I have traveled quite a bit and as an unwritten rule, you are always advised to go to with your passport even to the bathroom if need be, mostly when you are away from home (outside your home country). It is also advisable to always keep your own passport and avoid circumstances where you have to surrender your passport to someone else (e.g those Middle East employers who take their employee’s passport only to keep them in employment against their wish.)
I have two other posts I will be uploading detailing the trip between Nairobi and Zambia so keep it here.
The planned route
I’d always wanted to do an overland trip to all countries in Southern Africa that are visa-free for Kenyans, the idea came to fruition and I embarked on the trip last March during my annual leave. The total planned travel days were between 21-30 days, which included travel and rest days. The starting point was Nairobi; Kenya, through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana (for the second time), Zimbabwe, Mozambique, then endpoint was Lesotho for a day before flying back to Nairobi.
Considering this was a road trip from Nairobi using public means, I did not know what to expect but I was entirely ready for all the surprises that were to be thrown my way.
Backpackers in buses
We had spoken about this trip with Wendy Watta of Nomad Magazine and she was equally excited to do it. The golden rule, however, was, if anyone pulls out of the trip for one reason or the other the person would still go on. Well, this would have still worked well for both of us because either way, we are both solo travelers. But the idea of knowing you are with someone in case of anything was deeply comforting. Again, it meant accommodation cost was going to be cheaper if we traveled as a duo.
Travel Insurance from My Credit
I needed four things for this trip. Journey mercies, cash, a strong will, and travel insurance. The rest I was willing and ready to deal with as they came. In the recent past, My Credit Kenya has been my go-to financial institution for travel insurance. The simple reason is, they cover all eventualities from your trip including legal assistance abroad at a reasonable price.
Seeing that we were going with the flow on this trip, nothing was cast on stone and we agreed that if we get tired or anything happened that required us to go home, we would just book the next available flight.
How we spent an extra day in Zambia after our visas expired…
So back to how we entered Namibia and the events that led to the loss of my passport.
We spent a total of seven days in Zambia and the plan was to go to Namibia for three days, then Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
In as far as the trip was concerned, the road network from Nairobi through Tanzania to Zambia was flawless. That was the one factor I thought would hellish but I was pleasantly surprised.
The only terrible stretch was the almost non-existent road from Livingstone to Sesheke; the Zambian border town to Namibia. So bad was the road that we even missed the Namibia/Zambia immigration office hours. Usually, bad roads have tiny old, squeaky, vans plying the route. In most cases, the vans take ages to fill, and when they fill up, there is always an excess of passengers. That meant we had to spend another night at the border Zambian side and to make matters worse, the seven-day visa we had was expiring that day.
Kindly note; If ever you want to cross to Namibia through Sesheke, leave very early because of the road. The trip ends up being a 7-hour journey, yet it is supposed to be three hours maximum. Otherwise, you will have to spend the night in a pathetic, dirty, deplorable hotel room with questionable safety because immigration at the border closes at exactly 6:00 pm.
We overstayed in Zambia because of the road situation, so the next morning we left for the border. The immigration officer at the Namibian side noticed and issued soft but real threats. The Zambian-Namibian border is not a one-stop border like the Kenyan-Tanzanian or Tanzanian-Zambian borders. After clearance on the Zambian Side, one has to walk for about a kilometer in no man’s land into the Namibian Side.
The first thing at the Namibian border was proper screening for Corona Virus. Immigration was fast and in no time we were in Namibia.
I had booked a tented camp called Caprivi Mutoya which was about 25km from the main border town called Katima Mulilo. There were no buses or Matatus or uber in Namibia. The locals use saloon cars as taxis that pick and drop passengers along the way. The cab guy who took us to the lodge overcharged us.
We paid apprx Ksh 2000 per person per night at this tented camp Katima Mulilo; Namibia; If you go to Namibia thru the Zambian border (Sesheke) check them out(Caprivi Mutoya Lodge). Only thing I did not like was poor network and internet coverage. Everything else 10/10. pic.twitter.com/8G3XhpXQpS— Bonnie 🇰🇪 (@bonitaonsafari) March 14, 2020
After freshening up and resting, we decided to go back to the ‘Katima’ as locals call it to get some local currency, food and possibly check out the town and the people. We were referred to a driver by the lodge who only took a fraction of what the morning driver took and he even agreed to take us back once we were done.
I loved the town. it was colorful, the women were beautiful, they wore nice, fashionable clothes. The men did not make much effort to look good. Apart from the people and the local dialect, there was nothing that made me feel I was in Namibia. Chains such as Mr.Price, Shoprite, KFC, etc dotted the most part of the town. There were lots of banks and ATMs and it was at this point that we all transacted. We really hoped to get a nice coffee house or a local food restaurant but we were not in luck. So we just settled for hungry lion.
Drinks were so affordable in Katima Mulilo but what surprised me was that there was no sale of alcohol after midday on Saturday till Monday the next week and on public holidays. (Kenyans can never relate.)
In Namibia, Alcohol is only sold weekdays and Saturday before lunch. And shops including liquor stores are closed by latest 7:30pm. They do not sell alcohol on public holidays. pic.twitter.com/9hs1o9dWBU— Bonnie 🇰🇪 (@bonitaonsafari) March 13, 2020
I called the driver and told him were done, and he said he was going to be there in a minute. A minute we waited. We did not want to take another driver because of the rapport we had built with him. Also, the fact that the lodge knew him, gave me some sense of security.
One and a half hours later the guy is still coming,(we were so patient), so we decided to go check out a center someone had suggested that had good clubs and music. This seemed like a viable option because by 6:30 pm all shops and restaurants are usually long closed.
A driver who couldn’t keep time, another who was confused and a third one who said the truth
We got to the said club but very little was going on considering it was on a Thursday. We took a taxi back to where we had agreed to meet our driver. At this point, we had paper bags with shopping and I was carrying my sling bag that had my passport pouch, credit cards, and local currency and some USD.
While in this taxi, I called the driver for the fourth time and he said he is still on his way, we decided to ask this taxi guy to take us to the lodge because it was getting late. The guy was a bit hesitant but he agreed later to take us because the lodge was far off from his operation zone.
A few minutes later, he stops and engages another driver, then he says the driver is going past the lodge so he will just follow the driver because he doesn’t know the place well. We agreed on a price and we start the trip. Our driver, on the other hand, is still coming.
A few Kilometres in, the taxi guys diverts to follow the driver he had spoken to earlier. I am worried and my heart starts beating fast. So I ask him why he has diverted and he says the driver is dropping someone but shortly we will be on our way. They stop at a local club, the driver gets off and goes into the club. I roll down the window and ask the other driver who was standing nearby what was going on. He said they had agreed that we were to join in his car because he was going to the lodge and the other guy who was our driver to head back to town.
At this time I am so livid. What arrangements were this? Why did he agree to take us if he knew he was going to be dodgy? Then this other driver says that much as he wanted to go with us, he only has space for one person.
At this point, I did not want to know who was saying the truth or not. I called the driver we were with driver (who was a chain smoker and had gone to refuel a little) and requested him to take us back to town. At the same time, I am also trying to reach the initial driver who says he is some minutes to town.
On our way, he picks a tall gentleman who wore a baseball cap and a black leather trench coat. The man says he is going to ABC guest house. (At that time I was so alert and I am picking any word, movement, and body language).
Leaving my passport pouch/wallet in the first driver’s car
We get to the ShopRite stage and our driver was there. Apologetic and remorseful. We change cars and everyone goes their way. Little did I know that it is during these transfer and tension that I dropped my passport pouch in his car and did not check because I was so scared of him already. I immediately remember like three minutes later and asked our driver to follow him to ABC guest house, because that was possibly the next destination to drop the tall guy.
The beginning of the search, a hotel owner thinks I am rejected lover
We get to ABC, I go in and explain the situation. The owner of the guest house was a lady and after a detailed explanation of what happened, the only thing she asked me was whether the man I was following was my boyfriend. (wow! someone just lost their passport and all you can think is that this is a woman chasing after a man).
I remained calm, gave her my number,(Namibian line, I always buy local sim cards in each country), and humbly request her to ask the watchman to check the white taxi that will drop the guy with a leather jacket for a brown pouch.
We went back like three times but neither the tall guy nor the white taxi was seen at the guest house or so I was told.
Disappointed, tired, and annoyed but calm, we went back to the lodge.
Day two of searching… and meeting a new friend who helps out.
I told the driver to pick me very early the next morning so we try to trace the taxi. The previous night, our taxi driver spoke to the other driver as we changed vehicles. He said he didn’t know his name but if he sees him he will recognize him.
That night was long. He picked me the next day very early for the wild goose chase. Imagine going to town to look for a tall dark driver with a white honda fit, no name, no unique identification, no number plate, no nothing! Amidst tens of white honda fits with tall dark drivers!
The driver dropped me at ShopRite taxi rank, and we agreed that he will go check the other two taxi ranks. We then would meet at the same spot after one and a half hours to compare notes.
This was going to be a long day, and trust me the Namibian sun was not yet out but I was sweating 7:00 am in the morning. The seriousness of the matter dawned on me. No passport, no cash, no ATM card, no National ID. and I am 3000km away from home!
There were a few taxi guys at the rank that identified me from the previous day and came to find out why I was just standing there. I explained to one of them, and he went and told the others. None of them knew that driver because there are drivers that are not registered by the taxi association and that driver might have been one of the unregistered.
The guy helped me check every taxi that passed but it was fruitless. Two hours later the driver came back and told me he has left word around, and he will go check later. He had to work, so I let him go. We agreed that by midday if I don’t find the guy, I will just report the case and see what next.
Spotting the white honda fit!
My new friend offered to take me to the other two taxi ranks after some two hours just to follow up. As we were leaving the second taxi rank, I saw a white taxi (honda fit) and told the friend to ask that driver whether he knew the tall dark guy, who also had a similar car. To help in description I asked to say he is a chain smoker. Believe it or not, smoking was the leading hint! It did not even take a second and the guy identified the driver. He told us where he had seen him park elsewhere less than ten minutes ago. He offered to take us. So, did he have my passport? Check out for part shortly!