We were in Callao today, a little port town near to Lima. I went to get off the ship and as I was leaving people were warning me not to go. You have to be kidding me, this is my one chance in Peru. Many of the staff opted to stay on the ship instead because apparently “Peru is dangerous”. Others decided to take a cab to the mall. Visiting a mall in Peru, how exotic.
I find that many cruise ship workers like the idea of travel but when it comes time to do some actual exploring, they opt to go shopping or to an internet cafe or to find a local McDonalds instead. My fear is one day I too will become like this, a shell of my former traveler self. So I decided to go explore by myself.
Everywhere is dangerous. You just need to be alert. I’ve been attacked by neo-Nazis in Auckland and rich white kids in Baltimore. Who am I to declare Peru as unsafe just because it’s not a developed country?
I walked out of the terminal and I have to admit, I was shocked by the state of the town. It was a distinctly sketchy and very poor. The buildings were dilapidated and largely abandoned. I have to admit that I was worried and immediately regretted bring my wallet with $100 cash, wearing my $300 watch and talking my iPod Touch with me. Besides, there was no way I would find free wifi here (but I tried anyway). I was on high alert. I ignored people trying to sell me stuff, afraid that I was going to be pick-pocketed. Occasionally someone would ask me the time and that made me even more worried because I noticed that no one was wearing watches. Besides, it didn’t look like anyone was in a rush here. It reminded me of my friend from Venezuela who warned me never to wear a watch in Venezuela.
15 minutes later I reached downtown in one piece. I felt guilty when I saw families walking about. Surely, a town where families walk around is safe. I felt like one of those arrogant tourists who just assume that a poorer country is less safe.
I relaxed a bit and walked into a supermarket. I love supermarkets because they are so interesting in the way that they are all slightly different. Plus, everyone is equal in a supermarket. No one bothers you, the prices are clearly displayed and you pretty much know what you are buying. I decided to buy lunch here: a chicken empanada, chicken tamale and Inca Kola.
There’s one universal truth I had forgotten about supermarkets. Cooked food in most supermarkets around the world usually tastes like congealed horse-shit. This supermarket was no different. I was really disappointed to be honest. I knew that if I had purchased an empanada from a street vendor it would have been spectacular. At the least the Inca Kola was interesting. It tasted like ice-cream soda. Besides, where else are you going to get Inca Soda from?
I was disappointed with my little adventure and decided to give up and head back to the ship. I meandered around town, partly because I forgot how to get back to the ship. Finally, I found my way along a deserted street.
I was about 5 minutes away from the terminal when I noticed two men in their 20s eye me up. My mind started racing, should I cross the road? No, I’ll just walk on by. As I walked by they stopped what they were doing and spoke to me in Spanish, pointing at my watch. I walked past saying “Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish”. I could sense they were following me. After about a minute, I went to cross the road. They ran up to me asking for money. I said no and as I continued walking, one of then put me in a choke-hold while the other one tried to get my watch and go through my pockets. I struggled, trying to get out of the choke-hold while fighting off the second guy. It happened so fast. I started blacking out and eventually the second guy ripped my pocket with my wallet in it. He grabbed it and ran, while his accomplice dropped me and followed suit. I was in shock and decided not to pursue. It could have been worse. They could have taken my iPod Touch and watch as well. And I didn’t have any cards in my wallet, except for my frequent flier card. (Who know’s they may use it and get me more flier miles.)
I arrived at the terminal, disheveled, bruised and my shorts in shreds. When I made the police report, they asked me if the thieves were carrying guns and knives. What, people do that in broad daylight?! One of the men said I was lucky and showed me a scar he had on his arm. Apparently, people can get stabbed when they try to fight back.
I keep replaying the events in my head. What if I had not got lost in the first place? What if I had run? What if I knew Muay Thai? What if I knew Muay Thai and Kung Fu? I guess I just feel stupid. After all these years of traveling, I’m still very naive. Also I think I’m in shock. All this happened less than 2 hours ago.
Oh well, it’s only money. Plus they stole my ugly white wallet which I’ve been trying to get rid off for a while. And also my black hat that never fit me properly. I was even bored of the shorts I had been wearing.
So perhaps they needed that $100 more than I do (and the wallet and hat). Who knows, maybe they’ll spend it on something constructive, like higher education.
[cruisesurfer’s log sea-date: 18:2:3 | 8:52]