What I carry in my day pack on a normal day: an iPhone, a camera, a water bottle, sun cream, insect repellent, a handkerchief, hand cleaning gel, a pen, a small notebook, a Berghaus long-sleeved top (black), and a wallet (containing cash and a credit card). I also carry a decoy wallet. Why am I telling you this? Read on.
As you will no doubt be aware, Latin America is not renowned for being the safest place in the world to travel. However, up until a few days ago, I had managed to survive this, and two previous visits, relatively unscathed. By the law of averages, my luck was soon to run out!
1. The card cloning event.
At some point during my short visit to El Salvador my bank card was somehow cloned, presumably at an ATM. I found this little gem out when 4 unknown transactions – each of 400 US dollars – showed up on my mobile banking App. The withdrawals all took place in the USA, a country I have never visited. Thankfully I found out about the problem fairly quickly and was able to notify my bank who have since given me a full refund. Unfortunatley the bank had to cancel my cash card.
2. The daylight robbery event.
The next incident occurred on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. I was hiking back from a waterfall, on private property, when two masked youths, armed with machetes, sprang out of nowhere and requested that I hand over my day pack. I thought it best to do as I was told. To say that I was someone shaken up would be an understatement!
I now found myself stuck in the middle of nowhere, an hour away from my hostel by car, with no money. Thankfully I met a local couple and explained my situation. They were very understanding and gave me a lift back to my hostel. The hostel staff were mortified when I told them what had happened. They called the police straight away. To be fair, 10 minutes later, 5 officers arrived in three vehicles with flashing lights – I was impressed. However, my uplifted spirits were soon deflated. The officers showed little interest in the robbery, preferring instead to chat amongst themselves and enjoyed the free drinks, which the hostel staff had placed at their disposal. They eventually took a few notes and left saying that they would return later.
By 8pm that evening there was still no sign of them. I can only assume that they were in the bar having a laugh at my expense.
Now one one valuable lesson (of many) that my mum taught me in life was: never ever give up.
At 07:00 the next morning I was sat outside the only police station on Ometepe. One hour by bus – on the other side of the island. I could see the dissapointment on the faces of the two officers when they eventually turned up at 08:00. I politely pointed out that I still needed a written report in order to get help from my insurance company back in the UK.
The report took two hours to put together as the nonchalent middle aged officer practised one finger typing on a dilapidated computer keyboard. The delay was made excruciatingly worse by the officer’s need to leave his desk at regular intervals to chat to his colleagues who were kicking tyres on a rusty old police car outside.
Armed with the priceless police report in hand I left the island on the next ferry. I only hope my insurance company are as understanding and as efficient as my bank – I somehow doubt it!
Next problem: I have forgotten the PIN number to my last remaining credit card – I only have 3 chances to get it right.