Robbed BY Cafe Buenos Aires – Cochabamba, Bolivia

16 August 2012: Our pleasant morning in Cochabamba soon turns sour after we get robbed by Cafe Buenos Aires at the Plaza Colon (Av. Ballivián 539).


Following a mediocre breakfast at cafe, unforgivably stupidly, we walk off and leave our backpack behind on one of the chairs at our table. It contained passports, bike keys, a laptop, the lot! (Irritatingly, we had first put it on the table and because of paranoia about bag snatching, put it on the chair and moved it out of view below the table.)

We realize this a few minutes later and head straight back to cafe Buenos Aires. GONE! We ask the waiter whether he’s seen it. He’s been standing there in the doorway all morning, attentively watching the tables. I know this because while we were sitting there, he wasn’t able to leave his post without being tagged off by another waitress.

He doesn’t know anything, but the waitress at the bar inside tells us someone took the bag a few minutes ago. Tall guy, green shirt, he thought it was me. Where did he go, we ask. He points down the road and we head off to search for the culprit. A couple of minutes later we conclude we’re wasting our time – the story the waitress told us is a bit odd and we’ll never find our bag by walking the streets. We have to head back to the cafe and get the Police involved. Ebru heads back to the cafe to do more questioning and I walk the streets looking for police. I find a couple of cops in a pick-up truck and they drive over to the shop with me.

When we arrive at Buenos Aires Ebru’s kicked up a stink! Their story didn’t seem plausible. The waiter at the door and the waitress at the coffee bar now say that someone tall with green shirt and shorts picked it up – looked exactly like me. They say he was a tourist. How’s this possible, we ask; we were having a conversation with the waiter for several minutes! I have long hair, a beard… someone looking exactly like me? And a tourist stealing a bag from a cafe? Doesn’t sound right!

Ebru asked the girl at the bar to call the cops and she couldn’t be bothered to spring into action, just continued making coffee. That’s when Ebru started to shout ans scream, and good thing she did, because now they felt intimidated. We tell them if they have it, we won’t cause any problems, only we want the bag back. We tell this to the cops as well.

The cops ask a few questions, try to make us sit down and stay calm, which doesn’t work too well. They then want us and the barmaid to drive with them to the police station, supposedly make a report or something. We tell them we want to search the premises. We don’t want to accuse anyone wrongly but the story isn’t believable and if the bag is here, it won’t be by the time we head back.

The one cop then disappears into the kitchen. I can see a conversation going on through a gap in the door. Then, a couple of minutes later, miraculously, a short-dark-haired woman in her forties-to-fifties appears with the bag at the entrance to the left side of the cafe Buenos Aires. Our bag! Unbelievable!

We thank the cops for their help and they gesture to confirm – are we happy now? We don’t want to make any further fuss about this? We’re just relieved to have our stuff back. Of course later I wonder why I didn’t walk over and punch those folks in the nose.

I don’t know what went on in the kitchen, but I presume the staff at cafe Buenos Aires preferred giving back the bag and paying off the cops to being arrested for stealing from tourists. Scum! We even gave a tip to the bastards. The next morning on our way out of town we pass by to take a photograph of the place. We see the same staff working there, as if nothing had happened.

SIDE NOTE: Now I don’t want to make bad publicity for Bolivia. Bolivia is an awesome country and I would recommend it to any traveller! 99% of our two months there we felt safe. But take this as a warning to be vigilant about the safety of you and your belongings, especially in cities.

You may be interested to know how we attempt to be so damn stupid in the future. What we have done is bought a dog leash made of thin chain, with the spring-lock attachment on the one end and we’ve attached a small carabiner on the other end. We lock the carabiner into a loop on the backpack and now, when we sit down somewhere and take the pack off, we leave it attached to our belt loop using the easily attach-/detachable spring-lock. What do you think McGuyver? 😉