A nasty pastime that is all too common.

I used  to like to boast about how few problems we’d run into in five years on the road bicycle touring around the world.

I loved busting all the myths about the world being a dangerous place full of thieves, thugs and assorted evil-doers.

In face-offs with fear-mongers, I’d insist that, all in all, the world is a pretty safe place, filled with honest, hard-working folk.

I still hold on to those beliefs.

The world Is a pretty safe place.

But the next time I face off with a fear-monger, I’ll have a harder time arguing my case.

My ideas lose some of their credibility once the story of how Eric got robbed of his bike and all his belongings gets out.

A very typical tale

Like many thefts, ours is a story of opportunism and distraction.

With legs weary from a week’s worth of Andean climbs, we roll into Cochabamba early Saturday afternoon.  The hustle and bustle of Bolivia’s 4th largest city comes as something of a shock after the quiet and calm of the countryside.

It takes awhile to adjust to the blasting of horns and the blaring of music; the sidewalks jammed with fish-mongers and fruit sellers, young men hawking pirated CDs and old ladies selling freshly baked bread.

We wind our way past grubby mechanic’s shops and shabby homes, through the congested markets that ring the town and finally into the city center.

A few blocks from Plaza 14 de Septiembre, in the very heart of the city, we roll into Residencial Familial.

The hotel is lodged in a charming colonial building. It is neither crumbling nor decrepit, a step up from our usual humble haunts.

The fatal mistake

There’s a room available on the second floor and we begin lugging our gear upstairs.  The loaded bikes are parked (quite prudently I think) inside the central courtyard.

My bike and bags are safely stowed in the room and when Eric heads back downstairs to grab more gear—horror of horrors-his bike and bags have vanished.

The impossible takes place


He rushes into the street.  No trace of the bicycle and nearby shop owners and passersby claim to have no recollection of a fully-loaded touring bike passing their way.

Hotel staff are of equally little help.  Haven’t seen a thing.

In a matter of minutes—seconds perhaps—Eric’s bike and belongings have disappeared into thin air like some bad magic act.

The low-down on Cochabamba

Later, the police will tell us that this sort of theft is a regular occurrence in Cochabamba.

Guys work in gangs following unsuspecting tourists around the city.  They wait patiently until the foreign visitor slips up.    Opens a fat wallet in a crowded market.  Becomes distracted delving into his guidebook with his shiny new SLR camera slung casually over his shoulder.  Leaves his expensive bicycle unattended in a hotel courtyard.

Then they pounce.  These guys are pros.  The wallet’s nabbed. The camera’s snatched. And the much-loved Koga Miyata  touring bicycle which has travelled almost 100,000 kilometers around the globe through countries far more ‘dangerous’ than Bolivia is whisked away.

Our current prediciment

Now we’re left with one bike for two people, and two computers in someone else’s hands.  We’re without sleeping bags and spare parts.  We’ve still got pots and pan, but no way to cook.

Eric looks ridiculous running around in my t-shirt and trousers but is too stubborn to buy new clothes, believing somehow that our possessions might be returned.

Word on the street is that our stuff will eventually land at the so-called thieves’ market, just a few blocks away.

Eric’s been for a stroll among the stalls, but so far nothing’s turned up.

It’s a little harder to summon a smile these days, but we’re trying to remain positive.  We know the situation could be a lot worse.  We weren’t harmed, the money’s still there, we’ve held on to our bank cards and, more importantly, our passports.

Positivity will prevail, dammit.

A sneaky band of Bolivian thugs may be able to rip-off a fully loaded bicycle in broad daylight, but we won’t let them crush our bicycle dreams.

But the situation we find ourselves in is a complicated one.  We’ve got to replace the bike and gear, and in Bolivia, that’ll be about as easy as getting a bacon burger in Islamabad.

Obviously, there’s no Koga dealership down the block.

Miami is the closest place we can count on getting any high quality gear and a new touring bike.

What’s ahead

And that’s where we’re headed.  Back to the good ‘ole USA.

Our adventure has changed course, but it hasn’t been derailed.

It’ll be a long ride from Miami to Montana.  Further, in fact, that from Bolivia to Colombia.

But waiting at the end of the road will be Mom and Dad and the magnificent Big Sky country.

That thought ought to be enough to keep those pedals turning as we cycle across America for a second time.  Then it will be on to Asia.  One of the safest continents on the planet.


The bike and bags are long gone but that hasn’t killed our quest to be the first couple to cycle every country on the planet.

Any and all contributions (via pay-pal, visa, mastercard or bank transfer) to help defray the high cost of the theft are greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

*If the donate button below doesn’t work, go to the upper right hand side to the Buy a New Bike/Keep the Tour on Track Fund section and use that button.



You can also make a direct transfer to our account in Germany:
Eric Schambion
Bank Name: Comdirect Bank AG
IBAN DE03 2004 1111 0274 7749 00

A big bump in the road: a tale of thievery and loss
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47 thoughts on “A big bump in the road: a tale of thievery and loss

  • May 11, 2011 at 7:20 PM

    This news has really saddened me and hope that you sort things out. I have been following you both for a couple of weeks now and have found your writings and advice so very helpful for a beginner like me. I have sent you a few pounds – I can’t afford much, but it may get Eric some socks.

    • May 11, 2011 at 7:28 PM

      Thanks Ken–we appreciate your solidarity.

  • May 11, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Guys – so sorry to hear about this. Hope you get replacements soon. Very sad news. Laura and Paddy

  • May 12, 2011 at 3:55 AM

    Hi Amaya,

    So sorry to hear about the awful incident. I hope my contribution will be some help to getting your bf’s stuff back together. Doesn’t sound like an easy place to get everything back in order, but I am hoping for the quickest recovery of your belongings.

    Best wishes from Japan,


  • May 12, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    when are you guys planning to do asia especially philippines and taiwan where i am at?

    so where r u now? r u going to go to FL to get new bike? is this the first time someone stole something from you on ur trip?

    thanks, Homer

    P.S. To help you cope with the situation i wanted to share a little philosophy that i gathered with the years i have been on this planet, Everything belongs to god so your bike was not really yours, and by your bike being stolen its like a donation to poor people of that region because they probably needed it(money from it) more then you. And if you continue being good god will bring more bikes/good things in your life. LIFE IS A TEST FROM GOD. pass it

  • May 14, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    This is horrible. I’ve been reading the posts with much interrest for months now and I was always on the lookout for your fantastic stories.
    Keep up the spirit.


  • May 15, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    Ciao Eric & Amaya vorrei vedervi ancora con le vostre moto come quella volta a Imotsky in Bosnia,mi dispiace per quello che vi è successo spero che donerete presto una sorella alla Koga, non può restare sola, buona fortuna!

  • June 11, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    Sorry to hear about your misfortune. (I´m still hurting after having all my South American photos stolen in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, a few days ago). Right now I`m in Cochabamba, staying in the same hotel where your bike was stolen (when I booked in I too left my bike in the courtyard while going upstairs to look at a room). I can imagine how you feel.

  • September 13, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    I am a fellow cyclist further south and are really sorry to read about your bike-loss, but also really glad that all your lust for riding and faith in people still remains.

    Good luck with it all

    /Hanna, cycling in Chile

    • September 17, 2011 at 3:15 PM

      Just a little bump in the road, no reason to give up on our dreams. Hope you’re having the time of your life in Chile!

    • September 23, 2011 at 1:59 PM

      Our faith in the basic goodness of people is unshaken. We’ve met wonderful folks all the way from Syria to Sierra Leone and even in the great city of Santiago. Hope you’re having a great time cycling in Chile.


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