As with any travelling adventure, there are unfortunately some days where everything goes wrong, despite taking all the precautions in the world. I wished for me that it would have happened a lot later (or not at all) and not after just one month of travel but you never choose...
Basically the story is simple, in order to reach Merida from Palenque (about 8 hours drive), I decided to take a night bus which had the advantage for me of saving the cost of a hostel night. That day I had been visiting the ruins of Yaxchilan, starting at 6am and by the time I got back to Palenque and got on the night bus at 11pm, I was litteraly exhausted. With the main bus company called ADO, you put your big backpack inside the bus and they give you a ticket to ensure that no one takes your bag except you. Besides they are responsible for anything which would happen to it so you generally feel quite safe. However for my small backpack, containing all my valuable things like camera, computer, passport, etc... I always take it with me in the bus. My mistake that day was to be too confident and to believe that I was safe like I would be on a plane and I decided to put my small backpack in the overhead compartment just on top of me. ADO claims that all valuables that you take with you in the bus are YOUR responsibility...
The bus then left and soon after I felt asleep like a baby but still waking up frequently as I never sleep very well in any kind of transportation anyway. Going from Palenque to Merida, you actually leave the Chiapas state in Mexico to enter the Yucatan and the bus stopped a few times to let the police controlling the passports and visa of a few passengers, including myself as it is frequent that illegal immigrants from Guatemala and the other coutries of Central America try to reach the Yucatan on their way to the USA. At that point, by 2 times I took the passport out of my bag on top of me to show it to the officers, without noticing anything wrong. Actually the second time, thinking about it, it seemed that my bag was in a different position than the one I had left it previously, but when you wake up your mind doesn't really process all the details very well. The bus stopped at Campeche on the way to let a few passengers off and started again to Merida.
Arriving at Merida at approximatively 7am, I noticed without paying too much attention that the young couple next to me stood up very quickly and left the bus in a heartbeat. Maybe this should have alerted me at that point but I had just waken up and was still busy putting my shoes back and sorting out my sleeping bag which I had taken with me. I then took my backpack and got off the bus to retrieve my big bag inside the bus. And that's only at that point, when I tried to open my small bag to fetch something that I realised its weight... a much more lighter bag I should say. Opening it I had the "pleasant" surprise of not finding my camera inside its case, nor my laptop inside its case as well. They (or he) had taken all my equipment whislt I was sleeping less than a meter away... Camera, laptop, smartphone and sunglasses were all gone but all the rest was there. They had even left some documents like my ID card, driving license and other documents which were inside my laptop case! Only a cheap mexican phone I had bought a few weeks ago had not been taken but basically everything of a value which could be sold quickly was now missing. I don't know if the incident happened before or after I had taken my passport out of my bag to show it to the police (after when I had kept it with me) but this could have been far worse I suppose if they had taken it. The more I think about it, the more I suspect the couple who was next to me as they could see very well who the bag belonged to and when I was sleeping exactly. But who knows, it could have been a guy leaving at the stop before.
Still under the shock, I decided to go immediately to the police to report the incident in order to try to get something out of my insurance. I won't enter the details but you can imagine the scene: almost still asleep at 7am but really angry, having to go to the police office which was way out of town, waiting hours for an officer to take my complaint (with the help of a translator thanksfully), coming back to the hostel I had booked in the day before, trying to contact my insurance, only to be told that unfortunately because I was sleeping then they won't lift a finger and won't reimburse me. I am a peaceful guy but in those times murder ideas towards my thief and my insurer definitely crossed my mind.
Yes I was the one at fault because I had left my bag "unsupervised" as per the policy wording states but still, it's not like I had forgotten it anywhere or left it in a place only to come back hours after... Sometimes honesty doesn't pay unfortunately and I think I have learnt my lesson here. The worst thing for me is not really about the money lost (because I now have to buy a new camera and laptop) but more about the memory card inside the camera which contained all the really cool pictures and videos of the last week (including the ones of the Yaxchilan ruins) and the camera itselft which was perfect for me in term of size and features (a Sony NEX-6). Having to replace everything without the insurance helping a little means probably that I will last less longer in Asia at the end of the my round-the-world trip for example or that I won't have the money to carry on to Africa but we will see, I will probably try to pay more attention of the money I am spending in the next months or even find a place to work a little bit to compensate the loss. Fortunately for most of my pictures, I had considered this scenario before travelling and had backed up everything online regularly (except the pictures from the last week as I was in the jungle with poor internet access and all the videos as they were too big) with Bitcasa, a Dropbox-like which I definitely recommend (I pay 99$/year for unlimited storage which is quite cheap).
Anyway so goodbye to my little Sony camera....
And welcome to my new babies, a Sony Alpha 57 camera and Acer netbook! :-)
That camera is a bit better in term of photo quality and videos than my previous one but is also more bulky. Unfortunately I couldn't find the same one in Merida and didn't want to go back to a compact camera, which is generally really handy but doesn't deliver the same quality of pictures, nor videos. As for the laptop, I went again for a 10 inches screen laptop as that size is perfect for travelling but couldn't find the same specs so this one has less memory and also less battery. I thought about not replacing the laptop and taking this "opportunity" to travel lighter but thought that without a laptop it would be hard to maintain a blog and manage pictures during a whole year. Besides not all the hostels have computers with internet you can use. As for the prices, I could manage to find some good discounts so just paid a little bit more than I would have had in the UK and probably paid less for the camera.
Anyway to conclude, don't leave your bag even 50 cm from you when travelling (or don't sleep) and in the worst case, make up story for your insurance (be aware that honesty doesn't pay...). It took me a few days to get over all this but fortunately I met some really nice people in the hostel I was staying in who all tried to help me, both the staff and the guests. Being with good companions always make the pain easier to bear. So thanks to everyone and thanks as well to all the support messages I received from all my friends and family, it really helped. As for me, the best is to carry on and to take this as a lesson from which to learn, at all levels.
PS: I swear to god that for the next person who tries to steal some of my stuff, especially my camera, I will do something very very nasty to his ass. I mean it.