Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Confused in Windhoek

One change in my traveling style from the first is this:

When faced with a choice between favoring my cheap side and favoring my lazy side, I've started to act in favor of the latter.

And that is why I took the Town Hoppers shuttle bus from Swakopmund to Windhoek instead of the Intercape bus. Which is fine, but less frequent and involved me hiking over to the bus stop, then getting a taxi once I got to Windhoek.

I had $10.38 left in my checking account until payday—I actually do get paid for all that comic book work I was doing in hotel rooms at night. But that didn't stop me from spending more for door-to-door service. But the fact that I am still working while taking this trip has made me more likely to spend a bit here and there. Of course, I am spending more than I earn. I was running at a loss before I even left the States, having rented out my apartment for less than cost since it's hard to rent a place out in February. And I'm still paying my US health insurance, car insurance, property taxes on my garage...last time I made a clean break. But what I learned from that is that re-entry is toughest when you have nothing to go home to.

But this system wasn't really working either. I'm not really in any position to deal with a paper bill from AAA or my tenant's cable TV emergency while I was in Congo.

But I am working, and that does give me the buffer I need to do things a bit more comfortably this time out.

The Town Hopper wasn't full. There were only four passengers in the brand-new van. The trip across the desert to Windhoek went quickly, and we were able to stop in small camping parks to use the snack bar and toilets, something a big bus could never do. And on the other end, the shuttle left me at the front door to Chameleon Backpackers.

I'd been here in 2005 and Chameleon had charmed me, stealing my allegiance from Cardboard Box. But at check-in, they lost it.

$4.37 an hour to use wifi? And me paying for a single en suite already? Really? REALLY?

Plus there were signs all over. "Don't touch." "Don't do this." "Don't do that."

But I'd paid in advance, so all I could do was complain and have people look at me like I was crazy.

I left everything in my room, put some money in my jeans and my phone in my hoodie pocket, and headed downtown to where I could go to Mugg & Bean and use their *free* wifi. I didn't take my laptop because Windhoek is notorious for muggings and pickpocketing. I didn't carry along a bag for this same reason.

I didn't wander but put my head down and headed straight into the pedestrian street in the center of town.

"There aren't any muggers here," I thought. It was lunchtime, broad daylight, and business people were all out getting their midday meals.

And suddenly, five men were around me, crowding me. Five young men, dressed in urban wear you'd see at home in any city. They were close.

Too close.

I slowed down and veered a little left to give them space.

And then they were there. One on my right, his hand firmly on my elbow, steering me. Another on my left, his fingers surrounding and pushing into my upper arm.

There wasn't time to think about their motivations or intent. I stopped dead in my tracks.

"GET AWAY!" I folded over, covering my pockets with my body and holding one hand around my hoodie pockets and pointing the other right at the men.

They melted away, laughing, disappearing before anyone around me had even turned a head to see what was going on.

Was that an attempted pickpocketing? An attempted mugging? Do they grab you, feel up your pockets, grab your phone and money before you can react and then disappear?

Or...what? What else could that have been?

I hurried into Mugg & Bean, and sat there confused.

I've never been mugged before. But to not be sure if I'd been a target or not...this was disconcerting.

I love Namibia. But I'm less keen on muggers.

I wasn't sad when I went down to the Intercape bus on Wednesday for the overnight mainliner to Cape Town, even though I knew I'd have to watch more insipid on-board movies. This was it. The final leg of my 2011 continental Africa journey. I got two seats to myself, thanks to a kind host. Would I ever be back to Namibia? I didn't know.

But I was sure looking forward to Cape Town.

1 comment:

  1. For sure you got mugged, but at least you didn't get beaned.