Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fooled Once. Shame On Me.

Visiting Corcorvado National Park has been on Roel’s bucket list for years. Unfortunately, the park recently changed it’s entry requirements:

1. You must make reservations 1 month out. (Initially, this seemed to be a roadblock, but apparently it’s now easy to get around. (No problem.)

2. You must pay a $15 entry fee. (No problem.)

3. You MUST take a guide with you into the park. Guides start at $100/day/person. (Um, WTF. Big problem.)

We’d heard that the road to Drake Bay was a fun one (river crossings, some technical climbs and lots of gravel) AND that it might be possible to find a local who would be willing to take you into his or her backyard at a fraction of the cost of the Corcorvado guides.

Lots of river crossings

Lots of butterflies... everywhere. Particularly in the road. :(

CHECK OUT THE SHADOW UNDER MY FRONT TIRE!!! My first wheelie!!!! (No comments about too much weight in the rear, now - blah, blah, blah)

Need a little help with those cows, boys?

The road to Corcorvado did not disappoint and I got in plenty of practice crossing rivers. I’m still perfecting my technique, as evidenced by the rad picture of me splashing Roel’s camera. Oops! Sorry babe!

Splish splash... allllll over Roel's camera

But note to self: I need higher riding boots - one of my favorite sets of photos of crossings shows at exactly what point my boots got flooded!

Annnnnd I need some proper moto boots. Flooding is not fun.

We arrived in Drake Bay just before sunset and rode around trying to find a place to camp during the last rays of light. Several people mentioned that we could camp on the soccer field next to the police station for free, but we still looked around. Accommodation was expensive, many places were fully booked due to the Semana Santa Holiday, and places that offered camping next to their hotel/hostel were also pretty dear. (Sorry, we’re not paying $20 to set up our tent.)

So we eventually ended up going to the police station. They were happy to let us camp there, told us not to worry, and that we could set up our tent wherever we wanted to on the field.

We moved a little ways away from the station but selected a spot where we would be in full view of the station. Seeing rain clouds and lightning in the distance, we decided to set up the tent before the rain began, before heading down the road for dinner.

We stored all of our valuables in the hard luggage on the bikes, hid the dry bags under the tent flap and wandered off.

Dinner was delicious but it took a rather long time to be prepared. When we had arrived, the entire family who owned the restaurant was finishing dinner and by the time we had ordered, only two of the sisters remained.

With full bellies, we walked back to the police station, said goodnight to the guys who were waiting until their shift ended at 10pm and crawled into the tent and were soon fast asleep.

These guys were chattering away 20 feet from our tent when we woke up

We awoke to sounds of birds early the next morning and while Roel was taking the opportunity to photograph two macaws, I went for a swim in the ocean.

The BEST way to wake up! Other than Costa Rican coffee, of course.

We’d decided to move on to another part of the area and so we began packing up before the sun was fully up. I was putting valuables from my top box back into my tank bag and noticed that there were medical supplies form the medical kit strewn all about my tank bag. That struck me as very odd because given Roel’s first aid training, he would never leave a med kit in such a state of disarray. And then it hit me: we’d been robbed. I quickly looked through the dry bags and was astonished by how thorough they’d been… Every pocket of my riding suit was open and the D-30 pads were pulled out of their pockets. They’d taken their time, and had made sure to put everything back relatively well. We’d used a couple of pegs for the tent, but they’d taken the remainder of the tie-down pegs that were left in the tent bag that was in the same dry bag as the suit. Since they’d cleaned out my pockets, they’d gotten my custom-made ear plugs and some pocket cash. But worse than that, my beloved Racer gloves were also missing. :(

Going back through my tank bag, I realized they’d gotten two head flashlights (one good one and one that was a give-away), my pocket knife, the thermometer from our first aid kit, and a bag of peanuts. Really?

In the minutes that followed this discovery came waves of anger, self-disgust (how could I be so stupid/naive to think that just because we were in front of the police station our stuff would be OK) and then the realization that it had to have been the police themselves who did it.

I can’t say this is a fact, but this is my theory and it was further confirmed by the following things:

1. None of Roel’s things had been touched - and his stuff was stashed on the side of the tent that police wouldn’t have been able to see. That’s odd. Two dry bags of my stuff and my tank back which were on the side of the tent that was in DIRECT view from where the police were sitting outside of the station, were meticulously gone through. Anyone who has a KLiM jacket knows how many pockets they have… the thief/thieves only missed one - the passport pocket was unopened. I find it hard to believe that unless one was a police officer or had the blessing of the police that they would have been so bold as to have gone through everything on that side of the tent to the extent that they did.

Photo taken from Roel's side of the tent which would have been the obvious side to rob if one wasn't a police officer or didn't have the blessing of the police... (And on a side note: my bike was not in that position the night before... the police would have had a clear view of the side of the tent that was robbed.) Police station is the blue building in the background.

2. While I was contemplating how to handle this with the officer on duty, a guy showed up with a machete to do some “yard work” around the police station. He went to chat to the officer on duty for a few minutes and then walked directly to an area of the soccer field about 30 meters from our tent where there is a path leading down to the beach. He motioned us over a few seconds later and picked up my gloves and ear plugs as we arrived. Hmmm. Obviously, I was grateful to have those items back. This guy then told me that we shouldn’t have camped there. That its’ not safe. And I replied that this was obvious now, but that we thought it would be OK in front of the police station. He then very clearly said “The police are bad. Two other couples have been robbed who have camped here.” Funny, the police didn’t mention this the night before. “The police here are VERY bad.”

3. When I did bring what had happened to the attention of the policeman on duty he made a show of raising his eyebrows in surprise but almost as soon as his eyebrows relaxed he shrugged his shoulders and said “You didn’t tell us you were going to dinner, we thought you were sleeping.” Right. I said that obviously it was cash and some small items and there was no way of tracing it, but would it be possible to do anything else? Did I need to make a report? And he just shrugged again and said that it was a shame this happened to us because we would tell our friends and they would tell their friends and then the entire country gets a bad reputation.

Well, you’re right, pal, I’ll tell my friends, who will tell their friends, not to camp at Drake Bay in front of the police station. My friends are smart and know not to judge an entire country by a few bad apples.

Our friends Seb and Kim (Wandering Souls) wrote a pretty poignant blog about understanding the plight of the police in places where their pay, (and in this case, working conditions) aren't good. While I can't help but despise the fact that I believe it was the police who did this or were in on it, the photo above is of their police station and the photo below shows their kitchenette/outdoor area. Pretty shoddy, but still, no excuse in my opinion.

It was indeed a shame, though. It was 100% our fault for making ourselves vulnerable. We’ve been so vigilant for the past several months, and then, in a country where police have been extremely friendly and we’ve felt very safe, we let our guard down in front of a police station, and BAM. In the end, it’s only money and a few small items. But I can’t lie and say it didn’t ruin that day and the rest of our time in Costa Rica for me. We decided to scrap our plans of trying to get into Corcorvado - I was done with the Osa Peninsula. Riding out of town was awful… it felt like everyone knew we were “those” tourists who had been so stupid and had been ripped off. It felt like everyone was in on it. Obviously, that’s not the case, but it’s a crappy feeling when your space has been invaded and it’s obvious that the tourist/local divide makes that acceptable to some people.

And the road out wasn’t fun this time. I didn’t enjoy my rear tire skidding out (btw, I am NEVER again going to buy a Perelli MT60 - shi+ tire in my opinion), I was tense through the river crossings and I worried about roadside robbery shenanigans.

I’ve been mugged once before in Ecuador, which was a very scary incident, and then again, there was that situation in Australia. When your life has somehow been invaded by someone unwelcome, there is a feeling that overcomes you for a period of time - hopefully not for too long, but it is difficult to trust anyone and you tend to assume the worst. After the mugging in Ecuador, I would jump a mile high if anyone so much as shut a car door behind me loudly in a parking lot. This wasn’t nearly as bad, since at least I knew it was my mind was playing tricks on me.

Still, I know soundly that 99% of the people in this beautiful country, are just that: beautiful.

And I will leave Costa Rica with that in mind.

And speaking of beautiful: Oh, hey Sam!

No comments:

Post a Comment