My first overseas trip was with three friends to Papua New Guinea.
We were heading to a family friend’s house in Gerehu, a suburb north of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
I remember the night air was humid and smoky from the locals burning rubbish along the side of the road. As the city lights of Port Moresby grew fainter in the distance behind us, the stars grew brighter, blooming in the darkness. Soon there were no street lights at all.
I was sitting in the back seat of a ute. Two of my friends were outside in the tray on the back and one was in the front passenger seat.
It was only a 10-minute drive to our accommodation, and our driver began to tell us how you always need to be on guard and aware of your surroundings out here.
“Don’t drive too close to the car in front and be mindful of how close the person behind you is to your vehicle,” he told us.
I asked him why and he relayed a story about his last carjacking experience. His car was stolen at gunpoint and he was hit over the head and left in the middle of a field.
As I thought about this I start to take in my surroundings. It was pitch black outside now, except for the headlights of another car approaching from the opposite direction.
I felt a sense of relief as the driver said our house was just ahead. We were about to turn off the road when the car ahead suddenly swerved in front of our ute, cutting us off and blocking the driveway.
The next few minutes all happened so fast.
All I could do was stare out the window as four men leapt out of the car and surrounded us. In their hands were a combination of guns, knives and machetes.
They smashed the side window with a long machete and glass flew everywhere. Our driver tried to reverse but one of the guys stuck a gun in his face as a warning and reached through the broken window to pull his door open.
I remember the driver saying “No, no, no…” and lifting his arms up in surrender.
I heard a tapping sound next to my ear and turned to see one of the guys holding a gun against my window. He wanted me to open the door. I didn’t move, and he attempted to reach around through the front passenger door but couldn’t find the lock to open it.
I ducked down behind the seat, deciding it was a good idea to be out of the way in case they started shooting. Everyone was shouting and then I heard something smash.
All of a sudden, the car lurched into reverse and the driver’s door slammed shut. I sat up to look but quickly dived behind the seat again as I heard the sharp crack of gunshots.
I don’t know how long we drove before we finally pulled over to see if anyone was injured. I brushed the broken glass off my lap, looking over myself numbly to see if I was hurt and realised that I was okay. I wasn’t dying today.
As my friend in the front passenger seat got out we realised with a shock that our two friends were not on the back of the ute any more.
Scenarios ran through my mind and I desperately hoped that they hadn’t been taken hostage or hurt. We immediately jumped into the ute again and sped back towards the house.
To our immense relief, we returned to find the security guards at the house had fought off the carjackers and my two friends were able to run inside unharmed. The gunshots we heard were them firing at the fleeing carjackers.
Once we were all safely inside the house, my friend contacted the police and gave them the description and number plate of the carjacker’s vehicle.
Thankfully, we all survived unharmed except for a few scratches and cuts.
We were later told that the carjacking we experienced was only about a two on a violence scale of one to 10.
'Grateful' is an understatement.
Vanessa works as a Customer Service Manager at Australian-based insurance company, Fast Cover.