The typical tourist trap, a gang organised robbery
Our second day 5:00am, pouring down rain outside. We have to get up to join the day tour Cajón de Maipo con Baños Colina. We were supposed to be picked up from the reception at 6:30am, despite the heavy rain outside. We were very excited to experience the hot spring in the wild, in the middle of Andes. The clock just ticked over 6:45am, a phone call broke the silence in the lobby. We were told the tour has been cancelled due to the bad weather. It was very disappointing but what could we do? Weather conditions are beyond our control. We went back to the room and got a little more rest until breakfast time.
There are things to do in Santiago but I was more inclined to see more of the natural landscape. The Andes! Instead of going out in the Cajón de Maipo, we stepped into the Turstik office. They are the only company you can find in Santiago to do a half day tour to the Andes.
11:00am, before we joined the tour to the Andes, we strolled around the Plaza de Armas. A lot of people around and a lots of police. Walking down one side of the square where you can find many fast food shops and counters that serve hot dogs, pizzas or hamburgers. It was still raining, we have our waterproof jackets on and hoods over our heads. Suddenly I felt a heavy drop on my head, I instantly thought it came from the old building on my right hand side. I looked up to the 2nd floor balcony but saw nothing there. There were 2 very normal looking ordinary people (one woman and a man) who approached us and indicated we have got a lot of dirt on our back. The dirty water looked like drain water but it didn’t click the whole thing was a trap and we are falling into it. We let the 2 people help us to clean up a bit. My husband was carrying the rucksack and it got separated by the man who was helping us with the cleaning. I was so confident that the rucksack would stay in my eyesight but then the 2 people distracted both of us. One of them made me look away for a second and when I looked back the rucksack had vanished. My brain was kinda evacuated completely as both of them pointed in a random direction, so we ran towards where they were pointing. 2 meters away from where we were standing with the 2 helpers, the blood finally started flowing again and we realised the 2 “helpers” were part of the group who set us up and also then melted into the background.
What can we do? What should we do? My head became incapable to process anything again. A pedestrian passing us and said:”The police are coming this way”. We went to the police and explained to them what and how the robbery happened. There are plenty of police around in Plaza de Armas but a robbery case like ours just happens all the time. The first question they asked was:”do you have insurance?”. There isn’t anything they could do to help apart from issuing a police report but since we don’t have insurance they weren’t even bothered to issue it.
We lost our camera (Canon EOS M10) and 2 pairs of very new sunglasses which we’d just purchased a day before in Santiago. They were relatively expensive and now they’ve gone forever. It was a very painful lesson we’ve learnt. The fortunate thing was we didn’t carry our important documents such as credit cards or passports and also cash in the rucksack, nor the camera contained many new photos.
When we were joining the tour group for the Valle Nevado in middle of Andes we talked to the tour operator when they asked us how’s our day being. We told the story and they told us sympathetically that this happens almost every moment every day in Santiago. Especially around Plaza de Armas area and if you look foreign enough.
Here, at last, I will remind everyone that in latin America, do not let any strangers come to your personal space.