Saturday, 20 June 2009

In which the inevitable occurs

I´m now back in Copan, which seemed the best place to wait my few remaining days, I still plan on staying but last night has shaken my confidence that this is a safe place. It started in Via Via cafe where after dinner I got talking to a guy who turned out to be an English graduate who claimed to be a professor of psychology at Tegucigalpa University. We were joined by two American girls and a group of Hondurans and all went on to a small bar down the street and then back to the Parque Central. I was ready for bed by this point but decided to stick about as the Hondurans kept putting their arms round the American girls and I couldnt face the risk of leaving then finding out worse had happened, paranoid maybe, but I felt responsible. Eventually the girls walked off together and the group broke up, I headed back towards my hotel on the edge of town but I hadn´t memorised the route.


It was at this point things went bad, I must have wandered for about 20 minutes up and down the streets looking for either a familiar landmark or a taxi. Then I was hailed in English by a large man with a moustache and a straw hat "Hey my friend", I should have started running at that point, no one who calls strangers "my friend" is ever very friendly.  He asked me what I was doing and I told him, I was looking for a taxi, "No taxi, I take you to my house, you can stay there"

"No!, I´ll keep looking for a taxi"

"OK I call my cousin he take you, you have 75 lempira for him"


"Show me" I showed him a hundred Lempira note, all I had, he grabbed it out my hand and pocketed it, "No dollars"

"I don´t have 75 dollars" I fact I had 100 hidden on me but I wasn´t telling him that at that stage.

At that point a land rover pulled up driven by a blond man with a pony tail.  I told him the name of my hotel, he talked in Spanish with the other guy and then offered me a lift.  To my horror the first man got in as well and we drove back to the bank on Parque Central where the car stopped "Now pay me 300 lempira from the bank" the moustache ordered, I considered my options, there was no one else about, no way to call for help and I had no idea what these guys would do, so I got the money and paid. "Is that all" he asked "Now 200 for him" he gestured to the driver who turned back to me "No, no, no" and set off, they dropped me at my hotel, where needless to say, I did not sleep well. I was woken around seven thirty by a knock at the door and a shout of "You need to pay more". Somehow he had got into the hotel and found my room, however now it was morning and there was someone (a cleaner) around so I told her the man was a thief, she led him outside and shut the door.


I waited till 8, looked out to check he was not about and went for breakfast.  I was somewhat comforted when I returned to the hotel and the owner was waiting, clearly concerned about what had happened and she reasured me that things would be OK.


In short the bad news is that I was effectvely robbed in a fairly scary way, and from now it will probably be fruit juice and an early night for me at least till I feel more confident. 

The good news is that 400 lempira is only about 12 pounds and that there was no actual violence involved. Given some of the stories I´ve heard about masked men with machetes I got off very lighltly, with what was effectively just a scam but I will definitely be more careful in future and today, in daylight I will buy a good map of Copan to carry with me always.

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