7 Jan 2020 – 16 Jan 2020
I regret writing that instagram post bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t allowed go to the Customs inspection at Veracruz port with Stuart.
I posted it minutes after Stuart disappeared off in the car with our shipping agent Luiz, leaving me sitting in the office somewhere in the Veracruz city outskirts to wait for their return. It hadn’t been mentioned before we arrived that there was only a permit for one to attend at the port so apologies but Señora had to stay behind. If I had known, I would have stayed in the hotel.
“Having a severe attack of FOMO..” .I posted petulantly, annoyed that I was missing out on seeing the inspection firsthand and then – as I imagined – experiencing the relief and excitement of driving out of the port in Molly, free to go on with our travels.
But it was nothing like that for Stuart. Instead of excitement, he had the sickening experience of seeing firsthand how thieves had thoroughly ransacked our campervan and stolen so much of our stuff. Except my shoes….they left behind a pair of orange sandals from Zara. And some books, DVDs and cooking stuff.
The pilfering wasn’t obvious to Stuart at first. When he arrived at the docks and opened the van, everything looked in order at first glance. Then he spotted that the fake wooden panel he had built to hide all our stuff had been smashed and the padlock cut open. And then he saw that the padlock securing the cupboard under the seat was missing.
Before shipping the van, we were advised that we could store personal stuff on the van while it was in transit from Southampton to Veracruz but it was at our own risk, not insurable, and for safety, everything needed to be locked away and completely out of sight. So that’s what we did. Everything we needed or wanted for the trip, and were not going to use for our week’s holiday in Mexico City, was packed in boxes behind a padlocked door or padlocked under the seat. Nothing was in view so we thought we were pretty safe. More fool us.
The pilferers were a determined bunch and clearly had plenty of time to cut through the padlocks and wrench off cupboard doors to sift their way through every box and crevice in the van, open up every Eagle Creek bag of clothes and take what they wanted. Then they shoved what they didn’t want back into the cupboards so anyone looking in the van window would think there was nothing amiss.
When the two Customs officers finally arrived for the inspection, Stuart had already had two hours of sorting through our things and bit by bit was realising what had been taken. Sitting in the agent’s office, his ‘whatsapp’ messages kept pinging through to me, listing everything.
I’m not going to list them all but here’s a sample. Our camping chairs had gone. Then there was the quilt and sleeping bag we bought for our first big van trip. They were sold to us with the promise that they roll up small, are really light but they could keep you toasty warm in the Himalayas. We’ve never been that far but they certainly proved their worth to us when we were in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The list went on… Stuart’s fishing rods, all his tools for the van (a collection amassed since he was a young lad with a Honda motorbike), our hiking clothes and boots (the good stuff we bought for walking in the Peak District) …..the ‘whatsapps’ kept coming. The front of the radio, even the clip to hold your sunglasses on the sunvisor for goodness sake!
And just when you start to feel immune, one hits you in the craw. It looked like they had taken the beautiful wooden Sami cups sent to us as present by Rita and Anders, friends we had met in Sweden on our last travels. When we had revamped the van for this trip, the wooden cups added a finishing touch.
When the Customs officers finally arrived to carry out their inspection, Stuart was ordered to empty everything from the van onto the dockside so each item could be photographed and sniffed by the dog. By the time he got back to the agent’s office, he was looking really strung out and fed up. And we still had no van as it was going to take another two or three days for the paperwork to be processed.
We used the waiting time to restock on the essentials. Walmart had most things including an £8 duvet which will do just as well as our fancy Himalayas one. Then it was back into the centre of Veracruz to the Talisman DIY store to get replacement tools. The assistants proved very patient and understanding at our halting attempts to explain what we needed. They were also far too polite to laugh out loud at Stuart’s request for a ‘spanner piquante’ instead of ‘pequeno’ .
And finally, finally we got our van back this morning. Before making our way to a campsite south of Veracruz where we are now, we made another visit to Walmart to stock up on food.
And that’s where we met fellow Vdub owners Omar and his lovely Mum Rosa when he parked his van beside us.
So now we have our van back and bit by bit discovering the full extent of what was taken. These guys clearly spent a lot of time in Molly figuring out exactly what they wanted and discarding what they didn’t want. So what’s wrong with my orange shoes anyway?
It’s a strange thing but when we come across something in the van they didn’t steal (like the Sami cups from Rita and Anders – we found them thrown in the back of a cupboard!) we are thrilled and strangely grateful to the thieves that they kindly left it behind for us. What’s that feeling I wonder – some off shoot of Stockholm syndrome?
Yep, it’s been a challenging start to our road trip but at least, we now have Molly back and, subject to a few bashed internal doors, she’s in pretty good shape thankfully.