Monday, January 11, 2010

Peru Part....6


New Bike
I returned to Lima and went to the bike shop to pick up my new bike I had ordered two weeks earlier. I was also picking up a bike for a rider who didn’t want to bring a bike from the United States. The owner greeted me and said he had something for me. I thought he meant a new bike. He then handed me my ball point pen I had dropped in his shop a few weeks ago. I was impressed with his honesty. Then he rolled out my bike which was assembled from parts and pieced together to make an all terrain mountain bike. When I saw the bike my first thought was to give it a test ride and try the new push button type shifters. I tucked my long pants into my socks and headed out on the busy street. I was only going for a three minute test ride. I was still carrying my backpack and not wearing my helmet. At the next side street I turned right to get away from the traffic. I was playing with the shifters and looking at the derailleurs indexing through the gears. A block later I turned right again down a smaller alley type street. There were not any cars on this street and I rode with my head down watching the front derailleur change between the chainrings.

I did notice there was a strong looking young guy standing on the right curb. About fifty feet later there we two guys on the left curb. They met me in the middle of the street and asked me for a one soles coin (35 cents). I stopped and straddled the bike. He held out his hand and then quickly grabbed for my camera in my front shirt pocket. At the same moment the guy behind me on my right started grabbing for my wallet in by rear pants pocket. I was straddling the bike and tried to get myself in a position to defend myself. I grabbed for my camera and the thug dropped it on the street. Before I could get off my bike he picked up my camera. The three guys ran across the street to a building with a metal door they pulled closed behind them. I had my camera and wallet stolen in less than ten seconds.

I was screaming at the women sitting along the building who looked at me with blank expressions. They had probably seen these guys ambush many taxies or pedestrians and these women weren’t going to get involved. I got back on my bike and rode the rest of the way around the block back to the bike shop. They asked me how I liked the bike. I said the bike was fine but I had just been robbed. They asked where it happened. I pointed to the neighborhood behind the shop. They shook their heads and said “Too bad, the police don’t go there. Nobody goes there”. I said I didn’t care about the $70 in my wallet or the camera, but I wanted the digital camera chip that had all my photos from the Iquitos School visit. The bike shop guys gathered up a posse with four other guys and we walked around the block. On the side street the metal door of the hideout was open and the women said the thugs had run down the street. They said there wasn’t any chance to get my camera chip back.

I had seen both extremes of honesty. One was the bike shop owner who had saved my pen for two weeks. He was more concerned with returning my pen than selling me a bike. The thugs had stole by camera and wallet in a few seconds. The robbery could have been worse. The thugs could have easily had knives or hit me over the head. They could have taken my backpack which had over $3,000 cash to buy the bikes and pay for the tour van rental. Had I been walking and not testing the bike I would not have gone down a street with men standing in the street. During the next few weeks I was more aware of my surroundings. If someone bumped me in the grocery store my first reaction was to push them away. Being robbed definitely affected how I reacted to people in Peru.


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