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Travel Insurance Claims - True Stories Just some of the weird and wonderful things that happen to World Nomads travellers while on the road

True Travel Tales - World Cup Alive

BOLIVIA | Monday, 1 November 2010 | Views [3201]

Every journey has a story; every trip has its unexpected twists. Plan and prepare as you may, some things happen on the road that take you out of your element, push you to your limit, and even put you in danger. These are the tales of triumph over tragedy, when you were in a sticky situation that you had to find your way out of – in another country.

Wayne Lox shares his story of how an evening of World Cup celebration turned into a nightmare Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Read his story and learn how to prepare yourself in the event of a similar situation. 

The Story

World Cup Fever 2010 hit Santa Cruz, Bolivia with a bang. Unfortunately, I came very close to experiencing a very different type of bang. Two gun-toting criminals intent on stripping me of all my possessions and inflicting damage was not what I had in mind.

The tournament began with all its ferocity and celebrations. I also had the joy to be free to watch all the matches in Bolivia with no hesitation having early nights to awaken for the important morning games.

Santa Cruz is a city which is slightly off the beaten track for backpackers generally, however I believe it is one of the best cities in Bolivia for meeting locals and having a good time. The unfortunate flip side is that it’s commonly known by locals and travellers to be a particularly dangerous city after nightfall. It’s recommended to take taxis everywhere after dark, so sticking to that rule, I waited for a radio-plated taxi and hailed it.

Upon sitting in and giving the driver directions to my hostel and instantaneously spotting his wildly glazed eyes, I knew something was wrong. Seriously wrong. Little did I know, it was already too late to get out.

Within a half-second of pulling off, his hidden accomplice emerged from the taxi-boot and proceeded to choke me with all his might, whilst the driver produced a handgun, pistol-whipped me, put the gun to my head and drove me out of city . Rapidly understanding the grave situation, I tried to keep them and myself calm, even though my head was spinning from the pistol-whipping and next I saw the steering wheel was soaked in blood. The taxi had been hi-jacked! No error there, they showed me one bullet missing from the gun chamber and clearly pointed out they were serious, incase I didn’t already realise!

My captors drove me to a very impoverished location, began emptying my pockets and had the sense to open my jeans to find a money belt with some more cash. Not content with cash and my phone, fear silently set in rapidly. I kept a cool head, unsure if I would be dumped, shot or both. But these gangsters had a very novel idea, in their minds anyway! What happened next took everything to another level completely.

They drove me, bloodied and badly bruised back into the city and pulled up close to my accommodation. The driver already knew the location from my initial directions prior to this madness. Ruthlessly, their plan was to pillage my room, at least! With a gun to my head, they instructed the night-guard to let us in. What was the man to do? Fortunately, in one sense, there was a slew of backpackers there, which must of spooked them, as instead of frog-marching me to my room, they decided to steal the hotel mobile phone, a little cash and the hostel keys, locking us all inside. Unbelievably, there was no other exit except the front door. One set of keys!

Nobody slept well for fear they would come back. We still don’t know why, but the owner never got the police immediately, which we believed was definitely happening.

The Outcome

The following morning the police arrived and took statements, there was little to be told. Two ruthless Bolivians in their early 30’s in a hijacked taxi. One with a tattoo! It didn’t come across as a simple case for the police, who given, did show some interest, but……

To top this off, the hostel owner tried to pin blame on me for it all. Unbelievably trying to hold me in the hotel to pay for everything. Luckily, the police saw this and gave the owner a very stern duty-of-care speech which quickly quietened him. The police took me and a fellow traveller from the hostel and began telling us all the bureaucracy involved in following this through, interpol, embassies etc, and inflicting their clear point that at least I was still alive and did I not just want to continue enjoying my trip, which, in all honesty, they had a point. What would have happened? 

The Police then dropped us off at the business of a local friend and cheekily asked for “dinero para la gasolina”! 

My consolation prize for this experience was a huge black eye and out of pocket to both the hi-jackers and the police. But, at least I was still alive to see the rest of the World Cup and to have an amazing trip in wonderful South America.

My Advice

My advice is simple. Always try to be in numbers, listen to what the locals say and never be fully trustful of what you should supposedly trust. After many super months in South America without incident and being very aware, it can just be your time. Caution and enjoyment in equal measures.

Travel Safety Advice from World Nomads

What a crazy story! Obviously a traumatic experience, but we can all learn from your tale.

Be very cautious of taxi drivers, even if they are licensed. Take a second before you step into the cab to speak to the driver through the window and make a 'gut feeling' assessment - especially at night.

As we mentioned in a previous story, there is a lot that goes through your mind when you are robbed or kidnapped, but it's very important to comply with your captors demands and do your best to stay calm.

Remember, a robber normally only wants to rob you - if you make it easier for them to get what they want there is less of a chance they will harm you. A loss of cash or personal property is a small price to pay in comparison to injury, or worse.

Related Articles:

True Travel Tales - The Buganda in Uganda Don't Play

True Travel Tales - Abducted at Christmas in Saigon

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Tags: bolivia, football, soccer, south america, terrifying travel tales, world cup

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