October 23, 2010

Cops & Robbers

We had been warned about crooked cops and their attempts to shake down tourists. The most common scenario was stopping people, asking for their driver's licence and advising them they were being charged and couldn't get their licence back until they paid the fine. To prepare for this possibility, we had photocopied and laminated both our driver's licences and International Driver's Licences and put them in “throw away” wallets filled with plastic cards (Good Sam, Rewards programs, etc.) to be given over if held up. Our first experience came in Honduras when we were stopped by a small group in police uniforms. Steve was leading and they asked him if he had a fire extinguisher on the bike. When he replied in the negative, they pulled out a ticket book and were going to write us all tickets for 100 Limpera (approx. $5.00). None of our protests had any effect until I pulled out my OPP Auxiliary badge and pen and paper and asked to see his ID and speak to his chief. After some hesitation and a nod from their chief, they waved us through. After that, whenever we were stopped, and it happened three more times, I immediately introduced myself as a police officer from Canada and said we were on our way to a police convention in Panama City. This resulted in big smiles and handshakes all around and no more talk of papers or tickets.

Our next experience was in the most unlikely place, Costa Rica. We had heard such good things about this country and our first impressions were very positive. The country-side was cleaner and more prosperous, roads were in relatively good condition, and the people were friendly. All that changed when we arrived in San Isidro for the night. As we were taking things into the hotel, two young boys grabbed Ross' shoes and one of his cubes out of his bag and took off. Calls to the police were fruitless and we spent the next few hours trying to get somebody to do something. A local store worker saw them with the stuff and knew where they lived but said it was “peligros” (dangerous) to go there so we didn't. This presented a real problem because Ross wears a special running shoe that won't be available here. Plus he has lost all his socks and underwear. I can help with sharing socks but I don't think he's going to look good in pink!

The adventure continues.........


  1. He might be sort of cute and cuddly (at least cuddly)
    It would take a little forward thinking but maybe everyone headed south of the US should have a police background (not wanted by).
    Now that your in Panama how do you get out?

  2. I am so sorry that happened to you in CR.Unfortunately there is petty theft in most parts of the country. What town were you in?

  3. Bummer about CR, since most of us would have guessed that would have been your easiest and most benign county in Central America. By the way - how are the temperatures now, and how are you staying hydrated during the day? I've never found a hyrdration pack that doesn't taste like plastic. By the way, the midwest is bracing for big windstorms on Tues. 10/26..

  4. We each carry at least one bottle of water and stop often to drink.
    The theft took place in front of our hotel (Iguazu) in San Isidro des General. Some friends were just shaken down for 3000 Pesos ($250) by the cops in Tampico, Mexico; we feel that we got to Panama with a minimum of problems. Jean's police badge is definitely a good thing!!

  5. Steve,
    I think I stayed at that hotel! I hope you do make it back to CR as it is a beautiful country with wonderful people. Hope Panama is better. We are facing hurricane force winds here in WI. Almost as bad as when I lived in NOLA.