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 10, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Just thinking about this made my heart race. We’re so sorry you two 🙁

    Tara and I would be happy to ship you a new bike and set of kit if you didn’t want to come to the US. We could give you an address to send everything? I’m not sure how expensive it would be, or how long it would take, but let us know if you think that would help!

    • May 10, 2011 at 6:16 PM

      Thanks so much for the offer of help. Unfortunately Bolivia is probably the worst country in South America in which to receive parcels.

      A very bad reputation for complicated regulations, high customs fees and ‘lost’ packages.

      We’ve thought it over and it seems too risky and expensive (think hundreds of dollars just for shipping and you never know how greedy the customs guys might be) to have a bike and gear sent.

      I think it will end up being easier and whole lot cheaper to hop on AeroSur for an inexpensive flight to Miami.

  • May 10, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    I had a touring bike stolen in Alice springs once,it was the night before I was leaving for Darwin,it’s like someone coming along and tearing your right arm off,it’s terrible and I really sympathise,so sad.

  • May 10, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    My heart sank when I read of your current situation. I know how I felt when my road bike was stolen … and it was merely for recreation purposes. When your bike is your home, it is a real loss. Here’s hoping that your solution, whatever it may be, is relatively painless (unlike the root canal mentioned in your tweet … or for a “boiled” foot for that matter),

    I am heading back out in two weeks for this coming summer’s travels. Hope we can meet somewhere along the road.


  • May 10, 2011 at 9:00 PM

    guys, sorry to hear about your bad news, if you are still in bolivia, please take a moment to call me here in La Paz, Bolivia, perhaps we can help you out a bit, I am a New Zealander with a mountain biking business here and while we do not stock touring bikes as it is difficult to get parts for them, perhaps we can figure other options for you. Call us on 2-2313849 or 2-2412-272 or 2-241- 5530 ask for me, we have a very extensive workshop here in La Paz and many bike options, maybe we can figure out a way to hook you up so you can continue. We have helped many many cycle tourists in the past as I did a couple of years traveling through asia this way. PS. we can also hook you up with very very good dentists here. Cheers and sorry to hear of your “pain” Alistair.

  • May 10, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    Eric and Amaya,

    So sorry to read such sad news. Randy told us about your situation just as we’re preparing to head to Peru and Brazil. Now we’ll be even more cautious. Keep looking for your stuff at that market. Some of it is bound to show up.

    Remember: bikes don’t go backwards, and neither should you.

  • May 11, 2011 at 12:25 AM


    I’ve made contact with a guy in Lima regarding our trip. From looking at his web site, he may be able to get Eric a decent bike to continue on with. His name is Anibal Paredes and I found him on the warmshowers list. His website is http://www.perucycling.com/ You could also call him on Skype. I realize that you may just want to decompress or regroup. Either way, good luck.

    • May 11, 2011 at 7:01 PM

      Thanks for the tip, could be of use.

  • May 11, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    Really sorry to hear this – you’ve been exceptionally unlucky. However you still both have your health and at the end of the day that’s all you can really call your own 🙂

  • May 11, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    Foto of the bike and the bags missing. Some details about hight or ditches, too.

    Hi there, i read about your loss and published the news in the La Paz cycling news. http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=172770019444883&id=42573243796.

    I will send an email to the bolivian cycling list, but i might attach a picture of the bike and maybe some details of the bike. The brand will likely be deleted, but details like dents on the frame or fork. Rohloff? color of the bags, some info of the content can be helpfull.

    Bye Cristian… You might have heard of me as the host of the Casa de Ciclistas in La Paz and a Warmshower member.

    • May 11, 2011 at 7:01 PM

      Thanks CHristain for your offer of help. WIll get in touch.

  • May 11, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    ugh! not quite the worst nightmare i’ve had – but very very close. you’ll be back on the wheels again before you know it. good job keeping up the momentum! hope our $30 helps!

    • May 11, 2011 at 12:43 PM

      Thanks for the donation to the Buy a New Bike Fund, it’s a big help in getting us back on the road. The supportive emails and comments are just as appreciated…never knew so many people cared.

  • May 11, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    Grr to thieves.
    I finally had to open a paypal acct, after all these years you guys provided sufficient reason. Good luck, rb

    • May 11, 2011 at 7:02 PM

      An honor to be the impetus behind your joining PayPal.


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