Please forgive the shitty iPod quality photo but my camera got stolen so that's all there is. Here I am smiling like an idiot minutes before it happened.
Can you tell I'm a little upset? This afternoon I had my first brush with crime in Central America (theft, technically, not robbery as I wasn't held up with a weapon). Apparently it's best not to blog while angry or emotional but for once the internet is working so too bad I'm doing it anyway.
I'm on Isla Bastimentos, a small island off the Caribbean coast of Panama. So small it has no roads or cars, the tourism industry isn't particularly built up, and I figured it'd be much safer here than on the party hard island of Colon in Bocas del Toro. These are my last few days at the beach before finishing my travels in Central America next week. I wanted to take advantage of the sand and sun so this afternoon I hiked my way out to Wizard Beach. (The internet is too slow for me to upload maps for reference so you'll just have to take my word on it.)
Wizard Beach is about a half hour trek up and over a hill in the middle of the island til you get to the beach on the other side. "It's so beautiful, you should definitely go, we just went yesterday and it was great," fellow travellers told me. Being the closest beach to me, I figured why not, I'll go there for some quiet time this afternoon as it would be my only day at the beach in Panama.
I was wearing my sandals (which already snapped and got repaired in Nicaragua) and praying that they were strong enough to withstand the forest trails. The last thing I needed was to try and do this barefoot on the way home. Literally dripping sweat, I finally heard the waves crashing and could see a clearing in the distance. A few steps more and there it was -- a quiet, completely undeveloped surfer's beach with literally five other people. As you can see in the photo above, in front of me was the water, and behind me dense jungle.
I found some shade and plopped down on my towel close to three surfer dudes who were taking a snooze. After snapping some pictures that will likely never be seen again, I tucked my camera into my backpack and put in my iPod, careful not to turn it too loud so I could still be aware of what was around me.
The surfers got up and went back in the water and it was just me alone on the beach. Or so I thought.
I was lying on a towel with my backpack under my head but sat up to admire the sea in front of me. I heard some rustling and turned around to see some little punk with a stick snatching my bag from right behind me, not even three feet away. He even took my clothing that was draped right on top of it as he ran deep into the wilderness. I hopped up and chased him, yelling to no avail, and unable to catch up as he dodged through the thick greenery that was clearly his home turf. I ran until I couldn't see him anymore, until I couldn't see the beach anymore, and all I could hear was myself making noise in the woods.
"Please, please, I'll pay you, just give me back my camera!" I cried out. I was sobbing at this point, scratched from running through the bushes, and sank into a pathetic pile crying by myself in the middle of nowhere. "Please, please...." No one was listening.
I walked back to the beach praying that at this point no one had stolen my sandals that I need to walk back to town. I had a really long ugly cry feeling very sorry for myself. My camera, my money, maybe my credit card, my sunscreen, hairbrush, room key, and clothing... gone.
In perspective, I realize how much worse this could have been, but it was my lowest point of travel so far and I wasn't ready to stop crying. I wasn't hurt, my passport was safe, and only about $30 cash was taken, but still. The tears just got worse as I thought about all the pictures from our travels so far, specifically everything from Costa Rica entirely wiped out as I hadn't loaded the photos onto my computer yet. Fortunately because my iPod was in my hand that was spared, and I left my Nikon DSLR back in the hostel. Some kind Germans came out from the pathway and found me, offered me water and even a sarong so I wouldn't have to walk through the woods and back into town in just my bikini.
Anyway, there's more to this story. I just met the guy that is the suspect. A local teenager who came to my hostel with his mother. We'll see what happens. But for now... I just want my photos back.