This is a contributed story.
After aimless wander through Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Ica, I found a new home in the great white city of Arequipa. I fell in love with her rich historical architecture and palate pleasing delicacies, but I fell in stupid love for her rumba, the Arequipeña nightlife. I indulged in daily debauchery. I walked the streets like I owned them. I knew all the clubs, bars, and their owners. Almost every night you could find me on Calle San Fransico.
This particular night I received a bonus from the English institute where I had been working. I had already called my cocaine dealer and was passing my pre-high excitement time at Deja Va . I got the call and met him outside to do the transaction, a transaction that had played out some 50 times before. Bullshitting about weather, making a hand exchange, then a quick chao. After putting the life of the party in my pocket I set out for a taxi and back to my apartment to snort a small mountain.
In Peru there are official and unofficial taxis (see Taxis in Colombia vs. Peru). A gringo buddy who had lived there for years refused to get into unofficial taxis whenever we went out. I thought he was a pussy. He was adamant, and told me about robberies. My comfort in Peru overcame his warnings.
Back on San Fransisco I hailed the first taxi, unofficial of course. I hopped in the passenger seat and gave directions. As we drove I noticed we were taking a different route. There are many alleys in Arequipa, so a slightly different route didn’t concern me much.
All of a sudden he hit a speed bump, stopped the taxi and leaned out his window. Did we have a flat? I instinctively leaned over to see. At that moment my door flung open and some guy jumped on me swinging. I tried to grab his arms. I was seated and he was on top of me. I felt another fist hit me from my left, the bastard taxi driver. I was still struggling with the guy on top of me when two other ladrones got in the back seat. One dropped my seat back, which put me in an impossible position. But my adrenaline was flowing so I wrestled or bit anything I could. Then that’s when I felt cold steel pressed against my temple.
It’s amazing how cold, sober, and hopeless you feel at that moment.
I continued to struggle and the gunman smacked me with the butt. Another put a knife against my nut sack. I switched from struggling to negotiating.
They covered my eyes with a handkerchief. I first acted dumb as if I didn’t speak Spanish, but one of them said he knew me. I could not see his face. Today I suspect who he was.
We drove around as they emptied my pockets. Wallet, cell, phone, 600 soles, and 2 grams of blow. After 20 minutes of driving, they passed my debit card to the driver of a second car. They asked for my pin.
I was helpless and frustrated, but not afraid for my life. I had been listening to their conversation. They weren’t killers. I could tell they had done this before and just worked on lame threats, like “We’ll find out where you live and kill your family!” Yeah, in Alaska?
I gave incorrect pin numbers until they grew upset. The butt of the gun slammed against my knee. I felt the knife against my man muscle. I gave them the pin number.
After withdrawing what they could we drove to some field outside the city limits. They continued with lame threats until they stopped the car. I was still blindfolded when somebody put 3 soles in my hand for a taxi, and told me to get out with the blindfold and don’t take it off until they leave. I told them since they fucked my night they could at least give me my coke back. Somebody put the 2 grams in my hand and they drove off. I walked until I found an official taxi and went home.
I learned of taxi assaults as soon as I moved to Peru. I learned to take the safe brands. My Taxis in Colombia vs. Peru article needs an updating as far as the safety signals. I previously wrote that I started adding safe brands until I had about a dozen. In Lima, however, taxis don’t have the giant placard with the brand name. So I’ve adjusted my rules.
In Arequipa, recognized brands are the best way to go. But in the last assault I heard of, the victim claimed she took an Imperial taxi, one of the safest brands in town. However, you need to discern the real from the fake. Several unregistered taxis copy the well-known brands, down to the name sometimes. You need to be able to distinguish the real from the fake by knowing the correct font and design. Also, drivers for registered brand usually have a uniform, an ID card prominently displayed on the dash with their name and picture, and telephone numbers for the company all over the body and interior.
In Lima or Arequipa, look for red and white reflector tape on each side of the car. In additon to reflector tape, most importantly, confirm there is a license plate number painted on the body of the car, and that it matches the license plate on the car. A telephone number on the passenger side door is a bonus.
Finally, I always rely on a general impression of the driver. Old or young? Clean and well kept or ragged clothes and unwashed? Note the same things in the car. I’ve never had a problem with a taxi in part because I because I pay close attention to every detail about the driver and his car.