I woke up this morning, in my dorm room at the Secret Garden in Quito, to find a very nasty surprise indeed. It seems that yesterday evening — when we were all upstairs on the terrace, having dinner and a few beers — someone came into Dorm F, and went through everyone's bags. They took everything that was unlocked, valuable, and lying around. Sadly, I was the worst hit: they emptied my money belt of its cash (about US$150); and even worse, they stole my new camera. Nooo — not again! Please g-d, why? This is about the worst way that my time in Ecuador could have possibly ended. It's going to leave me with a very bad taste of this country indeed. And as for Quito: well, I wasn't sure before, but now I'm quite certain — I simply am not too fond of this city.
I gotta admit, it was my fault in a way. I usually have the money belt either around my waist, or in a padlocked pocket of my bag. Last night, I was a bit careless, and I left it in my bag without a padlock on the zip. My camera, I don't usually lock up inside my bag: but it's always either in the bag, or slung round my shoulder. Still, stuff is usually pretty safe inside a hostel: this is the first time that I've had anything stolen from inside my room.
There was nobody in our room between about 6:30pm and 10:30pm last night. At this time, we were all upstairs on the terrace, digging into the Saturday night BBQ. After that, some of us went out to some bars, and some of us went to sleep. It's probable that the door wasn't locked the whole time (which it's meant to be, whenever it's empty), during dinner. So the most likely scenario is that someone came by our room in the evening, wandered in, went through the bags, and wandered back out.
Whoever it was, they were smart, and they were selective. Only cameras and cash were stolen. Even my ATM card, which was also in my money belt, was (thank you, sweet L-rd! — and thank heavens I don't have a credit card either) left in peace. Nothing was broken into: clearly, only unlocked bags were searched.
The worst thing is, it seems highly likely that it was another guest that did this — and we're almost all gringos here at the Secret Garden. And if you can't trust a fellow gringo, who the hell can you trust?
Anyway, there's no point crying over spilled milk. Not much I can do about it, really, except try not to think about how much this has cost me, hope that I can claim it back on my travel insurance (when I eventually return home), and get on with the rest of the trip. I did, of course, go to the tourist police today, and get an official incident report from them — hopefully that will be adequate for the insurance people. I don't have time to buy a new camera here in Quito, as I'm flying to Chile tonight. I'll have to find myself a new one when I get to Chile (which won't be fun, as nothing's cheap down there).
And hey, I guess you always gotta look on the bright side, too. After all, I've heard more than a handful of stories about people who've been held up, either at knife- or at gun-point, on the street or in a taxi, here in Quito. One person even got held up at the bottom of the street, about 50m from the hostel! Quito is a dangerous and unfriendly city, even (or arguably, especially) in the more tourist-frequented areas. So I should thank my lucky stars that despite having now been robbed three times in South America, I haven't been threatened with, or become the victim of, any violence whatsoever in my time down here.
The worst thing is that I've lost about 4 days' worth of photos. I didn't take that many photos on the Cotopaxi climb (due to the darkness and the bad weather), but the ones that I did take, I've lost. I also lost all my photos from yesterday's market shopping in Otavalo, including pictures of all the things that I bought. At least the purchased items themselves weren't stolen (they were all buried deep inside my bag — even if the robber had wanted to steal them, which I doubt). I was going to upload my photos yesterday afternoon, but I just didn't get round to it. Now, the camera, along with its battery and 2GB memory card, is all gone. The only thing I have left is the battery charger, and my memory card reader.