Four Mexican bandits, high on drugs and armed with guns, robbed our bus outside of Mexico City. A quite scary experience that I hope will never happen again.
After a couple of days in Mexico City, we decided to visit the Teotihuacan pyramids 40 km north of the city. We were not particular interested in the organised tours, because we hate to be part of a big group. We figured out we could do it cheaper and enjoy more freedom by doing it on our own with public buses. First we took the trolleybus to the Norte Bus Terminal, where public buses depart for Teotihuacan every 30 minutes or so. We were surprised by the long line at the ticket counter. It seems like a lot of tourists, both locals and foreigners, are heading for the pyramids on Sundays. We waited in the line for more than 30 minutes, before we got the tickets, went through the security check and boarded the bus. To me it looked like 1/3 of the passengers were foreigners, 1/3 Mexican tourists and 1/3 Mexican locals.
This was supposed to be a direct bus, still it stopped a couple of times in the poorer suburbs north of Mexico City, in order to pick up a few more passengers (locals). After a while the bus left the main highway and drove in direction of Teotihuacan. Suddenly a crazy passenger came from behind in the bus shouting some words in Spanish. My initial thought was that he had missed his jump off point. But a few seconds later when I saw a pistol in the air, I understood that the bus had been hijacked. It turned out to be four robbers on the bus. Later I was told that two of them had boarded the bus at Norte station, while two had boarded at one of the bustops, where there are less security checks. This is how they were able to smuggle weapons onboard.
The robbers seemed to be on drugs and combined with guns, I immediately understood the severe danger of the situation. The driver was forced to continue driving the bus as normal, while the four robbers were walking up and down the isle, searching and threatening the passengers to surrender all their valuables. I felt really sorry for the older ladies in the bus, some of them were trembling of fear. The robbers were of course very stressed on time, so first they seemed to search for wallets and money. Both me and Tommaso decided to be cooperative, so we showed them our wallets and gave them all the money that was inside. Luckily they didn't care about the visa-card and driver licence that I also carried inside my wallet.
The robbers understandably didn't trust that the passengers had voluntarily surrendered all their valuables, so the second round they started to search more thoroughly in pockets, backpacks, under the seats and so on. This went on for a long time while the bus was still driving. One of the guys took my camera and another guy picked up my small backpack under the seat. He opened it, started to look through it, and to my dismay he decided to just put it on his back. My small backpack was lost and most of the items inside, which was of great value to me, would be completely useless for them. Passport, important papers/documents, a Garmin GPS-device, a security token for my internet-banking, a couple of USB sticks, a credit card and a moderate backup of foreign currency (USD 150 and Euro 50). Tommaso lost all cash in his wallet, his old Nokia phone but not his small camera.
For some reasons the robbers forgot to search my left pocket, where I had my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone. They also didn't notice my secret money-belt under my pants, where I had stored 2/3 of the local cash I had withdrawn from an ATM earlier in the morning (3000 pesos), some USD dollars and two other debit/credit cards. I am also glad that I took the wise decision not to bring my DSLR camera and my Macbook Air for this travel to Central America.
The robbery went on for 20 minutes before they ordered the bus-driver to stop and let them off. Everyone was told to keep their head down and after a few seconds, the bandits had left and we were all safe again. The bus drove directly to the nearest police station where everyone could file a case. I also made calls home to Norway to block my stolen card. By the time we were finished at the police it was too late to go to the pyramids, so we decided to take the free bus back to Mexico City.
See Police-report (page 1)
See Police-report (page 2)
Next morning we went to the Norwegian Embassy in Mexico City. Getting an emergency passport would not be a good solution for me, because I was on an overland trip from Mexico to Panama, traveling through 8 countries. So the embassy recommended me to get an ordinary passport, which I could pick up in either Mexico City or Cancun after two weeks. Cancun was actually very close to our original itinerary, so we agreed immediately on that.
In the end we were lucky for the following reasons:
1) The bandits didn't harm us
2) I have an insurance that will cover my financial losses
3) I still have 3 visa cards left, so I can continue my travel in Central America
4) I still have my Samsung smartphone, which also works as a security token for internet access to my secondary bank (Skandiabanken). The internet access to my main bank (Nordea) is however lost, because the security token for that one was stolen. But I will be able to manage most of my internet banking needs through Skandiabanken.
So the overland journey to Panama will definitely continue. A few bandits will not change our adventurous path. Already the day after the robbery, we sat in the same bus going to Teotihuacan. We immediately noticed the increased safety measures taken by the bus company. No way any bandits will try to rob it again, at least not for the next few days :-)