Sunday, August 8, 2004, 12:12 p.m.
"Stealth and Distraction"
What was Stolen
The smaller of the two bags I travel with
containing the bulk of my most valued things: my travel journal,
2 SD photo storage cards with hundreds of photos and several
video clips (all prior to Santiago, Chile), Postcards,
miscellaneous souvenirs, my guidebook, cd player, 25 mp3 cd's
with about 10 cd's burned on each, my down coat, and of course
the Northface backpack itself.
Description of the Event
I had one hour remaining in Lima to wait for a bus
north to Trujillo,Peru and decided to have lunch at a Pizza Hut.
I sat down in a corner in such a way that I considered
strategic i.e. no direction for my things to move but in front
of me. Working in a group 3 to 5 maybe, a man to my right
dropped some coins on the floor. I thought "what a dummy" as I'm
sure other people did as all looked at the source of the noise.
I turned toward him, away for my bags bent down and pushed one
coin 6 inch closer
to him to help. I sat back up facing the restaurant lobby and then
looked to my left and to my shock and as if in a bad dream saw
my big bag on the floor with the smaller backpack no longer on
top of it. As I was distracted looking to the right and a bonus
for the crooks, bent down to help. Another person grabs my bag
and begins to move with it. other accomplices stand in front of
him to block my view looking like people in line to order
food. From beginning to end about 8 seconds. Second 1 - all is
fine and normal, everyone in the restaurant is a customer or
employee. Second 2 - the group has me "marked" as a target and
begin to move into position. Seconds 3-4 - all in position a man
creates a diversion by dropping coins and at the same time
someone has their hand on the handle of my bag. Seconds 5-6 - I
am looking right, thief begins to exit with my bag. Second 7 - I
notice the theft. Second 8 - The thief is halfway out to the
street and by the time I start yelling he is GONE. Not running
but calmly walking away. Others disperse simultaneously. The
crime was executed very quickly and professionally.
Lost all my most valued things. Due mostly to fault, my
guard was down and I got "popped".
1st - It was not a violent assault. 2nd - They did not
get my passport or ATM card. and gratefully I was carrying my
camera on me too. I made an incident report with police that by
the way arrived very quickly (a couple of minutes). Highly doubt
anything will come of it. Did have my e mail address throughout
my stuff. Also, the best photos I took were backed up on
to Prevent it from Happening Again?
It is difficult to say what I could have done differently. I did not
feel threatened in any way as I was in a corner not a hallway or on the street.
My bags where to my immediate left within arms reach. For starters I should
separate valuables. For example I backed up my photo cards containing ALL
my photos to cd but had the originals WITH the copies! also the SD cards are the
size of postage stamps and could have been taped them to my passport. This is
without a doubt my biggest failure. Maybe be sure they are touching me or chain
them together with a lock? Just be more careful assume there is never a safe
moment when in public.
Ironically, the thought I had on my mind WHILE all this was happening
was "I sure have been lucky traveling so many places, so many miles without a
problem". I swear to God, this is Twilight Zone stuff. Also the next day I
replaced my guidebook with a different publisher and inside the Lima section it
warned of exactly what happening to me. Roughly quoting "...there is no better
place in the world to have things stolen..."
I wrote this much to try to analyze what happened. I felt so screwed,
so taken advantage of, so foolish like I had a sign on me that said "sucker" and
the bag had a sign "free, just take it". One second all is good, the next, just
a huge empty feeling. I hope this never happens to you while traveling. Will
continue on to Ecuador for 2 or 3 week visiting about 4 places. Plan to fly home
from Quito. Late August/early September.
Bye for now,
hope all is good.