If you haven’t already heard via Facebook, we had our first major emergency only three days into the trip. We woke up on our second day in Valparaíso and decided to visit the neighboring beach town, Viña del Mar. We hopped on a bus and made it there without incident. The town turned out to be pretty boring and was far less colorful than Valparaíso. So afer a quick walk on the beach we jumped back on the bus to head back to our hostel.
As we reached Valparaíso we got confused about what stop to get off at and ended up in the hills – hoping the driver would just loop back around. All of the sudden the bus pulled over and the driver told everyone to get off. Our lack of spanish and the lack of the drivers patience left us stranded in the slums of a very sketchy neighborhood. Our only option was to whip out the map and walk back to town. We quickly realized we had no option but to scurry down steep sets of stairs.
Just as we began our descent I noticed a group of three school boys, who were on the bus with us, heading in the same direction. One boy split from the group and walked behind me. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach and tightened the grip on my backpack just as he came up behind me, pulled my hair (maybe not on purpose?) and started tugging on my pack. I stumbled around and tried to fight back. However, another kid who was much bigger raised his fist at me like he was going to hit me so at that point I decided to just hand my bag over. During this time one of the boys had jumped on Jace. Jace was much bigger than the kid so he kind of just tipped over and the boy was pulling as hard as he could on his backpack. Another kid ran over and grabbed the other strap so they were pretty much pulling Jace up the street. Jace had hardly anything valuable in his bag other than an iPod and his Passport so he eventually handed over the backpack out of frustration. The boys ran off quickly.
During the rumble a middle aged man walked by and I yelled for help but he kept walking. This might have been the most disheartening thing. No one wanted to help us up there. We were completely on our own.
We were both totally fine physically and after the initial shock of how much I had just lost, I was fine emotionally as well. We hugged it out and started our trek back into town. We were sketched out the whole walk back and made sure to walk down the lengthy stairs with groups of people.
We were planning on catching a 14 hour bus ride immediately after the trip to Viño del Mar so I had all of my valuables in my daypack to avoid theft on the bus. I had no idea we would end up stranded in the most ghetto part of Valparaíso. So all in all I lost an iPad, DSLR camera, iPhone, Passport, bank cards, north face jacket and an awesome hat. As well as a nice hunk of cash. Stupid me. I know. Lesson learned. And before eveyone gives me a hard time, Jace had his valuable in a money belt and they still took it!! From this point on I am putting everything in my underwear…
1) Don’t travel with things you mind losing.
2) If you must travel with these things NEVER carry them all together, even if it makes sense at the time.
3) If the people robbing you don’t have weapons and are small, beat them up and get your stuff back.
4) THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON: Scary things happen everywhere and there are bad people everywhere. This doesn’t mean the entire population is horrible. We had to remind ourselves that we have had a time in Chile other than this incident and everyone else has been very friendly. We just now know to be a bit more careful but to still have an open heart to the experiences that await us. At the end of the day we are completely fine and still very lucky to be travelling the world!
~We discussed embellishing the story to make ourselves sound more macho, but in the end we realized the real story was probably far more entertaining. Three small high school boys bamboozled us and we were too scared to stop them. They weren’t scary gangsters with machine guns and other than the chubby one with the threatening fists, we probably could’ve taken them. Better safe than sorry though… You are welcome mom and dad!