An unreal story we never told from our time in South Africa….Newspaper story we posted one year ago today…

Still wanting to post photos after our “staying in” weekend, we walked the steep steps to the rooftop for the following shots. That’s our laundry on the clothesline which Madame washes every few days.

We hope all of our Easter observing readers had a wonderful day.  Staying indoors due to the crowds, we enjoyed another excellent Madame Zahra made Moroccan dinner minus the spices. After dinner we watched another good good movie, “The Railway Man,” worth viewing.

Hopefully today, the spring break and Easter weekend crowds will thin out and we’ll head out to the souk and Big Square for a hearty much-needed walk and dinner at one of our few favorite restaurants. We’ve exhausted all our dining options in the Medina serving non-spicy foods that Tom will eat, although I continue to order an occasional spicy tagine.

The newer model washer is located in a closet on the rooftop which we hadn’t noticed until yesterday.

As for the story we never told of a situation that occurred in South Africa, it’s not an uncommon story in certain parts of the world. Why didn’t we tell the story at that time? I suppose, we didn’t feel comfortable sharing anything negative about a country we love in so many ways while we were living there.

As time has passed, we’ve come to realize that it’s important to share this story for other travelers should they encounter similar circumstances along the way. Please understand, the telling of this story in no way diminishes our views of the wonders of South Africa or its people. 

Of the dozens of countries we’ve visited thus far, South Africa will remain in our hearts forever, which we long to visit again someday in our travels. This story is not a reflection of the people of South Africa in general, only a fraction of its society that angers and frustrates its countrymen as it did us. Here we go!

It was a beautiful day yesterday, although so windy that the plants inside the courtyard two floors below were moving in the wind.

It was January 18, 2014.  We were driving a rental car, returning from our delightful three-day stay at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge in the Blyde River area of Limpopo, South Africa. We’d had a glorious three days, but we were equally excited to return to Marloth Park to see the animals and our friends.  What a fabulous feeling, leaving one amazing place to return to an even more amazing place. We were on Cloud 9 to say the least. 

First, we were on our way to the airport in Nelspruit to return the rental car after one month’s use when the rental car company refused to extend our contract for the same rate they had charged for the first month. 

Look at that blue sky!

As a result, we decided, rather than sign up for a similar deal at another rental car company, we’d to have Okee Dokee drive us around for our remaining time in Marloth Park.  She’d captured our hearts and we decided that we’d rather put money in her pocket than a rental car company with its outrageous fees. 

We’d coordinated the trip to Blyde River to coincide with the date we were required to return the rental car. We began the drive down the mountain to make our way to the airport where Okee Dokee would meet us for the 90 minute drive back to Marloth Park. 

The household staff regularly water to plants on the rooftop as well as in the courtyard.

About an hour out of Blyde River Canyon, Tom was moving along the well-paved roads at a good clip, when suddenly a policeman stepped out onto the road signaling us to stop.

What could possibly be wrong? The first thought that entered my mind was the possibility of a customary passport check. Tom thought otherwise, suspicious that we were being stopped at the foot of a long hill where many lowering speed limit signs were posted in rapid succession.

Tom was hanging out with me on the rooftop as I shot these photos.

Tom immediately handed him our passports, waiting to see what he wanted. The cop kept asking, “When is your flight?” The reason for this question, Tom surmised, was to determine how desperate we were, the shorter the time to our flight, the more it was going to “cost us.”

Tom explained we didn’t have to fly anywhere that day and we were staying in South Africa until February 28th. Again, the cop asked, “What time is your flight?” 

Holding the camera over the high wall of the rooftop (over my head) I shot this photo of the sheltered roof of a riad next door.

When again, Tom explained that we had no flight to catch, he cop said we were being “ticketed” for speeding without providing any specifics. He had no ticket book in hand.

He proceed to explain that we’d have to go back to the nearest town to the police station to pay the fine. Still, no ticket was presented. The drive back to that town was 45 minutes each way and there was no way in the world we were going back there. 

A man in his gazebo on the roof of an adjoining house.

Okee Dokee was already on her way from Marloth Park to pick us up at the airport. Even if she hadn’t been, there was still no way we were going to drive an extra 90 minutes, spending what may have proved to been several hours in order to pay an arbitrary fine.

But, we also knew there was no way were we taking the risk of getting into a verbal altercation with the cop which could potentially get us arrested.

The little grill Madame uses when she cooks the grilled chicken on the roof.  We seldom request it since we don’t want her to have to go up there to cook.

Diplomatically, I interjected, “What would it take to avoid us going back to the police station in Hoedspruit?”

The cop paused for only a second, making a feeble attempt to make it appear as if he had no plan in mind, “Four hundred Rand,” he blurts out.

I nudged Tom whispering, “Give him the 400 Rand and let’s get out of here!”

Tom pulled out the bills while I asked facetiously, “Can we have a receipt to prove we’ve paid?”

We also discovered the water storage tanks which are hooked up to the city water supply.  We use bottled water for drinking and brushing our teeth.

The cop grumbled, “No receipt!” 

Tom was furious. It wasn’t the amount of money at US $38.09 that frosted him. It was the fact that it was a bribe. Plain and simple. 

Slowly, he pulled out back onto the road as I watched the cop put the money in his pocket his eye on us  as we drive away, perhaps looking for another “supposed” infraction.

The hot water heater is also located in a closet on the rooftop level.

When we retold this story to our Marloth Park friends, they said we should have negotiated the 400 rand down to 200 rand. But, under the circumstances, being our first “bribery” experience, we’d decided to not push our luck and be done with it. 

With this experience behind us, would we act any differently if this happened again? I don’t think so. The possibility of being arrested in a foreign county is frightening enough. 

We wished we could see over the tall wall.

Was Tom speeding?  Possibly, a small amount over the speed limit as a result of coming down the steep road.  Is that an excuse? Not at all. Were we handed a paper ticket to pay on the spot, we’d have put our tail between our legs and paid, lesson learned. 

None of us know what situations we’ll encounter when traveling outside our home country or at times, in our home country. There are many risks that we both take seriously every time we walk out the door. 

This decorator item is on the wall in the landing of the third floor.

I no longer carry a purse or wallet, keeping only a lipstick in my pocket. Tom secures his wallet with little cash in zipped and hard to reach pockets.  We each have our own credit cards should one of us be ripped off, we’d still have credit cards we can use while others were being replaced.

Each time we head out, we’re on alert for potential situations such as this. We realize and suspect that had Tom not been speeding, we could easily have been stopped anyway when no evidence of speeding was presented to us.

The steps on this brick stairway from the third to the second floor, are uneven with many of them very deep.  It surprises us how Madame Zahra easily navigates them several times each day when I gingerly make my way down.

From that point on we observed similar police “setups” at the foot of every hill, wondering who’d be their next target. Not us. We crawled the rest of the way.

So, there’s our first bribery story. It may not be our last. We carry on with the hope that we can avoid these types of situations in the future. Although, we accept the fact that nothing we can ever do or plan will make us exempt from experiencing situations such as this.

Happy Monday to all. Have a good day!


Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2013:

All these prior photos were taken with the inexpensive Samsung camera resulting in less than ideal photos. This was the view overlooking one of the dining areas on the Norwegian Epic a few days before the storm. For details of the story from that date, please click here.

The story we posted one year ago today: