The Most Scariest Moment I Have Had Abroad To Date!
Location: Tanzania, Western Africa
6th September 2015
Ok so we all have those moments when we are travelling where things can go wrong, and in some instances go a little bit further than we expected. For me the most scariest moment in my eight months of travel just so happened to be within the first three days of this world trip, ironically this was the time when I was super inexperienced in solo travelling, didn’t really know the customs of other countries and was just way too excited to realize how serious some situations can be.
I was on a six-week overland expedition across Africa and we happened to be passing through Tanzania. On day number three of the trip myself and some of the other passengers where intrigued with the culture of Tanzania, here where locals carrying lambs, chickens, even baby cows on the back of their motorbikes! We thought it was interesting and sat up the front of the bus taking photograph’s, I wanted to take a video so I stuck my hand just outside the window and record the street in front of us.
All of a sudden a police offer steps out in front of our moving bus and is going crazy! He is blowing his whistle pointing and yelling at the bus, I pulled my hand in and everyone was really confused, this police offer literally jumped out into the road for no apparent reason and was pulling us over. My tour guide spoke the local language and shouted, who took a photo of the policemen! Myself and the two other ladies froze, I went stone cold, had he seen our cameras and assumed we were taking photos of him? Because we hadn’t even seen him! We where taking photos of the motorbike riders and the animals they were carrying!
The next thing I know is the police jumps onto the bus and is shoving his baton in my face yelling at me in local languages, I said I didn’t take photos of him (in Tanzania its illegal to take photos of personal in uniform such as guards, military and policemen) he insisted that I had (luckily he hadn’t seen my friend Katie’s camera or the other ladies, market and only had seen me and my camera – most likely because I had my hand out the window!) I then just went into total shock, I was frozen in fear and surly thought this would be over in less than a few minutes. But I was horribly wrong.
This interrogation and total humiliation went on for over an hour, the policeman brought his friends on the bus and they were demanding bribes, they wanted $40US then $60US, they where threating to take me to jail, at one point the policemen grabbed me and tried to pull me off the bus! My tour guide stepped in and said, we are on a tour, she has to stay with us, we don’t have any of her documents they are back at the campsite, she cant go with you. I was of course just totally numb, so confused and even at different points broke down In shock and just cried. Marget, the elderly lady was yelling at the policemen saying we didn’t take photos of him, demanding he look at the camera! “look at it, your not on there!” The policemen just ignored her and continued to yell in my face, shoving his baton in my face and demanding I broke the law, and that I was now going to jail and he would arrange a court date for the following day.
After an hour of this torment, our driver and tour guide stepped in and said, that’s enough, you have your bribe money, she doesn’t even have her documents on her, they are back at the campsite, leave us.
And they did.
To me this was of course a massive shock, I was only three days into a 12 month trip, and it would have easily ended that morning. The policemen in Tanzania are corrupt, unfortunately like most poverty stricken countries in the world, my tour guide later told me they Bung it on to get money, which is fine if you can walk away from it. But being a 21 year old blonde white female, in the middle of Africa, you can imagine, like anyone, I was absolutely petrified!
This was, at the time and still is one of the most traumatizing moments in my travels, let alone my life! Not only has this experience changed the way I view Tanzania, but it has also ensured I will never take a photo without looking around and checking that there are no police near or around me, that may want to arrest me. Even in countries where it’s ok to take photos of officials, I will still ask them first, or just not take my camera out at all.
I think it’s sad how badly this experience effected me, I was very over cutious and probably stayed inside a lot more during those first few months of travel. I understand different countries have different laws, and totally respect that! I was young and inexperience at travelling compared to how I am now. Just be careful in forigen countries,you wouldn’t want to end up in a jail cell, especially in a place like Tanzania.