Being in La Paz during Carnaval time was a bit overwhelming. The markets are packed to the brim with people trying to buy clown masks, foam, tiaras, and whatever costume they were planning on donning to the festivities.
Unfortunately for us, the main market was on the same street as the tour company that we were booking our Amazon trip which required us to bring a crap ton of cash with us along with our passports to book our plane tickets to Rurrenabaque.
Shaun has always thought he was immune to being pickpocketed. Surely they wouldn’t get through zippers or buttons on pants. That would require so much effort he was sure he would notice.
I thought that most people would want to avoid us since we’re tattooed and pierced. Instead Shaun stood out like a Gringo beacon of light in the massive crowd of Bolivians in the market.
3 or 4 people squeezed between Shaun and I on our way to the tour company.
And then it happened.
An arm came out from behind Shaun and mud was thrown on his shoulder.
This cannot be happening to us. I know the telltale signs of distractions.
Shaun’s right hand brushed off his left shoulder.
“SHAUN! Watch your sh*t! Watch your sh*t!”
I screamed it over and over again but it wasn’t getting the reaction I was hoping for.
Nothing else could come out. No, “Shaun you’re being pickpocketed!” or “Or hey man, I know what you’re doing!” but just “Watch your sh*t!”?
“I have my hand on my wallet!” Shaun screams back at me.
But it was too late.
“Mister! Mister!” an older Bolivian lady shouts to our friend Travis as she is holding up 2 American passports in her hand.
The culprit had bypassed Shaun’s wallet (that had a couple of hundred dollars for our tour) in his back pocket and gone for the gold in Shaun’s jacket pocket – supposedly protected by a zipper. In the distraction he had unzipped the pocket and taken out our passports. Obviously not what they were intending to get, they hastily threw them on the floor as several people stomped on them as the hoard was moving towards their goods.
We were saved by a good Samaritan for sure.
We walked home embarrassed. We had gone 10 months without an incident like this and it all happened in a flash. We thought we were seasoned travelers, immune to most. In an instant, every bit of comfort was taken away.
Did we hate La Paz? No.
Did we let ourselves down? Totally.
Beers in hand we hurriedly made it back to the hostel to give a bit of comfort.
Have you been pickpocketed before? What do you do to prevent it?