Strangers in the Night

Pucon Travel Blog

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Pucon was pretty much a disaster from start to finish.

First of all, I never got to climb Volcan Villarrica, the principal reason for my visit. After a bright start to Saturday, which saw me clamber out of bed at 6.15am, clouds gradually gathered around the previously clear peak, swirling, thickening and squashing any optimistic thoughts we had of getting up there. Climbing to the top of an active volcano was one of the few things that I had heard was best to do in Chile but, unfortunately, it just wasn't to be. I guess it'll have to wait for another trip.

As the morning progressed, a legion of iron grey clouds swept in over the town. They loomed melodramatically until midday, then spent the afternoon slopping bucketloads of water earthwards. This put an end to any ideas of going walking. I was already feeling a bit naff, with a bad stomach necessitating a return ticket to the bog every 30 minutes or so. I then developed a steamhammer headache and decided just to go to bed.

In the afternoon, Jack, an 18 year old guy from South Wales, showed up in the otherwise empty ground floor dorm room. We chatted for a while then I went back to sleep. Later, I emerged from my pit long enough to scavenge a bit of grub (salami and cheese sandwiches) and watch some cable TV, namely the UK police drama, Blue Murder, with big-boned everywoman Caroline Quentin assuming the lead role. Normally I'd turn my nose up at such ITV Wednesday night bumdribble but, far from home and feeling a bit gloomy, I found the Manchester accents and crap jokes strangely comforting. I watched two hour-long episodes.

About 9.30ish, Jack and a Dutch guy, the only other person in the hostel, decided to go for a few drinks; it was Saturday night after all. I declined the invitation to join them and instead went back to bed, read for a while, then fell asleep fully-clothed with the room light still on. I woke, some time later, to the sound of voices speaking Spanish. There were clearly two blokes in the dormitory, though one of them was doing most of the talking. I assumed that it was people moving their stuff in and lay there wishing they'd shut up, get to bed and let me sleep.

The noise didn't stop though, if anything it got louder. After a few minutes, it was clear that one of the newcomers was right next to my bed rifling through his bag looking for something. I thought this was a bit inconsiderate; they could surely see I was sleeping. I turned over, propped myself up on an elbow, and squinted at him. I had no glasses on so he was just a blur, a blur that backed away then moved over to the other side of the room. Moments later, after a few more swift Spanish words were exchanged, the talking abruptly stopped. There was a bit more scrabbling about, then a minute of silence ensued.

Finally feeling that something was wrong, I found my glasses, put them on, and realised I was alone. I leaped out of bed to see that it wasn't their own bags the blokes had been rifling through: mine and Jack's bags had been opened with contents strewn out across the carpet and one of the beds. I shouted a few choice profanities and dashed to the far end of the room, where large windows were set into the ground floor wall. I pulled the curtain back to see that a high but narrow window on the left, maybe 6 ft high by 1.5 ft wide, was wide open. I hadn't noticed that it had been unlocked earlier. On closer inspection - there was no lock at all and it didn't shut properly. There was no sign of anyone in the grounds of the hostel; the uninvited guests were gone. I checked my watch; it was 2.30am.

Jack and the Dutchie returned only ten minutes later. I told Jack what had happened, said that he should check through his stuff. He did, quickly realising that the daybag attachment of his main backpack was gone. In it was a camera, about 80 US dollars and most importantly, his passport. They'd also grabbed his North Face raincoat. I had already checked my own stuff - I'd only lost my fleece, the one I'd bought to replace the one stolen in Ecuador four months back. My CD player and CDs were snubbed, as was my own, admittedly rubbish, raincoat. After a whole lot of fretting, anger and gnashing of teeth, I sealed the window up as well as I could with duct tape and we eventually got to bed. 

It wasn't a peaceful night, I dreamt vividly of standing on a promontory in Hawaii whilst massive waves smashed themselves again and again onto the rocks just below me. I woke frequently and lay listening most of the night away for any sound of the thieves returning. They never did. The next day we reported the theft to the local fuzz, nothing would be done of course, we just get our report for the insurance and get on with our lives. Same. Old. Story. It's almost getting passe now, third time around. I felt worse for Jack losing his stuff and being understandably shaken up about it, than I did about the loss of my jacket.    

I actually have a theory about why these things keep happening to me: I reckon it may all be connected to chaos theory. Y'know, the hypothesis that everything is in some way connected to everything else, meaning that some things can influence others, even if there appears, on the surface, to be no connection between them at all. For example, a butterfly stretching out its wings somewhere in France may mean that a sudden tornado is triggered in the USA. In my case perhaps a Malaysian cockroach might snaffle a crumb of biscuit left on a kitchen floor and I get robbed again, wherever I happen to be.     

Well I've got news for my chaos roach. I'll be in Malaysia soon and d'you know what, when I get there, I'm going to do my best to find the bloody thing. And I'm damn well going to stamp on it.  
mybu84 says:
hey, feel sorry about the story, though ur blog is thriling, like a detective story.
I had my passport stolen couple of months back in Thailand and being russian had to fly all the way home to replace it after 18 months of traveling and with no prior intention to head home:) this things happen, and it is one more story to tell:):)
Posted on: Apr 10, 2008
jhob says:
Bloody hell Salad! You seem to have the worst luck ever with all this getting robbed. Here's hoping that your luck changes very, very soon. Your insurance company are going to be ruing their decision to insure you.
Posted on: Apr 10, 2008
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