Thurs. morning, May 7th, 2015
As most of you already know, my grand niece Katrina (daughter of my brother’s daughter Ann) and my niece Karla (Ann’s sister) got together in Cape Town to have a look around and then drive up what is known as the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth where they would catch a plane to Durban and I would meet them. On the way they enjoyed some hang gliding, Ostrich Riding and Bunje Jumping.
I had gone with Katrina to C.T. on Thursday, the23rd of April, made sure that she was settled in and taken care of and, with a borrowed car, went to the airport in CT to meet Karla who had flown in from California to spend a few days here. My (our) friends in CT, took very good care of us, helping us to find our way, sleeping us, feeding us, showing us around, etc. I visited a few friends and returned to Durban on Monday the 27th of April, leaving the girls to do their thing in CT.
I had booked a Mariannhill cottage which is on the Indian Ocean for three nights, Sunday May 3rd, Mon. May 4th, and Tues. May 5th., giving the girls three nights and two days to chill out at the end of their adventures and to have a chance to jump in the comparatively warm Indian Ocean.
However, they took longer to drive up to PE so they sent a message that they would only be arriving about noon in Durban on Monday the 4th of May. They organized a shuttle from the Durban airport to a place called Hibberdene, which is only about 8 km. from where the cottage (next to a retreat house call Coolock House, run by the Mercy Sisters). After Mass on Sunday the 3rd, I went shopping for some foodstuffs, etc. for our stay at the cottage and arrived at the cottage in the early afternoon. I slept there that night and in the morning, checked to see that all was in readiness for their arrival that afternoon. There are two bedrooms with two beds each and three bedrooms with one queen size beds that can sleep two. I had taken one room for myself and put my things there in the room.
They caught the shuttle about 3:30 on Mon. the 4th, and when they arrived in Hibberdene they phoned me and I went to fetch them and brought them to the cottage called Mariannhill Mission. By this time it was about 5:30pm. When they arrived, that had two big suitcases, two back packs, and two like duffle bags. We just put them on the floor in the living room for the time being. I showed them the rooms and told them, when they were ready, to pick the room or rooms they wanted. They were hungry and we decided to go out for a bite to eat nearby, which we did.
When we came back, about 8pm, there was a full moon, the weather was quite warm and you could hear the sound of the surf. So we sat on the porch, had a drink of something and watched the moon. The even went down from the porch to take some photos of the moon. It was beautiful. About 9pm I told them that I was going to bed because I was tired so I showed them how to lock the burglar gate and the front door and went to bed.
I was awakened by screams “Cas, Cas”, so I leapt out of bed thinking that maybe a snake had come into the house or a mouse or some other creature, and ran out of the room on my shorty pajamas only to find a man at the door with a stick in one hand and what I think was a small knife in the other hand. I shouted at him and screamed at him and shut the burglar gate and he and another outside decided to run away. They had nothing in their hands besides that stick and knife. In the meantime, when the girls were ready to get off the porch and come into the house, these guys came up and accosted them. They had gone to the kitchen to have a drink of water and one of them, when she heard the noise came back to the living room where one of them was waving this stick at her and maybe a knife as well. That is when she ran back into the kitchen and closed the door and started screaming for me. In the meantime, the thieves cleaned out the whole place. They had been watching videos they had taken with their cell phones on the big screen TV so their I-phones and cameras were on the coffee table along with all the keys to the cottage and the remote for the gate. They took these things and everything else. Of course, inside the luggage where their passports, money, credit cards, I-pads and the clothes they intended to wear. All gone.
By the time I came out, this was all gone and I didn’t even notice of think of it until they told me what had happened. Of course I still had my cell phone and I-pad but didn’t have any numbers to phone (the sisters next door at Coolock House, the security company, the police---nothing.) So I set the security siren going figuring that someone would be there in a few minutes. It took the security company 45 minutes to get there, which obviously gave the thieves plenty of time to disappear with all the stuff into the think bush which is in the area. I also tried to phone 911 but that is not a local number and it went to someone in a place like Johannesburg where, when I tried to describe where we were, they wouldn’t understand. Eventually the police arrived from the local police station and then the sisters from next door came down with some of the priests from the Missionaries of Africa (known as the White Fathers) . I am not sure how they knew to come down but there is a back path up to the Coolock House and they used that to come to the cottage.
In the meantime, the police got busy trying to chase anyone they saw in the dark and went up and down the area with their torches to see what they could see. The said that it was too late to get sniffer dogs and it was almost an hour later by this time. The Police were there till about three in the morning, sweating from running up and down chasing the possible thieves. The bush is thick and it is easy for anyone to hide out and hide things there and come back in the morning, when things have calmed down, and then check the loot.
The sisters were kind enough to let us sleep up at their retreat house as we were very vulnerable in the cottage as the thieves had also stolen the keys and remote so we couldn’t take the car and leave and we couldn’t lock the house against further intrusion. Not a good situation.
So, on Tuesday, the 5th, we spent the day doing some shopping for some basic clothing and toiletries in town, and managed to get some photos for the passports they would need. (I had phone the consulate and asked what they would need for temporary passports—their only ID’s---and they said a police report, a photo and a good bit of money. So we had to go to the police and get copies for all three of us of the police report so that they could use that to verify that they had had their passports stolen. I also needed on since I was called the complainant since I was the only one who was living in South Africa. That took most of the day. In the evening an old friend who has a restaurant had invited us for a meal and It was good for them to get out of that scene for a while. Again, the sisters were kind enough to give us a place to stay Tues. night.
I forgot to mention that although I had phone the security company, when they came they couldn’t find the right remote so I had to get a locksmith. But before he came, two people helped to lift the gate up off the rail and slide it open enough to get my car out so that we could use it to do all the things we had to do. They put it back on the rail and when the locksmith came he was able to reprogram some remotes so that the one stolen would no longer work and I had one and gave on to the sisters as a backup.
On Wednesday, the 6th, we left early, 6:30, with the empty suitcases which the police had found (the thieves and taken what they wan..ted and just left the empty suitcases somewhere in the bush where the police found them. We first stopped at Mariannhill to leave these things there and went straight to the consulate after printing out copies that I had on my computer of Katrina’s passport and some other things. We were there at the consulate by 9:30 and with the help of a friend whom I know who works there at the consulate (She was on one of my retreats at her school in Ixopo in about 1967 or so, and I met her on other occasions in between) we managed to get the temporary passports in about 3 hours.
When we came back, we stopped shortly at a friend’s house who then invited us for supper (lovely curry) to kind of ease the pain .
I forgot to mention that the local community organized some clothing for the girls to wear and showed other signs of concern and offers to help in any way that they could. Also the police, for the first time in my life, went overboard to help us and were excellent in all ways.
So that is the story for now. Today we take Karla to the plane early so that, if there are some problems with all these things, she has time to sort them out before the plane leaeves.
Also, yesterday afternoon, having been starved for several days of access to the internet, one took over my computer and the other my I-pad and were on them till we went for supper and again, when we came back. They are creatures of the IT age.
We thank the Lord that we (especially they ) are alive and well. They could have easily been raped, or stabbed or shot or beaten. NO such thing. Thank you God!