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Mugged in Paradise

This blog is taken from an email I wrote in July 2011 the day after I was mugged whilst in the Seychelles for a friend’s wedding. It has been edited and slightly expanded upon, to make it clearer to read.



Oh my goodness, where do I start? It’s ok, don’t worry, I’m fine honest, shaken yes, but safe and unharmed. You see, Saturday, yesterday, I got mugged by a man wearing a balaclava and brandishing a machete in a threatening manner. The last I saw of the police etc, there were quite a few of them by the roadside, the police dogs had just arrived, and 4 armed army guards from the presidential palace had already set off up the hiking trail to one of two peaks that overlook Victoria, the capital.





So to backtrack, I’d hiked up the rough trail highly recommended in the guide book. I’d peered at the view from up top. I’d said hello to two older tourists (a man and a woman). I started the descent.






Shortly after a metal via ferrata without the ropes type ladder, there’s an old signpost. I needed to veer right. I did. Then I saw him. It didn’t register. I saw him, the balaclava, the machete. I think it was only when he demanded money and my camera whilst waving a machete, that I realised I was his victim, that I realised what was happening.


He came towards me, his machete held threateningly. He wasn’t going away. He said “Money”. I said “no”. I still can’t believe I said “no” but that’s what I did.

He said “camera”. My camera was in my hand. I knew I had no choice about this. I agreed he could “have” it. I couldn’t quite comprehend I was handing him my camera. What’s more, I still can’t believe I did this, but in the process of passing him my camera, I removed and pocketed the memory card!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Again he demanded money. By now I knew he was serious. I knew I had no choice. This wasn’t a game of chicken. I indicated it was in my bag (day pack) and I had to take it off. I did so, I dug into it, I found my purse (for once quickly), I opened it and pulled out a wad of notes. I handed him the notes not knowing what I was “giving” him. I saw Euros in his hand. Maybe other currency too. I think I lost 150 to 200 Euros, a few US dollars (less than 20) and Seychelles rupees. I’d just been to the bank and had withdrawn a whole load of Seychelles rupees. I didn’t know how many were in that bundle now in his hands (turned out most of the rupees and my credit and cash cards were still in the purse – mega major phew).


He asked for more money. He asked for my bag. Why do I say ‘ask’? He demanded whilst waving that horrible machete. I have no idea why but I wouldn’t give him my bag. I write ‘said’ but everything I said was screamed, for I didn’t want anyone coming across us by accident. I wanted people to either hide and stay safe, or to knowingly come and try and help me. I didn’t want any other ‘hostages’ for company. I knew there were still those two tourists either on the summit or else nearby. I wanted them to make an informed decision, if of course they could hear me.


I begged to be let go. I screamed “water, I need my water” when he demanded my bag. He’d been getting progressively more threatening with his machete. I was really really really scared. I was begging him (at a scream) to let me go. He made a different sign with his machete as if he wanted to take off my head, at least that’s what I thought. I couldn’t believe it, that this was it, here on this walk. Oh how could it be?


He’d gradually been moving around me by 90 degrees. Now he was by the signpost and just without warning, stepped a tiny bit further away from me, turned and headed off onto a kind of abandoned path.


I didn’t hang around. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was out of there. Fast hiking and when the terrible rough root strewn terrain permitted, jogging. Fortunately I was wearing my trail running shoes. We know each other well. They and my body behaved. I was wearing a watch with heart rate monitor (I wonder what the rate was during the ‘incident’). I got out of there, fast. The guide book had said to allow 2 to 3 hours return. The whole thing, photo stops and mugging included, took me 59 minutes and 16 seconds. The post mugging descent - a 1.2 kms one on a rough rough rough, steep narrow path intersected by tree roots galore - a mere 15 minutes. The mugging seemed like an eternity, but I guess it could only have lasted 5 or so minutes.


As I ran down that path I was terrified he’d reappear, possibly with friends. Gradually though my focus changed. I became obsessed about saving the other two. I had to. I couldn’t let him mug them, I couldn’t let him wield a machete on them. It would take too long to drive to a police station, the mountain road was far too twisty. Anyways where was the nearest police station?


I reached the road. I couldn’t believe that I’d made it and so quickly. I found my whistle (I’d looked for it during the mugging but dug into the wrong hip pocket on my day pack – possibly for the best, as who knows what the sound of a shrieking whistle would have done to that evil man). I blew it, again and again and again. But no one came from the nearby house, only their dogs barked in the driveway.


I heard traffic. From both directions. I stopped it all. I ‘explained’”. Ok, maybe the word explained is not quite accurate. Anyways, they knew there was something badly wrong. One of the vehicles was a mini truck with loads of people in the back. Some of them wanted me to lead a whole load of them back up the mountain. I’m not sure if it was meant to be a rescue mission for the two whites, or, a vigilante mission against ‘him’. No way was I going back up there. Absolutely not. I was waiting for the police, for I was trying to get them to call the cops. I excused myself explaining I was spent after what had happened. Was I being a coward? I hope not. But it was a long hard way up there. Vigilante is not my style. I hoped the police would be there soon, really soon. I hoped they would be young and fit and ready to rescue the others.


I stopped another vehicle, a man working for a tour company (in a company car). He spoke good English. I truly explained to him what had happened. He called the police immediately.


Everyone was so kind to me, they were concerned for me. They wanted to help me. I just wanted the police.


Some were on mobiles. I was told there was an army post just a few minutes up the road and we needed to go there. They’d go with me. No, I’d drive myself, alone, but following them. I locked the car (and I never do that, ok, only once ever when there was a weirdo at some traffic lights).


There was more chatting, one of them and an army guard. The guard spoke into the man’s mobile. It went on for a few minutes. I just stood there. Then it was agreed I return to the trailhead to await the police. I started driving off. The army soldier and a colleague flagged me down. They jumped in with their huge guns.


At the trailhead after a quick debrief as to where it had happened, they were off onto the trail, me reiterating about the white couple.


Then two more soldiers appeared (with a kind of police van). Another briefing. They headed off onto the trail.


Then the tourism police arrived. Another briefing. They asked me how many soldiers had gone in. I said four, two armed then two more but I couldn’t see any guns and I didn’t know if those two were armed. The police told me the soldiers were the presidential guard and they’d be armed.


More police arrived, with (apparently though I didn’t hear them) dogs.


I negotiated I could leave. They gave me a form to complete, a statement to the police. It was agreed they would collect it from my hotel.


Then, a cry from one of the policemen, the tourists were on the trail, almost at the trailhead. I asked them how they were. Fine.


They were shocked to hear what had happened. They’d heard and seen nothing. They were so sorry for me. I was so relieved for them. They’ve been to the Seychelles many times, this their 6th or 7th visit. They said it was getting worse. Someone said there had been another mugging I think they said last week, two people and a guide. Apparently a few days ago, some woman had her handbag pinched while walking the beach my hotel backs onto.







Incidents kept quiet for fear for damaging the tourism industry. Incidents put together it appears are however being taken seriously. Tourism is too important to the Seychelles for it to be seen as unsafe. One of the soldiers was visibly very frustrated to hear the man had been wearing a balaclava.


I’m ok really, shocked at times, yes, teary at times sure. But I’m fine too. Unharmed. He never actually touched me, mercifully never tried to. I still can’t believe it. Maybe by writing about it in such detail, I can make it sound more like a novel or a bad film, rather than an actual experience. The worst part was I guess I expected him to vanish immediately after getting my camera and money. I hadn’t expected him to hang around for a while trying to get more. What made him change his mind and leave? Yes he’s a bad man for doing what he did. Yet again, I don’t want bad things to happen to him. I just want him caught so he can be rehabilitated and others are safe until his rehabilitation is complete. It could all have been so much worse. You know I’m not a bible basher, but oh how I thank God and Jesus for seeing me safely through today. They were really watching over me (yes I know that sounds like bible bashing, but it’s just a quiet thing inside me). Maybe today will ensure I listen to my intuition more than ever. For, I almost didn’t get out of the car to do that walk, for I felt at the start of the walk it was lonely, and rough and if I were to fall it would be a hard hard hard way back for help.


Last night I was still in a bit of shock I think. I can’t believe it happened to me, it’s as if it was a film, someone else. I was shocked, angry, scared, and then really really really scared, I feared this was it. I couldn’t believe that’s how I was going to go, hiking in such a place at the hands of some horrible man. Again I don’t wish him ill, but I do hope they find him and lock him up until he has been rehabilitated, for it’s not fair on others to possibly have to encounter his evil doings.


Postscript


Anyways this morning [July 2011] I had a pre breakfast walk on the beach followed by a swim and no nightmares last night.


This afternoon [July 2011] I walked past the police station in Victoria as I went from my friend’s wedding back to my hire car. As I past the police station I heard a shout of “hello”. It was a man in plain clothes on the station’s steps. I looked at him, confused. He seemed to know me. He reintroduced himself, explaining he was one of the [uniformed] policemen from yesterday. No they hadn’t caught my mugger, but the army was camped up there now and they were going to find him. He blamed the mugging on drugs, explaining the mugger would have needed money for drugs.


Why share all this? Please please please, listen to your intuition. If I had listened to mine, I wouldn’t have been mugged and I wouldn’t feel shivers crawl up my spine whenever I see a machete, be it in a newspaper, on the news, or in person (think farmers in developing countries cutting crops). Whether intuition is there to help us when travelling or closer to home, it is there for a reason. Intuition isn’t a refusal to face up to and overcome irrational fears, intuition is different. So yes let’s face and overcome our fears, but at the same time, let’s also learn to identify the difference between irrational fear and intuition.



#mugged #seychelles #robbery #touristmugging #intuition #riskassessment #backpacking #travelblog #travelwriting #islandholiday #travelsafely

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