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Mugged in Peru, part 2

Continued from Mugged in Peru, Part 1

Reasons why I’ve attached this Friends clip:

– When I lived in Ecuador, my roommate Marina (the star of this story) and I watched this show religiously. We still get together once a year, and there hasn’t been a single time when we haven’t watched at least one episode together.

– Start watching at 0:39 – Ross’ tone is the one that I use when getting to this part of the story. I know that it sounds scary, but when I retell it, I have everyone laughing. I like to think of my second mugging as a heroic action story.

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At that point, I took my bag off and handed it to the second driver. Marina was still pulling on my hand, so as soon as my bag was free, I just went with her and both moto-taxis drove off. I lost everything: bank card, credit card, passport, camera, iPod, journal.

Upon hearing the commotion, everyone on the street quickly went back into their house and shut their door. Marina ran across the street and kicked down the closest door just as it was shutting. We barged into a family’s kitchen, and she announced that we needed help. Like I said, Marina really is the star of this story – she always knows what’s going on, and what needs to happen next. The family explained that they were worried that helping us would bring them trouble with the boys who had robbed us, but Marina was insistant and it wasn’t long before they agreed to help. They called the police, who came quickly, but were also quick to assume that we were just another set of dumb tourists. We chatted with them for a while and described the situation. We weren’t scared, we were angry. I think that our attitude, and our level of Spanish, convinced them that we weren’t dumb tourists (well…) but just really unlucky. They drove us to the bus station to pick up our bags (which were fine! untouched!), and to a hotel where we could stay for a few days while we sorted things out. It was a Saturday, and we had to wait until Monday to go into the police station so that I could make my report for my insurance claim.

While we were talking about all of this, Marina remembered that the boy had taken us to his house… and she remembered where it was! (Marina, I tell you! I don’t think that I’ll ever meet another travel partner quite like her) We started thinking that maybe the boy knew the drivers who had mugged us, and had gone into his house to call them and tell them that he had two tourists that they could steal from.  The cops decided that we should go to his house to try and identify him – they picked us up from the hotel, just as it was getting dark. Marina found our way back to the boy’s house, and we hid in the back of the police car for an hour (Police stakeout! In Peru! I’m not kidding!), waiting for the boy to come home. He came home, we identified him, and we drove off. They arrested him the next day.


The rest of our time in Chiclayo was well spent: we spent the Sunday with the two cops, driving around in their car (while they were supposed to be on patrol). They gave us their hats, but mine was later taken from me by customs. We also found out that they’d been demoted, after we left.

Over the weekend, the cops had been back to the boy’s house, which were near some brick ovens. They found a document that was in my journal – we think that they quickly went through my bag, and burned anything that didn’t seem to have any value, and must have sold the rest on the black market. Marina (again!) had originally tried to make a deal with the boy, telling them that we would pay them to give me back my journal, but we had no luck.

On Monday morning, the police picked us up again and took us down to the station to identify him. We did, they thanked us and they told us to wait. We heard them beat him. A few hours later, we all met in a room – me, Marina, the boy, and a lawyer. We were each supposed to tell our side of the story. The boy tried to defend himself, but the lawyer appeared to be on my side and kept contradicting him and telling him that he had robbed us. Between Marina and the lawyer, I was covered. I still feel weird about the whole situation though. We later found out that they had detained him illegally (he was 17), and beating him didn’t help. They had to let him go and weren’t allowed to continue the investigation.


After this eventful weekend, I got my form, and off we went. We had to cut the rest of our trip around northern Peru short, as I had to go straight to Lima and get a new passport and bank cards. My dad had already organized everything for me from his end, so that as I got to the embassy, all I needed was a picture and a signature, and I was able to process my application for an emergency passport. Still, we had to spend more time in Lima than we had originally planned.

How impressed do I look? I was NOT happy about having to spend time in Lima to get a new passport.

How impressed do I look? I was NOT happy about having to spend time in Lima to get a new passport.

We ended up arranging for all my replacement documents to be sent to Cusco, where we were ultimately headed before going to Bolivia. We were still able to continue our visit of Peru, going to Arequipa, Ica, Huacachina, Nasca and the Colca Canyon, because Marina, yet again a star, was able to cover the costs for both of us until I got my replacement bank card. We finally made it to Cusco around June 10. We fell in love with the city, and ended up staying there for two weeks, only going to Bolivia for a few days before I had to leave to go to Costa Rica.

Funny how things happen! Somehow, this mugging was less scary than the time I was mugged in Cuba, but it has still affected me. When I was in Mali last year, I was always a little uncomfortable when people approached my taxi. Hopefully that feeling goes away. The point is though, that it didn’t ruin my trip. Yes, I’m still sad about losing that journal – I’m only just starting to let it go. But thanks to Marina, the family and the great cops that helped us out, my situation was a lot better than it could have been, and it didn’t affect the rest of my trip (apart from having to spend more time than we planned in Lima!)

Tell me, has anything ever happened to you in your travels? Has it changed the way you travel?



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.


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.


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.


Remember the time I was mugged?

It’s inevitable. Every time I meet someone who has heard of my travels, they ask me to tell the mugging stories. They’re quite the crowd pleaser, actually. I went to Marina’s wedding in September, and everyone knew me as the girl who was mugged in Peru, and begged to hear the story. I figured that it was about time that I shared them on here, for the greater world to enjoy.

The first time happened in Cuba. In 2006, I spent a month in Cuba with a friend. While we were there, we got to know a few locals, and one day they took us to a local beach (I don’t know what Cuba is like now, but back then, there were separate beaches exclusively for tourists, and very few tourists went to the local beaches.) We were sitting at the end of one of those walls that juts out into the sea, enjoying the beautiful view and taking a couple of pictures. Next thing I know, I’m lying on my back with a knife pressed to my neck, and someone is covering my eyes and digging through my pockets.

Needless to say, I stayed perfectly still. One, because I had a knife against my throat, and two because I still had no idea what was going on.

When the man holding me down realized that I had nothing on me, he let go and I sat up just in time to see my friend be thrown off the sea wall into the water 15 feet below (he was fine). There were three men who mugged us that day – two of the men ran off with my camera, and $50, which was all we had on us. As they ran off, they asked the third man if I had anything. When he said no, they told him that he had to find something. He turned back around, and politely asked me for my shoes. In my confusion, I asked him why, and he said that he couldn’t go back empty handed. I distinctly remember saying ‘Oh! Okay!’ and handing them to him. He thanked me, and ran off.


Sure, the story was scary at the time. I had a hard time falling asleep that night. But now, when I tell it, I laugh the whole way through. The idea that I had a conversation with that man about my shoes still makes me smile.


I’ll post again in a few days about the time that I robbed at gunpoint in Peru – it’s a heroic action story that ended in a police stakeout.

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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!