Monday, August 26, 2013

We were robbed - well, almost!

So, it finally happened to us! We have been traveling throughout Nicaragua for more than a year and until now haven't been robbed or taken advantage of (much) until now. So what happened?

We spent a couple of weeks enjoying Granada and late in the day last Friday headed to León. Some friends drove us the first part of the way - to Managua - and dropped us off at the UCA terminal where we waited to catch an Inter-local to León. There was a long line of people waiting and we were a little worried at how long it would take to get a ride. After about a 45 minute wait we were seated in the bus and ready to go. When the driver came around to collect the money all I had was a 500 cord note - mistake #1! I should have had a smaller bill. He took the money, indicated that he was going to charge us for our suitcase too (I've heard that this can happen and wasn't too worried about it) and fumbled for the change. Then he abruptly motioned that he would give us the change when we got to the terminal - hummm - I saw that he had a big wad of bills and could easily have given us the change. Mistake #2 - we should have insisted on the change right then.

The drive to León was uneventful. When we neared the bus terminal the driver stopped on the road outside of the market to let out all of the passengers. He came around and helped us get our bag out of the van and Pat asked for our change. We waved his hand in a "wait a moment gesture" and walked to the far side of the vehicle. There were two ladies from Bluefields that were heading in the same direction as we were and so we arranged to take a taxi together. Pat and the women headed to the taxi while I followed the driver. He finally stopped and counted out some money, handed it to me and then quickly got in the van and drove away. I looked at what he gave me and it was $150 cords short! Although we had suspected he was up to something, we were now at a loss as to how to get the remainder of our money - sure, it was only about $6.25 but it bugged us that we had been taken advantage of.

The reaction of our new traveling companions was quite something - they were horrified that we had been "robbed". When they explained what happened to us to the taxi driver he offered to help us find the driver. It took us a couple of stops but we finally located the Inter-local office and went there to complain. The manager called the driver (Francisco) and told him to come to the office because there was a complaint. The driver made us wait over 1/2 hour before he finally arrived and we felt bad for interfering with our companions plans to get home. They were very friendly and were still hyped by the fact that we had been treated this way.

The driver finally arrived - probably thinking that he could hold his own against a couple of gringos. Little did he know that we had our own "secret weapons" - the two ladies from Bluefields. In Spanish too fast for me to understand, they shot down every argument the driver brought up for his actions and when the dust settled they were victorious - and so were we. Not only did the driver give us the correct change, but he also gave back the money that he charged for the suitcase. We got into the waiting taxi and headed to San Mateo where we were spending a few days with friends.

Of course, the helpful taxi driver charged for his time, but we felt it was money well spent. We are very grateful to the two ladies who helped us get our money back and sincerely hope that "Francisco" learned his lesson and won't try and cheat the next gringos that get into his van.

Festivities in front of the Cathedral in León, Nicaragua