Asalto en Taganga

The Story of How We Were Assaulted in Colombia by Two Guys with big Machetes, in the middle of Our Trip From Mexico to Chile by Land at 4pm in the afternoon.

After some incredible days in the Tayrona national park, camping just a few meters from the beach and surrounded by incredible nature, we left to Taganga, a small city near Santa Marta and where we were told that there were very good beaches and paths to walk and tour around.

When we were on the bus, a few minutes before arriving in the city, we met a very cool Argentinean guy who told us that he lived there and that he really likes the city. He also told us that he had been assaulted days ago, and showed us the patches left by the stitches of the guys with a knife in the stomach. He told us that in three months nothing happened to him but that two days ago that had happened to him, so we had to be careful.

When we got off, it was late, but there were still a few minutes of sunlight. We realized that our hostel was about 20 minutes away, so we started walking. The city looked tiny, with people who didn’t pay much attention but at the same time with quite rustic houses. We loved the first impression, but we still didn’t get the story of this Argentinian guy out of our minds.

Upon arrival at the hostel, we had to wait for the room, and while we were waiting there we asked the reception about the security of the place and if it was really dangerous. The girl told us that we had to take the same care as anywhere and that basically if we avoided going out until late at night, we should have no problems at all.

That night we went to bed tired but calmed after what the receptionist had told us.

The next day, we woke up early in order to tour around, we drunk juice in a lady’s stand in the street, and we talked for a long time while she was preparing the juice. We asked her about how she was living in that place if she was happy and also about the security in the city, and she told us about her life, that was very different from ours. About the security, she told us that if we avoided the night, we wouldn’t have any problem.

Taganga is a very small town, which is connected to many beaches around through trails, where after walking for about 10 minutes you can reach a different beach, and so on, on several beaches. You could also take a boat to transport yourself from one beach to the other, but we considered that if we could get there in 15 minutes walking, it didn’t make much sense. As we are already expert walkers, we set out to discover as much as possible.

After about 15 minutes of walking, we went down to a beach and we met some Uruguayans that we had met days before in the Tayrona national park. We stayed and talked to them, and after a while, they left. We enjoyed a few more minutes the water and after a while, we left the place with the idea of ​​following the route for more beaches. As we went back to the path, a guy comes up to us and told something about a snake. We did not understand him very well but we took it as a joke and kept going.

We arrived at the next beach, and a group of fishermen told us that we could not be on that beach because it was theirs. We found it quite absurd but we did not want to have problems so we just continued to the next one. We bathed for a long time and when it was around 3 pm in the afternoon, we felt a little tired so we wanted to go back to eat something and do something else.

As I came from the beach I was walking with shorts, sandals and a backpack with everything including my shirt.

We started to go back, so in a moment we crossed the fishermen’s beach, and as we passed we felt that the fishermen were talking about us as we approached them. It was necessary to do it to follow the path, so we did not pay attention and continued.

When we got to the point where the guy had told us about the snake, this guy comes out, with a really big machete in his hand, with his face uncovered and asked me to give him everything I had. Obviously, when I saw this, I passed my backpack to him, while at the same time I saw another guy coming from the other side, also with a machete in his hands and with his face covered, he did the same with Gery. The guy started saying that we had to go up the hill, and obviously a lot of things started going through my mind. If obviously we had given everything to them, what more could they want? At first, I refused, asking them to calm down. His response was to bring the machete closer to my neck and pretend to bury it, staring me with his crazy eyes. I still remember his eyes, eyes full of anger and energy, very intense that although they did not intimidate me, they gave me the feeling that he was capable of anything. In that, Gery when saw this guy approaching my neck with the machete, she started crying and screaming, asking him to please do nothing to me, that she was going to have a heart attack, so to please calm down.

We started to climb up the hill, all the time walking back to the top, asking the guy to calm down and insisting on asking what he wanted. We kept going up for a while, Gery was behind me with the covered-face guy behind her and the bare-faced guy looking straight at me with the machete. In my head the worst was happening, I felt that sooner or later I was going to have to face them and perhaps it was better to do it now. We were high enough by now, so I refused to continue climbing, took Gery by the hand, and we both ducked to the ground. I told him that we would not continue climbing and I insisted again asking what he wanted.

The guy looks at me, opens the backpack, takes out a hat that we were bringing and throws it away. “I brought you here because I want to return your passport and documents.” I think it was one of the biggest reliefs I’ve ever had. I was really imagining the worst. I thought I would face them when I had zero chances of winning and a 50% chance of ending up in halves. I already knew the history of the Argentine, it was obvious that if they needed to, they would do it.

We didn’t have passports, not even cell phones, so we insisted to please release us like that, as we didn’t need anything returned. But they insisted on checking everything in the backpack. If they liked it, the kept it and if the didn’t like it the returned the thing to us. We were walking with a GoPro, and when I saw him taking it out, it occurred to me to ask him to please return our memory card, that we had photos of a long trip and that we did not want to lose them. The guy, although with difficulties, managed to open the camera, and gave me the memory card. I couldn’t believe it.

When Gery saw this, she began to say to the guy, “oh my Friend, my friend. why don’t you give us the camera back ? My friend, please, I can buy it, how much for the camera? ”It was really the only valuable thing that we were carrying, for what it seemed naive to me. At the end, they did not return the camera to us, but I swear to God they thought about doing it.

At the end of this ritual, the guy told us to get out running as another group was coming so we had to disappear quickly. Gery told him that we wanted to buy the camera, that we had no money with us right now, but we could meet later and give them some money for the camera. The guy gave us an amount, which I do not remember now but it was much less than the real price of the camera and told Gery to meet at 8 pm “on the bridge”. We thought, great, we had a place to catch them.

We walked quickly to the town and when we got there the first thing we did was going to the police. The truth is that they did not give us much importance. At one point another guy showed up who had been through the same thing the day before but had confronted them and finally didn’t get robbed.

Gery was very upset, so she insisted that she should leave a formal complaint. They kept us waiting for a really long time until they took us to a police station. We were made to recognize the guys who had assaulted us, but the photos were of the guy at a party, smoking, quite unprofessional in our judgment, but they knew he was the guy we had identified, so there wasn’t much choice. They made us to wait some more time, until two guys arrived, dressed in civilian clothes and told us to describe again what had happened. While we were telling him, he silenced a guy who was in a cell behind us. We hadn’t realized that, but the town was very small, and one of the guys in a cell knew exactly what we were saying. This made me feel very insecure so I just wanted to leave the place. Gery kept insisting until the not uniformed police officers offered to take us to Santa Marta to make the report. At this point, it was already 6 in the afternoon, it was getting dark, the guys did seem reliable to me, and they told us that they would not bring us back, it would be a one-way trip. Gery wanted to go, but I asked her to please go another day. In the end, in a few days, we had to go and stay one night in that same city.

The option of meeting on the bridge was not possible, because the police apparently did not know where the bridge was.

When we left the police station, I felt very strange, I felt that people were looking at us, as if they knew who we were and that they did not want us to be there. Without giving it much importance and with the urgency of reaching the hostel, we left as quickly as possible.

Upon arrival at our hostel, we spoke to our friends and family, we unburden our feelings a little bit and we went to eat. We told the story to the owner of the hostel and he was very sorry. Then he offered to retrieve the camera for us because he could talk to his uncle who was a fisherman and that he could retrieve the camera if we paid for it. It seemed disrespectful to us, but by now we understood how things worked there and that basically we couldn’t trust anyone. That night, when we got to our room, we looked for what TripAdvisor said, and we realized that there were many similar cases, that this method of assaulting with machetes and making people going up in the hill was something common, they had been using the method for more than 3 years.

About two days later, we finally went to make the complaint in the court and upon arrival, the guy at the entrance told us that the face-to-face complaint could no longer be made and that we should do it online. Which of course, unleashed our anger.

On the other hand, where would the police take us, if it was not possible to make the complaint? They didn’t know either? Things started to get weirder.

Then, about 15 minutes later, we were inside a store, talking face to face with Gery, when behind her, through the big window that faced the street, I saw a dark-haired woman in a red dress who stops, looks at me straight to my eyes, she lifted her middle finger while smiling at me in a very defiant attitude, and then she kept walking.

Was she following us? Was it just a bad coincidence? I do not know.

Until that moment, I always felt calm, but after seeing this, I was not calm until 2 weeks later when we finally left Colombia. It was a new experience, being in no law land, where we really felt totally vulnerable, and all this created in us a trauma that prevented us from enjoying part of what was left of our trip and that even made us doubt whether to continue traveling.

Anyway, in total, it was a 6-month trip between Mexico and Chile by land, and this extreme experience lasted only about 45 minutes. After all, it is part of the risk when you travel. It is there, it can happen, it can happen to you when traveling, or even while being at home. It’s part of what happens in the world, everywhere.

In the end, these things make us have a better perspective on things, to value what we have and to understand that everything can change from one moment to another really fast. Finally, there was a point when we were grateful for what happened to us. We were starting to feel immortal, and sometimes it’s necessary some fragility around in order to stay balanced and to enjoy life deeper.

This is the last photo we took with our camera.

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