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.
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:
Bank Name: Comdirect Bank AG
BIC/Swift Code: COBADEHDXXX
IBAN DE03 2004 1111 0274 7749 00