Never Take Your Eye Off The Ball…
As seasoned travellers that have experienced a fair amount of the world, we can wholeheartedly say that the majority of people we have met along the way are genuine, honest, friendly people who are proud that tourists would like to visit their country.
Before we travel anywhere we always do a lot of research, not just discovering the top 10 things to do in a place but we also like to find out the dangers and annoyances too. After reading horror stories on the internet about theft from tourists in large cities in particular, we have always been vigilant when it comes to our possessions and always make our personal safety a number one priority.
We stay away from dodgy areas, we take taxis at night, we walk everywhere with purpose, we don’t leave things on show. We live by the motto ‘Only carry with you what you need, don’t flash things about, and most importantly use your common sense’. This has been a good motto for us, and nothing untoward has happened to us on our travels… Until now.
Wayne with his camera set up for a time lapse at Ollantaytambo, Peru.
Caution v Comfortable
Having travelled around the world for 16 months previously without a hitch, I guess this is proof that common sense and keeping your eye on the ball works. As is the reality that not everyone is out to rob you.
Maybe because of this and perhaps because everyone in South America has been so friendly and welcoming to us so far, we became a bit too complacent and let our guard down. We took our eye off the ball once, and sadly once is all it took.
We knew from guide books and blogs on the internet that Quito is a city rife with crime, particularly with pickpockets and theft on public buses. When travelling on buses we ‘usually’ always travel with money in a zipped pocket on our person and place our backpacks between our legs.
Beware On Public Buses
Towards the end of our stay in Quito however, whilst returning to the city on a public bus from Latacunga, it was soul destroying when Wayne had his Lumix G5 camera (his baby), including wide angle lens, filters, spare battery and a few other accessories stolen out of his backpack. The backpack was placed on the overhead parcel shelf right above our heads and we didn’t even notice anyone unzip three different compartments and take out all of his electrical items. The thief was good, he knew what he was looking for and he knew how to get it without drawing attention to himself.
We say ‘he’ because we knew who it was, it was actually 3 guys working together, but we didn’t realise what had happened until they had disembarked the bus, and by then it was too late…
A Costly Lesson
At first we were angry but now we are more annoyed with ourselves. Why did we put the backpack on the shelf? We never do this. Wayne had sat with it between his legs all the way to Quilotoa the day before. Why on this last section of the journey did we put it out of our sight?
Maybe because all of the Ecuadorians we had met up until this point had been so friendly and welcoming. Maybe because we were tired from a 5 and a half hour hike. Maybe because we were two stops away from Quito. Maybe we just felt comfortable…
The irony is that I’d said to Wayne this was one of the cheapest bus rides we’d ever taken. It was $1.25 for a two hour journey. Now it turns out that it was the most expensive bus journey we’ve ever taken as we’ve got to replace all of the stolen items. Yes things can be replaced, but it’s an expensive lesson learnt even with travel insurance. It’s also a sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach that you’ve been violated, scammed, deceived and there’s nothing you can do about it.
We’ll never see the thieves or the camera again. But what is worse is that the memory card inside the camera was filled with wonderful photos of our hike around Quilotoa Lake and now it is gone. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Luckily, we still have some photos that I took on my point and shoot camera, but that’s not the point. Wayne is also upset as we still have 7 weeks of travel left in South America with a hike to Machu Picchu booked for late April. Without his interchangeable lens camera he cannot get the depth of field shots he wanted and complete his time lapse project as planned.
Wayne with his camera in Quito at the top of the Basilica.
Put It Down To Experience
After reporting the theft to the police to get a ‘crime number’ for the purposes of our insurance claim, all we can do is put it down to experience. (And hope that our travel insurance company accept the claim and pay some of the cost towards replacing Wayne’s pride and joy). We know that the police won’t take it any further and the report will simply be ‘filed’.
But what we can also do is warn other travellers of the perils of travelling on public transport in Quito! Not one hour after we told some fellow travellers from our trip to be careful when travelling on the Trole bus, they found themselves both pick pocketed and had their wallets stolen.
KEEP YOUR WITS ABOUT YOU!
We cannot emphasise enough that on public transport in Quito (and any other major city) you MUST be vigilant and WATCH YOUR BAGS/ POSSESSIONS AT ALL TIMES. IF POSSIBLE KEEP THEM ON YOUR PERSON in a zipped/ concealed pocket, especially money, passport, phone and camera.
ABOVE ALL, DON’T GET COMPLACENT. SOMEONE IS ALWAYS WATCHING AND WILL JUST CATCH YOU WHEN YOUR GUARD IS DOWN.
Take notice of our story and DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!