Sunday, April 20, 2008


I have travelled to many places and have heard the horror stories of people being robbed, mugged and experiencing other bad tourist experiences but never did I believe it would happen to me. It did. I had moved into the Samara villa that my friends were renting for my last two days in Central America. We were having fun, celebrating our adventures together, and living pretty casual in a foreign country. This was apparently our undoing because the local blackhearts had obviously noticed us and had decided to put a damper on our fun.

It was two o'clock in the morning when I woke dying of thirst. Fresh from sleep I was in no mood to go searching for water so I laid there for a minute trying to decide whether to get up or not. Laying in the comfort of bed I noticed a flashlight working outside. Peering thought the curtains I saw two guys standing by the pool. At first I thought maintenance workers, since lots of work is done at night to avoid the heat of the day, and to likely avoid inconveniencing the tourists, but it didn't seem right. I headed for the kitchen and noticed the guys heading down the road, looking over their shoulders back at the house. That's when I knew that this was no maintenance call. I checked quickly for the laptops that were usually lying around the living room. Missing! I quickly raised the alarm and I was off down the road looking for the crooks while Dave woke up Alonzo, the housekeeper. By the time I got back a few minutes later the police were pulling up and were spilling out of their truck. Strangely enough we had not called them and they had come from the beach, a short dead end road that ran by the house.  

Of course the police did not understand us apart from the simple translations provided by Alonzo. They took notes, appearing interested, and then took off to do a search. I took off on my bike thinking I might also spot them. I didn't find the guys, nor did I see any cops searching. The cops returned soon after me and reported that  a witness had been found- a guy who sleeps by the roadside had reported that he saw the two men jump into a little red car. This was good news since there was only one main road and a turn off for Nicoya. How hard would it be to find a little red car at 3 am in the morning in a community of a few hundred people? Harder than we thought since the cops did not find them despite the roadblocks that they said were set up all over the place. I questioned the success of the roadblock idea since the only 3 cops in town were all with us and not available for roadblock duty. Dave, the girls, and Alonzo left for Nicoya, an hour away, to file the report at the 'real' police station leaving me and Rick to guard the fort. They did report on their return that they too had seen no roadblocks.

Putting things together, since we had nothing to do except talk while we waited everyone's return, Rick and I started to realize the possibility of a setup, a setup that likely involved the police. The cops did little in the way of investigation and did not seem the least bit interested in fingerprints, boot tracks or the other miscellany of evidence that TV has taught us about. They had arrived within minutes of not being called- the fastest response time I have ever seen in my life. And why were they so close on a road that went nowhere? The car was never found and the roadblocks never happened. If the cops had examined the window that the crooks broke in through, they would have discovered, as we did earlier, that the window had a broken catch and was not lockable. On further examination we found that a screw had been placed inside the catch making the lock inoperable. Everything screamed setup and there was nothing that we could do about it. 

The final loss tally was 2 laptops, a couple of cameras, a video camera, Dave's bag with his passport and a small amount of cash and a bunch of meaningless other stuff that we later found scattered around the yard. I lost nothing simply because I was leaving the next day and had everything packed close by my bed. The amazing part was that the crooks had the time and the balls to take a load to the car and then come back for a second load, even having enough time to root through things and toss aside the uninteresting stuff. They obviously felt quite relaxed with the police so close by.

This was not the last challenge of the blackhearts for Dave & Michele. They also had their rental car tires slashed when they went to San Jose to replace the passport. Another couple, wedding guests who had left a few days earlier for the airport, reported that they were pulled over for speeding (when they were not speeding) and had to give up the last of their cash to the local policia so that they could continue on their way to the airport. He thanked them very appreciatively.

And to think that people had warned me that Nicaragua was supposed to be a dangerous place

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fishin with the boys

The day after the weddin I went fishin with the boys. Rick, one of the 'boys', described our charter  boat perfectly when he said he thought it was a being used as a planter on the beach. It wasn't. It had nothing but a motor and a plank for a seat. No radio, lifejackets, tools, or beer. The boat was captained by Raymond, a stressed out looking Quebecois who owned the motor, and first mate was Bertran, a very laid back Costa Rican who was still bleeding from wounds received in a motorcycle accident the night before, who owned the boat. The day was beautiful and the sky calm when we headed out with no worries.

One hour out and still trolling I hooked the big one. What excitement, The rod was almost bent in half and I was sweating with exertion, determined to bring in the first and the biggest. Rick had also had a strike and lost his just as he got it to the side of the boat. It was all me now. Fifteen minutes passed and everyone was excited and cheering me on. Raymond announced that it was probably a 100 pounder. Cool! Then Raymond announced El Roca! I did not know what kind of fish this was but I did not care, I just wanted to land it and celebrate as great hunters do. Well the simple translation of El Roca is a rock and that's what I had hooked. All my effort was simply reeling the boat backwards to the rocks which at this point were only a few feet below the boat and not far from a reef with huge waves crashing over it. We got the lure free and escaped only to hear Bertran explaining to Raymond, neither of whom really understood each other, that the engine was malfunctioning. They fixed this with a piece of fishing string and we were fishin again.

We rolled in circles for a while since this was THE place for fish. Finally Rick hooked a good size tuna-like fish and then Otto caught a Laguna, a pencil shaped fish with a long snout filled with razor sharp teeth. The sun had set by this point and it was time to head in. That's when we noticed the storm clouds and the lightning and the quickly darkening sky. Raymond booted the motor up to top speed and the closer we got to Samara, the worse the winds and waves became.

This of course didn't stop Bertran from gutting and filleting the fish in the dark with a very sharp knife as we bounced around the waves. The storm's tempo increased, we were getting very wet from the rain and the waves breaking near us, and the lights of Samara seemed miles away and fading into the storm. I fantasized about losing the groom to the sea and being in deep trouble with his new bride. 

Finally we entered the bay in the pitch black, no longer heading into the storm but running from it. We really got it now! Pouring rain, high winds, waves and spray coming over the sides and soaking us further. Since I am writing this we obviously made it to shore safely. We did and very happy about it too. Much beer was consumed later at the villa and the tales retold (with the fish getting bigger all the time) to celebrate the adventura muy buena.