One of the most important rules to staying alive in Johannesburg is to never drive at night. At night, car jacking, robberies and violent crime occurs more frequently. I always did my best to get home before dark and prevent anything bad from happening during our South African road trip. However, in this one instance during my trip in South Africa, we did get caught in the dark…
After travelling to Kruger National Park, Karen and myself decided to do a day trip through Swaziland. The drive sounds simple enough. We would start our road trip bright and early in the morning. After several hours of driving and exploring, we should be back in Johannesburg by 5 or 6pm.
Terrible roads in Swaziland
“Great!”, I thought, we can explore a whole new country by following this strategy. Or so I thought. Little did I know that Swaziland’s roads are horrendous. We ended up getting delayed by at least three hours while exploring Swaziland!
Now, I don’t regret this decision, Swaziland was one of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Swaziland looks like your picture perfect desktop wallpaper…except it was real! It was really hard to believe what we were seeing. The best we can do is stare at the beautiful landscape and be grateful for the opportunity to see such beauty.
While exploring Swaziland, we also got lost. The Swaziland roads are rarely marked and you have no idea where you are driving. Karen ended up turning on her data plan (which cost her quite a bit of money) to get us back on the right track.
Because of the massive delay, we were incredibly behind our planned return time of 6pm to Johannesburg.
Hunger and gas
While driving back to Johannesburg, Karen and myself was starving and we ended up stopping at Wimpy’s (South Africa’s version of Denny’s) to get some food. I’ve been driving for nearly 7 hours at this point and was dead tired, I really needed food and rest.
As we drew closer to Johannesburg, the car also started running out of gas so we had to stop and get some fuel. By then, it was 7pm and it was pitch black outside. Not the ideal situation to be in when travelling in the Johannesburg area.
High jacking zone signs in Johannesburg
One of the strange and scary thing about the drive back is seeing signs at highway exits indicating that it is a high car jacking zone. It definitely made the moment even more tense as I try to navigate my way back to the airport to drop off our car rental.
I decided to follow the next important rule when driving in the Johannesburg area: never stop at traffic lights.
I began speeding like a manic; driving at 160 KM per hour. I wasn’t going to stop for anyone or anything. If someone or something gets in front of the car, I will have to hit them!
There’s no way I was going to get car jacked, robbed or shot. As I drive crazily back to the airport to drop off the car rental, I got honked at several times. I didn’t care. Karen and my safety was the utmost importance at this point.
Sometimes, I would get paranoid and think there’s a car following me. Which typically means someone is trying to car jack you. I would then increase the speed of the car to ensure I lose that person who is potentially following me.
Safe and exhausted
After a gruelling 10+ hour drive, we made it to the airport car rental return depot. I was beyond exhausted and extreme tensed. I was happy that Karen and myself was safe. We proceeded to call Rob, the owner of Shoestring Airport Lodge, and he picked us up in the airport. We had a good night rest as we prepared to leave Johannesburg the next day to fly to Zambia.
The ideal situation
Honestly, if I can do it all over again, I would have stayed in Swaziland for the night and drove to Johannesburg the next day. Swaziland is beautiful and would have made for a pleasant night stay. It would also remove the risk of driving in Johannesburg at night.
This wasn’t the last scary drive we experienced during our time in Southern Africa. In future blog post, I will talk about other scary moments during our African road trip.