Alan Murphy
Australia AU
Aug 23, 2014 August 23, 2014

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Travel Disaster Worth Sharing

A travel disaster that starts with a scam, follows with a chase, and ends with the hunt for emergency papers. Walvis Bay on the Namibian Coast, very close to the adventure town of Swakopmund, is a sleepy little place. Sleepy, but riddled with scammers! 

My friend and I parked on the side of the road while I went out to a shop. My friend waited in the car – a guy sauntered up to him at the driver’s window and urged him to get out to look at something that was wrong with the back of the car. He said no thanks but the guy was insistent. Eventually he got out of the car. When he did a hidden accomplice then quietly opened the passenger-side door, grabbed my bag (which had money, passport, glasses, basically anything I had of value) and sprinted off.

I came out of the store to see my friend chasing one of these guys up the road – he yelled at me to chase the other. I did. But as I was giving chase I realised that I didn’t know why...I hadn’t seen what had happened. What would I do if I caught upto him anyway? I never found out as I lost him in the crowded streets. My friend had the same luck. I then spent a couple of days in a hotel room on the phone cancelling cards, reporting a stolen passport etc.

We drove back to Windhoek to organise emergency papers and I realised I had absolutely no identification on me – nothing! As the gods would have it we were waved through police roadblocks and I was issued emergency papers by the High Commission in Pretoria very quickly. A special mention to my bank who returned my phone call requesting  ‘emergency’ funds a week later!