travel tips

How I Got Robbed by a Sweet Old Lady in Buenos Aires

It was a beautiful day in Palermo, which is a trendy and affluent neighborhood in Buenos Aires. I was feeling great, with my head held high and my back straight, as I strode down the street with my Marilyn Monroe shirt, jeans, Bullboxer boots, and my backpack. Though I wasn't thinking about it at the time, my backpack held about $4000 worth of equipment. Not to mention, it contained hours of video footage accumulated over the past few weeks.

I was going to use this day, as gorgeous as it was, to get some work done. I was (and still am) behind on blog entries, musical creation, and videos. The weather was so pristine that I just wanted to be out walking around all day, which is exactly what I’d been doing. Anyway, on with the story.

I was about halfway to my destination when I felt a splattering from above or behind, and when I looked at a bit of the stuff on my shirt I found it to be really foul smelling, like rotten eggs mixed with hot mustard. There was a lady behind me when it occurred, and we began discussing how disgusting it was and how in the hell it had happened. 

She was very kind and sympathetic to my plight and pulled out some napkins to help clean me up with. She even had some water that she soaked the napkins in and asked if she could just get some of the foul stuff off me.

Of course, I agreed to this, as I didn't want to walk into some establishment smelling like a rotting dinosaur carcass dipped in wet landfill. She was a sweet old lady, and I was grateful. Thank God for sweet old ladies. During this time I had set my bag down, not even thinking about it and the investment of money and time it contained.

She kindly gave me a few extra napkins to wipe myself off with before she somewhat abruptly took her leave.

I wiped my neck down a bit more, then I decided it was time to go. When I reached down to grab my bag, instead of my raven-black Osprey a battered old bag was in its place.

Immediately I went into I-need-to-find-the-motherfucker-who-did-this-and-get-my-bag-back mode. I was looking around for the old lady and for any sign of my bag for a few seconds when a young girl with a cell phone told me that she had seen the perpetrator go toward a street corner and that I should run there.

I had my doubts. My gut sensed something was wrong, but my mind said, "She's a concerned citizen and owns a cell phone, run and get that piece of shit who stole your bag!" So I ran. Barbarian yelps were going through my mind. About halfway down the block my gut instinct was insistent, so I stopped and ran back, finding nothing and almost no one.

I think there was definitely a 3rd (and possibly a 4th or even more) component to the team. I continued to walk around looking for any sign of the shitheads who did this, to no avail.

There was a guy sitting on a step across the street from where this happened, and when I asked him about it he asked me if my bag was the one across the street. I asked him if he saw what had transpired, and he said no. I walked around some more, then the guy went and picked up the "switch" bag. He asked again if it was mine. I said, “No, it's not mine,” and he walked off with it. (I know, I know, in retrospect I should have kept it, and he was probably in on the whole thing. I'm trying not to let myself go down the self-defeating "if only I would've done this or that" vein of thought.)

I walked around, not panicking, but really just pissed off. I was mad at myself for falling for it, and at the grandma gang who did it. My tile turned out to be of no help at all, so my next investment will be a GPS tracking device. A police officer drove by, and I flagged him down. He told me to go to the local "comiseria," which is basically a police station, if you can call it that.

So I walked over to the police station. There was one lady helping people, and a young man who shuffled papers and set things down with a "pop" to exude some sort of illusion of power. When he spoke it was with the feigned arrogance of someone who had watched way too many cop shows.

I sat down and waited while the lady typed and typed and typed. There was a TV playing shitty pop music videos, making it like a very surreal and bad dream. I looked in the "chief" office and noticed another TV blasting some regurgitated media refuse. In the office (and yes, I'm slightly jaded) there were a few self-important-looking dudes talking as if they were somehow taking down major cartels. Maybe they were, who the fuck knows.

When it was my turn to report the theft by the grandma gang, I had some trouble communicating with the officer. With some people it's more difficult, and the Spanish in Argentina is very different from the various dialects of Spanish in the rest of Latin America. Anyway, a girl offered to translate, and I was grateful for it. She communicated the story, and when the officer went into the chief room for whatever, I asked the girl if everything was all right with her. She said no. There was some creepy asshole at her apartment who kept looking in her windows and standing at her door. He sounded very much like a sociopath. Anyway, lost stuff is not as bad as getting stalked by a creepy slimy asshole. Hell, I'm alive and breathing in the still beautiful Buenos Aires.

I told the officer that I didn't expect the police to find it but that I needed their report. The next person was a kid who’d had his bicycle stolen.

The next day I went back to the same neighborhood to see if I could catch a lucky break and get near the tile. No such luck, but I did get to see how beautiful Palermo was. Despite what happened, I still recommend going.

Because I can't go back in the past and implement James Bond-type cunning, I have to accept this as a learning experience. I paid a lot for this unwanted lesson, but hopefully it helps both you and I in our future travels.

Here are some things I learned:

•Be wary wherever you are. I really thought that I might get robbed at gunpoint in La Boca, which is another neighborhood where a few other travelers reported just that: getting robbed at gunpoint. Instead I was tricked by an old lady.

•If you suddenly get splattered with something that seems like bird shit, bird shit mixed with mustard, or some other concoction on the street, clean yourself up and be super aware of your stuff.

•Don't bring your external drive with you. I have my important things all backed up in the cloud, but I still lost a lot of video.

•Before going out, make sure you have your videos backed up to your hard drive, and again, don't bring it with you.

•Find insurance that will cover stolen things.

•Look into GPS tracking hardware for luggage.

•Lock up your bags when walking.

•When you think things are just great, enjoy it. But don't let your guard down!

•If something like this happens to you, do what you can to rectify the situation, but don't let it consume your mind (I found myself replaying the event, wishing I’d acted differently and getting angry as hell at the perpetrators).

•Remember, it's just stuff. Health, life, and love among friends and family is more important. 

There are many things that are very messed up in the world, and my bag incident is incredibly minor compared to real world tragedy, so in the end I gotta be grateful. I have my health, family, friends, and freedom to travel.

Maybe the biggest lesson here is this: Just like my bag was slyly and swiftly taken away, life can be taken in the same way.

"Live right now..." Jimmy Eat World

 

 

Weeks 3 and 4 in Costa Rica - Additional Thoughts, Stuff Learned, and Experiences

Howdy! As I write this I only have about 1 week left in Costa Rica, so after this post I’ll have one more about my time here. Okay, on with the info. Let’s start this post off with some good old-fashioned:

TIPS, TRICKS, and Places

Tenorio National Park

If you plan on visiting Tenorio National Park, then bring cash. We didn’t, and ended up driving to Bijagua to pull out cash from an ATM. It’s about 7-9 kilometers to Bijagua, but it will take you a good 30 to 45 minutes to get there because the roads suck so much. It’s a beautiful drive, though.

How to get to the bank: take a left out of the park entrance and follow that bumpy ass road until you hit highway 6. On highway 6 take a left and cruise for a kilometer or so until you see the bank on the left-hand side of the road. Seriously, though, some places need to know about Square. 

The magical thing about this park was Rio Celeste. It’s this amazing turquoise blue, and the guy from ExpertVagabond explains the park and river very well: http://expertvagabond.com/rio-celeste-waterfall/

Google Maps

Google Maps has been effing awesome to use in Costa Rica. I’ve been using GMaps in conjunction with T-Mobile, and it has worked out great. Seriously, I don’t give props to big companies much but it’s made life easier for me to have a robot tell me where the hell to go. Cuz’, you know, how the hell do you use paper maps?

Animals on the Road and in Skate Parks

It’s not uncommon to see random horses, cows, and of course, dogs on the side of any road. Sometimes you’ll have to stop your car because there is a small herd of cattle blocking your way. This happened to us as we were on our way to pull out cash at the bank in Bijagua. There was a small herd of cattle, all of whom started peeing when we drove up. One of them was taking a particularly long piss and a calf or miniature cow, whichever, started drinking the piss like it was coming from an upside down water fountain. I guess when you’re thirsty you're thirsty. 

There are goats in the skate park next to my apartment sometimes. Their goat master takes them there to graze because no-one really goes there to skate (though I have seen a kid or 2 from time to time). I decided to shoot some video there and tried to pet the largest of them, who had pretty massive horns. Check out the video at the end of the post to see what happened. 

The dog situation can be pretty sad here. There are just a million of them roaming around all the time, and some look a little worse than haggard. Sometimes, however, you see a spritely dog on what appears to be a mission. The other day I was walking to various coffee shops to get work done, and each time this one dog ran past me as if he had a dinner appointment with a foreign ambassador. It made me wonder about that dog’s story. He ran with purpose and grace. 

Shoes

I brought a pair of trail running shoes and a pair of boots. Both are pretty damn fantastic, but check out the skinny on the foot cover situation:

  • Bring a strong but comfortable pair of flip-flops. I did not, and have purchased 2 pairs here, both of which muck up my feet. The strap kept coming out of the first pair I bought, so I ended up skinning toes on things like jagged beach rock. 
  • The second pair I bought were a bit like delayed razors. The strap is just not cushioned enough for these feet. I totally need some feet calluses. 

*I bought both pairs at supermarkets so that may have something to do with the quality. 

  • Get yourself a good pair of water shoes. These will be invaluable if you plan on trekking through some jagged beach rock and don’t have awesome calloused feet. 
  • Get some good water repellent to spray on your shoes and other things. I did not, and my shoes that I walked 5 miles in the rain with did not smell good for a while.

My trail running shoes are the Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Runners. My ultra comfortable yet stylish boots are made by Bullboxer, which I found at DSW.

I’m Not Loaded!

As is the case with many destinations, people will try and sell you things. I get it, people need to get by and they have to market their stuff. Some places are definitely worse than others, and so far Playa Brasilito and Playa Conchal has taken the proverbial cake. One dude basically held us hostage with a flurry of words trying to sell everything from lunch at his restaurant to boat rides out into the deep for spear fishing to a trip to Nicaragua. I really wouldn’t have been surprised if he suddenly tried to sell us a bucket of sand. 

I really need to figure out a way to advertise that I DON’T HAVE MUCH MONEY, AND WILL WALK TO A GOOD SNORKELING PLACE, THANK YOU. I guess that could be my next tattoo. 

On the snorkeling note, you totally can just walk to a good snorkeling place without paying $ to go somewhere with “amazing” snorkeling. This is about budget travel, not Playa Matapalo “I’m in Costa Rica but it’s pretty much just a resort in Florida” travel.

If You’re Bald Like Me

Wear a surfing hat, otherwise your head will feel the heat.

Update on Transportation

I initially purchased transport from San Jose to Playas Del Coco via http://www.transportationincostarica.com. It was $52, and now that I’ve learned a thing or two, there are better ways. If you need to go the ultimate cheap route, then this post from MyTanFeet gives specific advice about how to use the bus. It’s about $8 one-way. 

There are about a million beaches and cool spots to visit in this country, so instead of taking the bus or a shared shuttle I decided to rent a car. As I outlined in my last post, the ultimate company to use when renting a car in Costa Rica is Economy Car Rentals

Sunscreen

Costa Rica is awesome, but man some things are really expensive, like sunscreen. It always makes a WTF statement glare in my mind when I see the prices. For a good bottle or spray bottle of sunscreen, you can pay between 6,000 to 12,000 colones, which is about $12-$20. So stock the hell up on your favorite brand in the states or wherever you are and bring it with you. The cheap kind I’ve been getting is functional but watery and burns when you put it on. I imagine neither these are not good signs. 

First Aid Kit and La Fortuna

Make sure you have one. My friend Josh Bolinger slid into the jagged end of a rock at La Fortuna waterfall and got a nasty gash on his leg. It was white and red and somewhat gaping. Between both of our first aid kits, he was able to get that thing taken care of. Oh, shit at the pharmacy can be pretty expensive too, so bring the goods. I highly recommend getting a bottle of cheap-ass hydrogen peroxide and putting half of it into a travel container. It’s come in handy for both Josh and myself. I’ve mainly had to use it due to the damage caused by my sociopath sandals. 

La Fortuna waterfall is pretty amazing. It’s as if you’re transported into a new and frenzied realm, and not at all in a bad way. It’s very cool and is around the same temperature as Barton Springs Pool in Austin, TX. I definitely recommend it. The city of Fortuna is quaint, and the Fortuna hotel was a good place to stay. 

Surfing

Basically, I suck at it, but it’s a lot of fun giving it a go. Not to mention it’s a fantastic workout. The only practical advice I can give on the subject comes from Carol Bolinger, who lived in Australia for a couple years and knows these things:

  • Stretch before you go out there. My sore left ass and hamstring can testify to this. 
  • Wear a rash guard shirt. The right side of my stomach gets tore up with rash guard. I’m going to buy one somewhere here, cuz there is more surfing in my future. Note: you can rent them at surf shops when you rent your board. 

Nosara

Nosara and Nosara beach are both really cool. I guess there is a lot of yoga that goes down here, and it has an awesome little bagel shop restaurant called “Nosara’s Bagel House.” If you go, try the banana bread. It. is. amazing. 

There is also good surfing here, and a couple of surf shops to rent boards from. FYI, if you break a fin off of a board (like I did), it will run you about $20. I was talking to a couple of very nice women from New Zealand who said that the vibe in Nosara was exceptional. I wasn’t there long enough to make a judgment call on this, but I’ll take their word for it. 

Random Things and Updates:

I finally have my Patreon account going! You can check it out here if you like: https://www.patreon.com/jnickelworld

I have my first Costa Rica video up on YouTube. Here it is: