Condor high above the Colca Canyon
We are exhausted from a two day tour to the Colca Canyon and back, having seen many llamas, alpacas, handicrafts and other tourists. We also witnessed the beauty that is a condor soaring high above this morning after a 5 a.m. wake up call. But first… I got robbed!!
Yes, after a year long on the road without having lost or had anything stolen, I fell victim to a distract and grab scheme here in Arequipa.
Our first day here, we set out to stroll the streets and do some shopping. We decided to grab lunch at this sandwich shop that was located off a main road in this quiet courtyard. We sat outside and ordered, having put our daypacks on the ground near our feet under the table. It seemed like a safe area, and we were the only souls out there. Jen was finished eating and I was halfway through a sandwich when this older gentleman in dress pants and shirt came up to Jen and looked behind her chair as if he was retrieving something he left there while dining. He was then holding his wallet and remarked to her that the plant behind her was pretty. He walked away and we both were thinking, that was really odd. Something was not right. Jen then remarked, they stole your stuff! They? I did not see the other guy, but Jen did since she was facing the corridor leading to the street. She realized the old guy had come into the courtyard earlier with another person and put two and two together.
A group resting
I immediately looked down and saw my bag was gone.
Snapping pictures of the condors over the canyon.
Now I must say I was upset, but in the back of my mind, I was like, well, it finally happened. I have heard way too many stories and have had way too good of luck that I figured, my time was coming. I also knew that all that was at stake was a camera and about 20 bucks. I planned to get money out with my card, but luckily I had not yet, and I put my card in my secret pants pocket, thinking, well, if my bag gets stolen… Passports and other important effects were locked in our private bathroom in our private room. Nonetheless, we ran, and fast.
I headed down the corridor leading to the main street, and to my surprise, the old guy who distracted us was walking along slowly, not expecting us to notice the missing bag until I was finished eating.
Well, I grabbed him, swung him around and screamed in his face, where is my bag? He actually pointed across the street at someone walking with his back to us, also dressed nicely, and it actually turned out to be the other guy. I did not let go of him until I realized this. The guy was walking slowly as well but turned to look back, saw us and then broke out in a run. Jen and I ran across the street, not caring about traffic, and I was screaming and pointing, stop him, and Jen was screaming a slew of obscenities and running faster than I. As we were doing this, a security officer heard the commotion and stepped from a store just as the guy passed, causing him to fling the bag to the street. I ran to it while Jen prepared to engage in a pursuit around Arequipa, over car hoods and through alleys, but alas, he jumped in a cab and was off.
Jen at the Colca Valley
Nothing was taken.
We were too fast. Plus, I have taken to carrying my valuables in odd cloth bags from various countries, so even if he peered in hoping to grab something last minute, he would not see a camera bag or wallet but what appeared to be socks or a shirt. We were glad he took my bag then since Jen did have both, and more money. I was so relieved. We stood in the street, being stared at by various onlookers, and the security guard who got a look at the guy basically just was like, well, you got your stuff back. Arequipa is known for its muggings. I was elated at my good fortune. That was my one get out of jail free card for sure. I now am on high alert. I should have been already, but none of the many stories I have heard featured well dressed men hitting you over a lunch. I felt like such an idiot for falling for this, but I comforted myself by thoughts of the times I have been in bus stations (the usual locale for these) and did not fall for the time question, or any of the other numerous times I was targeted by thieves but was passed as they noticed I was with it.
Jen, a llama and a local. She is reaching for her purse, awaiting a token from Jen.
How else could I have made it this long, right? Anyway, the beauty of these things is, you never expect them, so the best thing to do is never put your bag down and keep it in your lap, or do not carry one. We opted for the latter, bringing our bags back to the room and hitting the pavement with only cash in secret wallets. That was an exciting minute and a half. It was just like some scene from a movie. I then proceeded to lose that 20 bucks buying things in town and having dinner.
At the highest point on our trip so far
The next day Jen and I headed out, leaving the 2300 meters of Arequipa and climbing as high as 4900 meters on the way to the town of Chivay and the Colca Valley.
This gave us the excuse of drinking coca tea and chewing coca leaves (good for altitude sickness)! We stopped along overlooks, running into other tour buses and bought handicrafts made by the locals. One thing I did not anticipate about Peru was the necessity of tours. I know we are on the gringa trail, but it seems like all the attractions require or are most easily accessed via organized tour. It is frustrating not only for the costs but I do not dig tours. This latest one was not bad, though. It was short and sweet. Last night we had dinner at a restaurant while being entertained by local dances, one of which I call the Malaria dance as our guide said it had something to do with malaria, but it was not immediately apparent. So the gal lies on the floor, acting like she is possessed while the guy beats her with a light whip, as if to exorcise her, and then swings her over his shoulder, all while wearing a scary mask.
The Malaria dance
They take turns in this, although I do not think she lifts him over her shoulder. After demonstrating this, the guy approached Jen, beckoning her to try. It was hilarious, especially when he went to swing her over his shoulder. He was a little dude and Jen is about twice his height, but he did it.
Jen getting lifted for the malaria dance.
The next morning was the early rise, the condors and the canyon, all mesmerising despite my lack of sleep. Then another lunch, sampling the local delicacy of alpaca (I dig it) and some dish with sheep stomach (I do NOT dig it) and then back on the road to Arequipa. We jump on another bus tonight heading for Puno, the gateway to Lake Titicaca.
The draw there are the floating islands on the lake made by weaving reeds together, but apparently locals really do not live on them anymore, just hang out for tourists and sell them more handicrafts. There are a few islands to check out as well. It will be a quick stop as Cusco is readying for a big Winter Solstice celebration on the 24th. Good thing we are on high alert now. The bag will be staying in the room.