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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Off Drop & Pirates

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

It is universally acknowledged that the airport is a place without judgement.

There is no proper time to drink too much.  There is no proper time to drink at all.

7AM? Wine, it shall be.

You’re on vacation.

Any calories that you consume while being in the airport, don’t count.


Eat what you want. You’re on vacation.

I have learned this over the years, having been in airports at all hours of the day/night waiting for my boarding call. Of course, you do have to be careful about what you eat before you get on a plane, but that’s about it.

VERY careful, I must add.

Today, my new favourite taxi driver picked me up and brought me back to the Johannesburg airport- in preparation for my flight to CapeTown.  I can’t wait until I’m in one place for more than 7 seconds.   Perhaps lose this feeling of intense travel tedium and settle in to a semi-normal routine. I’ve already started to dispose of unnecessary clothing. Cramped little plane seats, confined quarters and trying to unpack/pack just to find some clean underwear is starting to wear on me.  I need to enforce a bit of organization in to my life... and I need to drink some wine.  Ahhh... the airport.


When taxi man pulled up to the airport, I immediately noticed that the words written on the road leading up to departures distinctly read “OFF DROP”.... and it repeated quite a few times as we approached the drop off area. It seemed funny to me, so I mentioned it to taxi man and he immediately burst in to laughter and started repeating it over and over again.

”OFF DROP! Ha ha ha OFF DROP!  So stupid the Africans! OFF DROP! Ha ha ha OFF DROP! OFF DROP!”

After he off dropped me, his intent was to circle back around in order to take a photo and post it on Facebook.  He was convinced that no one had ever noticed it before- and kept repeating to me how many times each day he drove to and from the airport and had never paid any attention to it.  I did Google Image it to see if I could copy an image, but I couldn’t find one on line. I will have to wait until January when I am back in Jo’berg again. I thanked him for off dropping me and go again I off... part 3 of the flight journey...

As we flew in to Cape Town, I have to admit, I got a tear in my eye.

Not exactly the weather, nor the view... but how I will always envision flying in to Cape Town in my heart.This 48 hour absurd and exhausting crusade was finally coming to an end... for a while... and I was flying in to a breathtaking, bucket list location.  It was foggy and I was seated in an aisle seat, so I couldn’t really see the city as we made our descent, but I knew it was there. We landed, grabbed luggage and all made our way out of Domestic arrivals and in to the wide open air of Cape Town. As soon as I walked through the doors, a young man approached me and asked if I needed a taxi. He looked legit... and to be honest, I tend to trust... until I don’t trust.

I shouldn’t.

I definitely know better.

He did have. what appeared to be, an official lanyard around his neck.. but really, it could have been anything.  I didn’t look that closely.

I should have.

He proceeded to steer me away from where all the other taxis were and I didn’t stop to take too much notice because I was busy prattling away... He told me that it would be a charge of 500.00 Rand- and the hotel I was seeking out was about 15 minutes away.  First red flag, because I paid 450.00 in Jo’berg and that hotel was 30 minutes away. I asked if he had Debit/CC installed in his taxi.  He didn’t... and really pushed for me to go to an ATM. Red flag number 2. I opted out of that... and that is exactly when I started to get a bad feeling. He then pawned me off on to another driver, who claimed to have the Debit/CC installation in his vehicle.  He did, to his credit, have a taxi sign on the top of his car... but something seemed off.  Something wasn’t right.  I kind of figured that this had been the plan all along and they were working together, but it didn’t really dawn on me to do anything about it quite yet.  They both threw my luggage in to the back of the truck and opened the front passenger door for me to get in.  Which I did.

Again... stupid.

I know.

I immediately noticed that the car was filthy.  There were take-out food wrappers stuffed in to the console, empty pop cans and old newspapers lining the car floor, where mats should have been. I asked to see his CC machine.

Blank look.

He admitted that he didn’t have one.  He didn’t even have a meter in his dirty car. Red flag one million.

I’m out.

Easier said than done.  I jumped out of the vehicle right away and demanded he open the trunk at once and give me my luggage.

He wouldn’t.

He told me that because I didn’t have cash on me, he would stop at a gas station and allow me to fill up his tank... instead of paying him directly.

No deal.

He refused to let me have my luggage back.

I just kept saying, “I’m NOT going with you. Give me my BAG back! I got quite loud too.  He kept refusing and reiterating what a great deal it was for me to fill up his tank.  My disposition did not change.  In fact, I got more & more upset with each shake of his head, knowing that his keys were in the ignition and everything I owned for the next 5 weeks was locked in the boot. THEN he admitted to me that he wasn’t going to give me my luggage back because he had already PAID the original guy for bringing me to him.  I KNEW they were in cahoots! It was then that I completely lost all poise.  All grace.  I started screaming. I don’t like being ripped off when I travel.  I don’t like being used or lied to.  I don’t like being made a fool or having the wool pulled over my eyes.  But most of all, I hate hassle and I don’t like the threat of losing everything I own because I won’t comply with a scam artist at the very beginning of my vacation.

I simply won’t have it.

Everyone in the parkade saw me and heard me.  The original guy came running over once again and made this guy open up the trunk for me. I grabbed my bag with the strength & adrenaline of Hercules and the anger & brutality of The Incredible Hulk... and I was out of there.

No looking back.

Straight to Airport Approved taxis.

Take note!  Pirate taxis will RIP you off.

The taxi I ended up jumping in with was an old man, with a kind heart & a tired face, who had lived in Cape Town all his life. His travel resume consisited primarily of driving back and forth to the Eastern Cape to visit his ailing and much loved, elderly father. During our brief encounter, he pointed out every unique structure, church, stadium, garden and intriguing touristy area along the way... and made recommendations on what I should see in the following week. He warned me about pirate taxis - charging double, pretending they can’t find your location, taking the long way around, trying to drop you at unknown places... on and on.  I’m sure that I would have been ok... maybe a few extra dollars out... but my intuition was screaming at me to get away. He charged me 240.00 Rand and brought me directly to my hotel.  He even parked his van in front and helped bring my luggage inside to ensure that I was safe. These are the people to embrace on your trips. These are the REAL people... the genuine, hard working ones that deserve every single tip that I received & saved up over the past year. These are the people that make their country bucket-listable...

Never forget that when you’re travelling.

More importantly, never forget that when they’re travelling.

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