It only takes one…

Bad things happen to good people for no good reason! Alcohol fuelled violence, domestic violence, road rage – the list goes on. Why a group of rockers walking down a street would punch a 14 year old boy in the stomach for no other reason than that he happens to be on the same footpath is incomprehensible, but this happened to Juergen as a teenager. And why a man went crazy and attacked our vehicle in a small holiday town on Saturday is just as incomprehensible.

Beautiful and peaceful coast at Buchupureo

Beautiful and peaceful coast at Buchupureo

We had started out in a relaxed way, enjoying some beautiful scenery, and planning a short drive. Having had no success finding a suitable place to sleep, it turned into rather a long drive and we finally entered the small town of Dichato, about 40 km north of Concepcion, at around 6 in the evening. It was fairly full of visitors so we drove slowly down the main street behind a long line of cars and then across a bridge at the end. The road ahead appeared to be uninviting, as was the town in terms of a place to sleep, so we decided to turn around and go back the way we had come. We backed the truck into a narrow side road but had to pull forward to line it up better. There was a car coming down the road, faster than we had thought, and it had to slow down a little for us. As Juergen backed up again there were angry faces and gesticulations coming from the car. It stopped – even though the road was now free – and the passenger got out of the car. He came around the back of it towards us and hurled a rock directly at us, cracking the windscreen on the passenger side. He was also hurling abuse. We were totally shocked, and didn’t know what he might do next. Finally he got back into the car and it drove off.

We followed – it was the way we had to go, but we also thought we might get a photo of the car and report it to the police. The traffic was slow and we caught up with the car at an intersection where it had come to a stop. Once again the passenger got out of the car and this time picked up a huge piece of concrete to throw at us. Fortunately he lost his balance and fell over. At this point I was yelling for the police out the window but people were either too stunned, or just not wanting to get involved, to actually do anything. While I was doing this, the man went around to the driver’s side and climbed up. He put his hand through the window and knocked the camera out of Juergen’s hand, striking him in the process. When he was back in the car and it moved off around the corner, we continued down the main street and stopped at the police station.

The second attack

The second attack

The police were helpful and sympathetic, and seemed to be doing something. There was lots of radio and telephone contact, but we had no idea what was going on – nobody spoke English and we were too stunned to really focus our meagre Spanish skills. I was looking out the window and suddenly saw the guy just hanging around outside – he saw me and took off. One of the policemen – I suspect the boss because he came out of a private office – took me down the street looking for him. It wasn’t long before we spotted him. The policeman called him aside and he still made all sorts of threats to me over the policeman’s shoulder. When Juergen caught up with us, he tried to attack him. Other police turned up and took him away.

Meanwhile, a woman and her daughters came up to us and were comforting us and making suggestions. We didn’t understand what they were saying either, although there was a lot of ‘tranquilo’ included… Then a guy came up who spoke almost perfect English – it turned out that he was the fiancé of one of the woman’s daughters. He agreed to come back to the police station with us. By the time we got there the man who had attacked us was locked up in a cell. We were going to make a statement but then one of the police explained that it would require our return for court proceedings in a couple of months. We could foresee this being dragged out for even longer than that, with no guarantee of restitution at the end of it. So we made the decision to leave it. The man would be held until he sobered up and would be charged with something related to his behaviour, so he wouldn’t be getting off ‘scot-free’.

The aftermath, there is also a dent in the front

The aftermath, there is also a dent in the front of the truck

We asked about somewhere to sleep and one of the police directed us to a friend’s place. But before we could leave, the family of our interpreter’s fiancé warned us that friends or family of our attacker were still around in the town, and probably looking for us. They told the police and we were ushered back inside the station. The interpreter left with his companions at that point, so we had no real clue what the police were doing. We were told to stay inside, somebody started filling out a document, others went out and took down details of our truck, and others went out on the street. We decided the best thing to do was to put as much distance between us and the town as we could. Once the paperwork was done, a motorcycle policeman escorted us out of town and as far as Tome, about 10 km in the direction of Concepcion.

Police escort out of town

Police escort out of town

We still don’t understand what this guy’s problem was, but it was a violent outburst the like of which I have never personally experienced. I think it will take some getting over.

Have you ever experienced anything similar?
How did you deal with it? How did it leave you feeling afterwards?

Yasha

dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

29 Responses

  1. Andi says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. Also glad that it is the exception and not the rule while traveling in SA

    • Yasha says:

      It’s 3 years ago now, and not as devastating at a distance. But, if this is the worst that happens, it’s really not that bad…

  2. How horrible. The only silver lining is the police took the threat seriously and were willing to help. I have never experienced anything like this. I am truly sorry you had to go through such a terrible experience!!

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks Marilyn – a week later and it feels a bit like a bad dream… but the emotional reactions take longer to process.

  3. Sorry to hear about this but glad no one was seriously hurt. I’m also happy to hear some people came to help out. Hope you have better days ahead to erase this bad experience.

    • Yasha says:

      That is the wonderful thing about this life – there are always better days to be had, and they truly outweigh the bad by about 99%!!!

  4. Lisa Chavis says:

    Oh my goodness! What an awful thing to happen! Thank goodness you both are okay…I’m just sorry that your caravan was hurt. Sounds like you did the best thing by getting as far away as possible. Take care!!

  5. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced anything similar even in the U.S. How scary and frustrating and, I’m sure, what a relief to get out of there!

  6. What an absolutely horrible experience. I’m just so sorry that you had to encounter this senseless crime.

  7. Better a cracked windshield than a cracked head. So scary to be on the receiving end of such inappropriate anger, and I think you were right to put as much distance between you and the negative energy surrounding this individual as possible. There is no consolation in thinking this person has to live with themselves, but truly that is their own hellish cage. Glad you are just shaken and not physically hurt.

    • Yasha says:

      So true – people like him probably don’t give a lot of conscious thought to what they’ve done, but I believe they are nonetheless damaged in their psyche! And I am a great believer in karma.

  8. Wow, that sounds terribly frightening but it’s good you went and reported it. It was also good fortune that the locals warned you that their thug’s family might be looking for you as I’ve heard of vigilante crowds gathering and causing problems. We once had someone drop a huge rock from an overpass onto the windshield of our van on a highway in the US and I still shake when I think of how close of a call that was. i’m glad you made it out of there safely.

  9. After seeing some of the driving in Central and South America I can’t imagine why slowing down a bit would so enrage that guy and I can imagine how terrifying it would be to be attacked with such violence out of the blue! It also complicates the whole scenario when one isn’t fluent in the language and in an unfamiliar town. This no doubt will have future ramifications because once you doubt your safety (even with no immediate threats) it’s difficult to carry on as before. So glad that you’re safe and the police were supportive but I’m so sorry that this had to happen at all!

  10. What a terrible experience. You did good to get out of town. That is bad tourism promo for them. I won’t be heading that way.

  11. Aggression like that is so horrible as its so unfathomable –
    Sounds like it was a “simple” case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time –
    So pleased you survived with “just” a cracked windscreen :(
    Commiserations!

  12. Donna Janke says:

    I’ve not had anything like this happen to me, but I can imagine how scary it must be have been. This man has some anger issues. It sounds as if the police and other townspeople were quite helpful though.

    • Yasha says:

      The police and some of the people were very supportive – but nobody came to our aid when the attack was happening! I was a bit disappointed by that…

  13. noel says:

    That is truly a scary experience, I really don’t know what I would do at the moment but to absorb it and try to move on and see what I can do after the fact to rectify this situation with any property authorities or tourism offices to get this resolved. Can’t imagine this person attacking another unsuspecting parties.

    • Yasha says:

      I do hope the police will make him think again before carrying out this type of behaviour. Unfortunately it seems that we will have to stand the cost of replacing our windscreen ourselves.

  14. Sorry to hear about such a bad, useless experience. I hope you’ll be able to leave it behind soon and instead will find many beautiful experiences instead. I have no doubt you will.

  15. Yikes, crazy experience. Glad you are OK.

  16. Lindsay says:

    We had a window in Antigua busted out and were robbed in 2011. At first it was so scary! But then it became an amazing experience of people helping us out in a small(er) town. It became one of our favorite memories from that trip! Sometimes bad things just happen- but the best kind of good can come from them!!!!

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks for your comment Lindsay. Up til now we have been very fortunate. Last trip we had absolutely no problems in over 3 years. We had friends along the way who had their vehicles broken into and were robbed, and it is always a very scary and invasive experience. If I had a choice I think I would have preferred that! I still have a vivid picture of that rock coming directly at me and the sound as it hit. I’m sure it will fade with time though. And I’m sure, that like you, we will always remember that kind woman and her adult son and daughters who offered warm comfort; and the young man who acted as our interpreter; and also the police who were so concerned and helpful. You are so right – good comes from everything. And this experience makes us more determined to travel on.

  17. Maureen says:

    Hi. So very sorry for your bad experience. We had something similar in Chile. They smashed our tail lights. I know how scary it makes you feel. BUT. All the thousands of miles we have traveled and all if the thousands of wonderful warm and welcoming people we have met. Don’t let these horrid people take up any of your thoughts they are not worth it xx don’t let them spoil any more of your amazing adventure. Stay safe take care much love Mm xxxxxxxx

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks so much for your comments. Yes, it was scary, and yes, we are suffering an aftermath of the shock, BUT, there is no thought or discussion of this changing what we are doing. We are staying on the road and not letting a nasty little person get in the way of that. I always feel encouraged by you. Thanks for that. Love Yasha

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