As early as preproduction for the project I had a feeling we might be robbed. I never worried too much about it, my attitude was, at some point we may get robbed, because that happens, and if it happens we will deal with it. Yet when it did happen to us, of course it was when I least expected.
Throughout the trip we have been extremely careful with where we sleep, where and when we ride, and where we put our gear when not in use. At times it felt like we were overdoing it because we have been so fortunate and treated so well throughout the entire ride. We’ve cycled through plenty of areas where many thought we shouldn’t, and we had nothing but positive experiences in all of them.
Now, in the mid point of our journey, I feel like I let my guard down for that last month, partly because of getting too confident, feeling so unexpectedly safe, and partly because of tiredness. Personally, after eleven months of traveling I feel like it is sometimes hard to maintain focus. I’m not sure if it’s the exhaustion of being in constant movement, or from trying to absorb every one of the incredible experiences that we have on a daily basis. Or maybe it’s realizing that this project is way bigger than I thought, while at the same time realizing that is going to come to an end before we know it. We still, always, have much work to do.
That day, in Nicaragua, Katie and I (another traveler that we met in Granada) were walking at sunset inside an abandoned building. It had no roof, so we were able to enjoy the ruins contrasted by a beautiful array of colors in the sky. I was interviewing her as we walked. We finished and sat down to admire the beautiful sea of stars above us. It crossed my mind that maybe we should not be there at night; it was an abandoned building in a poor area of town. I can pinpoint many times throughout that night of having the feeling it was time to go, but I let them slide away…enjoying the moment too much.
Suddenly, while sitting there, three teenagers stealthily approached us, all of them wearing bandanas to cover their face. They got closer to us very slowly, two of them had knifes and the other was holding a large rock. One of them put his knife to my neck, and another told us to stay calm, assured us that they were going to let us go. I complied instantly, “take whatever you want”. And they did. They took everything I had on me. They stole our main video camera, my personal camera, a high quality lav mic, my wallet, and my phone. While it was happening nothing special really came to mind. I simply was not ready at all for something like that to happen. My only worry was Katie, i just hoped that they wouldn’t do anything to her–they didn’t. When they were done they ran away and threw the big rock in our direction to make sure that we were not going to follow them.
The next couple of days were grueling, between countless hours waiting in the police station, going to the ghettos with an undercover cop to get info on the robbery, talking to our insurance, hearing the concern of my family and friends, but mainly figuring out how this was going to affect our project. I was so disappointed with myself, not only did I loose the tools that we need to do our work, but more sadly, we lost a couple days’ worth of footage…beautiful footage. My phone had my diary, I lost my entire diary since we started the trip, eleven months of this journey. That hurt too much. I just felt that I know better, that I had a lot of opportunities to follow my gut and I didn’t. It was really scary to have so many negative thoughts in my mind about how this was going to affect our project, but there was never any doubt in my mind that we’d continue on just fine. Many of my loved ones were actually asking me to either quit entirely or at least take a brake to regroup. All I could think in response to these pleas was …who do you think I am? Don’t you know me? I’ve given myself fully to this project, and will continue to do so until the finish.
Again, this entire incident was a result of just how completely safe the rest of the ride has been. We’ve never had an incident on the road, while asleep, or anywhere at all while we’ve all been together. This happened because I felt so comfortable that I took myself out of those normal settings. I was basically alone, in a dangerous area, in the evening, with very visible very expensive gear. It was an entirely avoidable situation which we will entirely avoid in the future.
What the robbery did was force us to rethink, regroup, and reprioritize. In a way I think I needed something like this to shake off the exhaustion and to find new motivation to keep going. We replaced our main camera within a week, and other than a few logistical bumps here and there we are fully back to sharing stories while pedaling south. I was really impressed and proud of how we dealt with this as a team logistically and emotionally. I guess being stuck on a logistical nightmare and emotional rollycoaster for eleven months will get you prepared for anything.
Losing my journal is what still stings the most, but I heard that Jim Morrison said losing his journal was one of the best things to ever happen to him creatively, a forced fresh start, and I really vibe with that. That journal was old Ricardo, but I have grown. I’m something else now.