OK, so yes…you read correctly.
I was mugged/robbed this week, and you also read correctly when I said it was a great turn of events!
So now I will explain why it ended up being one of the most shocking, yet beautiful days I’ve had here in Lima.
In coming to Lima I heard many stories about some of the danger here, I have been told so many times: be careful… always watch my things… be aware at all times, all of which I feel is a given when traveling to any destination, so I thought in that sense I was somewhat prepared!
So of course I did take heed of all this advice, and I have been extra vigilant. But in this case, none of that awareness helped me, sometimes there is not much you can do, and I firmly believe that the following turn of events was a blessing in disguise.
I was at a local market with my friend Alana called Gamarra, a little off the beaten track I will admit.
It is about a half an hour bus ride from Miraflores; seemingly close in distance, but once you arrive, you realize that your departure and arrival point are worlds apart.
This is the real Lima, the poor, the dirty, the dusty, unforgiving, and candid way of life.
Gamarra breaks down any illusions of grandeur that you may have, and displays the stark difference in socio-economic backgrounds that run parallel within society, but never dare cross.
It is like another reality; you see the real Limeños working hard to survive as they sit waiting to shine peoples shoes for 2 Sol, or as they sell ceviche, helados, or Chicha morada to get by each day.
It is a far cry from the quaint, comfortable and picturesque Miraflores or Barranco where you will often see people in suits, smartly dressed in heels and dresses.
I was told that when going to Gamarra you did have to be watchful as ‘you would probably be one of the only gringos there’.
Now I’ve been to Gamarra 3 or 4 times now, and I love it there, but I will admit, it does keep you on edge at times, nevertheless I felt comfortable, somewhat safe. I knew my favorite stalls, I knew what prices were reasonable, and as a result I was also probably becoming a little complacent.
Basically the story of my robbing is short and quite brilliant! I will set the scene. Has anyone seen the film The Labyrinth? You know, the one with David Bowie?
(RIP 😥 )
Well, imagine the labyrinth with market stalls along every wall. That is exactly what Gamarra food market looks like in my eyes.
Now I know this probably sounds kind of eerie, but it is the coolest place with some of the weirdest and wackiest products you will ever find!
So,to continue: Me and a friend were at a stall looking around, buying some spices, and just to note, I had been exceedingly watchful so far, keeping my money safely away at all times, careful not to leave myself open to being targeted should an opportunistic thief decide to walk by (which is very likely because I have blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin, basically for them I am a walking gold mine, a big GRINGA).
I am used to my appearance making me look like a target in this society, so this level of awareness is something I must take with me everywhere I go, it is a constant effort.
I thought I was doing everything right, until I had my little money purse out for a split second to pay for an item.
It happened quickly and seamlessly, as you always hear it does.
I had been holding my tiny little purse very tightly as I got ready to pay for an item, when suddenly this man shoved me from behind and grabbed my arm, latching onto the edge of the purse.
There was a short struggle before he ripped it from my hands and he ran off, bolting down the labyrinth. Without a second thought, I bolted after him, shouting at everyone to try and stop him as I sped off as fast as I was able.
I ran faster and faster, surprising myself at how much ground I was making.
I was gaining on him, when suddenly he took a sharp left, and he almost disappeared from view. In desperation I reached out, managing to grab a hold of the back of his shirt. My grip was firm as I yanked at the checkered blue cloth and propelled myself onto his back, my momentum causing him to tumble into the ground, leaving him unable to do anything but whimper as I took my purse back triumphantly.
What a cool story right ?!
OK DREAM OVER.
Sorry this is not what really happened 😛 For some reason I had always pictured a chase like this happening at some point in my life, only that would have been the ideal ending in my dream.
It really was still like a James Bond movie chase though!
(Except instead of a smooth and collected Daniel Craig running after the villain, you had a hot, sweaty mess (Sam, me) galloping after him) 😛 .
Most of the story above is exactly how it played out, except for the triumphant ending, although I did end up having a somewhat triumphant ending of my own.
I was shouting out to everyone in Spanish ‘THE MAN IN THE BLUE, HE ROBBED ME, SOMEBODY STOP HIM, STOP HIM, my voice faltering as I gradually ran out of breath.
My hopes of catching him were dwindling when I suddenly realized something remarkable was occurring around me.
Without hesitation, around 20 men from 20 different stalls that lined the labyrinth had bolted after the thief, trying to catch him.
It was one of the most hilarious (hilarious that I, Sam Hickman had a posse of 20 men running with me), and courageous things you would have ever seen!
A flustered, perspiring, Sam bolting down a crowded market alley with a backpack full of 2kg of peanut butter (the reason why I bought 2kg of peanut butter is another story 😛 , enquire below if you wish to know it ) + numerous other products jumping up and down as I sprinted after him.
I couldn’t find any google images to match what I would have looked like so I did a little sketch to set the scene for you guys.
After a long chase, I couldn’t see him anymore, so I gave up and stopped running, but the other men who were helping me had continued after him.
At this point, I couldn’t really do much else… I walked up the slope of the market despondently hoping one of the men would run back holding my wallet.
Anyway, as I found my friend Alana who I had abandoned without thought in the pursuit of the robber (oops :S ) , we began to digest what had just happened when I looked behind me to see all the men who had run after the man, following me.
They all gathered around me telling me they had run as far as they could but he had escaped through a side entrance, then all the women and children, all the shoppers encircled Alana and I, approaching, asking me if I was OK, asking me what I had lost, seeing if there was anything they could do to help.
It was of the most surreal, wonderful experiences I’ve ever had.
So I lost all my money (luckily only 50 sol and my house keys, it could have been a lot worse but luckily I never take much money or anything of value out when I leave the house so that proved a good thing!).
But hold up…the day wasn’t over yet!
Me and my gorgeous friend Alannah (pictured),
We walked our way back out of the market and made our way home.
Alannah was brilliant throughout the whole ordeal, I was really lucky to have her there.
All I wanted to do was to get home now, get back to my bed and sleep, it had been a big day to say the least!
I messaged my flatmate hoping she would be home that night, otherwise I would have to find somewhere else to stay as I couldn’t get into the apartment without my keys.
It was just one of those days that every inconvenience that could have gone wrong, did.
To be honest the most annoying thing about the whole day was the house key situation!
I didn’t give a second thought to the money, but my house mate Sadie still hadn’t replied at this point so I was worried I would have to be sitting out in the apartment corridor all night.
While I was waiting I decided to have a nap on the bench outside the apartment; my bedroom was so close, I could feel my bed calling to me, I even had a crazy hypothetical vision of scaling the wall of the building by climbing through this window adjacent to my apartment. I reasoned that this wouldn’t have worked out well, seeing as I live on the 5th floor, plus my Spiderman capabilities leave nothing to be desired…
So I was having a little nap, 3 hours into the wait, when my neighbour, (who I had not met yet) walked past me and woke me up, asking if I was OK.
I told her what had happened, and that I was waiting on a response from my flatmate. My neighbour then invited me into her house, introduced me to her family and took me to the rooftop so I could get some air, she then brought me food and water and also brought up an iPhone charger to charge my dead battery.
She sat on the rooftop with me for a while and we talked about Peru and life in general, then she left me to have a little rest while I waited, she even offered me her couch for the night if I couldn’t get a hold of Sadie!
Sadie eventually got home a few hours later, her phone had been out of action all day at the repair shop so she had not seen any of my messages unfortunately!
But ultimately I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
If all these unfortunate things were not to have happened, I wouldn’t have been able to see such beauty in the people around me!
I feel so lucky to have experienced this misfortune on a small scale. And look what I got out of the day!
It feels weird to say, but it honestly was all meant to happen in my eyes. I am so grateful I was robbed!
And what a cool story to come out of it… I can say I have been in a semi high speed chase now ;P .