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

PANIC.

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.

Help!

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
BIC/Swift Code: COBADEHDXXX
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 9, 2011 at 3:32 PM
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    Auuutsch…How sad. I’m seriously shocked getting this bad news. There’s nothing like “Koga love”. Keep up the spirits.

    Love and thoughts,

    Nicolai

    Reply
    • May 10, 2011 at 9:47 AM
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      Yes, we love Koga. Mine now looks sad and lonely without her twin.

      Reply
      • June 6, 2011 at 9:03 PM
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        That sucks!! If your headed to the States check out the Surly Troll, I took one to Africa and am currently riding around Australia with it, More it accepts the Rohloff and is more versatile than a “Koga” cost half the money and is probably half the weight, Plus made of steel it is fully fixable. the bike has been great, i would highly recommend it, bit a word of warning go with a size larger than you normally would ride the sizing is a bit off in my opinion.

        I hope your back on the road soon

        Aloha

        AA @ http://WWW.BEYONDTHEGREATDIVIDE.ORG

        Reply
        • June 8, 2011 at 12:30 PM
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          Hey Aaron, thanks for all the info about the Surly. It is a very popular touring bike and the price tag is definitely reasonable.

          What can I say. Eric’s set in his ways and insisted on a new KOGA.

          Enjoy you ride through Australia!

          Reply
  • May 9, 2011 at 3:51 PM
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    Sucre , 9/5/11
    Well , when I have seen the picture appearing on the screen , I was ready for the worse . Not quite , but bad enough , specially with the sentimental value of the bike . I have chosen to go from Sucre to Oruro and not Cochabamba . It is not going to make me change my mind !!! It seems I can forget my hopes to join you somewhere north . Too bad !!!
    See you may be in North America next year , or in Asia in two years
    Friendly
    Jean-Marc

    Reply
    • May 10, 2011 at 9:49 AM
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      I’m sure we’ll bump into each other along the way in Asia. Many thanks for being the very first to contribute to our Buy a New Bike cause.

      Reply
      • May 10, 2011 at 4:00 PM
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        Hi Amaya & Eric

        Wow…you are still on the road !
        I am intrigued about the finances for all this.

        Anyway, I just sent you USD 100 to help you out via PayPal. Please let me know that you have received it.

        Número de confirmación es el: 49F72718MJ7987706

        Cheers
        Dennis

        Reply
        • May 10, 2011 at 5:49 PM
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          Got the donation. Thanks so much Dennis for helping the Get a new Bike Fund Grow!

          Reply
  • May 9, 2011 at 4:14 PM
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    What a sad incident – and what brave spirits, to keep up the good mood and remain convinced it’s the exception not the rule. Seems Kogy Miyata is indeed under-represented in your area. Have you considered contacting them directly to see if a solution can be arranged? After all, it would be a publicity stunt for them to save you from you unfortunate situation – and perhaps squeeze in half a dozen logo T-Shirts for the man…

    Reply
    • May 9, 2011 at 7:29 PM
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      Yes, we’re getting in touch with Koga…would be wonderful if they could help us out of this sticky situation. And Eric would look much better in Koga gear than his current flowery look. He’s been getting a lot of unwanted attention on the street.

      Reply
  • May 9, 2011 at 5:02 PM
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    Terrible news. A bike tourist’s worst nightmare. We’re keeping you both in our thoughts, and hope you get your new bike and gear and arrive safely back on the road before long.

    Reply
  • May 9, 2011 at 6:08 PM
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    We’re so sorry to hear this news! We’re rooting for ya. Keep up the amazing journey, you guys are inspiring!

    -Alan & Mo

    Reply
  • May 9, 2011 at 6:34 PM
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    OMG. That really is a kick in the teeth. I couldn’t think of anything worse to have happened. Just the other day by brother-in-law got taken out by a motorist in London, smashing his beloved bike and teeth to pieces. Any sad situation involving a bike makes me cringe.

    You should try contacting Koga head office in Holland. You never know, they might be sympathetic and offer you a new bike, especially as you praise their bikes all the time on this website that many cyclists follow.

    Good luck.

    Reply
    • May 9, 2011 at 7:30 PM
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      That teeth remark got me cringing. Yikes. A good reminder of what’s truly important.

      Reply
  • May 9, 2011 at 10:24 PM
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    Well, that just stinks! 🙁 Very sorry for your current predicament.

    Your description of Eric roaming the streets in your clothes pretty much sums up his determination to hang on to optimism in a bad situation – which in turn, is how I think of you two on the road: optimistic, persevering, and most importantly, keeping faith in humanity and that all will work out in the end.

    Very glad to hear both of you are healthy and safe. Here’s to hoping for a speedy recovery of the lost goods.

    Reply
  • May 10, 2011 at 4:06 AM
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    Terrible nightmare. I really hope you will find all of your stolen things, really hope. It is factinating how positive you stayed, but it is something I can’t imagine how hard could be. Praying for you guys 🙂

    Reply
  • May 10, 2011 at 7:54 AM
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    Terrible news! I’ve had my run in with machetes and bike thieves on the road. I hope Koga come to the rescue and you can keep your spirits up in the meantime. Peter

    Reply
  • May 10, 2011 at 10:51 AM
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    Ai man, that sucks! Why can’t Koga sponsor you and ship new bikes to you? Or are they already sponsoring? Theft is bad but what is does in your head about trusting people and bursting a happy bubble is worse. Don’t lose faith, it will work out.

    Reply

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