A Weekend Filled With Skydiving, Robbery & An African Courthouse

17th of March 2016:

Today is one of those days that turned into cascading horrible events. If only it had ended as well as it began. The morning began very unnecessarily early. For some reason everyone seemed to be up and active at 6am. Bridgette set her alarm for 6am and she didn’t seem to wake up until the music was half way through the song. By this time I was awake I just didn’t want to accept the fact I was awake.  

Solitare Campsite: Namibia
 

Nick and I then went for a walk as the sun was rising where Springbok were grazing in the grass next to us. We couldn’t make the whole distance of the walk as we had to help pack up the truck to leave by 7:15am however as everyone were early risers we seem to have left by 7am. We only had a 4 hour drive ahead of us to Swakopmund. 

 

Tropic of Capricorn: Namibia
 
After an hour we stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn where we had photos taken by the sign. Swakopmund is a small city in the middle of the desert. As we were about to get off the truck to go to the booking office our tour leader asks who’s doing skydiving. At this stage I wasn’t too keen on it, as I had wanted to do it in New Zealand. Bella (Tour Leader) said that we should go this afternoon if were wanting to do it. Now my nerves kicked in. It’s already 11am and we would get picked up at 2pm. That wasn’t much time for my mind to know what’s going on, all my brain seemed to be doing was spinning confused in what direction it wanted to go in (adrenalin junkie or right-minded). After a lot persuasion and peer pressure thanks to Bridgette and her young mind I booked it. I just fell silent and angry. I hadn’t felt this way since Queens cup rowing race in 2011. I needed to go into my concentration mindset where I knew I had to do this but was nervous about the actual process. With an hour to go we arrived at our hostel, I felt as if I was a scattered mouse trying to find the exit with knowing in the back of its brain it had no hope. The time had come, and our van had arrived. As we were driving the man questioned why we were so nervous and quiet… I feel as if it might be the fact that we’re about to jump out of a plane. As we arrived in the middle of the dry desert a little tin shed with a front lawn appears. As I walked out of the van I look up to see a tiny plane with cheetah spots on it. Now my stomach turned in knots. I felt like I wanted to be sick and closed myself in even more. I wanted to run but there was no where to go. As the guy is showing us the actions quickly of what we are going to do in the sky all I could think of was the plane. It had no door. Everything else just became a blur. I couldn’t imagine myself actually doing it. 

 

Skydiving, Swakopmund: Namibia
 
We went to go sit down and only a few minutes later Nicks name was called out first. Now my nerves were really kicking in. A few minutes later he was out of the office with his jumpsuit and harness. Now after walking around for 5 minutes with his face full of excitement and joy with only a little bit of panic his skydiver was walking him to the tiny plane. I couldn’t believe now the next time I’ll see him is when he’s in a parachute landing safely to the ground. It took 20 minutes for the plane to reach to where the skydivers would jump. We saw the plane 10,000 feet up. Then we see this tiny white dot falling in the sky. This tiny dot was Nick. He was free-falling, plummeting to the ground. I then see his parachute lift up to the sky. I could see him turning and twisting in the air sporadically with no control. This moment did not make me feel any better. My name had been called and I was all dressed in my jumpsuit and harness waiting to use Nick’s plane. I wanted him to land, obviously but if he landed that would mean that I would be next, and I don’t think I was ever ready for this. Nicks face as his feet touched the ground was pure joy and adrenalin. He was so pumped smiling from ear to ear. Now it was my turn, the skydiver grabbed my wrist and walked/ dragged me to the plane. I waved goodbye knowing that the next time I see everyone I would have jumped out of a plane. My foot was wedged against the wall and the fresh open air whipping past my feet as we reached higher and higher above the ground. Then the engine cut out, I knew this was it, I had no choice in the matter he was going to push me out no matter what. Crystal was out first, as I said “good luck” she was gone. The suction from her jumping made the plane shake, this was not what I wanted. As we start shuffling towards the door, I consciously don’t look down. I stare straight to the horizon with the wings in my foresight. There was no counting or any warning, at least I didn’t hear anything. I was out of the plane. My first thought was “omg I actually did it” then only a second later I realised what I had actually done as I was plummeting to the ground not being able to grab anything to protect myself. The only natural reaction I could seem to summon was an absolute loud, panicking scream. After the initial horrible first 3 seconds it was amazing. Until once again he opened the parachute and your body changes motion from straight to the ground to lifting up in the air drifting in the sky. He then let me use the handles to turn the parachute. Apparently I wasn’t very good as I didn’t yank them hard because one I’ve never operated a parachute and two we were still so high above the ground that I could kill us. The moment I lifted my legs and we landed safely onto the ground I had this beaming glow and smile.  
Skydiving,Swakopmund: Namibia
 

I was in absolute shock that I made it and I was so proud of myself for sticking through with it. It took another hour to get through everyone, with each persons face representing exactly how I felt. As we got back to our hostel we were all buzzing and wanting to watch our videos. One thing is for sure, skydiving is one of the most un-attractive activities you could do. We all got dressed up quickly and headed off to Napolitana, where we had wine and game meat. The “club” was next door so after figuring out payment we went through and spent an hour dancing to random music in every genre possible. It was an amazing night I wish it had simply ended there. As I went outside to the beer garden, Nick was approached by an African man and was chatting to him and George (our driver) for five minutes. Then as they approached us we heard the shell-shocking news that I will never get out of my head, “our dorm had been broken into.” The 5 minute walk back to the hostel was full of panic and desperation, praying that everything was fine and nothing had been stolen. I was more concerned about my passport, camera and ipad than anything else. My camera and IPod were sitting on the bed under a jumper. It hadn’t been put in the safe and I didn’t want to lose all my photos from my entire trip, you can never replace that. As we walked in I saw my locker on the far side of the room wide open. My heart dropped. As I came closer I noticed my passport purse had been unzipped. As I open it my passport was missing. Sheer panic swept across my face. I wanted to cry but shock left me feeling nothing. As I opened the currency section all my money was gone. All my U.S. , Australian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laos and Thai money were gone. My heart sank. $450 U.S. Missing and $100 Aus were gone this equated to losing $700 Australian dollars. I then found my passport scattered across the room. So as much as having money stolen is horrible I was so happy that non of my possessions were taken. My passport purse was sitting directly on top of my iPad. Nicks locker was also open and he was fortunate his camera hadn’t been stolen because that would have broken his heart. Peoples cards had been flung in his locker. A total of $2,200 U.S. money had been stolen from three of us, as well as a camera with lenses and a phone. I knew I was the fortunate one in the sense that I had the least amount of money taken. As it was 1am by the time I walked out of the room I face timed my dad to tell him the news. It was 9:30am back home and the sun was shining. As I told dad the news he seemed to be more concerned about the fact that I had jumped out of plane. This was the distraction I needed though. However the four of us had to go to the police station to file a report. In Africa I knew there was about a 1% chance that anything would happen. On a positive note it was my first time riding in a police car so at least we could find something happy to compensate what had just occurred. As we arrived at the police station and I was writing out my statement the police officer starts telling me the process of what will happen now. My 1% pot of luck had now turned to 0% thanks to the police officer. He tells me the detectives will come tomorrow morning and from there a specific tourist police squad will deal from there… “If they do their job”. So now I just wrote out the statement in a lot of detail of what I had seen when I walked in the door even though really there was no point because it’s not like they were going to do anything anyway. As it’s now 1:45am and panic and adrenalin have worn off from skydiving and having my dorm broken into I was exhausted. Kate and I left first. Kat awoke immediately clearly not sleeping waiting for her husband to come back but when I see Nick he’s fast asleep not even knowing that I’ve returned. 


18th of March 2016:

Last night I had a horrible sleep and only had a total of 4 hours. I felt like I was operating in robot mode. Going through the actions but my mind was still startled by last nights events. I went on my iPad and wasted some hours before sand boarding at 9:30am. At 9am whilst sitting outside our tour leader stands up and runs over to the counter. Not phased I keep wasting time. Then as she comes back she has this glistened smile across her face, one I have not seen since before last nights incident. Here she recounts the action that had just occurred. Last night the police had a suspicion the thief was the person staying next door who had done a runner last night and not paid for his room. This morning the maintenance man was walking the street and recognised the man and literally took him out pushing him to the ground. He made a civilians arrest and dragged him to the hostel to the skydiving office above the reception. Then 20 Nigerian police officers walk through the door with smiles on their faces and disappear up the stairs. Our tour leader exclaimed that the 20 police officers were standing behind the counter whilst this man sat on a seat on the other side. A detective comes in and starts asking questions. As our tour leader says check his pockets he was found with $1706 U.S. dollars, all my foreign currencies ,  the phone and the locks. He was caught red handed and yet was still protesting that it’s all his. Thankfully he did take my foreign money because it’s impossible to get here so there was no other way of explaining it. As the detective asks “did you steal these” and he responds with no he got slapped across the face and told “do not lie to me.” As she was telling me this I was in utter shock this man was an idiot and I was fortunate that he was. I was so happy he had been found but I still didn’t believe we would get our money back, that 1% hope had come back but African crime system isn’t quite the same. We went sand boarding with at least now a smile on our faces that something was being done, and that there was hope. 

 

Sandboarding, Namibia
 
Sand boarding was exhausting, if you want a good workout this would be the best activity for it. Sand boarding is the same as snow boarding but when you usually take the ski lifts up to the top in the snow you have to walk. The first time I went down it felt horrible I felt so un-natural however by the third time I was turning more naturally again. It definitely made me want to go back to the snow. Then it was time for the lying down sand boarding. We laid down on a piece of cardboard and went down the slope, the first run I reached 61km an hour. I honestly felt as if I had no control. The second time I reached 66km an hour and yet it felt slower. The top speed of the day was 68km an hour.
As we arrived back to our hostel buzzing from sand boarding covered in sand head to toe, we heard news that if you were religious or not you could only describe it in one simple word, “miracle.” We needed to go to the police station immediately as they had the man in a cell in the police station and had recovered money and a phone. Our initial thought was we would be recovering our stolen items and that was it. However simplicity turned to drama and the afternoon spent in the station. The detective and a random African lady (who has no relevant role to anything) calls us over to discuss (or yell at us women) that we have to go to court now. We were confused and puzzled as to what is occurring but we follow the lady across the road to the courthouse. As we arrive we hear yoddle noises from inside, a wedding party comes out with what looked like a very young girl in a white dress marrying a man in what looked like his 20’s. As we walk in we look down a corridor and the man who stole our possessions was standing there staring at us with a police officer. We walk to the end where our prosecutor starts speaking to us. He is a young man, maybe 25 in a very well groomed suit. The suit was a very good initial distraction of the words coming out of his mouth because at least he looked professional and knew what he was doing. He sits us over at the bench and starts saying the court house is closed because it’s their Independence Day. Even though we had been dragged from the police station three minutes ago saying were going to court now. As he’s asking us if we could stay till Tuesday (it’s currently Friday) another wedding comes out of the court house with a marriage celebrant yelling “who wants to get married, I’m in the mood to marry people.” Then all of a sudden a big African woman comes out of literally no where and starts dragging our prosecutor to the court room saying “I want to marry this one.” Then the marriage celebrant starts asking us if we want to get married. In the confused state we were in the only reaction that we could summon was laughter. As the marriage celebrant skips off down the corridor the “random lady who has no role in the matter” starts yelling, “I need to go, I need to go, I need to take my electrical injection.” Well… Kate and I just looked at each other and just cried in laughter we couldn’t take much more. Our tour leader and Andrew walks off laughing while she’s still yelling, “my throat is swelling.” Then she stops, stands up and walks 10 metres to talk to her friends. As our prosecutor is still standing talking to us agirl jumps out and says “I can speak German.” Well unfortunately for her one job of the day we were three Aussies (one being the tour leader), Irish man and a Canadian woman. The detective comes back with all the evidence under his arm and starts whispering to Andrew. Naturally our tour leader says can you speak up. Well he immediately stands up stares at her and yells that the thief is in the room next door and he doesn’t want him to hear, if only he thought to close the door. He then turns around back to Andrew and asks “Where is the box?” We were confused as to what he was saying or at least trying to say. After him repeating the same sentence five times, Andrew thought he meant the locker so he starts explaining that but no. Then finally after 5 minutes of the same question he asks, “where did you buy the phone.” “America,” Andrew exclaimed. Well if I’ve seen disappointment before it was nothing compared to the detectives face, thinking that the case was unsolvable and it was impossible to win now. Andrew then explains what the background was and said that he could unlock it. Still the detective was burrowing his sorrows. Andrew takes the phone from his hand and starts talking him through, explaining his unlocking the phone, showing him that the photo is him and his wife on his wedding day. At this point you would expect some sort of realisation but no he was still upset and disappointed. Eventually after three photos Andrew says, “this is me, and this is the scarf I’m wearing right now.” Well it’s like the light bulb finally switched back on and he jumped with excitement, realising that there is hope. I’m so glad that he’s the detective of the town. As our detective runs off to the prosecutor they spend 10 minutes speaking to one another walking up and down the 100m corridor. They would have a “secretive, professional” meeting in one end and then walk past us with stressed expressions then have another meeting in the other end. They both came back to us and explain that “the case is not impossible it will just be difficult.” I’m sorry you caught him red handed yes you didn’t bother doing any finger prints because you thought nothing would occur by it but you have some sort of evidence. He then explains that he wishes that we could stay till Tuesday because then at least we could explain in court, “what the items mean to us”… I’m sorry how on earth can you make a sob story about money, I mean I’m so sad because now I can’t go bungee jumping… We would have to be some pretty good actors and gullible judges to win with that. Also the prosecutor looks at Andrews phone and asks “do you need this?” ….really. He then freaks out yelling, “OMG why am I touching this it has my fingerprints.” I personally have seen 8 people touch that phone in the past 3 hours that I’ve seen it, I think it’s a bit too late for that. 
As were allowed to leave the courthouse and go back to the police station we turn around and notice the thief is also walking across the road with us only a few metres behind. If you’ve caught a criminal and are taking them back to the cell you would think you would at least hand cuff them or have more than one police officer walking closer than 2 metres behind. However this man was obedient and walked himself to the police station, staring at us as he walked behind the officers desks and into his cell. The detective then says “just a few minutes.” Well we all know that means 30 minutes. Eventually he yells out “who’s the one who has the foreign money.” I say it’s me and he yells at me to “come now.” I help explain to him which ones are Cambodian and Laos as he seems to be having trouble reading. He had never heard of Laos and explain that it’s next to Vietnam. Luckily I was wearing my singlet I got from Laos and showed him and the lady how to spell it pointing to each letter, as well as helping him pronounce it. This didn’t make me feel reassured about our case and him solving the problem but at least he became educated on something that day. He then explains that he is going to sign out all the money and phone to Andrew and we can deal with it from here. I have never felt so hopeless from being a women until this detective. As Kate comes over so does the thief who sits down on the other side of the desk and stares straight at us. I didn’t know what to do, should we be there or should we leave. We took the running option. As Andrew was called over we realise we are having a mini court case right here right now. As we walk over he explains that he’s going to count the money. Well $1706 U.S. is a lot of money when you can only count to ten and you make it dramatic with 2 second pauses in between slamming down the money on the desk. I gave up watching him count the money and turned to the thief for a psychology student being this close to a criminal was absolutely amazing. My psychology mind switched on and I watched his mind turn from denial and finding the situation amusing to slight realisation that all the fun and invincibility he has had over the past few months were gone once they signed everything off. Once the detective got to my foreign money he wasn’t so sure anymore and as he couldn’t read once he got to $10,000 dong he held it up and said “who can count this anyway” and slammed it on the desk. He turned to thief and said “all this is there’s not yours” whilst continuing to say “see I’m doing this professionally I’m counting all the money in front of you.” Well I was just happy to get some sort of money back, more than I had ever imagined. We split the money only losing $250 U.S. each. By the time we went back to our hostel it was 5:30pm and if I wasn’t exhausted before I was now.
We watched our sand boarding movie at 6pm at the booking office where we could purchase photos for only $20 Rahn per photo. After walking 30 minutes in the streets we went to a gorgeous restaurant on the beach. At this stage (8:30pm) I hadn’t had a shower so I was still covered head to toe in sand from the morning. As we arrived back at 10pm I face timed my parents (6am) equivalent to tell them my adventurous day and to say I got my money back. Finally at 10:30pm I was in bed ready to put the day behind.

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