The Ecuadorian Robbery

And The Long Trip Home


DISCLAIMER: This story gets intense at times. Nothing too crazy, but want to give you a heads up just in case.



It's another beautiful day in Quito

The sun is shining

The weather is warm

And Mount Pichincha watches over the city

She smiles today


I've been in Ecuador for almost a month now

And while I came para aprender Español (to learn Spanish)

My time here has brought me many places


From the peaks of mountains

To the depths of jungles

And all the rain forests in between

I've seen the beauty this country has to offer


Plus I've made some good friends along the way


Still though

There's one type of landscape I haven't yet experienced in Ecuador


The beach


And considering tomorrow will be my last full day here

Now's the time to go


So I call up my friend Connie

And see if she wants to take a trip


She's down


We head into town

And talk to some locals about what we're trying to do


'Queremos ir a la playa. ¿Dónde debemos ir?'


'Hay Playa Atacames. Es un viaje seis horas en autobús'


They tell us our best bet is a beach called Playa Atacames

6 hours away

By bus


Not ideal


But hey

With my time here quickly coming to an end

What better way to spend my last full day in Ecuador

Than relaxing on the beach


I'm in


I turn to Connie

She gives me the nod

She's in


With thoughts of adventure in our minds

We head to the bus station


The walk isn't far

But it is pleasant

Shops and parks line the way

And we let them guide us to our destination


When we arrive

We walk up to the ticket counter

And ask when the next bus leaves for Atacames


'Hola, vamos a Atacames. ¿Cuándo pasa el próximo autobús?'


'El siguiente sale a las ocho y el siguiente sale a la medianoche.'


We hear that the next bus leaves at 8pm

And the one after that leaves at midnight


So Connie and I talk it over

We decide to take the midnight bus

Figuring it will be cool to get there as the sun is rising


'¿Cuanto?'


'Trece'


We hand over 13 dollars and buy the tickets


'Gracias

Por favor lleguen aquí a las once y media

Con sus pasaportes

No una copia de ellos'


We're told to arrive back here by 11:30pm

With our passports

Not a copy of them


Connie and I give a thumbs up to the person behind the counter

We agree to meet back at the bus station by 11:30pm

And then go our separate ways to pack some stuff

I head home to where I'm staying


Along with a bathing suit and towel

I grab my passport

I grab some cash

And I grab my phone

For pictures


I wonder why I can't bring a copy of my passport

But if that's what the person at the bus station said

Then it must be true

Because who would be naive enough

To not trust a person

They met at a bus station...


I kill some time until 11pm rolls around

And then start my walk back to meet Connie


We both get there right around the same time

And secure our spots in line


20 minutes after arriving

We're seated on the bus

And 10 minutes after that

The bus leaves the station

Right on time


The ride is typical for Ecuador

Lots of twists

Lots of turns

And LOTS of bumps


I sleep for most of the 6 hour trip

Wanting to be rested for a long day at the beach


When I wake up

I check my phone

It says 5:30am

We're almost there


I nudge Connie to let her know

She starts getting her stuff in order


A few minutes before 6am

We pull into the Atacames bus station

::pshhhhh::

And the old bus breathes a sigh of relief


A handful of drowsy travelers gather their belongings

The doors open

And the bus empties


Connie and I walk outside

It's still dark

We walk into town

We see shops

Restaurants

Internet cafes

But none of them are open


The small beach town is still asleep


We walk to the beach

To watch the sunrise

Just like we had planned


We take off our shoes

Find a spot that's just right

And plop down in the sand

Our backs to the tired town


We sit

And we talk


We talk about our time in Ecuador

The things we saw

The things we learned

The friends we made


The sun starts to rise

And the warmth of the nostalgic conversation

Can be felt

Both inside and out


So calm

So peaceful

So relahhh


I feel something around my neck

I see an arm

It's not Connie's


I feel a sharp pain

I look down

The arm has a broken glass bottle to my neck

My Spanish leaves me


'STOP!!'


'No digas nada'


The arm tells me not to say anything

The bottle presses harder


I look over

Connie has a bottle to her neck too


We see the panic in each other's eyes

We feel the pressure of the broken glass against our necks

And we watch as hands go through our bags


The hands take what they came for

The arms loosen around our necks

And the people they're connected to run off


Still in shock

I get up

And run after them


'STOP!!

YOU CAN HAVE THE MONEY

LEAVE THE PASSPORT

PLEASE

PLEASE!!'


I sprint through the sand

Full speed

With tears starting to roll down my cheeks

They could have killed me

But they didn't

And I'll make sure they regret that


Wishful thinking though

Life isn't a Hollywood movie

And I'm not a comic book hero


No matter how fast I run

I'm not gaining on them quick enough


They enter a wooded area

And I decide to stop the pursuit

Because who would be naive enough

To follow Ecuadorian robbers

Into a wooded area...


My phone

My wallet

My passport

All gone


I run back to Connie


'Are you okay?'


'Yes, I think so'


'We need to find police'


We scamper off of the beach

Shouting for help


There's a police truck nearby

We run to it in a frenzy

They see us

And ask what happened


'¿Que pasó?'


'Algunos ladrones se llevaron nuestras cosas ¡Necesitamos ayuda!'


We tell them that some thieves had taken our stuff

And that we need help


They look at us

Then at each other

Then back at us


'Vamos'


They tell us to get in the truck


It's like a convertible

Basically an Ecuadorian Jeep Wrangler


'¿Por dónde se fueron?'


They ask which way they went

And as soon as I point towards the wooded area

The driver stomps on the gas


The acceleration presses us into our seats

As the truck speeds through the beach town


The driver turns on the siren

It's loud

The passenger turns on Spanish music

It's louder

And all four us keep our eyes peeled for any sign of the thieves


In the distance

We see someone waving their arms above their head

Indicating that they may have a clue


The driver notices

He says something to his partner in the passenger's seat

And then zooms over to the good samaritan


As we get closer

We see that the good samaritan is standing on a dock


The driver pulls onto the dock

Stops the truck

And asks if the good samaritan has seen any thieves


'¿Has visto algunos ladrones?'


'Si si si. ¡Ellos fueron allá en el agua!'


The good samaritan points to a long inlet

And tells us that the thieves went into the water over there


The driver looks towards the inlet

Then out to the open ocean


There's a lone fishing boat about 500 feet from shore

He hops out of the truck

Waves his arms

And motions for the boat to come to the dock


Connie and I look at each other

This is getting wild


The fishing boat docks

And both police officers speak with the captain


Connie and I see the captain look at us

Pause

Then nod his head


The police officers turn back towards the truck

They point at the boat


'Vamos'


And tell us to get on board


Connie and I look at each other again


Are we really going to do this?

Yeah


We get out of the truck

Walk over to the boat

And climb aboard


The captain fires up the engine

And we pull away from the dock to start our search


We enter the inlet

Our eyes scanning for any leads

Any clues

Anything


¡Veo algo!


The captain shouts that he sees something

We look over the side of the boat

And we see something floating in the water

It looks like a passport!


The captain casts a net to grab the object

He pulls it out of the water

It is a passport!


Hope

A faint glimmer of hope

I can feel my spirits rise


The captain hands me the passport

It's from the United States!

I open it up...


'Andrew Riley'


Hope

Gone

I can feel my spirits sink


I look up at the captain and shake my head

He frowns but is nice enough to continue the search


We look for another 20 minutes

No luck


The captain brings the boat back to the dock


Connie

Both police officers

And I

Hop off


'Buena suerte'


The captain wishes us good luck and heads back to his fishing post

We wave and say thank you

The police officers turn to us with a disappointed look


'Lo siento chicos

Les daremos un informe policial

Pero no hay nada mas podemos hacer'


They tell us they're sorry

And that they will provide us with a police report

But that there is nothing else they can do


So we get the reports

And head into town


I have to call my mom

And tell her what happened

But honestly

I'd rather just get robbed again


We find a phone cafe

We explain what happened and why we don't have any money

And we ask if we can please make a couple of phone calls

The owner is generous enough to say yes


I call some friends in Quito

And ask if they can wire us some money to buy bus tickets back

Then I call my mom


'Hi mom

I'm okay

But kind of an emergency'


'What happened?

What's wrong?'


'I came to the beach with my friend

And

We got robbed'


'You got robbed??'


'Yeah'


'What did they take?'


'My phone

My wallet

And my passport'


'Your passport???'


'Yeah'


'WHY WOULD YOU BRING YOUR PASSPORT??'


'The person at the bus station said to'


'Oh my god

Okay

I need to speak with dad

And make some calls with him

What number can I call you back at with information?'


'One second

Disculpe. ¿Cuál es el número de este teléfono?

...

Mom?'


'Yeah'


'They said the telephone number is 593-98-92-72-700'


'Okay I'll call you back as soon as possible'


I hang up

Connie tells me our friend wired us some money

And that we have enough to buy bus tickets back to Quito


My flight home is tomorrow

But luckily for Connie

Hers is not

Plus

She has dual citizenship

Which means her passport issue is a bit different from mine


Twenty minutes later

The phone rings


The owner picks it up

And says it's for me


'Es para ti'


'Hello?

Hi mom

Yes

Mhm

Yeah

Okay

Sounds good

Thank you'


I hang up the phone


'What did she say?' Connie asks


'She told me she made some phone calls with my dad

They spoke with some people in the United States and a connection in Ecuador'