It’s only been five days since I’ve returned to South Africa, but so many things have happened that it feels like it’s been weeks. I was so excited to be back, but after a few days my excitment turned into nothing but stress when something very unpleasant happened to me:
The day after my arrival in Johannesburg, I met up with a couchsurfer that I’ve been chatting to in the prior weeks. He had posted on couchsurfing to find a travel buddy and so we met in Nelspruit five days ago to start our trip together – first stop: Swaziland. Up until now, I’ve only had great experiences with couchsurfing. I’ve hosted interesting people at my home, got to stay with lovely and caring hosts and travelled with like-minded spirits. But this time around, none of that was the case.
Right from the beginning I felt like the couchsurfer and I don’t really “click” and a couple of days in he still hadn’t warmed up to me at all. Over and over I caught myself thinking things like: “Somehow this guy is strange. I really can’t seem to figure him out. I probably won’t stay in touch after this trip.” But I stayed polite nonetheless, because that’s how my parents raised me, I stuck to agreements and tried to mainly concentrate on all the animal sightings we had during our drives through Swaziland’s game parks.
Two days ago, as we were just about to cross the Swazi border back in to South Africa in our rental car, he dropped the bombshell: He wasn’t really looking for a travel buddy. He only wanted to take somebody with him so he only has to pay half of the car rental. But when we met he quickly realized that he couldn’t care less about other people – he only wanted to save money. Hearing this kind of confirmed the bad gut feeling I’ve been having after we hadn’t been able find any common ground for days. Sometimes he didn’t just show disinterest in what I said, he even reacted with hostility and malice on quite a few occasions.
I still can’t really wrap my head around what happened then: All of a sudden he was so eager to get rid of me that he wanted to abandon me at the very first opportunity after crossing the border. I spoke out against that because I was still taken by surprise by the whole situation. I didn’t even have data on my phone card to search for a place to stay that night. We stopped at a gas station in Pangola, the next town, and once again he stressed how much he’d like to drop me off there. “I’m sure there’s a guest house somewhere around here and I’m sure there’ll be a bus going somewhere tomorrow. Don’t make such a fuss, it’s not that difficult”, he kept on saying several times. Shortly before that, we had just taken turns to go into the gas station as he found the area too dodgy to leave the car unattended. And now he wanted to leave me at that very same location in the middle of the night. Again I refused to stay behind here and demanded for him to take me to the next place we had planned on visiting together: Ithala Game Reserve. Grudgingly and with his mood worsening by the minute, he finally agreed to take me to Ithala. There we sat in the car in silence until the gates were opened in the morning. I had packed my things in the meantime and the second I had gotten out of the car at the reception, he turned around and left me without another work – well knowing that he has just abandoned a young woman in a foreign country where sadly crime is still a big issue.
I knew that I’m safe as long as I stay at Ithala lodge, but I was left behind without a car and the closest town with a bus connection was over 50 km away.