By Published On: May 30, 2005Categories: Living in Bolivia6 Comments on Mugged

Almost being mugged and being mugged are unfortunately very different experiences. A few weeks ago, I had been rescued by an angelic taxi-driver after a drug addict tried to mug me in Cochabamba. The escape left me more amused than scared.

This time there were no angels or laughter.

It was 9 O’Clock. I had just checked my emails. It was time for dinner, so I headed out of my hotel across the road to a Lebanese restaurant. The hotel is situated on one of La Paz’s most touristy streets, and generally feels very safe although on a Sunday night it was pretty quiet.

The restaurant is on the second floor and as I entered the ground floor, my intuition told me something was wrong. Three men were beckoning me in, saying this is the way to the restaurant. One grabbed my hand, I turned around to get out as fast as I could. But three more men were in front of me.

For a moment, I thought they might be angels on my side, but they sprouted horns as one put his arm around my neck.

I struggled, the outside noise was suddenly muffled, I could feel myself sinking as if under water.  Perhaps I was dreaming a mugging, so I struggled to wake-up to end it, hoping to find myself in bed.

Instead I found myself alone coming to on a cold floor under a naked light in a vacant doorway. My pockets were empty, rucksack gone. My yellow spanish pocket dictionary was all they had left me, but it was devoid of words to explain how I felt.

I staggered out into the street. A family huddled like llamas looked towards me, sympathy and helplessness etched on their faces. They had seen the robbers, but were too afraid to do anything.

My body trembled all over, my bruised neck ached, I wanted to fall into someone’s arms, say what had happened to purge it from my body and mind.

I returned to the hotel, and was relieved to see that Max, one of the staff I had made friends with on my last trip to La Paz, was on duty.  I didn’t feel I knew him well enough for a hug, but as I told him my story I felt some relief. Praying as I went to sleep also gave me some peace.

Today I feel better. I think it will take a little time to get over the emotional shock. It was hardly an auspicious beginning to my new life in La Paz. But physically I am fine, and I feel fortunate that nearly everything I lost is easily replaceable.

I also am aware of how lucky I have been up to now. I have travelled to more than 40 countries, sometimes taken unnecessary risks and never been mugged or attacked. In the end my first mugging took place less than 10 metres from my hotel, in a city that is now my home.



  1. thomas May 30, 2005 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    I told you La Paz was a nasty dangerous city…
    You’d better come back here, to Cochabamba, Cecilia just cooked a delicious pie and I still have a bottle of excellent argentina wine to share with you…
    Take care, we’re expecting to see you soon,

  2. Andy May 30, 2005 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Very sorry to hear about the mugging. I think you should take Thomas’ advice – especially now I’ve seen the photo of Liliana – and return to Cochabamba. You know what they say: seize the dame. But if you choose not to…I’m sure that life will turn out fine as well. I wish you many happier experiences in La Paz. I’m sure they’ll come. You have friends everywhere who are thinking of you.

  3. Tyson May 30, 2005 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Brother Nick! .. Getting this post in my inbox just now was quite an unfortunate, I cannot imagine such an ordeal and am deeply sorry it happened to you. However, risking a misunderstanding – it could not have happened to a better traveller. Why? because what was painfully clear here in Cochabamba is your selfless love for this place and its people, and your strong commitment to work a little of this love through your words in La Paz. Only such a person as you truly has the capacity to go through such an experience and come out loving more with even firmer commitment to the betterment of the place. In your shoes I imagine I would not have been able to blog without a great amount of anger and perhaps hatred woven through my words.
    I pray for your peace and healing, I also pray that those who assaulted you will be in turn robbed of their ignorance and be able to share in the good fruits of that which you are here to labour for.
    Peace and Love friend,
    y estoy de acuerdo que nos gustaría mucho si regresaras, pero yo sé que La Paz en este momento necesita personas como tú. (feel free to send me corrections on that usage of the imperfect subjunctive)
    :)-I–< (my best attempt at a cyber-hug)

  4. Nick May 31, 2005 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the lovely comments and emails. It is great to know people are looking out for you even at a distance. It was a big shock but thankfully I feel much better now. I think one of the advantages of being asphyxiated is that it seems a bit less real in my memory now.
    In fact one of my close friends has suggested I view the whole incident as a dream as it is in fact loaded with lots of symbolism- took place in a doorway (between my old and new life), involved shadowy beings (representing my own shadows that I need to embrace), left me with my dictionary (saving power of language to survive and move on)….mmmmm.
    Still even so I don’t think that I am going to be trying out the technique for anything else.

  5. Miguel June 1, 2005 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    One piece of advise from a paceno who knows what are you talking about. If you ever, knock on wood, find yourself in a similar situation. The best thing you can do is stay still, do nothing and let them do what they have to do. Do not resist. As you said, whatever they take from you is easily replaceable, but you are not.
    Peace bro and stay safe!

  6. Javier June 4, 2005 at 4:21 am - Reply

    I have been mugged only once.
    I bought a new bike so I went to ride it, when I was coming back a guy came close and told me “Do you know el chino?” I told him “No” and then he suddenly grabbed me by the neck and throw me on the floor. Suddenly a mate of the guy appeared and try to robbed my bike, since the other guy was on top of me while I was on my back, I reacted instintly, the guy was very close to me I hit him with my hard and big head and something sound like if it was broken and the guy told me “Hijo de…”, the guy release me and I turned back, I got up and start yelling for help, a couple passed and helped me, and the guys leaved in car -I remember it was a suzuki, don’t remember the model-.
    Learning some self defence in countries where delicuency is high is a pretty good idea. In my case I was lucky, and the robbers where not armed and I managed to hit one of them, but right now I don’t know if I would do the same if the same situation presents.

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