We’ve been robbed. We started this trip fully expecting not to be robbed; in fact our motto about our fellow man is, in general, people are good. We especially didn’t think we’d be robbed in the relatively well-off country of Argentina, and even less so in the Swiss Alps-esque Lakes District with its flyfishing, chocolate shops, tea houses, and general affluence. But we’ve been robbed, in a big way, in the Argentine Lake District. It only takes one bad banana to make you want to bludgeon the whole group of bananas with a sock full of hot nickels.
We had just passed through the “trout capital of Argentina”; the small mountain village of Junin de los Andes. Following the advice from my well-researched map of awesome fishing spots, we traveled five kilometers past Junin to the place where the Rio Quilquihue crosses under the road. On one side of the road we found a parking area, and in the back corner we found a fairly secluded, flat place to park. It would be the perfect place to camp before wrangling some fish in the morning. We parked Nacho, locked the doors, and walked the 100 yards to the bridge to look at the water.
Arriving at the bridge we spotted a small trail leading down to the bank. It seemed to afford a better view of the water, so we walked down it. At our farthest point, we were 200 yards from Nacho, and almost able to see where we were parked. No matter, we were in the middle of nowhere and there wasn’t a soul around. We sat by the water for about five minutes, and then decided that we’d caught enough fish over the course of the last week. It wouldn’t hurt to eat a few more meals and clear some fish out of the fridge before catching more. We headed back to the car to travel a bit farther South.
When we arrived at Nacho, I unlocked the sliding door and got in so I could wash my hands. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except that the new walking stick that Sheena found was broken in half on the floor.
“Hey Sheena, it seems your walking stick is broken,” I said.
“You BASTARD! You broke my walking stick!” She was clearly pissed. She’d dragged me around the shore of Lago Tromen all morning to find this stupid thing.
“I didn’t break it, I swear! You must have stepped on it!”
Sheena gave me the stink eye and we had a laugh, and then I got out and walked around the side of the car. At first my mind didn’t know what to do with what I saw.
Broken glass. Window gone. big dent in the door frame. Door unlocked.
I opened the door and looked inside. My seat was covered in glass shards, and there was a dusty footprint on Sheena’s seat. The glove box was open, the center console was open. Sheena’s beloved walking stick was broken like the very core of her little heart.
Nobody has ever broken into our car before. But this is more than a car; it’s our home. Some dirty rat bastard had broken our protective shell and had gone inside of our home without our permission.
We took a quick inventory of what was missing. The first discovery was the hardest to accept: he’d made off with our entire camera bag. It contained our digital SLR camera, all three of our nice lenses, and all of our lens filters. The contents of the camera bag alone were worth more than $2,000. He also got my Kindle e-book, my iPod with all of our pictures backed up on it, our onboard air compressor, and our beloved GPS, “Shackleton”. Camera, music, navigation, air, all of my books. In total, over $3,000.
“Did he get the computers!?” I shouted.
Sheena checked the secret computer spot and a relieved look came over her face. We would get to keep our photos and the rest of our digital lives, but it was only a small consolation. We felt absolutely violated. We got in the van and headed back to Junin, feeling like we wanted to curl up and die.
Our first stop was the police department, where a very unenthusiastic officer half-heartedly filled out a police report. “Has this happened to anyone else in this spot?” I asked. “Oh yes,” he responded, “It happens all the time. The campesinos are very fast. They rob all of the tourists who park in this spot.” This angered me even more. If the police know that someone is robbing all of the tourists who park in a certain spot, why not set up a decoy car and put the culprit in a “don’t drop the soap” situation?
We felt horrible. We wanted to go home. Our faith in humanity had been shaken. We decided to hole up in a campground for a couple of days to recover our wits.
I went onto our Facebook page and mentioned that we’d been robbed. Almost immediately, people started asking how they could make donations to help us replace our stolen goods. This was completely unexpected, but the word kept spreading, and before long several different people had linked to our donations page through Facebook, syncro.org, and The Samba. Over the last 48 hours, we’ve received $985 in donations from the ranks of you awesome and generous people who follow our adventure.
To those who have donated and offered their support in one way or another over the last couple of days, we can’t thank you enough. In a time of despair and sadness, you have pulled together and showed us that we’re not alone in this, and that our pool of friends runs much deeper than we’d imagined. None of you owes us anything, but we’re humbled to know that so many people care about our well-being.
By the second night of our stay at the campground we’d made friends with Mathias and Andrea; two Germans exploring South America by bike. Additionally, our other new German friends Achim and Ute pulled into the campground in their overlanding truck. We all gathered under our awning for the evening, barbequed steaks, shared a few beers, and tried to forget about our bad luck.
In the morning, Sheena and I stood at the sink washing dishes from the previous night. The sun was out, we could hear the river rushing by, and birds were chirping overhead.
“You know, I don’t know why, but I actually feel pretty good right now,” I said to Sheena.
“Yeah,” she responded, “that’s because we’re surrounded by love.”
At the end of the day, our motto still holds true. In general, people are good. Especially our people!