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Mugged in Peru, part 1

I lived in Ecuador for a year, from August 2005 until August 2006. (You can read all about that here) I was going to university, and volunteering at The Secret Garden Hostel. When I finished school in May, my roommate Marina and I decided to go backpacking. I was meeting a friend in Costa Rica in mid-July before heading home mid-August, so we had six weeks ahead of us and decided to go to Peru and Bolivia.

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The original plan had been to spend two weeks in Peru, and four weeks in Bolivia. The image below was taken from the journal that I was keeping – it’s written in French, but you can see what our original travel plan was.

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We flew from Quito to Vilcabamba, where we spent a couple of days here – definitely worth it if ever you’re in southern Ecuador! From there, we took a bus to a town in northern Peru called Piura. Seasoned bus pros that we were, we fell asleep right away, and woke up at 3:30am at the border between Ecuador and Peru. The border post didn’t open until 4:30, so we got to stand around in the dark with 50 peruvians, amidst giant grasshoppers flying everywhere, staring at a sleeping border agent through the glass window. At 4:30, we got our passports checked, left Ecuador, walked across a bridge and ended up in Peru. We had our passports stamped on the peruvian side, got back on the bus and fell right back asleep, to wake up in Piura.

In Piura, we switched buses for Chiclayo, where we were going to take another bus to Trujillo to spend a few days there. We got to Chiclayo around noon, and our bus to Trujillo wasn’t until 4pm, so we decided to walk around for a bit and get to know the town. We didn’t want to be the tourists that were dumb enough to walk around town with their backpacks on, so we decided to leave them at the bus station while we visited. However, we also didn’t want to be the dumb tourists who left everything at the bus station and lost everything. It turns out that we were the dumb tourists who didn’t have money belts – we stuffed everything of value in our shoulder bags before hitting the town. Whatever – we were used to being extra careful with our belongings, and were pros at keeping eyes and hands on our things.

We ate some street food, visited the famed witch market, and we had some extra time so we decided to ask one of the motorcycle taxi drivers to give us a tour. He started driving us around town, and it wasn’t long before Marina and I realized that something wasn’t right. We were in a residential area with nothing to see and no one around, but we had no idea where we were so we couldn’t exactly do anything. We told the driver to take us back, and he said that he would in a bit. He pulled up outside a house, and told us that he was cold and was going in to get a jacket, and then he would take us to the bus station. We talked about it, but realized that there was nowhere for us to go, so we decided to stay in his taxi. The boy came back after a few minutes, got back in and said that he was taking us back now. As we were driving through a more populated neighbourhood, he started mumbling something about us getting robbed. Just as we asked him to repeat himself, I felt a jolt: another moto-taxi had bumped into my side of the taxi. Marina, always quicker than me, had already figured that we should run. There was a narrow canal on her side, and she pulled my hand as she jumped onto a small bridge crossing it. To be honest, I was still confused. Marina was pulling on my right arm, just as I felt someone yank my camera out of my left hand and start to pull on my bag. I started pulling back, and then I looked up… straight at a gun.


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Wheresalex… been?

 

 

 

Turnipseed travel has just posted a link about Hilary Clinton, showing a picture of her in every country that she’s visited while in her role as secretary of state. Which got me thinking: if I can’t be travelling right now (Well, I went to Regina recently. But I don’t think that counts.), I can at least think about all the awesome adventures that I’ve had.

The other day, I was at dinner with friends, and there was a sort of name dropping happening, only they weren’t talking about people, they were talking about countries that they’ve been to. I don’t know if I’m the same – sometimes, I feel awkward mentioning that I’ve been places. I don’t want to sound braggy, or annoying. But not today! Today, I’m going to do exactly what Hillz did – I’m going to post a picture of myself in each country that I’ve visited. Because this is my blog, and if I can’t get braggy on here, where can I?!

**Note: to my past self, you, and your potential future children:

1. Smile more in your photos. Until I was about 17, I looked grumpy in most pictures. I want to reach back and slap my 11-year-old self. 

2. Make sure you take pictures of yourself. Selfies, or ask a stranger (make a friend!) I’m usually the one taking pictures, which means that I’m rarely in them.

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Taxi Bamako

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I was mugged in Peru? Here’s a link to my old blog (in French), if any of you guys want to read what I wrote about it at the time.

For those of you who don’t read French or who don’t want to open a separate browser window, here’s the gist of it :

In 2005, I spent a year abroad, studying at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador. In May 2006, at the end of the school year, Marina (former roommate and travel buddy extraordinaire) and I decided to take off for 6 weeks and tour Peru and Bolivia. Seasoned ecuadorian travellers that we were, we flew South from Quito to Loja, a 75$ flight that saved us 18 or so hours on the bus. We got to spend time in the beautiful city of Loja and the amazing valley of Vilcabamba and from there, we boarded a bus to Peru. I couldn’t tell you how long we spent on the bus, but it was quick and easy. We got dropped off at the border in Piura at around 4am and stood around for 2 hours amidst giant leaping grasshoppers until the guard that we could see behind the window woke up. So, around 6am, we were waved through the border, walked across the kilometer long bridge, and ended up in Peru. From the edge of the country, we boarded another bus to a town called Chiclayo and promptly fell back asleep.

Once we got to Chiclayo, we had a couple of hours to spare before boarding our next bus to the historic (and supposedly very beautiful) city of Chan Chan. We had heard that there was a really great witch market in the town of Chiclayo, but we had our backpacks with us and didn’t want to cart those through the market, so we made the risky decision of leaving our stuff at the bus station. Unheard of, right? We thought about it and decided that the smartest thing would be not to leave any valuables behind, so we took our passports, ipods, cameras and everything else worth anything with us.

In retrospect, I still think that we did the right thing, but we got really unlucky when our taxi was accosted. The first thing I was aware of was a guy pulling my camera out of my hand, while Marina, always a bit quicker than I am, was pulling me from the other direction, trying to get me out of the taxi. I looked to my left, where the guy had started pulling on my bag, and I started pulling back until I saw his gun. Um, hi, potentially dangerous stranger! Please take all my things!

What does this have to do with Bamako?

In Bamako, it’s really common to share taxis. This I didn’t know before getting here. Oftentimes, the taxi pulls up and there’s already someone in it. Generally, I don’t like getting into those taxis unless the other passengers are women. The other night, we were driving through town in a crazy rain storm, and all of a sudden, this man runs up to the taxi and tries to open the door. Well, that definitely freaked me out. Turns out that the mugging in Peru had a bigger impact on me than I thought, and I’m always skittish when taxis stop on the side of the road now. Hopefully that goes away soon!

For your enjoyment, here’s a link to a song called Taxi Bamako. I didn’t make the video, but thought it would give you a fun idea of what Bamako looks like. Enjoy!