Wednesday 16th February 0500hrs
We would never have seen it or expected it. Here we were, walking down the street to our next accommodation which was with a couchsurfer named Alan. It wasn’t some dodgy small lane and neither was it at night. It was in broad daylight down a main street on a sleepy Saturday afternoon. The only problem was, there were very few people walking up and down the street. Suddenly, a man stopped Justin, telling us we had some dirt on our back. As we were carrying all our belongings with us, we couldn’t really see behind so well. Our huge backpacks were in the way and the guy was ‘trying’ to help us wipe it off.
He got Justin to reluctantly put down his small backpack. I could see him hesitate for a moment but gave him an assured look that I will watch it as I stood behind the man, wary of anything suspicious he might pull. Little did I know, I had been blotched with the same gunk that and Justin offered to wipe it off while he moved me out of position. At that point I thought Justin would be watching his own bag because now, I was in the front and couldn’t see anything while the man was behind me helping me wipe the stuff off.
My guard was still up and I was still wary. I quickly took a quick glance behind to see what was happening but I couldn’t see the man but saw a stumpy woman wearing a cap walk towards a car parked on the sidewalk. My eyes immediately reverted back to the spot where the bag lay and noticed something different. I quickly asked Justin if that was his bag. His bag had been switched and even Justin took no notice of it. I had to ask him again for him to realize that we had been robbed.
Everything of value he had had been lost. His passport, camera equipment, netbook and all his money. EVERYTHING! We stood there with our jaws on the floor. What the fu*k! We didn’t know what to do at that point. There was no one in sight but some lady and a kid asking us some questions in Spanish. As if we know what to say and at that point, we really didn’t know what to say. We look at each other with disbelief and tried to grasp the situation. I was trying to keep a cool head the whole time as it would be bad if both of us panicked. Justin was remarkably cool and kept his head as we both planned our next course of action. If it were me I would too distraught and possibly have had a breakdown at that moment. Really respect the guy but at the same time felt terrible for him. The trip had already been lost the moment he lost the bag.
We decided the best thing to do was to quickly reach Alan’s place which was just a street away and ask his assistance. What a way to greet someone you’ve just met for the first time. However, we were thankful for his help because without him at that point we would have no idea what to do or how to do anything.
After a very quick hello and a brief chat, we set out to make a police report at the police station. It took us 2 hours to make a simple police report. That shows how efficient the police in Argentina are. Even Alan says he hates the cops because of their incompetence. Even the police report that was given to us was WRONG! We had to go back the on Monday to change the report.
We had to also arrange to go to the Malaysian Consulate to process a new passport for Justin. Unfortunately the embassy was closed on the weekend and had no hotline to call to help us out. We were shocked there was no emergency contact for the embassy. When we went to the consulate on Monday, we had to wait 5 hours to be told that the officer in charge is not coming in on that day. What shitty service! Luckily, we managed to bring forward our situation to another person who was there. Even so, we received even more disheartening news when we were told that Justin could only get an emergency certificate which was only valid to exit Argentina. That was another big blow as that would mean he had to go back and could not continue his travels. My heart sank as well knowing that I had to make the decision to either travel alone or go back with him. We tried to keep a positive attitude and asked for exceptions or some other consideration. We wouldn’t know if Justin would be able to continue until today when he has to go back to the embassy to hopefully get some good news. Even so, both of us are pretty much mentally preparing for the worse that can happen.
So here I am at the airport at 4am in the morning, trying to catch a flight to El Calafate without Justin to hopefully salvage something out of our plans only to be greeted with more bad news at the airport which informed me that there were no reservations for our flight that we missed on Monday and all other flights were full. I was supposed come to the airport to be on standby for any flight out, paying a fee of 100 pesos from the same airline, Lan Chile. That was what they told me to do but here I am, without a name on the registry, not booked into any flight. The only thing I could think of was, do I give up and go back or try other options. I decided to purchase another ticket from Aerolineas which cost a lot more and be on standby again. I would try for all times for the day until 2pm because they are all full. At this point I am not looking very optimistic about anything. What a holiday this has been so far.
On a brighter note, we visited a small town outside of Buenos Aires called Tigre which a town in the middle of a delta. We took the train from Retiro station which only cost 3.50 pesos for a return trip. One thing is for sure public transport here is ridiculously cheap.
Once there, you could take a boat down the delta to see all the houses and hostels on the side of the river. We didn’t get to move around the town much, but we felt much safer than in the city. We took quite a lengthy boat ride up the river to a small island called ‘Tres Bocas’ which we just walked around seeing the fancy houses and watched the boats go by. People could also be seen kayaking and enjoying the day along the banks with family and friends. The town also had an amusement park which looked pretty decent and was pretty full of people even on a weekday. We missed out seeing the casino and the fruit market which were the other attractions but it wouldn’t have been anything spectacular. It was a good breather to take our mind off all the bad luck we been having. It was not spectacular but at least we were still trying to enjoy ourselves. Even so, this is already a holiday I’m sure I won’t forget.