Trip Start Mar 15, 2006
42Trip End May 30, 2007
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As so many of you still seem curious to know how I came to lose all that money 2 months ago, I thought it about time, before I leave the continent, to tell the story.
The picture opens on a clock tower. As the camera pulls back we see a bright sunny day in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Our hero (that┤s me) is standing at the top of some steps, looking out over the park below
In walks our villain (at least for the purposes of this story). He says something in Spanish but there are no subtitles. "Oh, can you tell me, is that clock correct?"
"Yes, it is."
Not for the first time, somebody seems interested in my travels, what I┤m doing and where I┤m headed. Its a conversation I will have time and again over the next few months, both with travellers and intrigued locals. I have literally just booked my bus ticket for the journey south to Bariloche, and Jorge (thats the villain) seems interested in what I plan to do. He tells me that he is actually from Chile and is in BA because of business. He takes wealthy foreigners on fishing trips. He knows the countries well and could help me with what to do over the next few weeks. "Do you have time for a coffee?". Sure, I┤m not doing a lot else, and free tourist info sounds good.
From here, he basically plans out my trip over the next few weeks up to my flight back up to Santiago. All that he says seems great, and he tries to fit the dates around me getting on the Navimag ferry that I hadn┤t even considered but it turned out I loved. There really seemed no reason to doubt his intentions and if anything I felt like I was milking him. I actually ended up following this plan pretty much to the letter!
The following day I met up with him again, as he had written up his previously general itinerary, including suggestions for accomodation and numbers, etc. He gave me his address and said that I should eat with his family when I was in Santiago. Now it got even better (yes, I can see those hindsight sceptical looks crossing your faces), he had had a booking from 3 Australians wanting him to take them on a fishing trip in El Bolson, near Bariloche, and he would take me along for free since I would be there. This was starting to sound a little too good to be true, but hey, free stuff, great!
He told me about his experiences of travelling when he was younger, along with advice of how to keep your stuff safe and be aware. He said that it would be advisable also to get money changed here, since in the deep south things became much more limited and hence the rates became poor.
We discussed how much I was likely to need for such a trip, and he baffled me with his quick calculations. I decided what he was saying made a lot of sense, knowing that cash points could be scarce in some out-of-the-way places, and decided to draw out what I could - 300 pounds!!!
I would now go and change it. He tells me though that he can get a very much favourable rate compared to the bank, "It isn┤t black, it isn┤t white...its blue". Now this I┤m not too sure about, but I promise you, this guy is persuasive - the fact is even mentioned in the Lonely Planet! If he was trying to screw me, he said, why would he: a) Give me his address; b) his e-mail; c) spend 2 days meeting up; and d) not just hit me over the head 3 blocks ago? Charming. I do actually see the flaws in all of these though - they┤re hardly that traceable or necessarily genuine. Nevertheless, I hesitantly gave him the money, and he reassuredme with the fact that he would make a little commision out of it too.
I was told to wait outside this cafe for him to do the transaction and come back. Yes I┤m nervous, yes I┤m sceptical, but I┤m a little baffled at this point and have a lot going on in my head. As I watch him walk away, I straight away think ┤This is the last time I am going to see that money┤. Guess what, it was.
All I can think of is my Dad, how the hell could I have been so stupid, can I tell anyone? No, I┤m ashamed. I start to walk away, and at this poi8nt realise how far I am away from the bus station. My bus leaves in 20 minutes, there┤s no way we could have made it anyway. Now I have another reason to be nervous. The money┤s gone. I hail a cab, I gotta go....