money as his bike looked sporty, built for speed. My thoughts were confirmed as he accelerated and swerved onto the wrong side of the road to avoid the peak hour traffic that was bumper to bumper as everybody headed out of the city after work. Maybe I should have considered how he came to have money to afford an expensive motorbike. I didn’t.

I relaxed into the back of the seat taking in the beeping of horns, oncoming cars, the blur of lights and the glow of the setting sun whilst the wind swept through the 6 months matted bird nest that was my hair. I had only expected to be dropped off at the port that I thought was close, but now we were on the open road headed out of the city centre where I was staying. I thought to myself this is what travel is about, I go in search of some crappy polluted harbour water to have a sunset beer and now I’m on the back of this complete strangers motorbike weaving through rush hour traffic on my way to the ocean ……………hang on, where the hell are we going?

My paranoia settled as the coast and the ocean appeared on my right hand side. Finally I had set my eyes on the Indian Ocean and I had an epitheny (spelling?) it looks like all the other oceans. After 10 more minutes we pulled off into a beach car park. We walked through to a beachside bar situated where the waves were lapping on the golden sand beach, palm trees towering above like tropical high rises. I offered to buy my new friend a beer forgetting that he probably didn’t drink due to his Arabic culture, he ordered a coke.

The complete stranger’s bike I was on tells me he is 23 year old Samir, he works for a hardware wholesale company 6 days a week. His father passed away when he was 10 and now he lives with his mother and younger brother. He loves motor bikes and is very proud of his city. I thank him for taking the time out of his night to show me the ocean. I enjoy his company, he’s not one of these pushy types that has an ulterior motive, he’s not wanting to sell me jewellery or book me a tour, he’s just wanting to show me his city, or does he have an ulterior motive?

We finish our drinks with the sun having well and truly set behind the 25 odd container ships waiting out at sea for their time to enter Africa’s second largest port. I hopped back on Samir’s bike assuming we were heading back to the city. Unbeknown to me Samir had a different plan. He stopped along the way and showed me some famous cliffs, a board walk area, and took me on a tour of the flash 5 star hotel complexes which were a far cry from the mud hut villages that I had been camping in the past couple of months.

A couple of hours since first hopping on Samir’s bike we arrive back in the city but his tour has not finished. Since I’ve only been in this city for 6 hours nothing looks familiar and I’m totally disoriented. He pulls into a back street and parks his bike. I think to myself that this would be the perfect spot for me to be mugged, but luckily I’m with Samir, my new friend. I hop off and follow him back onto a street that during the day is bustling with business, but now has been taken over by wooden benches and locals drinking strong black coffee and smoking cigarettes.

He approaches a group of local men wearing Arabic style little hats sitting on roughly made wooden benches around a square knee height table. A young kid is serving coffee from a large stainless steel pot with a black handle. Samir introduces me to the eclectic group of men, from the old man missing teeth smoking a cigarette to the well dressed young professional. Everybody is friendly and welcoming. He orders us two small cups of coffee and picks up a packet of sweet menthol cigarettes off the table offering me one. The old man with bugger all teeth offers me some fresh leaves of spinach that he is munching on. So there I am in the old town of Dar Es Salam drinking strong dark coffee at 9pm (meaning I’m not going to sleep until the next morning), smoking sweet menthol cigarettes and eating fresh spinach leaves. This is what travel is about, these random moments, the rare snippets of insight into a foreign culture. You do lose much by fearing to attempt.

We leave the group of men without paying, Samir tells me not to worry about it as it’s his local, it will be put on his tab. After a tour of the old city we arrive back outside my hotel. Samir gives me his cell phone number and tells me if I need any help whilst in Dar Es Salam to call him. I offer him some money for petrol, but he doesn’t want anything. I sincerely thank him from the bottom of my heart for an unforgettable night and he drives off.

I go and sit down at street side eatery, the caffeine of the coffee mixed with the generosity of the last three hours buzzing through me. I feel like the luckiest person on earth. I pull out my diary from my pocket and start to write about the nights events. I go back to my hotel room, filled with the euphoria of travel, I love this city.

And yes, this story has nothing what so ever to do with me being robbed. Apologies if you think you just wasted five minutes of your life. I just wrote about this experience to show that when travelling you have to constantly toss up if you are going to trust someone you have just met, sometimes you get it right and have the most amazing experiences. BUT sometimes you get it wrong, that’s just the way travel is, sometimes they charge you the Mzungu price, sometimes they point you in the wrong direction, sometimes the “original” is a fake, and sometimes they rob you of everything. More on that in the next post.

8 Responses to “Robbed!”

  1. Sich at 5:28 am #

    Brilliant post mate. Speaks travel wisdom on many levels. Who’d have picked you had existentialist bones in your writing!

    • Hap at 9:23 am #

      chur bro, not sure what existentialist is, but I’ll take it, and wisdom that’s a first for me, defo take that and frame it. Just met with Treadlie, they awesome.

  2. Kelli at 6:20 am #

    This is great Hap! You definitely do leave your readers on the edge of their seats! 🙂

    • Hap at 9:20 am #

      Hi Kelli,
      just finishing off the actual robbery post now. please don’t fall off the edge of your seat.

  3. Kolky at 8:30 am #

    Nice hap, sounds like it was awesome, hey any tips on how to handle the sea sickness on the trip to Antartica, my wife and i are going there in March and are pretty nervous about the cape horn sea….

    • Hap at 4:31 am #

      Hey Kolky,
      First up mate the 2 days of sea sickness is well worth seeing Antarctica, unbelievable place, one of the most unique places you will set your eyes on. Paradise bay is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to, infact if you search my blog for “paradise bay” or “most beautiful place” you’ll see a blog post i wrote about it.
      Basically mate sea sickness seems to chose anyone, most of the time on our ship we wouldn’t see half the passengers during the 2 day drake crossing, as most were cabin bound, but as soon as you hit antarctica it’s calm seas and good times. Even staff I worked with who had worked the boats most of their lives still got sea sickness. there are seasickness pills you can take so i’d probably recommend them.
      Catch up soon. Hap

  4. Abby at 2:19 pm #

    That was mean Hap – I couldn’t enjoy anything you wrote because I kept waiting for you to write about this super nice guy turning on you! Will re re-read now that I feel calmer about it.


  1. Actually ROBBED! « Hap Working The World -

    […] William is concerned for my back pack that I have lying on the unoccupied back seat beside me and tells me that there are many thieves in Dar Es Salam and they will easily open the door and snatch it. He would hate for something bad to happen to me and I leave with negative views of his city. I think to myself, I’ve been travelling for nearly 10 years, I’ve never had anything robbed, the windows are tinted, I have my hand on my back pack, I’m not that stupid, she’ll be right. As I put my bag between my legs I tell William how friendly everyone has been and the amazing time I had with Samir the night before. […]

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